Magellan's Notebook

News and commentary on worldwide events.

Kerry: I opposed the Iraq War


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In 1974, Richar…

In 1974, Richard Nixon bugged the Democratic headquarters and resigned. In 2013, Barack Obama tracked every non-encrypted online communication and didn’t blink an eye.

On regret

Your correspondent remembers once skeptically hearing of predetermination. Now he believes in it:

I remember, in middle school, hearing in history classes about the Franco-Swiss theologian John Calvin and his crazy doctrine of predetermination, according to which, from the start the end is planned out. I was very dismissive, and immediately said I would slice the air with my hand  hands as proof that I could control the future.  And then I did it.

The entire philosophy seemed very unfounded in fact. Nowhere around me did I see any proof that I lacked any control over what I did, and over where I would end up. In this sense, the oft-repeated mantra about hard work and fair play rang true. So, for a number of years, I stopped giving thought to the idea of predetermination and went on with my life, controlling what actions I made in the intervening time.

Then, one day, through a conversation with a friend, it occurred to me that the proof lies not in whether I can make something predetermined, but in whether I cannot. The topic of regret was brought up, and I realized that there is no valid reason to express the slightest regret.

4.54 billion years ago, when tomorrow’s events were scheduled, you lost all valid reason to express regret. This fact, it seems, is strictly scientific. Now and at the dawn of our universe, one movement in the physics of our planet effects an outcome. For example, the creation of water, by nature of physics, will create a wave, which will then involuntarily subside.

By extending this logic, it becomes apparent that the very earliest action, say the appearance of the first speck of matter, has, through very rigid laws, resulted in outcomes that involuntarily continue the growth of our universe.

This chain of progress led to the creation of apes. The apes were raised, learning from genetics and their experiences, acting precisely on those two factors and nothing else. Species evolved. Then came Australopithecus. Then Neanderthal. Eventually, our own species.

The sum of our decisions amounts to nothing more than that of our experience and genetics. From the twilight of our lives, we’ve formed our decisions based on nothing besides our genetics and experiences, and everything we’ve done wouldn’t have changed, no matter how many times we reconsider it. The soon-to-be bride may have taken time in answering the big question, but, if she had to go back to that moment, the answer would always remain the same.

In other words, our lives are predetermined.

Washington’s Birthday

Today is Washington’s Birthday.

“Presidents Day,” for all its commonness in the U.S.A., is not the holiday’s official name. A day once dedicated to a very great man, who turned down offer to bring a King George to both Britain and America (alongside George III), has been expanded by the populous to celebrate the legacies of men such as Richard Nixon or, for that matter, George W. Bush.

In honor of Washington’s two hundred and eighty-first birthday, Magellan explores greatness behind America’s first president.

Read the rest of this entry »

EDWARD R. MURROW on what we should detract from the Second World War

The Keep Calm and Carry On  posters almost look dull in comparison.

Click here to see the poster.

On the Euro crisis

SIXTY-EIGHT years ago in Carroll, New Hampshire, a two hours’ drive north of Boston, a generation’s global economic policy was blueprinted. For European monetary reform, a similar epoch began at the 1991 Maastricht summit. Hiding below a table, passing notes to his prime minister, the misbehaving British diplomat Sir John Kerr signified the meeting’s gravity.

The implementation of the euro, which was negotiated at the Maastricht meeting, kindled a rebirth of economic globalization, and with it, a freshly minted brand of economists. For the first time, a world government had become possible, and during the next decade, the United Nations and European Union would amplify their powers. Now, organizations such as the International Monetary Fund, a fully matured wunderkind of the Caroll conference, are commandeering the recovery.

This autumn, the German Supreme Court sanctioned further EU involvement in regulation, thereby clearing the way for continued assistance to Greece. While making strides in the noticeable arenas of concern, those spearheading a return from the doldrums would be keen to scope the seeds of trouble that have yet to sprout.

