Downton Abbey tackles abortion (SPOILER ALERT)

downton-abbey-wallpaper-8SPOILER ALERT!!! I’m going to be discussing last night’s episode of Downton Abbey.  If you haven’t seen it yet, and are still planning on watching it, STOP READING RIGHT NOW.

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Okay.  Are those of you still with me okay with a spoiler?  Good.  Let’s get going with this post then.

We started watching Downton Abbey when it first came to America.  In the first and second seasons, it had everything an anglophile history buff could desire:  A ridiculously gorgeous setting, breathtaking pre-WWI fashions, solidly good acting, and an interesting plot-line that followed the upstairs and downstairs life of an aristocratic household on the verge of a war that exacted a great toll on England and fundamentally changed the British landscape.

And of course, it had Maggie Smith, who is a delight in every single scene.  As the Dowager Countess, a proud, loving woman struggling to accept all the changes in the world, she is witty, acerbic, and an absolute low-key comedic joy.

Downton Abbey is now in its fourth season and is dragging us through the 20s.  When I say “dragging,” I mean that pejorative deliberately.  The show has bogged down into being a classy, costumed soap opera.  I still watch for the costumes and for Maggie Smith, but otherwise it’s mostly a yawn.  Something interesting happened last night though.

As some of you may already know, the Earl of Grantham’s upstairs family began the series with three daughters:  Mary, the beautiful, snotty oldest (now a widow); Sybil, the beautiful, free-spirit youngest (now dead); and Edith, the ordinary looking, catty, uninteresting middle child.  Edith has consistently been unlucky in love, including being dumped at the altar.

Things finally started to go well for Edith last season when she met a handsome newspaper editor/publisher who fell in love with her.  The only problem was that he had a mad wife (shades of Mr. Rochester) and couldn’t divorce her to marry Edith.  Eventually, he decided to move to Germany (a scandalous thing to do immediately after WWI) and become a resident there, so that he could get divorced.  Sadly for Edith, he has since disappeared in Munich, and we don’t know what’s happened to him.  (By the way, if you’re British and do know what’s happened to him, please don’t tell me.) Even worse for Edith, she’s just discovered that she’s pregnant.

One of the threads in yesterday’s convoluted plot (complete with a boring rape story line) was Edith’s decision to go to London to get an abortion.  It’s obviously a difficult decision for her.  The aunt with whom she’s staying forces her to reveal her plans and, instead of being angry at unmarried Edith for being pregnant, is compassionate, and tries to talk her into having the baby.  Edith, though, is terrified of being a social outcast.  She loves the father, she wants the baby, but she cannot bear the thought of complete social ignominy.

So off they go to the abortionist.  I assumed that this would be the point where a compassionate 1920s doctor makes a speech about the evils of illegal abortion.  Instead, after being admitted in a clean, unadorned waiting room, by a clean, unadorned receptionist/nurse, Edith realizes that having the abortion will cut her off from her family just as surely as having the baby will.  She would no longer be able to stand going into the nursery where her niece and nephew live.  This promise of future regret overwhelms her . . . and she leaves the abortionist.

In a show full of hackneyed soap opera twists and turns, I did not see this one coming.

Will Obamacare see America replicate Britain’s early 20th Century slide into irrelevancy?

Victorian women in EnglandWhen I was at UC Berkeley, I had two good professors from whom I actually learned something.  One of them was Sheldon Rothblatt, who then taught a class covering England from the Industrial Revolution to the dawn of World War I.  He was a delightful teacher, able to infuse life and color into what would have been, in less skilled hands, a drab recital of capitalist oppression and Marxist struggles.

Looking back, I realize that Professor Rothblatt, unlike the usual Marxist cohort in Cal’s history department, viewed people as individuals with wants and desires, rather than as mere cogs in an endless struggle between oppressed masses and oppressive upper classes.  Prof. Rothblatt’s recognition that individuals count may go a long way to explaining the answer he gave when someone asked why the Industrial Revolution was petering out in England at the beginning of the 20th Century while, in America, it kept roaring on.

If I remember correctly, Prof. Rothblatt said that the end of the Industrial Revolution in England lay with the working classes.  The problem wasn’t that they were too oppressed.  Instead, between the downward pressure from the class system (“an Englishman’s way of speaking absolutely classifies him“), and the rising level of (comparative) luxury brought about by the Industrial Revolution, working-class Englishmen simply stopped trying very hard.  They knew that, no matter the effort they put in, they wouldn’t be able to break through the class ceiling.  Additionally, provided that they weren’t living in abysmal poverty, they had more creature comforts than they could ever have imagined.  So why work?

In America at the beginning of the 20th Century, things were different.  The working classes knew that, with effort, they could rise up and their children could rise up even more.  Heck, John D. Rockefeller went from a very shabby childhood to being one of the richest men in the world.  Andrew Carnegie, the son of a Scottish weaver, did the same.  While most wouldn’t reach those rarefied heights, there was no doubt that, with hard work, geographic mobility, and America’s open class system, a man or a woman, or that man’s or woman’s descendents, could realistically attain middle class or even wealthy status.  In addition, as the original poor gained economically because of the Industrial Revolution, thereby leaving the working class behind, there was a constant influx of (legal) immigrants to provide fresh, hope-filled labor for the factory floor.  Yes, many people fell by the wayside, but even more people ascended American society’s ranks — and that was itself an incentive for continued effort.

America has changed dramatically since then in three very significant ways.  First, we’ve lost our geographic mobility.  I know that sounds funny in a day and age of trains, planes, and automobiles, but it’s true.  We are heavily weighed down by both tangible and intangible assets.  If my husband were to lose his job (God forbid!), and if there were no employment prospects here, moving to find work would be reasonable.  Nevertheless, we would find it incredibly difficult to move.  Every room in our house is crammed with stuff that would have to be sorted, sold, packed, and transported and then, at the other end, we’d have to unpack, re-sort, and probably sell some more.  Unlike people in days of old, who might have had only a few clothes, a Bible, and a cook pot, we have four computers (one for each of us), hundreds of clothes (between the four of us), thousands of books (mostly mine), televisions, kitchen gadgets, appliances, dishes and cookware, cleaning supplies, furniture (too much, since my husband can’t bear to part with old when we buy new), family photographs, art work, knick-knacks — and that’s probably only a partial inventory of the tangible clutter that is a modern life.

