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      Ian described the proposed EU sanctions on Russia as “not shabby”, but while they are somewhat more serious sanctions than heretofore it’s only somewhat. The most serious ones are the ones on Russia’s financial institutions. Yes it’ll raise costs but will hurt London and Frankfurt including reputationally. It will also have the effect of encouraging [...] […]
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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.

Tuesday: Losing my religion

I’m about to say something offensive.  I usually don’t give warnings when I do this but in this case, it may be necessary.  For any of you out there who are Catholic or fundagelical, you may want to cover your ears.  No, I take that back.  You need to hear this.

It’s time we stopped allowing the Catholic church and other churches from dictating what the natural order of things is supposed to be.  We need to reject it as a legitimate voice in the public sphere. When it says, “Jump!”, we say, “STFU”.

Now, I will admit that the church has done a lot of good things and it serves a purpose at the community level and provides comfort and guidance to people.  But throughout its history, it has also been coercive, manipulative, hard hearted and wrong.  It took 400 years to get around to pardoning Gallileo.  Women may look at that example and think it means that there is hope.  Maybe it will take another 400 years to validate women as human beings with souls but they’ll get around to it someday.  I would like to disabuse you of that notion.  The Catholic church is an entity that is run by men, ruled by men and whose hierarchy does not EVER let a woman in even on the ground floor.  They claim this is dictated by the New Testament itself and it will never change.  Think about that for a moment.  As far as the Catholic church is concerned, the interpretation of Christianity according to Jesus, Paul and the other apostles excludes women from the ranks of power and equality for eternity.  It is absolute.  

Now, I don’t know about you but I’ve always believed, based on my own rejection of an equally fundagelical religion imposed on me at a young age, that God or Goddess can use all of the help she can get.  Ok, to go further than that, I do not accept the traditional concept of a supreme being.  Put me in the Providence, creator, nebulous cosmic energy force category.  My creator does not have a gender and therefore has no reason to discriminate.  My Jesus never put women on a plane lower than men.  My creator is too busy with the universe to be worried about what two men do in the privacy of their bedroom.  And if this is what I believe, why should I ever buy into the anachronistic, unevolved, “women are second class citizens?  How conveeeenient” notions of some organized gang of guys in the Vatican treehouse?

The next time someone brings up the need to cater to the religious crowd, I’m going to say, “And what does that have to do with me?  I don’t care two figs for the religious crowd.  If they want to worship the ultimate employer in gender based discrimination, let them do it on their own dime.”

What I’m saying, people, is that if we want to put women on an equal footing, we have to attack the problem of discrimination at its root- religion.  And the first thing that needs to happen is church and state need to be completely separate.  Completely.  That means no more Office of Faith Based Initiatives, no more Rick Warrens at invocations.   If you want to pray, do it privately.  If you want to get up every morning and praise Yaweh that you were not born a woman, make sure you leave it in your bedroom before you step out that door. 

And if we want Obama to take us seriously, we need to pressure him to distance himself from the church.  Effective immediately.  The church is not my ultimate authority and it doesn’t represent MY values.  I am both offended that it has been allowed to dictate policy with permission of *two* administrations and insistent that it stops using my tax dollars to get even more of a foothold to practice discrimination with the help of government and I want it to stop.  If the stimulus bill has funds allocated to faith based initiatives, I want them stripped out. 

Lather, rinse, repeat until they are gone, baby, gone.

“[I]t is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties….Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?”

-James Madison, From the “Memorial and Remonstrance,” 1785

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