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.

Another anti-propaganda post from NotYourSweetie

A Public Service Announcement from the 1%

I was going to break down why the Buffet idea about focusing all of our attention on reducing Congressional pensions and salaries is about the stupidest thing I have ever heard when NotYourSweetie, who wasn’t born here, put up a post about the use of propaganda in her home country.  She’s seen this stuff before:

In the old country, they were not skilled at propaganda. They never tried to disguise it as entertainment, or news or sports. It was just that: propaganda 24/7, pretty much displacing entertainment, news or sports. Everyone knew what it was, but was helpless to do anything about it.

The first time I knew I had to get out of there because it was messing with my brain was a time they decided to reduce pensions. Not stop COLA, but reduce them. I was young and couldn’t care less about that. But then I started seeing old people on TV cheering and explaining to me why this was a good thing. My threshold for absurd just exploded.

Once I came to the US, It took me a while to find the nicely packaged propaganda (about one months I would think). I comfortably kept it at a distance, along with advertising with my  superpower my voyage bestowed on me (kinda like Superman could fly because on his planet….)

But very soon, I’ll fly into the same threshold of absurdity, ironically on the very same topic: old people will tell everybody why it’s good they’ll be put on an ice floe.

I’m betting that she’s as disgusted as I am that Americans are proving to be so unforgivably gullible and stupid.

Turn off your TVs and radios.  The only reason propaganda is used is to make people agree to do something their common sense and wisdom otherwise tell them is brain dead stupid, like getting into a land war in Asia or voting for a less than one full term senator who came out of nowhere with bucket loads of cash.  We know that it is propaganda because even the media is referring to it that way.  It’s got to be bad.

And stop listening to rich people who want you to think that pensions are something you pay for instead of deferred compensation.

One other thing: for years, those of us in the Pharmaceutical industry were subjected to a fear campaign about the “patent cliff”.  That was when the major blockbuster drugs were scheduled to go off patent.  It was going to mean catastrophic losses for the companies.  You would think that Big Pharma would have spent the decade before strengthening their research divisions, working with Congress to modernize the FDA, disentangling itself from the financial industry yoke that punished them every quarter for not meeting expectations or doing a whole host of other things that would have protected themselves.  But no.  What it did instead was engage in frenzy of mergers and acquisitions and merciless slashing of the research divisions in order to please the shareholders.  Now, these companies are hollowed out.  EVERYTHING is outsourced and hundreds of thousands of careers are ruined.  The scientists were asked to sacrifice everything they worked so hard for in order that not one shareholder had to take a loss for executives making a decade’s worth of incredibly bad decisions with known consequences.

This “fiscal cliff” is no different.  There will be a merciless slashing of anything that will lead to greater productivity and prosperity just so a tiny handful of exceedingly rich people don’t have to pay taxes or be accountable to anyone.  They want to be free of any political or national obligation.  It will be done for the shareholders, in this case, the 1% who gave money to Obama and Congress members.

That’s what is going to happen if the propaganda succeeds.

Pass it around.

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Now would be a good time for Stephen Colbert to put his PAC to use with anti-propaganda material.  I mean, if he’s not running for president anyway.

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