A move also requires transporting our intangibles.  We have to engage in the tiresome task of changing our bank accounts.  In the old days, you’d just deposit or withdraw money.  Now the paperwork of setting up a new account to comply with the bank’s requirements, the state’s requirements, and the fed’s requirements can take hours.  We have to sever all our ties to cable companies, phone companies, and utilities, and then recreate new ties at our destination.  We need to change our address with credit card companies and make sure that Amazon ships more clutter to our new address not our old.  As I remember from my last move, it was almost a year before I’d managed to transfer every bit of data from my old address to my new one.

Second, illegal immigration means that our new crop of workers remain as perpetual bottom feeders, stultifying America’s former dynamic of moving from the bottom of the heap up to the middle or beyond.  We give the illegals marginal jobs, welfare, and food stamps, but they are, as their community organizers like to say, stuck in the shadows, something that severely limits upward mobility.  The appropriate course of action for our nation to take, of course, isn’t to grant amnesty, which is an invitation to yet another large batch of economically stultifying illegal shadow workers.  It is, instead, to shut down our borders, deny welfare to illegal immigrants and education to their children, put pressure on companies that employ them, and watch them self-deport.  Meanwhile, if we do indeed need all these workers, we should dramatically boost our legal immigrant quota and enable more people to come here freely and work openly.

Third, and most significantly, we’ve now got Obamacare, which acts as a disincentive to hard work.  John Podhoretz neatly summarizes the key points of the CBO’s most recent report about Obamacare’s effect on employment:

If that’s not startling enough [that the number of uninsured will stay the same or even rise, there’s also the telling projection about ObamaCare’s impact on employment — “a decline in the number of full-time-equivalent workers of about 2.0 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024.”

Overall employment will rise, the report says, but not steady, secure, long-term assured employment. The possibility of securing government-provided health-care without employment will give people a new incentive to avoid it. “The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply,” the report says.

Indeed, overall, between 2017 and 2024, the actual amount of work done in this country will decline by as much as 2 percent.

How come? Because of perverse incentives ObamaCare provides in the form of subsidies to some and higher taxes to others.

First, the report says Americans will “choose to supply less labor — given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive.”

Here’s why: Poor people get certain subsidies, which disappear once a worker achieves a certain level of compensation. So it may be better to work less, or not work at all, rather than reach that higher pay level, because the pay increase won’t offset the loss of the subsidy.

For those at the bottom economically who once had dreams of “movin’ on up,” Obama has placed insuperable hurdles in their way:  any incremental increase in wages from working longer hours or at a more demanding (but better paying) job will be offset by a dramatic increase in healthcare costs, resulting in either more work for less money or more work for the same money — neither of which is an appealing option.  Only those workers who are able to make the unlikely leap from poor to rich overnight will be able to bypass this barrier without suffering.

What all this means is that the modern American worker is now situated in the same way as the late 19th century English worker:  Where the English worker knew that the class barrier meant that harder work wouldn’t see him rewarded for his effort, the modern American knows that the Obamacare barrier means that harder work will not see him rewarded for his effort.  Where the English worker was frozen geographically because there were no better alternatives elsewhere (that class thing again), the American worker is likewise frozen, both because Obamacare’s perverse incentives apply everywhere and because moving is just too gosh darn difficult.

Lastly, just as that long-ago English worker had reached a level of comfort that made him willing to accept class and geographic limitations, so too has the American worker reached a fairly comfortable dead end.  He’s certainly not living lavishly.  However, thanks to Obamacare, unemployment, food stamps, and welfare, he’s getting an endless vacation.  He may not be basking on a Tahitian beach, taking in Broadway shows, or touring Europe’s cities, but he’s surfing the internet, talking to friends on his smart phone, and getting high scores on Call of Duty, all while receiving a bi-monthly check from both state and federal governments.  And when this sedentary lifestyle starts to have consequences — everything from carpal tunnel syndrome to life-threatening blood clots — he knows he’ll get free medical care that’s every bit as good as the Cuban medical care that multi-millionaire communist Michael Moore has raved about.

Some of you might be shaking your heads and saying “But no one would want to live that way.  It’s a squalid, marginal lifestyle.”  Well, as I’ve written here before, there are a lot of people who think it a fine way to live.  At the very least, it sure beats working.  For these people, the journey from a poorly paid job to permanent welfare is a much easier trip, both practically and economically, than working harder to make more money, only to see the extra wages vanish into the endless maw that is Obamacare.

While walking the dogs this morning, I listened to Mark Steyn, who was guest-hosting for Rush Limbaugh.  He pointed out that the real sin of welfare isn’t wasted money but is, instead, wasted humans.  As Betty Friedan (of all people) said in a talk I heard 20 or so years ago, there are three ingredients to a quality old age:  strong family ties, strong community ties, and work (i.e., a reason to get home in the morning).  Much as we humans like to do nothing, the fact is that the Victorians were right when they sagely opined that “idle hands are the Devil’s playground.”  Given too much free time, which is what’s about to happen to vast numbers of Americans thanks to Obamacare’s negative incentives, idle hands create tremendous societal wounds as people, rendered meaningless, engaging in destructive or self-destructive behavior.

Many people looking back at the early 20th Century think that World War I and World War II (followed by the loss of India) destroyed England.  They didn’t.  Those earthshaking events were actually the exclamation points on a society that had already run dry by 1914.  Once a society stops striving, it starts dying.  It happened there and, unless we can put the brakes on the slippery slope we’re now sliding down, it will happen here.

