A Chain for Freedom

As the Wall Street Journal reports today, “hundreds of thousands of Catalans protesting what they consider economic and cultural abuse by Spain’s central government joined hands in a 400-kilometer (250-mile) human chain Wednesday to underscore their call to make this industrialized region an independent nation.  Catalonia claimed for independence from Spain

The area of what today is Catalonia was a part of the Hispanic March, a buffer zone beyond the province of Septimania, created by Charlemagne in 795 as a defensive barrier between the Umayyad Moors of Al-Andalus and the Frankish Kingdom.

In 985 the Hispanic March was attacked by the Muslim general Almansur, who managed to take Barcelona, which was pillaged and sacked. Many citizens were taken prisoner by the Muslim forces. Borrell II, Count of Barcelona, sent a request for help to King Lothar III, the current King of the Western Franks, but although documents of Borrell’s refer to royal orders that must have come from this embassy, actual military assistance was beyond Lothar’s power. What appears to have been a similar plea to Hugh Capet resulted in a letter from Hugh to Borrell promising aid if the count preferred “to obey us rather than the Ishmaelites”, but in any event Hugh could not persuade his nobles to support a southern expedition. No answer to Hugh’s letter is known from Borrell, and the connection between the March and France was effectively broken. Catalan historians now consider this the point at which their nation became a sovereign power, and the millennium of their independence was celebrated in 1987″

Catalonia became part of the Crown of Aragon in 1137, when the Kingdom of Aragon and the County of Barcelona (with the County of ProvenceGironaCerdanyaOsona and other territories) merged by dynastic union with the marriage of Raymond Berenguer IV of Barcelona and Petronilla of Aragon; their individual titles combined in the person of their son Alfonso II of Aragon, who ascended to the throne in 1162. This union respected the existing institutions and parliaments of both territories.

The Crown of Aragon was a composite monarchy, ruled by one king with a personal and dynastic union of the Kingdom of Aragon and the county of Barcelona. At the height of its power in the 14th and 15th centuries, the Crown of Aragon was a thalassocracy (a state with primarily maritime realms) controlling a large portion of the present-day eastern Spain and southwestern France, as well as some of the major islands and mainland possessions stretching across the Mediterranean as far as Greece. The component realms of the Crown were not united politically except at the level of the king, who ruled over each autonomous polity according to its own laws, raising funds under each tax structure, dealing separately with each cortes. Put in contemporary terms, the disparate lands of Aragon functioned more as a confederacy of cultures rather than as a single country. In this sense, the larger Crown of Aragon must not be confused with one of its constituent parts, the Kingdom of Aragon, from which it takes its name.

In 1469, a new dynastic familial union of the Crown of Aragon with the Crown of Castile by the Catholic Monarchs, joining what contemporaries referred to as “the Spains”[ led to what would become the Kingdom of Spain under King Philip II.

The Crown of Aragon existed until it was abolished by the Nueva Planta decrees issued by King Philip V in 1716 as a consequence of the defeat of Archduke Charles in the War of the Spanish Succession.

As a result of that defeat, which took place 299 years ago today on the 11th of September 1714, when after a long siege, the Bourbon army of Philip V finally conquered an exhausted and defeated Barcelona, the Crown of Aragon was dissolved and Catalonia lost all its liberties, becoming a “de facto” colony of Spain, situation that remains unchanged today.

With today’s human chain Catalans strive to continue a path towards total independence from Spain and to be able to make of Catalonia a new state in Europe.

Alexandra Leaving, Alexandria Lost

Suddenly the night has grown colder.
The God of love preparing to depart.
Alexandra hoisted on his shoulder,
They slip between the sentries of the heart.

… … …

Even though she sleeps upon your satin;
Even though she wakes you with a kiss.
Do not say the moment was imagined;
Do not stoop to strategies like this.

As someone long prepared for the occasion;
In full command of every plan you wrecked
Do not choose a coward’s explanation
That hides behind the cause and the effect.

And you who were bewildered by a meaning;
Whose code was broken, crucifix uncrossed
Say goodbye to alexandra leaving.
Then say goodbye to alexandra lost.

Say goodbye to alexandra leaving.
Then say goodbye to alexandra lost.

Today Financial Times publishes an article by Philippe Sands, “Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson: a special relationship”, that describes and explores the nature of the friendship between the poet/musician Leonard Cohen and the songwriter/vocalist Sharon Robinson. In it the process of creation of the song “Alexandra Leaving” is described. This song is based on a poem by Constantine Cavafy titled “The God Abandons Anthony”. Some excerpts:

“As we explore the lyrics of “Alexandra Leaving”, I ask whether she might sing the song. “Right here, in the bookshop?” Yes.”

