Monday, May 31, 2010

This May Remembrance

It is uniquely American, this Memorial Day (Decoration Day) remembrance. More so than even Thanksgiving in November... after all, Canada celebrates a Thanksgiving of their own each year on the second Monday in November... and there are lots of harvest festivals around the world...

This Memorial Day is not even unique in many details; indeed, it borrows many of its modern nuances from Remembrance Day celebrations across the globe that have grown to be about more than just World War I. Those celebrations, blessed that they are, still subtly different... they remember the hope, and the heartbreak, and the cost borne by *nations* when their vast numbers were *sent* to war. One needs to look closely, perhaps at a small town that hasn't changed much in a hundred years in some corner of France, the Federal Republic, or the United Kingdom, to see the cost borne by *individuals*... and who may very well have *gone* to war of their own volunteer.

Perhaps that is where the American Memorial Day takes on its character.

Not in the detail... the U.S.A. fought all its Industrial-era wars with conscripts order to serve... but in the spirit. The spirit that, when war came, Americans volunteered to go and fight for their cause. Memorial Day, in its original incarnation as Decoration Day, actually predates any appreciable conscription in American service. Both came into being in 1863 (*see note, below)... and even by the end of the American Civil War, less than 8% of the Union Army was composed of draftees (~2% actual conscripts, ~6% paid "substitutes"). Only at its peak, almost a hundred years later, did conscripts exceed volunteers in American service. (The three years of the Korean War being the example.) Twenty years after that, there was no conscript service in American forces.

That tradition combines well with the American sense of the individual. So much so that come Memorial Day, when one sees the flag planted before the grave of an American soldier, one doesn't ask whether they were a conscript or a volunteer... asks what is their name.


As noted above, conscription for the Union Army was ordered in 1863. The tradition of "decorating" war graves was established at about the same time, and May was the traditional time. However, to be precise, the Decoration Day holiday called for by the Grand Army of the Republic (a post-civil war veteran's society) was May 30th, 1868.


I had to work part of today, being that Japan has no Memorial Day (and their closest equivalents are quietly celebrated in August and November), but I've managed to get things taken care of, having asked favor of a client for some time to have done so. My thanks.

Ich hatt' einen Kameraden...

Memorial Day, 2010

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Roy Bennett Acquitted

This Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) item came in yesterday, and it is most welcome news indeed: Roy Bennett acquitted of all charges.
"Having carefully considered the facts, I come to the conclusion that the state has failed to prove a prima facie case," said Judge Chinembiri Bhunu.

"The accused is accordingly found not guilty."
Magnificent. All the fabricated evidence the Mugabe regime threw at the case also was tossed out.

He's a free man, again.

Now let us see if the "Unity Government" is able to get him confirmed in his appointment as Deputy Agriculture Minister...
Roy Bennett's deployment to the agriculture ministry irked the security services and top Zanu-PF officials, many of whom benefited from the land reform programme.

It is unlikely that President Mugabe will accommodate Mr Bennett or allow him near controversial files that might expose the rot.

There is a general expectation Mr Mugabe will dig in and the MDC will again cry foul despite the acquittal.

Should Mr Mugabe climb down and swear him in, it would be a huge political statement.
--comments Brian Hungwe for the BBC.

Luck to you, sir

... you're going to need it.

David Cameron is offered the U.K. Prime Ministry.

Supposedly, there is a done deal with the top tier of the Liberal Democrats. Whether that manifests itself as a voting majority in Parliament remains to be seen.

Whether that tie-up will endure the first challenge of budget or policy differences also remains to be seen. Here's hoping the Tories are firmly in the driver's seat (else things will be rather bad in a number of ways), but bets are that come the first real dust-up, it will be another election.

On the Labour side, Gordon Brown has packed his bags. Really. Resigned, and likely will resign from politics as well. Not a moment too soon, from this point of view.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Get out the splitting wedge

Election reports from the UK are (as of this writing):

The Tories at 305 (update: 306. Tories held Torridge and West Devon)

Labour at 258

The LibDems at 57

...and the rest of the 648 (update: now 649. all in) reported to minors and regionals. None more than 8, and that's the DUP in Northern Ireland which is a (usually) reliable Tory ally.

One more due today That's a wrap. (#650, Thirsk and Malton, votes in a 27 May by-election)

Not enough.

Even with the Conservatives picking up a net of +97 seats, it's not enough.

Need 326 to carry confidence.
(*Errata: 323. Sinn Fein won't take their 5 seats, so a majority of quorum is less than 50%+1 of the entire parliament.)

There simply aren't enough minnows that would treat with the Tories to make up the shortfall.

Two possible reasonable courses for the Tories from here, IMO:

. Go with the Unionist allies, and stay in opposition. Let Labour sell out to the Liberal Democrats, and then beat them both with that stick until the government falls. Win more seats in the snap election that follows.

plus point: good for the Tories; good for the future of conservatism.

minus: probably very bad for the country. Labour under Gordon Brown has for all intents brought ruin to the doorstep. Leaving them in the driver's seat might allow more malfeasance, and certainly would allow a stubborn-and-selfish strategy by Labour to hold off calling the next election no matter how much more bad they do. There's just no telling how much national sovereignty a combination of Lord Mandelson and Nick Clegg will figure out how to give away in that circumstance.


.. Get out the splitting wedge and go after the bloc of Liberal Democrat MPs from Cornwall. Try to carve apart LD with the promise of coalition in government.

plus point: unlike doing a deal with the LibDems as a whole, an agreement with the generally more rational folks who run as LD in the far southwest would likely not require a commitment to supporting Proportional Representation as part of election reform, nor would it bind the Tories to the boat-anchor of Eurocentricism that is so dear to N. Clegg and the urban LibDems.

minus: Very, very hard to do. As divided as the heart of the LibDems is, there is rather little chance after a campaign where their leadership did a very fine job of keeping the party together in a run at both big parties that said leaders are now weak (or foolish) enough to let a dozen of their old-line go wayward on them.

If it were mine to play, I'd take a try at it, though.

Unlike Sir John (John Major; former PM and rather the cause of the Tories' years in the wilderness), I don't think giving the LibDems cabinet seats "is a price worth paying". A coalition with LD as a whole will neither be stable nor able to move decisively.

Sadly, we may well find out.