 

Basil Fawlty’s insanity almost becomes Bank of England policy

I do believe that one of the funniest things ever shown on TV is the episode of Fawlty Towers (a show that ran from 1975-1979) in which Basil Fawlty welcomes four German guests to his seaside hotel.  He’s told not to mention the war, lest he offend the Germans, but he cannot help himself:

As is happening way too often lately, life in the 21st century has gone from amusing satire to dysfunctional seriousness.  This is the news out of England today:

Bank of England bosses thought twice about putting Sir Winston Churchill on the new £5 note – because they didn’t want to upset the Germans.

Officials warned Sir Mervyn King, then Governor of the Bank of England, that Churchill’s wartime record might make him highly controversial, documents obtained by The Mail on Sunday show.

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In a memo dated April 11, 2012, Sir Mervyn was advised Churchill will be a popular choice because of his ‘broad name recognition’ and the public’s ‘very affectionate view’ of him as a wartime leader. But officials also warned him that ‘the recentness of World War II is a living memory for many here and on the Continent’.

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Officials also warned Sir Mervyn of Churchill’s ‘disastrous’ decision to return Britain to the gold standard in the 1920s. Churchill’s critics at the time claimed the move, with the backing of the Bank of England, produced the mass unemployment, deflation and industrial strife of the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Bank staff who conducted ‘considerable research’ into Churchill’s role in the debacle noted: ‘If academics do pick up on the move to the gold standard it is likely they will refer to the role of the Bank and Churchill’s own criticism of the Bank.’

We shouldn’t be surprised by this thinking, though. The same government body was worried about using Jane Austen’s image on a bank note in case something shady emerged about her private life.  (For those who are not fanatic Austen fans, she lived her whole life with her family; never married; wrote exquisite social comedies that were also strong morality stories; and left virtually nothing of herself behind other than her work, since her beloved sister Cassandra destroyed almost all of her letters.)

Paul Weston — “I am a racist”

Defending what is good about your country is racist.  So is describing Islam and its cultural and political practices.

Regarding Islam, let me be clear that this is not the same as the antisemites making things up about Jews, as they have since time immemorial.  Instead, what we know about Islam comes from the Muslim world itself:  from their concrete (and bloody) acts, from their media, from their speeches, and from their houses of worship.  They are open about what they are.  It is we who bury their true nature under platitudes and lies.

RIP to the late, very, very great Margaret Thatcher

Thatcher dismissing personal attacks

I was living in England in 1981 and 1982, so I was there for the coal miner riots and the Falkland War.  Since I was at a Northern University, the official posture of every student there was that Maggie Thatcher was evil.  I kind of admired her then, and I greatly admired her later.  This is the obituary I wrote for her at Mr. Conservative:

The indomitable Margaret Thatcher is dead at age 87, after having suffered a stroke. Thatcher was England’s Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990. She got elected after promising England that she would end the socialist hold over the British economy and, despite fierce opposition, that is precisely what she did.

Thatcher was absolutely sure of her convictions – she knew that Communism was evil; and that British socialism, a soft form of Communism, was simply a slow-moving evil sapping away the will and moral fiber that had once characterized the British people.

As is always the case when people who have been dependent on government benefits suddenly have those benefits pulled out from them, violence ensued. Thatcher was unmoved, and delighted in the fact that the British adopted the Soviet nickname for her: “The Iron Lady.’ She knew she was right, and she was not going to back down. She relished battle.

Thatcher on socialism

When, in 1982, Argentina attempted to take over the Falkland Islands, a small British governed island chain off its coast, Thatcher unflinchingly sent battleships off to war to take those islands back. The British, even those who hated her economic policies, cheered her on and celebrated what turned out to be a swift victory

Thatcher was the daughter of a conservative grocer and his wife. They raised her to believe in herself and in the fact that others had the right and the ability to be equally self-confident and self-sufficient. In the Thatcher family, dependency on government wasn’t just an embarrassment; it was a destructive force that had to be fought at every turn. This belief guided Thatcher’s entire career. Thankfully, her education at Oxford was in science and then law, so she was not indoctrinated in the leftism that was already then infecting Western liberal arts education.

Thatcher also had a wonderful gift for pithy sayings that readily encompassed serious conservative political thought. Small wonder that she and Ronald Reagan, whose presidency overlapped with much of her time as Prime Minister, delighted in each other so much:

Individualism has come in for an enormous amount of criticism over the years. It still does. It is widely assumed to be synonymous with selfishness…But the main reason why so many people in power have always disliked individualism is because it is individualists who are ever keenest to prevent the abuse of authority.

To be free is better than to be unfree – always. Any politician who suggests the opposite should be treated as suspect.

Because she understood socialism so well, she had the gift of prescience, predicting the socialist future with remarkable accuracy:

The European single currency is bound to fail, economically, politically and indeed socially, though the timing, occasion and full consequences are all necessarily still unclear.

I do believe that political arrangements which are based upon violence, intimidation and theft will eventually break down – and will deserve to do so.

Margaret Thatcher was a great lady, with the highest degrees of moral courage and political conviction. For a short, but golden time, she was able to stop Britain’s miserable slide into socialism. Although her control over Britain ended in 1990, it is her death that truly reminds us how rare her courage was, how difficult her conservative gains were, and how easily they were lost. All that’s left of Britain now seems to be embodied in an ugly, mean-spirited Leftist carpetbagger who seeks to destroy America as he and his kind have succeeded in destroying Thatcher’s Britain.

“Come on, you Spurs! Come on, you Spurs!

When I lived in England, the Tottenham Hotspurs, a London based football club, was doing very, very well.  It had done very, very well the year before too.  So Chas & Dave, a popular English duo, wrote a song, which became a massive hit.  The song is undeniably catchy, and it’s been stuck in my head for more than thirty years now:

During the song, you can hear the players in the back holler “oy, oy.” When I first heard this, I thought it was a funny coincidence that the Spurs used a Yiddish word like that. I was quickly disabused of this notion. There was nothing coincidental about that. The Spurs had such strong support from London Jews that it was called “the Jewish Club.” Back in the day, that was just a fact. The Brits, who were then known for a casual, rather than venomous, antisemitism, might make slighting remarks, but that was all.

