Queen Elizabeth II, the seemingly eternal monarch who became a bright but inscrutable beacon of continuity in the United Kingdom during more than seven decades of rule, died Sept. 8 at Balmoral Castle, her estate in the Scottish Highlands. She was 96.
Her death, of undisclosed causes, was announced by Buckingham Palace.
In her reign, which began in February 1952 after the death of her father, King George VI, Elizabeth served as a constant and reassuring figure in Britain and on the world stage as she helped lead her country through a period of profound shifts in geopolitical power and national identity.
The designs of postage stamps and bank notes changed through the decades, but they all depicted the same, if aging, monarch. The British national anthem now shifts to “God Save the King,” but most Britons have only known the other version, for the queen.
It is the end of an era. Queen Elizabeth II is the only monarch most Britons, and most of us elsewhere, have ever known. Although as an American I live in a republic without any kings or queens, I am enough of an anglophile that I felt that she was my queen. I am sorry to see her go and I wish the best of luck to the new King of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
In Cuba, the people are fighting for their freedom against Communist tyranny.
Just as the people of Hong Kong have been protesting the despotic rule of the People’s Republic of China.
Isn’t it ironic that all over the world the American flag is a symbol of freedom, except here in America? In the United States, our leftist elite despises the flag as a symbol of racism and hate. They are triggered by the sight of the flag. Children are taught to hate the American Flag.
I think this tells us everything we need to know about the American flag-hating left. They are not fighting against racism but freedom. They despise the greatest symbol of freedom in the world as much as they despise the freedom that flag represents. These socialists are on the same side as the tyrants of Cuba, China, and everywhere else freedom is denied to the people. They are on the same side as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and every other despot who tormented the people he ruled. Their Critical Race Theories and 1619 Projects and socialist politics are simply a way to attempt to impose the same sort of totalitarian rule that the brave people of Cuba and Hong Kong are fighting against.
For millions of people around the world, the American flag stands for freedom. It is a pity that is no longer the case for so many people here at home.
If it were not for the criminal negligence of the government of the People’s Republic of China, the world would not be suffering from the coronavirus pandemic. They lied about the extent of the pandemic in their own country and punished medical authorities who dared to tell the truth. Their incompetence permitted the spread of COVID-19 beyond Wuhan. The Chinese government is still not being truthful or responsible about events in China and has even permitted the wet markets, where the disease began, to reopen.
All of this could be forgiven if it were a one-time event, but the recent history of pandemics originating in China reveals that the spread of this latest pandemic is part of a pattern. The Chinese government was just as incompetent and dishonest in its reaction to the SARS epidemic of 2002, the Swine Flu epidemic of 2009, and the Bird Flu epidemic of 2013-16. It must be obvious by now that the People’s Republic of China is unable or unwilling to maintain the minimum standards of public health or fulfill its obligations as a good global citizen. It is time to quarantine China.
We need to cut off our trade with China as much as possible. We certainly should not rely on a potentially hostile trading partner for our military or economic necessities. Wherever possible we need to bring our manufacturing back to America. American companies need to come home. When it is not feasible to locate a factory or other facility in the United States, we should at least locate it in a friendly country. There are many places with cheap labor. We do not have to rely on a country with values hostile to our own to make our stuff. We should also restrict travel from the People’s Republic of China until they can show that they are capable of establishing public health protocols that will prevent the next pandemic from spreading outside of China. Unfortunately, these proposals will cause hardship for the citizens of China who have no control over the actions of their government, but we have to put the health and welfare of our own people first.
We also need to investigate the Chinese Communist infiltration of American and Western institutions. In recent years, the Chinese have been leveraging their increasing economic prosperity to gain influence over our universities, research laboratories, entertainment industry, and judging by their eagerness to parrot Chinese propaganda even our news media While the Democrats have been fretting over alleged Russian electoral interference, it is China that has been expanding its efforts to influence public opinion in Western nations and even donating to preferred political parties and candidates. All of this needs to be stopped, particularly the self-censorship that Hollywood imposes on itself to gain market share in the vast Chinese movie-going public. We need to ask ourselves what does it gain us to get cheap stuff and profits from China if we lose our nation, our freedoms, and perhaps even our lives?