The Spanish, too bashful to request aid in their current time of need, now face additional anxiety as the Basque independence movement reinvigorates its push for a sovereign state. In France, a sluggish economy consistently underperforms financial forecasts as President Hollande yearns for an impracticable commerce of austerity and prosperity. Oppositely, Finland’s economic tour de force is too great an accomplishment for an EU member. The weary Finns are deliberating an exit, should they be coerced into disproportionately bankrolling their neighbors’ cleanup efforts.

If the Maastrict conference is to rival its New Hampshire predecessor for historical moment, German Chancellor Angela Merkel must lead now, and chiefly as a European citizen. ♦

The defining moment

“Can I call you Joe?” – Sarah Palin during the 2008 vice presidential debate

The University of Denver’s auditorium was kept cold, and the candidates wanted it that way. A frosty indication of nervousness, two men marched to their respective podiums with friendly smiles, trying to warm the temperature. The annals of television debates demonstrate the power of broadcasts in deciding elections. In 1960 Senator J.F. Kennedy’s semblance on the first full-color television debate is widely known to have tipped the election in his favor. And so during Wednesday’s debate, Messrs. Obama and Romney wore the colors of their parties.

The president began with his classic hesitation—”uh…”— before wishing the First Lady a happy anniversary. Borrowing a page from the weekly rendition of Britain’s parliamentary debates, the candidates exchanged well wishes and mutual thanks to the hosting university. Spending twenty-five minutes on the first question, Jim Lehrer was marooned in his place, giving a stoic response to Mr. Romney’s claim that he would deprive PBS, Mr. Lehrer’s employer, of its seventy million dollars of funding: half the cost of an individual F-22 Raptor. Although both candidates agree that we must educate the next generation, shooting Big Bird is the governor’s pathway towards lowering the deficit.

The disobedient candidates paraded forward, ignoring the downward march of their moderator’s stopwatch. Mr. Lehrer, the lecturing schoolmaster of our nation’s future leaders, persistently interrupted for accuracy. President Obama returned to the idea he delivered in his 2004 convention speech, preaching against tax-cuts for companies that send jobs overseas.  The governor, neglecting his bank accounts in the Cayman Islands and Switzerland, feigned limited knowledge of the matter. Then, “PBS” and “Big Bird” began to trend on Twitter, with a combined total of twenty-seven thousand mentions each minute. Only half way into the debate, the remark about a childhood figure was on its way to Patent Office to be trademarked. The discourse continued.

Magellan for K. A.

TIME MACHINE 2007: Sen. Obama says executive privilege is not a good reason to withhold information from congress.

On Wednesday, the Times reported, “The Obama administration asserted its executive privilege in response to a planned Congressional vote over the attorney’s general’s refusal to turn over documents about a gun-running investigation.”

This makes even Mitt Romney’s flip-flops look good.

Diplomatic channels

If any of the readers of this blog should find themselves, one day, being a head of state, they would be keen to remember that proper diplomatic channels are the appropriate avenue through which official documents should be transported.

On Tuesday at a G20 conference in Mexico, Christina Fernández de Kirchner ran into British Prime Minister David Cameron, the man whom she casts in the shadow of the devil. As the economic situation worsens in Argentina, President Kirchner has been searching for a nation against which to wage a war.

The Argentinean government has imposed the equivalent of economic sanctions upon the Falkland Islands by prohibiting ships with the Falkland Island flag from mooring at its ports. Back in Mexico, Mr. Cameron confronted President Kirchner by broaching ideas about the EU’s economic recovery, before pivoting to the Falkland Islands referendum. On three occasions, the Prime Minister insisted that the Islanders’ wishes must be respected. Ms. Kirchner then pulled out an envelope containing ‘documents’ about the Falklands, which she urged Mr. Cameron to take.

Under the glow of cameras, Mr. Cameron refused to take the documents; FCO officials later suggested that the Argentinean government should proceed in a normal fashion in transferring diplomatic materials via diplomatic channels. There is a British embassy in Buenos Aires that we all know too well because to the cries of protestors. To Ms. Kirchner’s credit, law enforcement protected the edifice in line with the Vienna Conventions.

Trial of Nick Clegg

LONDON, ENGLAND—

“I know it is difficult to get over local or long standing prejudices, yet if we will suffer ourselves to examine the component parts of the English constitution, we shall find them to be the base remains of two ancient tyrannies, compounded with some new Republican materials.