Today, though, the team’s Jewish identity is something very dangerous for the team’s fans, despite the fact that there are no Jewish players and the vast majority of its fans aren’t Jewish:

For Tottenham Hotspur’s corps of traveling fans, Thursday’s soccer game in Italy against Internazionale Milano holds many dangers—and not just to their team. When Tottenham played Lyon in a Europa League game last month, 150 visiting fans were set upon by a group of neo-Nazis, with three Spurs supporters ending up in the hospital. It was the second time in recent months that the team’s fans have been attacked by a fascist mob in Europe—in November, several Spurs fans were injured when they traveled to Rome to see Tottenham take on Lazio. Their assailants screamed “Jews” before attacking them with knives and clubs.

Tottenham’s supporters are no strangers to anti-Semitism. The North London team has been known as the “Jewish club” since the beginning of the early 1900s, when it regularly attracted over 11,000 Yiddisher supporters to home games. In 1986, it was the first big team (and the last) to hire a British Jew, David Pleat, as a coach, and a Happy Yom Kippur message has made an annual appearance in the club’s official program since 1973.

The paragraphs above come from a Wall Street Journal article about the team and its Jewish identity. Although it’s short,it nevertheless manages to be a fascinating blend of history, antisemitism, and identity in a PC age. It is, therefore, well worth reading.

Richard III’s death, because it paved the way for Henry VIII, was a pivotal moment in British and world history *UPDATED*

Richard III

My sister and I got to talking yesterday about Richard III.  He was, she said, a decent king during his two years and his administration was terribly maligned by subsequent Tudor historians and, especially, Shakespeare.  She’s right.  Contemporaneous records show that he was a good leader up in his home base, the north of England, and that he was an effective, pragmatic king.  In addition, he almost certainly committed regicide against the two princes in the Tower.  The only reason this mattered was because it gave Henry VII the opening to be righteous in his bid for the throne.

Henry VII

Looked at objectively, Richard III and Henry VII were two peas in a pod:  both were able administrators, both had a tenuous claim to the British throne, and both were willing to kill to get that throne.  It’s likely that, had Richard III retained his throne, England during his reign would have looked remarkably similar to England during Henry VII’s reign.

It’s equally likely that Richard III, even if he’d handed the throne to a son, would not have had a son like Henry VIII.  For all his faults (and they were many, considering that he had sociopathic or even psychopathic tendencies), Henry VIII was arguably the most important monarch to sit on England’s throne.  It was his overwhelmingly personality — his inability to beget sons; his overwhelming ego; and his mad passion for Anne Boleyn, who promised him a male heir — that saw him remove Britain from Rome’s orbit at a pivotal time in both British and European history.

Henry VIII

Some argue that Henry would have left Rome in any event, since Spain and France were his enemies and leaving Rome strengthened his alliance with Protestant lowland Europe.  This overlooks the fact that Henry’s break with Spain also came about because of his inability to have sons, his ego, and his passion.  During the good years with Katherine of Aragon, Catholic Spain was an ally, and helped Catholic England in the balance of power against Catholic France.

It was only after Henry abandoned Rome (and he did so administratively, not doctrinally) that the shift in the balance of powers that we associate with Henry’s, and the Elizabeth’s, reign came about.  By then, of course, religious wars were starting to rip Europe apart anyway.  And indeed, one can wonder whether, if Henry (or an imaginary son of Richard III) had stayed with Rome, the Protestant schism would have been as powerful as it was, or if it would simply have exhausted itself in small, German and lowland municipalities.  (In France, of course, the Catholic monarchs quashed Protestantism with brutality creating a Huguenot diaspora.)

Oliver Cromwell

Henry’s decision to break with Rome set the stage, a little over a century later, for the English Civil War.  That War opened the door to Cromwell, who allowed the Jews to return to England, which arguably helped jump start England’s phenomenal mercantile rise.  From that came a British colossus that, for almost two centuries, controlled vast swaths of the world — North America, the Indian subcontinent, parts of Africa, the Caribbean, etc.  Significantly, and without exceptions, Niall Ferguson demonstrates convincingly that every former British colony went on to become prosperous, whether that prosperity is measured on a worldwide scale (as is the case with America) or on a smaller, geographic neighborhood scale (comparing Kenya to the Congo, for example).

Short of dropping into a science fiction show that allows us to see alternate realities, we can only assume how history would have progressed if certain events hadn’t happened.  England might still have hewed Protestant without Henry’s decision to break away.  Had that happened, though, it might well have been a more gradual, organic transition that didn’t result in a Civil War.  Under the same line of reasoning, England, once Protestant might have invited the Jews back, although perhaps not at such a pivotal time, one that coincided with the geographic expansion of European power.  And even without the Jews, Britain might have become an imperial giant.

All we do know is that things played out as they did.  And to the extent one believes that it was a good thing for the world that Britain, which was historically a more freedom-oriented country than its contemporaneous peers, then one must also believe that Richard III’s death, by paving the way for Henry VIII, was more important than his life.

Richard III's face

UPDATE: Andrew Roberts has more on the fact that Richard III was an effective, indeed good, monarch, while Henry VII had the sweaty sheen of a liar and opportunist.  Be that as it may — whether Richard was a murderer or a victim — the fact remains that his death paved the way for Henry VIII, and all the consequential changes that flowed from his passions.  (Additionally, one cannot avoid the fact that, while Henry VII is as likely a murderer of the princes as was Richard III, they did vanish on Richard’s watch….

Eco-friendly homes more expensive than promised

I think Al Gore must have been behind this eco-friendly housing subdivision, because it’s making money for the rich and screwing every one else:

Residents promised cheaper bills to live in a multi-million pound eco-friendly ‘homes of the future’ complex say they will have to move out after being hit with sky-high electricity charges.

The Pavilion Gardens complex in West Bowling, Bradford, West Yorkshire, was heralded as being the most environmentally-friendly in the county when it was completed in July 2011 at a cost of £5.6million.