While we are decoupling economically from the Communist Chinese state, why don’t we reverse the terrible decision President Carter made in 1978 to recognize the People’s Republic of China as the legitimate government of China and sever diplomatic ties with the Republic of China in Taiwan. The Communists are the de facto government of the Chinese mainland, but that doesn’t mean we ought to recognize them as being in any sense the legitimate government. The Communist government of China is nothing more than a band of corrupt bandits who shot their way into power and then proceeded to murder and starve tens of millions of their own citizens. The economic reforms of the last few decades may have allowed some economic freedom for the people of mainland China and some degree of prosperity, but China remains a totalitarian state that denies its people the most basic civil rights. Even if the Communist government of China was, in any sense, the legitimate government of China, it surely lost its legitimacy when it sent soldiers to gun down its own citizens at Tiananmen Square for asserting their right to be free. It is time to stop pretending we are dealing with a civilized power and re-establish diplomatic relations with the free and democratically elected government of the Republic of China in Taiwan.
Whatever we decide to do after this present crisis is over, we had better make sure that we take steps to make sure something like the COVID-19 pandemic does not happen again. One thing that we can certainly do is to decouple ourselves from China until they show that they can get their act together and keep their citizens and the world safe and healthy.
No, it is not racist to refer to the coronavirus or COVID-19 as the Chinese virus or the Wuhan virus. Calling it the Kung Flu might be racist and is certainly inaccurate, considering we are not dealing with a strain of influenza, but it is funny. This pandemic had its start in Wuhan, China, and it is commonplace to name a new form of a disease by its origin. As David Mastio, the Deputy Editor of USA Today’s editorial page, and no Trump supporter, explains;
But many of the reports left something out: just how common and innocuous geographic names are for diseases.
And then there is the issue of facts. The Spanish flu was most likely misnamed; we don’t know where it came from. But we do know that the novel coronavirus now sweeping the world emerged from a city called Wuhan in central China.
I suppose that if COVID-19 had first emerged from Hoboken, New Jersey it would be popularly named the Hoboken virus or the American virus. Would that be racist? Is referring to rubella as German measles racist or anti-German? No sensible person would maintain such a ridiculous notion. Why is Wuhan or the Chinese virus somehow racist? Why are so many in the media jumping on this bandwagon? I can only think of two reasons.
The government of the People’s Republic of China has been very eager for the rest of the world to forget that the coronavirus originated in China. China’s leaders would especially like for people to forget that the pandemic could have been easily managed had they managed the minimal level of transparency expected in a good global citizen. Instead, they tried to cover up the problem to protect the Party’s reputation. Now, they are trying to blame the United States by promulgating a bizarre conspiracy theory, while insisting that “China virus” is racist. Our elite media seems all too eager to repeat Chinese Communist propaganda points, whether because they are that eager to find some way to blame Trump or they admire China’s authoritarian government, I don’t know.
Or maybe they just despise their fellow Americans. The idea among our betters seems to be that if the president refers to the Chinese virus, it will lead to attacks against Asian-Americans. Already, the media is breathlessly reporting on a handful of incidents of insults and violence against East Asians. According to our elite, those of us who are benighted enough to live in flyover country are so racist and ignorant that any mention of the China virus will drive us into a frenzy of hate and will cause us to form mobs to hunt down every Chinese we can find and murder them, just as mobs of Europeans murdered Jews during the time of the Black Death. Well, in a nation of over 320 million people there are going to be a few cases of people behaving badly, especially in California. Contrary to what our betters on the coast might believe, the United States of America is not a nation of haters. We do not form mobs to kill “foreigners” at the drop of a hat. There are not KKK rallies being held on every street corner, and Trump’s supporters are not White supremacists. We are better people than they believe us to be and I wish they would stop projecting their own bigotry on to us.
It is certainly appropriate to refer to the coronavirus as the Chinese virus. I cannot say that I am very much troubled if the Chinese leadership or their allies among our own leaders are upset by the use of that term. To be honest, I am more than a little irritated at the Chinese, or to be more accurate, at the Chinese communist government for their negligence which led to our present crisis. I have already been upset by the Chinese government’s totalitarian disregard for the basic civil rights of their own citizens, the near genocide of the Uighurs, the occupation of Tibet and the bullying way in which they have been leveraging their economic power to supplant the democratic values of free nations with their own authoritarian values. The Chinese virus is simply the last straw. The People’s Republic of China has shown that it is not a friend to the United States or to the free world. It is time we take their threat seriously. We can begin by assigning the blame for the coronavirus pandemic where it belongs and not allowing them to bully us into denying the obvious truth.
Jason D. Hill writes an open letter to Greta Thunberg on Frontpagemag. I don’t why people write editorial pieces in the form of open letters since the intended recipient will almost certainly never see it. Why not just write a straight editorial? Still, Hill makes some very good points.
