Date Added: 2006-08-15
Date Modified: 2010-04-13
The Old Cause, essays by Cornet Joyce
Carnations for the Portuguese Empire
by Cornet Joyce
24 April 2009
Early in Portugal’s trailblazing career as a seaborne empire, she sent a fleet and land forces to the East with the intent of controlling the spice trade. Over the first decade or so, the returns to the treasury exceeded the naval and military cost. For the next four and a half centuries, the ambitious enterprise drained the country’s resources with little success at protecting her colonial possessions from the British or even from the Arabs, the Persians and the Indians. From a place of prominence among nations she sank to a position of insolvency and backwardness derided by her own former Brazilian colonists. The navy and army moved decisively to topple the monarchy and the power of the Church in 1910 but years of turmoil ensued, and in 1925 a Portuguese general imitated the Fascist March on Rome with a March on Lisbon and the Portuguese New State was born, its recurring theme: Cross and Sword.
Portugal’s former colony Brazil, in the meantime, saw a succession of wavering leftish presidents come and go. In 1961, João Goulart succeeded to the office and two years afterward achieved sweeping power by referendum. Tension mounted between the president and the generals. On March 13th, 1964, Goulart boldly committed to land and other reforms including rent contol and the nationalization of oil refineries. On the 19th, a “march of families for god and freedom” hit the streets. On the 25th, sailors of the Brazilian navy moved vigorously to support the reforms, establishing an assembly at the metalworkers’ union hall. Marines sent against the sailors instead joined them When the leaders were finally arrested, Goulart quickly pardoned them. On March 30th, the president spoke to a gathering of army sergeants and asked for their support for the reforms; the generals could see where the wind was blowing and, on the following day they launched a coup. They ruled Brazil for the next 21 years.
The remaining Portuguese possessions were more and more difficult to hold onto. In 1956, rebellion erupted in Portuguese Guinea; in 1961, the last Portuguese colony on the Indian subcontinent was seized by India; anticolonial armed struggle opened in Angola and in 1964, in Mozambique too. The last great jewels of the Portuguese empire were in jeopardy and the New State desperately held on. The struggle sent the already impoverished country into even worse straits and the morale of the military into a tailspin. When the aged dictator Salazar died, his successor responded to the bleak situation with modest reforms but Portuguese troops continued to be sent off to battle against Revolution. Grumbling within the military grew and spread up the chain of command.
The time came when the soldiers of Portugal concluded that Revolution was not their country’s problem but the answer to her problems. Grumbling turned to planning and , shortly after midnight on April 25th, 1974, a radio broadcast of the banned song Grandola Vila Morena called the troops to action. Where the movement in the Brazilian navy and army had been stamped out before it could organize, the Portuguese Armed Forces Movement launched a lightning strike that brought down the decades-old dictatorship and the centuries-old empire with little bloodshed. Troops ordered to move against them joined with them, as did the overwhelming mass of the people. Soldiers stuffed carnations into the barrels of their rifles, giving birth to the proud legend of the Carnation Revolution; and political forces “counted guns” to determine the outcome of disputes but didn’t shoot.
The Carnation Revolution fell far short of a Revolutionary utopia, of course: The socialist party, with Revolutionary Democracy in full bloom, could hardly imagine anything more exciting than socialist politicians fairly elected; the communist party, with workers’ councils springing up, could offer nothing more engaging than the customary dictatorship over the proletariat. So Portugal, after a brief episode as the nightmare of world capitalism, settled into a normal capitalist life. Still, few empires end in such a glorious manner.
The Club is All Their Law
by Cornet Joyce
19 April 2009
In olden times, a criminal was either personally responsible for a criminal act or he was “possessed” by the powers of darkness, in which case his lot was unlikely to be better than if he were personally responsible. With the insanity plea, which begins in Dickens’ England with the killing of a politician, mental disorder takes the place of the powers of darkness and the defendant is absolved of the guilt of selling his soul to Satan. A defendant classified as insane is said to lack responsibility for his actions, which he can not control.
Perhaps we are witnessing the birth of a category similar to the insanity defense as Mr. Obama declares government torturers not responsible for their crimes. “Reason of State” takes its place beside “Reason of Insanity.” This evolution of law comes too late for Charles Manson and numerous others who, as Mr. Obama says, were subjected to “vengance.” Still, it’s a hopeful sign for sadistic criminals of the future, reclassified of course as “interrogators.”
The Reason of State, or “CIA” defense, comes with the associated precept of “State Secrets” under which the defendant might claim protected status proof of which the court is not entitled to see: an ironclad argument if there ever was one. The State is responsible for the acts of the criminal except that the State is not responsible under the doctrine of Sovereign Immunity- a throwback to Satan but without the obvious drawbacks.
Surely, even as we speak, this innovative defense is being devised in the bar associations of this proud land and the barrooms next door...
The 2012 Campaign Continues
by Cornet Joyce
14 April 2009
It’s time for a campaign update, and a backward glance at our expectations for the historic president and his historic ways. Mine were quite modest and Obama, for the most part, has lived up to modest expectations. (See here...)
“Foreign affairs progressives will be loudly declaiming that President Obama is as ardent an imperialist as his predecessor," I said back in October. “That will probably be true, but he will have reduced the population of the torture camps and, although he will not have ended the torture, the media will no longer hear the screams.” That, I think is approximately what has happened. Nor was it hard to forecast: all one had to do was take the man at his word.
I thought that “he will not have altered the grotesque maldistribution of wealth effected over the past few decades, but he will have promoted a piddling reform of the tax rates, for which he will be feverishly denounced by the plumbers of Palm Beach.” That too looks like a correct forecast. So far, I give myself an A. I also opined that “he will have done well by social security, medicare and veterans.” Well, the jury is still out on “entitlement programs” but so far I haven’t grossly misprognosticated.
Ah, but in my brief remarks before the historic election, the most remarkable turn of events wasn’t even considered: I confess it didn’t occur to me that Obama would become the first black president to claim unlimited and unlimitable powers of total surveillance of the citizenry. I took it for granted that Obama would not surrender any of the powers of the imperial office and that he would pass those powers on to the Caligulas and Domitians of the future; but I didn’t expect him to seize more power than the outgoing Caligula. How preciously historic!
The 2012 campaign, of course, was what Obama moved fastest on, immediately filling the coffers of the democratic national committee and filling its leadership with a scion of the “democratic leadership council.” The formidable apparatus developed in the course of the 2008 campaign has been mobilized in support of the leader’s measures. Longtime party boss Al From retires like Sulla, with the DP cleansed of any thought that is inadmissible at a Bohemian Grove festival.
The leader’s measures address the world as the Owners say it is, with "off-the-shelf" policies devised by off-the-shelf policy wonks. Some of the still-moderate grumbling about Obama flows from a misapprehension about his training. He was a prize student at Harvard law school, but before that he was a student in “political science,” which is to say, election science. “Governing” for election scientists is just the annoying stuff that has to be done between elections, like playing in the field and sitting on the bench between turns at bat. Obama’s skills are naturally less luminous as ruler than as candidate.
So how does the re-election campaign stand? An early poll has Obama leading Palin 55% to 35%, not all that impressive when one considers that the former is the incumbent and still close to the peak of popularity, while the latter is a widely acknowledged crackpot dismissed by the nabobs of her own party. The “republican party” have had a rather mild setback considering that they wrecked the country; Obama may be “historic” but he isn’t a sure thing. On the other hand, all presidents- even bush- can console themselves in the knowledge that no president is ever so bad that schoolmarm “historians” of the future might not declare him “great.”
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