Residents were told their electricity bills would be £500 cheaper than average because the houses are super-insulated with biomass boilers for heating and solar panels for electricity.

But just 18 months after moving in, many residents say they have been hit with massive electrical bills almost double the annual average and they can’t afford to live in the properties.

Read the rest here.

Green — it’s the color of the wheelbarrows full of money the scammers are weeping over as they head to the bank.

 

Richard III’s remains positively identified

“Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York,” says the malevolent Richard III in Shakespeare’s eponymous play.  Generations of Shakespearean actors have portrayed him is a sinister hunchback, greedily eying his brother’s throne and eventually murdering two young boys in order to obtain it.  The play was a perfect example of the victor’s ability to write history.

Laurence Olivier as Richard III

For centuries, people accepted Shakespeare’s portrayal at face value.  Starting in the late 19th century, though, contrarion historians started challenging this view.  They claimed that Richard III was a reasonable, temperate monarch, and that Henry VII was an overreaching usurper who needed to blacken Richard’s name in order to hold onto the throne that he had won by war, not by right.  The problem for these revisionists always remained those missing boys in the Tower of London.  Did they die?  Did Richard murder them?  Did Henry VII murder them?  Who knows.

What we do know is that Shakespeare was right about one thing:  Richard was indeed a hunchback.  Thanks to a stunning example of historic investigation, coupled with modern forensic science, we can look at Richard’s skeleton — and he had significant scoliosis:

Richard III's skeleton

We also know now that he fought ferociously in the Battle of Bosworth, for his skeleton reveals ten significant cuts, three of which were on his skull, with each of those three having the right to be called a death blow. There are also indications that Henry’s soldiers engaged in a little body mutilation after he did. Richard did not go gently into the night.

What struck me about the skeleton, in addition to the scoliosis and cuts, was Richard’s teeth.  They’re beautiful.  I didn’t expect the late-medieval corpse of a 32-year-old man to have such straight, white teeth:

Richard III's teeth

Whenever I think of medieval smiles, I think of a mouth opening to reveal gaping holes and blackened stubs. Richard’s smile, though, must have been lovely: big and white.

The media claims that this skeleton will allow a wholesale reevaluation of Richard’s reign. My imagination is failing me, though, because I don’t know how a skeleton can reveal whether he usurped the throne, whether he was a good administrator for the two years he held it, or whether he murdered his nephews. It can tell us about diet and health, certainly, but the only historic fact it seems to prove is that he was a hunchback. Whether he was a good or a bad hunchback is something to discern from the documentary record, not the bones.

England’s welfare state is a victim of its own success

It’s no wonder Brits, contra Obama, want out of the EU.  Aside from exerting nit-picky control over every aspect of British life, the EU makes it virtually impossible for Britain to stem the endless tide of immigrants coming in, legally or not, and immediately getting public benefits that are not available to the Brits themselves.

Here are two articles and a video regarding that problem.

First, a woman talks about living the lush life on her benefits.

Second, some fed-up Brits raise their voices in protest song:

Third, a shy, unlikely voice emerges to oppose, not just the welfare state, but the lies that the ruling class tells about the welfare state.

A video and an online bingo shop entice me down memory lane

Two things from England wandered across my computer screen yesterday.  The first was a link to Party Bingo, a fully-licensed online bingo site in England.  The second thing that wandered across my monitor was a 1972 informational video for new students attending the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology has hit the internet.  That video send me careening wildly down memory lane, a memory that includes my first ever exposure to licensed betting shops.  Let me backtrack a little, though.

It’s true that my year as an exchange student occurred some years after 1972 and I attended a different university.  Despite those differences, the similarities between what’s shown in this old video and what I experienced are striking.  That is, I was there far enough in the past to be a lot closer to 1972 in my England experiences than I am to 2012 in my experiences.  For example, that room in the sixth photo down is virtually identical to the student housing room I occupied while I lived there.  My university also had a very active Student Union, and I hung out a lot in the SU building, including the bar.   At Cal, there was a bar, but I couldn’t hang out there, because I wasn’t yet 21.  In England — no problem.  Incidentally, I didn’t drink (still don’t) so I just . . . hung out.

I also have vivid memories of “Rag Week.”  Students for various organizations would sell “rag mags” for a few pennies.  They were small booklets filled with jokes, many insanely stupid.  Somewhere in a box, deep in a closet, I still have my collection of rag mags.  The only joke I remember from those hoary collections is “What color is a burp?  Burple.”

The video also reminded me of professional football matches.  I never actually saw a professional match, although I went to a Christmas party at the football club, which the Student Union had leased for the event.  The fact is that, by the time I got to England, football fans were an ugly lot.  I always knew a match was coming up because all of the local shops would board up their windows.  One didn’t go to a match, one hid from it.

England was then, as it is now, so similar to and yet so different from America.  We almost spoke a common language, but I still managed to get myself in trouble.  My friends and I once had a lively evening telling silly jokes, until I stopped everything by telling a joke they thought was perverted nonsense.  I bet you know the joke:  “Why did the fireman wear red suspenders?  To hold up his pants.”  In England, that joke would be told as follows:  “Why did the fireman wear red braces?  To hold up his trousers.”  What I’d manage to say was “Why did the fireman wear a red garter belt?  To hold up his underpants.”  Yup, two nations separated by a single language.

Those differences get me back to that online bingo site.  Until I went to England, the whole notion of licensed betting shops eluded me.  When I thought of anything but racetrack or Vegas betting, I had pictures of Runyon-esque characters speaking a highbrow version of lowdown English:

It never occurred to me that an entire nation could sanction betting. Wherever one went in England, there were licensed betting offices. You could bet on anything, whether it was a football match, a horse race, or the outcome of an upcoming election, local, national, or international.  I never went into one of those shops, hindered as I was by a very American puritanical streak.  I’ve grown up since then, and certainly become more libertarian.  I know that gambling is a fearsome addiction for some, but it’s plain old fun for others.  I know people who think nothing about spending $400 for an evening of food and wine, so why should I condemn someone who spends $100 on a horse race?