You have declared yourself a leader and said that your generation will start a revolution. You have comported yourself as a credentialed adult and climate change activist who has fearlessly addressed politicians and world leaders. You have dropped out of school and declared that there isn’t any reason to attend, or any reason for you to study since there will be no future for you to inherit. You have, rather than attend your classes, been leading Friday Climate Strikes for all students in your generation across the globe. Your attendance at oil pipelines has been striking. There, you unequivocally declare that all oil needs to remain in the ground where it belongs.
In September of 2019 you crossed the Atlantic in a “zero carbon” racing yacht that had no toilet and electric light on board. You made an impassioned plea at the United Nations in which you claimed that, “we have stolen your dreams and our childhood with our empty words.” You claimed that adults and world leaders come to young people for answers and explained in anger: “How dare you!” You claimed that we are failing you and that young people are beginning to understand our betrayal. You further declared that if we continue to fail your generation: “We will never forgive you.”
You have stated that you want us to panic, and to act as if our homes are on fire. You insist that rich countries must reduce to zero emissions immediately. In your speeches you attack economic growth and have stated that our current climate crisis is caused by “buying and building things.” You call for climate justice and equity, without addressing the worst polluter on the planet China; the country that is economically annexing much of Africa and Latin America. You dare not lecture Iran about its uranium projects — because that’s not part of the UN’s agenda, is it?
It is strange that these activists only harangue western countries, especially the United States, where carbon dioxide emissions have been falling. I guess they know that countries like China and Iran don’t care what they think. It is far easier to virtue signal by shaming the West.
First, we did not rob you of your childhood or of your dreams. You are the legatee of a magnificent technological civilization which my generation and the one before it and several others preceding it all the way to the Industrial Revolution and the Renaissance, bequeathed to you. That growth-driven, capitalist technological civilization has created the conditions for you to harangue us over our betrayal. It is a civilization that eradicated diseases such as small pox from the word, and that lifted millions out of abject poverty in a universe you think is dying and decaying. It assured you a life expectancy that exceeded that of your ancestors. Most likely by focusing on economic growth which you demonize, and scientific advancement, that civilization will further enhance a robust quality of life and health for your descendants.
Young people in the West like Greta Thunberg have absolutely no reason to feel frightened or pessimistic about the future. They are already living lives that kings during the Middle Ages would envy. They can grow up confident that they will never know famine. They do not need to fear dying from diseases like smallpox or plague. All over the world, the standard of living is rapidly improving, even in the poorest parts of the world. There is no reason to believe that the future will not be even brighter, provided the ecofascists don’t take over and undo the industrial revolution.
Here is a hard truth to ponder, Greta: if the great producers of this world whom you excoriate were to withdraw their productivity, wealth and talents—in short—their minds from the world today, your generation would simply perish. Why? Because as children you have done nothing as yet, with your lives besides being born. This is what we expect of children until such time as they can be producers by learning from their elders. You are understandably social and ecological ballast. You are not yet cognitively advanced to replicate the structures of survival of which you are the beneficiaries.
Why do we pay any attention at all to what children are saying? By definition, children are ignorant. They lack any real knowledge of the world. It is up to us, the adults to teach them about the world, not to indulge them by pretending they are saying something wise or profound or to use them as political props.
Yes, we have betrayed you: by capitulating the world of leadership to bored, attention-deficit children who spout bromides, platitudes and slogans that a rudderless and morally relativistic culture accepts because a significant number of its denizens have become intellectually bankrupt and morally lazy.
Greta Thunberg reminds me of Samantha Smith. Samantha Smith was a ten-year-old girl who wrote a letter to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov when he succeeded Leonid Brezhnev in 1982. In her letter, she asked Mr. Andropov, why he wanted to conquer the United States. Andropov, a KGB man who had helped to brutally crush the Prague Spring and had persecuted dissidents in the Soviet Union, replied that, of course, the USSR had no such intentions. He only wanted peace and invited her to come to the Soviet Union. She accepted and became a “goodwill ambassador”, and a Soviet propaganda prop. Meanwhile, foolish adults interviewed her and solemnly intoned that a simple child could see what the adults could not.
Samantha Smith was only a child. She had little or no knowledge of the totalitarian nature of the Soviet government or of the Communist party’s aggressive commitment to spreading Communism worldwide. She knew nothing at all about international relations or the geopolitical realities that made nuclear disarmament extremely difficult and even undesirable. Anything she had to say on the state of Soviet-American relations was worthless. She would have been better served if she had stayed in school in the US and studied.