First.—The remains of the Monarchical tyranny in the person of the King.

Secondly.—The remains of Aristocratical tyranny in the persons of the Peers.”

Thomas Paine’s 1776 pamphlet, Common Sense, rallied support for the independence of the Britain’s American colonies, partially on the basis of two antediluvian, blue-blooded despotisms. In the colonies, the King, as the Declaration of Independence concurrently noted, “has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.” A hereditary senate continued to govern America from across the second largest body of water on the planet.

Sixty-eight years earlier, Queen Anne had welcomed the end of the monarchical rule. Her countrymen above Hadrian’s Wall were to form a militia; she feared they would turn against the English. But where were the Americans to rebel from across the Atlantic? For them, the denial of Royal Assent was to continue. In the late eighteenth century, Britain’s colonies continued to be a proletariat’s proletariat, only in their imperial state to create a playground to financially stimulate Britain.

Geographically, as Paine noted, the tractor was being governed by the plow; America consumed Britain’s goods and was taxed, albeit without representation. In a desperate political situation, and with one of America’s feet dangling from the edge of a colonial plateau of colonization, Frederick North offered to repeal all of the colony’s unfavorable acts. It was too late.

Following the formation of the US, the country’s Articles of Confederation compassionately welcomed British Quebec to join the new Union. In Canada, the British took a a page from the lessons of the American revolution and played a kinder game. The privately owned East India Company did Britain’s bidding in India until 1858, in the wake of the Indian Mutiny.

One hundred years later, symptoms of legislative aristocracy began to vanish as life peers took seats in the House of Lords. Retired politicians, scientists, social workers, diplomats, and businessmen enjoyed legislative seats to serve King and Country. Eventually, the number of hereditary peers began to equal the appointed members in the House, and in 1997 (coinciding with the handover Britain’s last great colonial asset, Hong Kong), the number of sitting blue-bloods was nearly decimated through legislation.

Any sentient observer of western political affairs would note the difficulties of passing legislation in Washington, in contrast to the relative ease with which David Cameron reorganized the NHS. If Mr. Cameron should want Britain to fund UNICEF, he may contribute with ease, not being mandated to worry about three upcoming election cycles in two separate assemblies. The US Senate may, and exponentially does, kill legislation through the filibuster, while the Lords only stall bills and propose amendments. In short, while a myriad of outside groups seek consulting from members of the House of Lords, the chamber contributes to British politics, often free of charge, without being an obstructionist organization.

Mr. N. W. P. Clegg, the coalition government’s deputy prime minister, has been insistent that ‘true’ or ‘twenty-first century’ democracy remains unattainable until the Lords metamorphosis into a wholly elected chamber.

Mr. Clegg believes that democracy is not achieving the electorate’s wishes, but rather competing with other nations to achieve the same quality of gridlock (known by Mr. Clegg as ‘democracy’) that faces their national legislatures.

Mr. Clegg prefers a group of  professional politicians who invariably speak with the intent to be reëlected, when faced with the alternative of establishing a group of the country’s most accomplished private servants who may offer their advice to government.

Does Nick Clegg wish his legacy to be found in the vestiges of a defunct House of Lords, where he ruined one of the last organs of a functioning  democratic body? If successful, he should find his name in history books just above Frederick North’s.

Mr. Clegg has taken this issue over all others presiding over his tenure as the country’s No. two statesman. He has betrayed his student supporters by supporting the Conservatives to treble tuition fees. He has turn his back on ninety-one Liberal Democrat friends, and two hundred eighteen Conservative colleagues in the Lords. He has undone virtually every promise in his party’s manifesto, except occasionally pseudo-threatening to block bills.

The British constitution is working. There is no need, Mr. Clegg, to break it.

Best wishes,

All the voters who will make sure reduce your LibDems to the laughingstock of politics in three years’ time.

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To see a list of Members of the House of Lords, ninety-seven per cent of whom have made a contribution to society greater than that of Nick Clegg, please do click here.