But just as England has changed dramatically since the video was made and since I lived there, so too has licensed betting.  It’s gone online, so now you too can sign up for Party Bingo.  If that’s your thing, more power to you — just be sure not to get so enmeshed in the game that you become a living model for Hogarth’s Rake’s Progress:

About Prince Harry — it’s his nature (but I actually don’t mean that in a bad way)

My sister asked me “What do you think about Prince Harry?”

For starters, I don’t think about Prince Harry too much, but right now, the front page coverage is making one forcibly aware of him.  Frankly, this is how I think of Prince Harry:  He’s an Australian sheep dog, and perhaps with the same level of narrow intelligence:

Australian sheep dogs are wonderful animals, provided that you keep them busy doing the task for which they are born.  If you do not keep an Australian sheep dog busy, it becomes destructive, both to itself and to its environment.  It will chew up a house, break its teeth on the cages meant to control it, worry its skin to death (truly), etc.  Give the dog a job, though, and it just chugs along cheerily.

Prince Harry is exactly the same.  He loves the military and, from everything I’ve heard, when he’s on duty, he’s good at his job.  Keep him busy, and he’s happy and productive.  Once the down time starts, though, Katy bar the door.  That’s a boy who’s going to get himself in trouble — especially because trouble, in the form of wine, women, and song, finds him so easily.

I have no doubt that there are Las Vegas videos being circulated right now that show Harry engaging in carnal relationships with various women, either seriatim or simultaneously.  Take a physical animal, and then throw in booze, lots of women, and a morality-free environment, and it’s inevitable.  Nor would I be surprised if drugs were involved.

Under the circumstances, the worst thing to do would be do sack Harry from the military.  He should be punished by being given massive amounts of extra work.  Then, once the punishment period is over, they should continue to give him more and more work and responsibility.  This is a sheep dog that needs to be kept out of trouble, because he’ll just harm himself if allowed to roam free.  (In this regard, I seriously fault his minders for giving him free rein.  What were they thinking?)

British police can’t even defend themselves against dogs

Perhaps I’m misunderstanding things here, but as I read this article, five British police officers got badly mauled by a single dog because none had a gun.  It wasn’t until a SWAT team arrived that the attack ended.

In America, the police are minutes away when seconds count.  In England, the police are there, but who cares?  Even the dogs aren’t scared.

The news out of England *UPDATED*

A few stories from England’s Daily Mail, all showing that the country is not in the best of health.  Each of these stories highlights, not the horrible things individuals can do, because those crimes transcend national boundaries, but the way in which England has rendered itself unable to react in any way to the insults occurring within its borders.

1.  An Eritrean national who helped plot an attempted jihad-inspired mass murder in England is not only free after serving just half his sentence, but the Brits cannot deport him for fear of violating his human rights.  Interestingly, concern about human rights didn’t seem to impinge on his activities when he helped the would-be bombers.

2.  Somehow England’s best, brightest and Leftest minds were unable to figure out that open immigration would depress wages.  This is what years of Leftist higher education will do to you — make you stupid.

3.  As a child, I remember reading that Soviet hospitals had something in common with medieval hospitals:  if your relatives weren’t there to take care of you, you died.  Turns out that you don’t have to be in a hardcore Communist nation or a medieval time warp for that to open.  Just go to England.  Soft socialism will do exactly the same bad job for you.

4.  Human rights don’t stop with Jihadists.  True blue axe-murdering Brits get their day in the sun too, as was the case with an axe murder with three notches on his blade who was nevertheless allowed out of prison to attend a course in chopping down trees.  Once an axe lover, always an axe lover, I guess.

UPDATE:  Sadie just sent me the worst article of all, one explaining better than anything else could, how Britain has arrived at this state:

From the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz to Meg, the good witch from the Meg and Mog children’s books, witches have always dressed in black.

But their traditional attire has now come in for criticism from equality experts who claim it could send a negative message to toddlers in nursery and lead to racism.

Instead, teachers should censor the toy box and replace the pointy black hat with a pink one, while dressing fairies, generally resplendent in pale pastels, in darker shades.

Another staple of the classroom – white paper – has also been questioned by Anne O’Connor, an early years consultant who advises local authorities on equality and diversity.

Children should be provided with paper other than white to drawn on and paints and crayons should come in “the full range of flesh tones”, reflecting the diversity of the human race, according to the former teacher.

Read the rest here.

And one more from Sadie:  police ban cafe owner from displaying Christian literature (including the Bible) and images, as they are an offense to public order.  The next thing, presumably, will be a raid on Buckingham Palace.  I’ve heard there’s an old woman living there who actually claims to be the head of a Christian church in England.  (I feel a satirical post coming on, if I can just keep my comic mojo going.)

Mixed feelings about England

I fought my husband for years about taking the kids on vacation to England.  Despite growing up as a complete Anglophile (I can talk for hours, unaided, about British history) and despite having spent one of the happiest years of my life there, I have a lot of issues with modern day England.

My primary problem with England is the institutional antisemitism that permeates its political and educational class.  A poisonous combination of virtually unlimited immigration from the Muslim world and Leftist education has turn England into one of the most antisemitic countries in the Western world.

It’s a little unfair to point the finger of blame solely at the recent past, though.  The slow drip-drip of Muslim antisemitism goes back to the 1930s and before, when England made an unholy alliance with the Muslim world over oil.  That emotional alliance was temporarily severed during World War II, when the Arabs made common cause with the Nazis (“antisemites unite”), but it came back in full flower when the British behaved disgracefully towards the nascent state of Israel.  (Briefly, as they withdrew, the British, in violation of international agreement, handed key forts over to the Arabs.)  What this means is that modern Muslim and Leftist antisemitism in England grows out of fertile soil.

I’m also unhappy about England because of the cultural rot that’s set in.  A few months ago or more, I would have illustrated that rot with links to reports about its rampant alcoholism, single parenthood, drug abuse, teen mothers, etc.  Now, I’ll just say:  riots.  Those riots — which weren’t about anything at all, but sprang from a nihilism brought about by decades of the type of government dependency that saps all meaning from life — perfectly illustrate England’s decay.