Likewise, Greta Thunberg knows nothing of climate science, the real science as opposed to the politicized nonsense the public is being fed. She knows nothing of the difficulties of ending fossil fuel use and has no idea that such a step would consign billions of the poorest people in the world to starvation. She has not the slightest idea just how good her life is. She has nothing worthwhile to say and would be better off going back to schools. ‘
Greta Thunberg cannot be blamed for her folly. She is only an ignorant child. It is the adults who are using her who should be ashamed of themselves.
A lesbian-owned, vegan restaurant that charged an 18% “man tax” has closed its doors after less than two years of business in Brunswick, Australia.
Handsome Her, a small restaurant billed as “a space by women, for women,” made international headlines in 2017 after announcing upon its opening that female customers would get priority seating and men would be charged an optional 18% tax “to reflect the gender pay gap.”
Less than two years later, the cafe’s owners announced that they would be closing up shop in order to continue their mission with more “hands-on work.”
“When we opened Handsome Her in 2017, we expected that perhaps we might make a stir through our brazen public discussions of structural inequality and oppression,” the cafe said in a Facebook post. “The man tax blew up the internet, an idea that we didn’t think was all too radical, yet the way the world responded showed us how fragile masculinity is and solidified the necessity for us to confront and dismantle patriarchy.
The idea of charging a “man tax” seems radical to me and I wonder how this man tax did not run afoul of Australia’s anti-discrimination laws. It certainly seems to be discrimination based on sex, but perhaps discrimination against men doesn’t count. Maybe the fact that the tax is optional is enough to keep them out of trouble. I also wonder how these women expected to stay in business when they were alienating half of their potential customers. More than half really, since I am sure that many women did not appreciate the discrimination against the men they loved.
It is easy to make fun of these foolish women with poor business sense, but I think there is an important lesson for more established businesses here. The reason that any business exists, whether it is owned by a single proprietor or a great multi-national corporation is to make money for its owners. Any business must make a profit or it will eventually go out of business. The only way for any business to make a profit is to please its customers by providing goods or services they desire in a manner they desire. If the owner or manager of a company decides to pursue any goal besides making a profit by pleasing its customers, such as pursuing social justice, it will cease to please its customers and will eventually go out of business. This is particularly true if the pursuit of virtue-signaling results in policies that alienate customers. Yes, I am looking right at you and your new gun policies, Doug McMillan, CEO of WalMart. Trying to impress the social justice warriors, who despise WalMart and would never willingly shop there, while alienating gun-owning customers is simply not a good business policy.
Ultimately, the CEO of any corporation works for the stockholders, the owners, of the corporation. It is his or her job to serve the interests of the stockholders by pursuing policies that legally and ethically maximize profit for the corporation. As I stated above, any company can only make a profit if it provides goods and services that customers want to buy. If the CEO of a corporation decides that impressing his elite peers with virtue-signaling is more important than providing customers with the goods and services they want, he is not pursuing policies that will maximize profit and therefore is not serving the stockholders. He is in the same position as any of his employees who pursue outside interests while on the job.
Businesses should concentrate on the business of making money and pleasing their customers, not engage in political activism or pursue social justice. When I decide to buy something from Walmart or some other store, the only thing I want to consider is whether I am getting a good deal. I don’t want to have to be in the situation of having to consider whether the money I am spending is going to serve a bad cause. I don’t want every decision in my life to have political considerations. Not everything has to be about activism.
I have been following Mike Duncan’s Revolutions podcast for the last year or so. It is interesting and informative and I highly recommend it. The subject of Revolutions is, of course, revolutions, specifically those revolutions which have shaped our own revolutionary age. While learning about the great revolutions of the past, it is a little exciting to witness what might be the first days and weeks of a revolution in France and perhaps throughout Europe. The gilets jaunes or yellow jackets, the workers who wear hi-viz vests, are fed up with high taxes and limited economic prospects and seem to be poised to play the role of the sans-culottes of the first French Revolution.
I read a great article about the gilets jaunes and their reasons for protesting in QuodVerum, a blog I might want to look at more frequently.
Mon, December 10, 2018
Millions of French citizens have been violently demonstrating across France for the last month.
They are known as the gilets jaunes, or “yellow jackets”. The protestors wear the yellow high-viz jacket, that is common on building sites and airports.
It’s a powerful totem for the French deplorables, a unifying symbol of ordinary, working class folk across the nation.
France is no stranger to organized protests, or as they are called, manifestations. These are a dime-a-dozen in France. Typically they are union-engineered strikes, used as a weapon in the never-ending negotiation between organized labor and the French state.
Forget what FakeNews is telling you. This is no ordinary manifestation.