Going to England as a tourist means giving my money to that system.  By paying for food, lodging, transportation and entertainment, I feel as if I’m putting my imprimatur on something quite awful.

And yet….

And yet there’s still something for me about England.  My husband and are watching with the children “World War II in Colour,” one of the endless World War II offerings on the Military channel.  The show takes old footage, colorizes it, adds sound, and pieces it together with maps and very British narrative to put together a fairly comprehensive (albeit facile) picture about World War II.  Watching it, one cannot forget that it was the Brits who held off the Nazis for two years entirely on their own, and who ending up fighting the fight for six solid years.  From the end of 1941 onwards, the British also found themselves facing off against the Japanese in the Pacific.  It takes one hell of a nation to do what the English did.  There was a moral courage there (in America, too) at the time that simply earns my respect.

Generally speaking, British history has my respect as well.  Yes, the British were pirates (16th to 17th centuries), they were religious killers (name a century before the 18th), they were slave traders (16th through early 19th centuries) and everything else awful that makes up the history of the Western world.  But they abandoned those sins before other nations did.  And unlike other nations, they advanced a notion of individual freedom that (I believe) reached full flower in America.  Without British law and customs as the foundation, there would be no United States of America.  That too is worthy of respect.

From the travel point of view, Britain also still ranks high.  For the kids and me, it was the best part of the trip.  It worked at every level, whether we’re talking about a temperate climate, ease of transportation, beauty, interesting history, or quality museums and other historic sites.  You name it, we liked it (especially the Churchill War Rooms and Imperial War Museum).  As a tourist, England felt right.  If you stay in the heart of London, the rot that led to the riots is hidden.  All you see is glory.

That’s why we’re probably going back to England next year.  My husband wants to travel and I want to travel to a place that’s comfortable and endlessly interesting.  I’m not sure there’ll always be an England.  This will probably be my last chance to see it and, if current political and demographic trends continue onward, it might be the children’s last chance too.  So, while we can, we’ll go to the greatness:  Hatfield, Blenheim, Chatsworth, Castle Howard, Bath, York, Oxford, Cambridge, Stratford, Edinburgh, etc. — all the places that still feel redolent of the past, and haven’t yet been destroyed by the present.

Honor they father and thy mother

When he was 6, my son suddenly started stealing things from his classmates.  Market value wasn’t the object.  Like a magpie, he went for the sparkling, brightly colored stuff.  Naturally, he got caught.  The school imposed appropriate consequences, but it was left to me to explain to him that stealing is bad, not just because you can get caught and punished, but because it’s fundamentally wrong.

The approach I took, and one that worked surprisingly well, was the Ten Commandants.  I explained to my little six year old that the Ten Commandants are the BIG RULES.  Even if you don’t believe in God (and he’s always parroted his father’s atheism), they’re still exceptionally good rules for a functioning society.  People cannot live together if they’re murdering each other, or stealing from each other, or constantly eaten up with jealously.  The Ten Commandments represent the wisdom of the ages.  Whether from God or from man, they are the keys to a successful society in which people can go about their ordinary lives.  My son never stole again.

I thought of the Ten Commandments today when I read the opening sentence of Theodore Dalrymple’s take on the convulsions in England:

The youth of Britain have long placed a de facto curfew on the old, who in most places would no more think of venturing forth after dark than would peasants in Bram Stoker’s Transylvania.

Whether from God or from man, the Ten Commandment’s dictum that the young must “Honour thy father and thy mother,” if applied, would have prevented the riots.  That’s because these weren’t ordinary riots.  Think about it:  In the past, whether it was the Poll Tax riot in 1381, or the Chartist and other riots in the early 19th century, Britain’s riots were driven by adults with legitimate political grievances.  This time around, it was just angry kids.  As the Victorians knew, and they were certainly well-steeped in Biblical morality, idle hands are the Devil’s playground.  And when those idle hands are attached to minds that respect nothing and nobody . . . anarchy results.

 

Moral figures without moral authority

There is a story that Josef Stalin, hearing mention of the Pope, asked dismissively ““How many divisions does the Pope have?”  The quotation, if true, is compelling, because it perfectly illustrates the Leftist viewpoint that the only power is that which comes at the point of a gun.  The notion of moral behavior and moral authority is utterly alien to the statist.

An interesting question, therefore is what happens to a figure of supposed moral authority who is the product of a statist society?  JKB sent me the answer to that question, which is that the person recognizes that moral dimensions exist in a given situation, but is utterly incapable of believing that there is a way to use his authority to enforce that morality.  The following quotation comes from a long, stream-of-consciousness description a British man of the cloth wrote about the riots in Salford:

My clothes stink of smoke and I want to weep with rage at a society that has disenfranchised so many for so long whilst brainwashing two/three generations of children to want, want, want!  I can still hear the sheer joy in that lads voice, ‘X-boxes! iPhones! You can get whatever you want!’  All of his empty dreams being fulfilled – well temporarily anyway.

I also feel a kind of empty, shocked sorrow that I heard young children being taught to hate the police as they arrived, that parents would send them into dark, dangerous buildings to loot to feed their own greed, happy to teach them that stealing and looting and robbing and mindless waste and destruction are ‘funny’, because if I heard that once I heard it a thousand times tonight.  ’I just think it’s funny!’

I saw the faces of police personnel, hardened with concentration for the task at hand, while people laughed at the potential damage they would inflict on somebody else’s wife, son, daughter, mother.

The trouble is, we do have a two tier society without a doubt, and while bankers have been allowed their bonuses having stitched us up every which way, we will continue to pay for this in more ways than one, and tonight is just one of them.  With the cuts aimed primarily at the poor and the needy and the disenfranchised, things can only get worse.

And what will we do?  Continue to promulgate the values that have created this deadly cocktail of haves and have-nots, faithless, hopeless people who have been taught that consumerism is a recreational right and all moral and religious education completely nonsensical?  Surely THIS is nonsensical?!  [Emphasis mine.]