This is a genuine uprising by millions of city and country folk, young and old, crossing different ethnic and cultural lines.
Macron’s diesel tax hike wasn’t the cause of the gilets jaunes movement. It was the spark detonating a bomb, that has been building for decades.
Why are the French Deplorables revolting? For one thing, France’s economy is absolutely stagnant and has been for some time. The article lists a few pertinent statistics.
• French GDP hasn’t risen above 2% in 50 years. Yes – FIFTY. The average annual GDP growth rate between 1949-2018? 0.78%.
• In 2018, 14% of the population in France live below the poverty line (they earn less than 60% of the median income).
• Worse, more than 50% of French people have an annual income of less than €20,150 a year (about $1,900 US per month).
• The ‘official’ unemployment rate is 10% – about 3.5 million citizens (in reality, it’s much higher).
• The youth unemployment rate is 22%. Yes, you did read that right.
• Astonishing but true: the French government employs 25% of the entire French workforce…and it’s impossible to fire them.
• Because the citizens make such little money, they pay no tax. Less than 50% of French pay any income tax at all; only around 14% pay at the rate of 30%, and less than 1% pay at the rate of 45%.
• The government can’t deliver services without taxes, so it borrows money. France’s debt-GDP is now 100%.
This would all be bad enough, but it gets worse. If you want are ambitious and want to get ahead in France, there is really only one way to do it. You have to graduate from one of three or four elite colleges. If you haven’t had the chance to go to one of these schools, well, too bad.
Many still understand France through the lens of Vogue magazine covers: a nation of affluent, happy people who live in elegant homes, with endless holidays, wine and food.
A 24/7 utopia of chic, elegance and style.
Important to note: that France does exist. It is the world of the French ruling class, less than 1% of the population.
This small group of citizens have dominated the business, banking, legal and political scenes for decades.
The ruling class comes from a small group of grandes ecoles, or elite colleges. There are only 3 or 4. The top of the top? L’Ecole d’Administration Nationale (ENA).
Emmanuel Macron’s journey is typical of the ruliing class. He completed a Master’s of Public Affairs at Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris(called “Sciences Po”), the #2 elite college, before graduating from ENA in 2004, age 27. He then worked as a senior civil servant at the Inspectorate General of Finances (The Treasury), before getting a high paid gig ad an investment banker at Rothschild & Cie Banque.
See how fast Macron worked his way into the senior civil servant position in the Treasury, before flipping into an exclusive investment bank? That is normal in France. It’s a never-ending protected cycle of patronage, promotion, favors and cronyism.
Here’s another French word: parachutage. It is normal for young ENA graduates to be “parachuted” into senior civil service positions at a very young age, some as young as 25 years of age, without even interviewing for positions.
ENA has a complete stranglehold on the French state. Only 100 students graduate every year.
Set up by de Gaulle just after WW2, the original concept was sound – to pool students of extreme talent and ability in one place, in order to create a new civil service that could re-build France.
It worked. Very talented patriots flocked to enter ENA and within a decade, the new French civil service had successfully rehabilitated France as a leading nation-state. From 1946 through 1973, France experienced what they describe as their trente glorieuses, nearly 30 years of economic success.
But by 1970, ENA’s meritocracy had become a self-replicating elite caste – and a ticket to the French ruling class. Astonishingly, every French President since de Gaulle has been an ENA graduate, excepting Georges Pompidou, who attended Sciences Po. Eight of the last ten French Prime Ministers have been enarques. All key civil service/government departments are run by enarques. How about business? 84% of the 546 top executives in France’s 40 biggest companies are graduates of a handful of elite colleges. 48% come from ENA and Sciences Po.
This ought to look at least a little familiar to us in the United States. We don’t have the problem of a small ruling elite running everything nearly as bad as France does, but the same sort of pattern is developing. How many people at the top levels of government and politics graduated from the same elite Ivy League universities? How many CEOs? How many intellectuals?How do these people feel about the ordinary people who make up the population in middle America? Isn’t a great deal of the elite hatred for Donald Trump and his supporters class based?
The article’s description of the arrogance and insular ignorance of the French elite could easily be applied to our own elite.
Notice Macron’s age, when he became a senior civil servant – 27 years of age. That’s important.
The French elites are young men and women, who have been told that they are not just the intellectual creme de la creme, but morally superior. Better human beings, than their inferiors.
These people are arrogant. But they are also ignorant. Raised in very wealthy families and cosseted in the networks those families are part of, they have no understanding of ordinary people and their real lives.
Arrogance and ignorance is a very toxic mix. Macron’s tone-deaf appeal to climate change to justify the rise in diesel taxes, as well as his outrageous suggestion that ordinary French folk must drive less, is a classic example of the problem.
Just 27 years old.
Young people without life experience, are suggestible. They believe what they are told by superiors and haven’t yet had time to test their opinions, against reality.
Macron simply doesn’t have a clue.
What makes the gilets jaunes protests unique?
Their main gripe? Elites blaming ordinary people, for problems that the same elites have caused.
Elites never being held accountable for their incompetence. And elites never having to experience the conditions, that their failed ideas cause.
French people are sick of being held in chains by a ruling class. They are sick of being poor and unemployed.
They want a new direction, for their beloved nation.
There is an obvious parallel to the France of 1789, but I don’t think that even the aristocrats of the Ancien Regime were quite as arrogant and stupid as the new aristocrats who rule France and Europe. In fact, more than a few of those aristocrats were the ones pressing for reforms in France. I hope that the new aristocrats in Europe and America find the wisdom to listen to what the people are saying instead of dismissing them as deplorables or they could find themselves losing their heads.
A U.S. official confirmed the request to NPR. On Tuesday evening, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders shared in a statement that “President Trump is incredibly supportive of America’s great service members who risk their lives every day to keep our country safe.” She added, “He has asked the Department of Defense to explore a celebration at which all Americans can show their appreciation.”
On Wednesday at the White House briefing, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis addressed the president’s request for a military parade:
“I think we are all aware in this country of the president’s affection and respect for the military. We’ve been putting together some options. We’ll send them to the White House for a decision.”
I don’t know about that. It is all very well for France to have this kind of parade showcasing their military might, but we are not France. We are the United States of America, and in the United States of America, we try not to give the impression that we are a militaristic and aggressive country, even when we are, in fact, militaristic and aggressive. America is the mightiest nation in the world and it just wouldn’t do to rub that fact in everyone else’s face.
U.S. presidents have long shied away from such displays of military prowess — which typically include tanks, missiles and, in some cases, goose-stepping soldiers — for fear of being compared to Washington’s Cold War adversaries, where such displays have traditionally been potent symbols of state power. Those countries include Russia (and, formerly, the Soviet Union), China and North Korea.
Leave the parades with tanks, missiles and marching soldiers to lesser nations, who feel they have something to prove. Besides, I am sure we have better things to spend our money on.
Still, it might be fun to watch the reactions of the Democrats and the media to Trump’s suggestion. They are sure to go out of their minds once again with insane comparisons with Trump to Hitler or North Korea. That might be worth the cost of the parade. Maybe that’s the reason Trump is talking about a military parade. He does seem to delight in trolling his enemies to make them over-react and look foolish, We’ll have to see.
Japanese Emperor Akihito may be thinking of abdicating his post because his age is making it difficult to fulfill his duties as emperor. The BBC has this story.
Japan’s Emperor Akihito has strongly indicated he wants to step down, saying he fears his age will make it difficult to fulfil his duties.
The revered 82-year-old emperor’s comments came in only his second-ever televised address to the public.
Emperor Akihito did not explicitly say he wanted to abdicate as he is barred from making political statements.
PM Shinzo Abe said the government would take the remarks “seriously” and discuss what could be done.
“Upon reflecting how he handles his official duty and so on, his age and the current situation of how he works, I do respect the heavy responsibility the emperor must be feeling and I believe we need to think hard about what we can do,” he said.
It is not as easy as that, though.
Why can’t the emperor abdicate? Abdication is not mentioned under Japan’s existing laws, so they would need to be changed for the emperor to be able to stand down. The changes would also have to be approved by parliament.
I am actually a little surprised that there is no provision for an Emperor abdicating under current Japanese law. There was a time, during the Heian period, in which the Emperor was not only permitted to abdicate, but was actually required to step down in favor of his successor.
The period of time from 794-1185, when the court at Heian ruled over Japan is known as the Heian period. This was a remarkable period of Japanese history, in which the Japanese fully absorbed the influences from China and made them part of a a uniquely Japanese culture. During the Heian period, Japanese arts, literature, and philosophy reached a peak seldom equalled in the centuries since. The influence of the Heian period on Japanese culture is something like that of ancient Greece and Rome in the West, the basis of everything that followed.