I don’t doubt at all the despair or moral decency of the person who wrote that plaintive cry.  What concerned JKB, and what concerns me, is his helplessness. Even as he carries on him the smoke from his burning country, and even though he is a man of the cloth, he sees the problem solely in statist terms.  While he mentions the words “moral” and “religion,” he doesn’t seem to see either morality or religion as answers.  Instead, the problem, in his mind, is the usual pap about “haves and have-nots,” with the answer being to use his moral authority, not to inculcate morality, but simply to decrease consumerism. Without inculcating values in people, though, the only way to decrease consumerism is the Stalinist way — at the point of the gun, and we’ve seen lately just how well that works.

 

Is S&M prejudice the new racism? It is in Cosgrove and Grafton.

We’re getting used to the fact that, no matter what we say or do, we’re racist.  Want to shrink government?  You’re racist.  Want stronger border security?  You’re racist.  Think Obama is so inept even Carter looks good by comparison?  You’re racist.

A candidate in England, though, has taken the name calling to an entirely new level.  Up until a few days ago, she was just another Liberal Democrat running for office.  However, it turns out that she also has an interesting hobby:  “Art” photographs of her wearing ball gags, clutching her breasts, or having (fake?) blood dripping down her body have emerged at a website called DeviantArt.  This is not a wholesome, or even a normal, individual.  No surprise, then, that the Tories opposing her have made hay of the recently revealed photos, although they’ve been careful to limit their direct attacks at her politics.

The candidate, Holly-Ann Battye is not taking this lying down.  Her defense is both screamingly funny and, given the traction self-styled “victims” get after attacking alleged politically correct failures, disturbing:

The photographs emerged just two weeks before the country is due to go to the polls in the local elections on May 5.

Miss Battye, who has defended her ‘artwork’, claims it is being used against her as part of a personal attack on her character by political opponents.

‘I find it reprehensible that narrow-minded local Tories would seek to stifle proper political debate on their inadequate record while running SNC,’ she said

‘By deflecting people from the real issues they are trying to hide their failure to deliver decent services while spending money on grand new offices for themselves.

‘My artwork has nothing to do with this campaign but this slur has everything to do with the Tories feeling threatened.

‘I suppose they would prefer it if there was no democracy and only Tory candidates could stand, like in many of the seats across this ‘rotten borough’ they have created.’

Not only is Queen Victoria unamused at this travesty of democracy in her beloved middle class country, she’s spinning (not just rolling, but spinning) in her grave.

In putting up this post, I’ve classified it simply as “England.”  It occurs to me that I might want to start a new category called “The end of the world as we know it.”

 

Two links for your outrage, amusement and edification

I’m not quite sure how to describe this one without giving away the whole weird little joke.  Suffice to say that it’s quick and amusing.

As for this one, you’ll be interested to know that Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians (“RCO”) believes women should be advised that, generally speaking, abortions are better for their physical health than having a baby.  This is technically correct, but so morally appalling, I’m at a loss for words.  The same RCO also says that there’s no merit to the studies that abortions left some women mentally damaged or bereft:

The guidance also says that women who are deciding whether to have an abortion must be told that most do not suffer any psychological harm. Until now, their advice has been that while rates of psychiatric illness and self-harm in women are higher among those who had an abortion, there was no evidence that termination itself was likely to trigger psychological problems.

In other words, mostly crazy ladies have abortions….  Yeah, that’s a club I want to join.  Please read the whole thing over at Brutally Honest.

I now pronounce the Archbishop of Canterbury officially insane

The Archbishopric of Canterbury used to be a pretty important job.  The guy who held that position, going back to the earliest Middle Ages, was the premier leader of the English church, whether that church gave allegiance to Rome or the British Monarch.  The current Archbishop, Rowan Williams is, as best as I can tell, insane.

A few years ago, he made a place for himself on the radar by supporting sharia law which is (a) anti-Christian and (b) antithetical to Western notions of human rights.  I don’t need to tell any of you that, under sharia law, Christians and Jews, if they are allowed to live, are second class citizens; women are prisoners of men and can be beaten or murdered with impunity; homosexuals are routinely murdered by the State; and the whole theocratic tyrannical institution seeks world domination.

Williams’ apparent comfort with the idea of creating a vast prison for the entire world population may stem from the fact that his view of prisoners is, to say the least, unique.  He thinks that even the worst of them should be entitled to the full panoply of rights, including the right to vote.  Yes, this is true.  The Archbishop of Canterbury would be comfortable giving, say, Charles Manson or the Yorkshire Ripper a voice in electing government officials, determining government spending, creating laws controlling citizens, etc:

The Archbishop of Canterbury today said prisoners should get the vote, backing an axe killer whose campaign has been endorsed by European courts.

John Hirst, who hacked his landlady to death, yesterday boasted that he was on the verge of forcing the Government to ‘wave the white flag of surrender’, as MPs prepare to vote on the move tomorrow.

The leader of the Church of England Dr Rowan Williams today said that prisoners should keep their dignity – and that their rights should not be put in ‘cold storage’ while they are behind bars.

‘We’re in danger of perpetuating a penal philosophy and system which actually leaves everybody as victims,’ he said.

He told a Commons committee that the country should move beyond ‘a situation where the victimising of the prisoner by the denial of those basic civic issues is perpetuated.’

‘The prisoner as citizen is somebody who can on the one hand expect their dignities as a citizen to be factored into what happens to them.’

That the lunatics who have taken over the EU asylum would like to perpetuate their power by giving the vote to those who have, through their conduct, blatantly violated the social compact is, sadly, understandable. What’s so deeply disturbing here is that it is the Archbishop of Canterbury who has slipped his moorings and is advocating the same inversion of morality and decency.  This is the man, after all, who is supposed to stand for the highest Christian traditions — traditions that include respect for the sanctity of life and law.  For him to treat an axe murderer in  precisely the same way he treats the shopkeeper on the street corner is a travesty of the notions of grace, decency and ethics.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News