The earlier Heian period is also one of the few times in Japanese history in which the Emperor actually wielded political power, following the example of the all-powerful Chinese Emperors. Over time, however, the Imperial house began to decline in power and vigor, just as the various Chinese dynasties had. The powerful Fujiwara clan began to gain power at the expense of the Emperors. The Fujiwaras monopolized the top government posts and were the regents when an Emperor was a minor. They married their daughters to the Emperors so that a Fujiwara was always the Emperor’s father-in-law, with the filial obligations that brought. Eventually, the Fujiwara regents began to compel the Emperors to abdicate as soon as they were old enough to rule on their own. These Retired Emperors often became Buddhist monks and were referred to as Cloistered Emperors. By 1000, the Fujiwara regent was the emperor of Japan in all but name, while the reigning Emperor was a figurehead.
In any other country, it is likely that the people who had the power behind the throne would have grown weary of the pretense and seized the throne themselves, as the Frankish Carolingians had overthrown the Merovingians and were overthrown in their turn by the French Capets, or the succeeding dynasties of China had overthrown one another. In Japan, however, this was unthinkable. One of the ideas that the Japanese had not taken from Chinese politics was the concept of the Mandate of Heaven. The Japanese Emperor was the direct descendant of the Sun Goddess and thus always had the Mandate of Heaven, whatever the failings of his person or his line. The Fujiwaras had to be content with being regents.
In time, the Fujiwaras declined and the Imperial House began to reassert itself. In a characteristically Japanese fashion, the reigning Emperors, themselves, did not attempt to regain power. Instead, the Retired Emperors took power. This was the known as Cloistered Rule. So, during the period of Cloistered Rule, Japan was ruled by an all-powerful Emperor, who was in fact, a figurehead, with a Regent or Chief Minister from the Fujiwara Clan who was supposed to be powerful, but was another figurehead, while the real power was held by a former emperor who was in theory, merely a monk. It seems unnecessarily baroque and complicated, but the Japanese have generally preferred rule by consensus rather than by a single strong man. The system seemed to work well enough.
Then again, perhaps it did not. The members of the Imperial Court at Heian always had a strong contempt for common people and the outer provinces of Japan, what we might refer to as flyover country. For the court nobles, the common people were little better than domestic animals, while the military aristocracy who fought off the northern barbarians were themselves semi-barbarians. The Imperial Court became more insular and isolated from the concerns of the provinces. The members of the court became more concerned with their rank and position at court than with administrating the country. As a result, the military leaders in the provinces began to gain power and by 1185, after a series of struggles between several Retired Emperors and military clans related to the Imperial Family, a warlord named Minamoto no Yoritomo took power as the first Shogun (Supreme General), ending the Heian Period, and establishing the military dictatorship of the Shoguns that lasted through several dynasties of Shoguns until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The Imperial Court and the court nobility continued as before except they had no power and depended on the Shoguns for funds.
Emperors still occasionally abdicated in favor of their successor, but the custom of Cloistered Rule ended with the end of the Heian Period. The last Emperor to abdicate was Kokaku who reigned from 1779-1817. His position as Retired Emperor caused some trouble with the Tokugawa Shoguns, and it is perhaps not coincidental that from his reign, and retirement, the Imperial Court began the process of asserting itself against the Shoguns.
I don’t know when the laws about abdication were changed or whether the current law in Japan actually prohibits an Emperor from resigning or whether there is simply no provision for abdication. Judging from the article, it would seem to be the latter case. If so, than I can’t imagine there would be any reason to deny Akihito’s wish to abdicate, especially considering his age and health. There is, after all, ample precedent in Japanese history.
National Review Online‘s Kevin Williamson wrote an article criticizing Donald Trump for his latest really bad idea, having the United States not necessarily follow up on its treaty commitments to our NATO allies. I might as well say that while I vastly prefer a Trump presidency over a Hilary Clinton presidency and I do not think that Trump will be the disaster in the White House that some are predicting, his tendency to shoot off his mouth, along with his apparent ignorance of the nature of international trade, cause me to have serious reservations about Trump’s fitness for the office he seeks. Unfortunately, he seems to be the lesser evil by a long shot. I might as well also state that even when Trump seems to be saying something stupid or unacceptable, it often turns out that he is making a good point after it has been stripped of its populist rhetoric. It may be that this is the case with his statements about NATO.
First, here’s what Williamson has to say.
Trump, whose nickel-and-dime gestalt could only have come from a repeatedly failed casino operator, is a creature in search of petty advantages and small paydays. As such, he suggested yesterday that the United States might forsake its commitment to NATO — our most important military alliance — because he believes that our NATO allies are not carrying their share of the expense. Trump’s mind processes information the way a horse processes oats, and the product is exactly the same.
It is true that the United States spends more in both absolute and proportional terms than do other NATO members, but here the United States is the outlier. It spends a great deal more on national defense than other NATO members do, and more than non-NATO members, and pretty much every country on the face of the Earth. That has nothing to do with NATO; that has to do with political decisions made in Congress and by presidents of both parties going back to Franklin Roosevelt. It may very well be that the United States spends too much on the military — I believe that it does — but that isn’t because some other country spends too little. The myth of the free-riding Europeans, diverting domestic tax dollars from national security to welfare programs, is not supported by the evidence. They don’t have unusually small militaries; we have an unusually large and expensive one.
Since 1949, there has never been any serious doubt that the United States would fulfill its obligations to the North Atlantic alliance. That is a big part of why we had a Cold War instead of an all-out (probably nuclear) World War III in the 1950s and 1960s. It is a big part of the reason there is no longer a wall running through Berlin, and why the people who hold Bernie Sanders’s political philosophy were able to murder only 100 million innocent human beings instead of 200 million.
Thanks to Trump, the heads of government and defense ministers of the other NATO powers must now consider that the United States will welsh on its obligations the way Donald Trump welshes on his debts. He isn’t the president yet, of course, and he probably won’t be. But the chance isn’t zero, either. If you are, say, Lithuania, and you suspect that the United States will not actually have your back — a suspicion fortified by Trump’s man-crush on Russian strongman Vladimir Putin — what do you do? Maybe you try to get ahead of the curve and go voluntarily into the Russian orbit.
All of these are good points and Williamson is probably correct is asserting that our European allies are not really taking advantage of us when it comes to funding NATO. He is definitely right that NATO played a role in seeing that the Cold War did not become World War III and that the alliance helped us to win the Cold War. But, I think that Williamson, and maybe Trump himself, misses the larger point. Why does NATO still exist?
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was created in 1949 in order to combat potential aggression from the Soviet Union and its satellites in Eastern Europe. NATO was conceived of as a alliance of mutual defense among the free nations of Western Europe and North America. In many ways, NATO has been one of the most successful multi-national alliances in history, and although the NATO allies were never called into joint military action against the Soviet Union, the alliance was surely a deterrent against any Soviet plans to extend Communism into Western Europe.
The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The whole reason for NATO has not existed for a quarter of a century. Why is NATO still around? Who are we defending against?
There are still threats in the world. Vladimir Putin seems to be intent on restoring as much of the Soviet empire as he can ,but Putin’s Russia is only a pale shadow of the old Soviet Union. Russia is still a strong country, but it is not the superpower that the Soviet Union was. Putin can stir up trouble in the Ukraine, but he lacks the global reach of the Soviet leaders. The leaders of the Soviet Union were inspired by a militant, millenarian ideology, Communism, that had some appeal and supporters in West and elsewhere. These days Communism is discredited everywhere except on American college campuses and Bernie Sanders rallies. Putin’s appeal to Russian nationalism is not something to inspire people in Europe and America. There is also the threat of Islamic terrorism and other threats around the world that clearly call for coordinated action by the United States and its allies, but a framework for fighting the next world war may not work so well against a more diffuse enemy.
Looking over the Wikipedia article, I find that NATO has made many changes in its command structure, etc in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union, but it seems to me that it is an organization that is seeking a role to play, particularly since NATO has been permitting Eastern European former Soviet satellites such as Poland to join the alliance, pushing the alliance all the way up to the Russian border. This may not have been wise. The Russians must surely see this as a threat. How would we feel if Mexico and Canada joined in a political and military alliance originally created to counter the United States?
Kevin Williamson mentions Lithuania in his article. Lithuania joined NATO in 2004. Obviously, under the terms of the alliance, if Vladimir Putin sent tanks into Vilnius tomorrow, the United States would have to respond as though it were an attack on American soil. How credible is that, really? Would the United States really fight a war against Russia over Lithuania? Are American interests really served by threatening war over Lithuania? It would be unfortunate if Lithuania had to return to its previous role as a province of Russia, but is it really America’s job to keep that from happening.
I am not an isolationist. I believe that America, like it or not, has to be the world’s policeman, both for our good and the good of the whole world. These peacekeeping actions we keep finding ourselves in are expensive, but not nearly so expensive as a full scale war would be, and I have no doubt that that is exactly what we would have if we let things go. But, I think we need to be a lot smarter about how we use our influence in the world and we need to understand that we cannot get involved in every single quarrel, nor can we bring democracy to people who have known nothing but despotism for centuries. The next president, whether Trump or Clinton, should probably begin a complete reappraisal of our foreign policy to determine what serves American interests and what does not, and this reappraisal must include considering whether relics of previous decades should be kept, reformed, or abolished.