“Downstairs, in the shop’s poetry corner, I come across a copy of C P Cavafy’s Collected Poems, translated by Daniel Mendelsohn, whose commentary on “The God Abandons Antony” explains that the title is taken from Plutarch’s Life of Antony. The poem describes the last night on earth of Mark AntonyCleopatra’s lover, as his troops desert him. As Mendelsohn notes, “All Alexandria knew that Antony’s cause was totally lost.” Subsequently defeated, and believing Cleopatra to be dead, Antony takes his own life. Plutarch’s account emphasises the importance of the act of hearing, a “vehicle for apprehending the true significance of what is taking place”. ”

“The connections between the song and the original poem are close. A beloved city (Alexandria, in Egypt) becomes a beloved woman (Alexandra), offering what Cohen has described as “a certain take on loss”. ”

Also today Monty Pelerin’s World publishes “Tyranny Rules”, where the unrelentless process by which the American Republic slides into tyranny is explained. Some Excerpts:

“The Founding Fathers knew the dangers of power and were especially concerned about preventing abuses. They established boundaries beyond which government and its agents were not to exceed. These constraints were codified by laws, a government made up of three equal branches and strong independent states. The Constitution provided the initial laws and defined allocation of power and responsibility among the branches of government and the federal and state governments.”

“Over the course of more than two centuries, these constraints have been under assault by those desiring more power. Time and opportunists have seriously eroded the original intentions and boundaries. “

“Historians in the future will use the concept of freedom to explain America’s decline. Just as increasing freedoms brought success, the diminution of this freedom (tyranny) will eventually be used to explain the downfall. The fall of freedom is the same as the rise of tyranny.”

“America is now run by political sociopaths, unrestricted by laws, ethics or tradition. That characterizes both political parties. It does not matter whether we elect a “good man” next. No country survives dependent on the masses electing the right man.”

“Countries survive with systems that protect them against the wrong man. We have lost that protection.”

Aware of this process it is difficult to avoid the feeling that what Cavafy’s poem and Cohen’s song both convey, of something valuable irretrievably lost, can also be applied to us, that our Alexandria, in western societies, is also lost, and that some of us, too, experience “a certain take on loss”.

Across the Borderland

“When you reach the broken promised land
Every dream slips through your hands
And you’ll know it’s too late to change your mind
’cause you pay the price to come so far
Just to wind up where you are
And you’re still just across the borderline
Now you’re still just across the borderline
And you’re still just across the borderline”

Ryland Peter “Ry” Cooder, born March 15 1947, is an American musician. He is known for his slide guitar work, his interest in roots music from the United States, and, more recently, his collaborations with traditional musicians from many countries. Ry Cooder grew up in Santa Monica, California. His solo work has been eclectic, encompassing folkbluesTex-Mexsoulgospel, rock, and much else. He has collaborated with many musicians, notably including Eric ClaptonThe Rolling StonesVan MorrisonNeil YoungRandy Newman, and The Doobie Brothers. He briefly formed a band named Little Village.

Across the Borderline is a 1993 album by Willie Nelson. It includes songs written by Paul SimonJohn HiattPeter Gabriel, Bob DylanLyle Lovett, and Nelson himself. The title track, “Across the Borderline”, was written by Ry CooderJohn Hiatt, and Jim Dickinson. It is a remake of a song by Freddy Fender, which was featured on the motion picture soundtrack for The Border starring Jack Nicholson.

TYR reads “those who care, have known about this for a long, long time.”

Government Is Tracking Verizon Customers’ Records @ The Wall Street Journal. Some excerpts:

“The National Security Agency is obtaining a complete set of phone records from  all Verizon U.S. customers under a secret court order, according to a published account and former officials.”

“Verizon is required to provide NSA with “all call detail records” of customers, including all local and long-distance calls within the U.S., as well as calls between the U.S. and overseas…”

“Mr. Drake said call records are just a fraction of the data NSA is collecting, which also includes data about emails and data on any type of electronic communication, which includes iPads, Kindles and other mobile devices. All can be used to track the owner’s location. “It’s a total violation of the Fourth Amendment,” he said.”

“The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

“Congress voted last December to extend the expanded FISA surveillance law for another five years.”

White House Defends Its Wiretapping Of Millions Of US Citizens @ Zerohedge. One excerpt is enough:

“those who care, have known about this for a long, long time.”

TYR reads ” 5 Reasons…Mainstream Media…Pro-War”

5 Reasons that Both Mainstream Media – and Gatekeeper “Alternative” Websites – Are Pro-War @ Washington’s Blog  asks why there is so much Pro-War reporting, not only by mainstream media, but also by big “alternative” (blog) websites. Like all Washingtonsblog articles, this one is well researched, but perhaps an image, a chart, will go a long way in order to explain why free journalism barely exists anymore in the USA, although self-censorship also plays a big role in allowing this situation to persist. As Mark Twain once said, “We write frankly and freely but then we ‘modify’ before we print.” Why do we modify the free and frank expression of journalistic truth? We do it out of fear”.

TYR reads “A Mother, a Feminist, Aghast”

Judith Grossman: A Mother, a Feminist, Aghast @ The Wall Street Journal A feminist mother awakens to the consequences of our feminist era…only when it is her own son who is being denied the rights that the American Constitution was suppossed to protect for all americans regardless of gender. Probably too late to undo the damage caused by decades of feminist ideology.

Some excerpts:

“I am a feminist. I have marched at the barricades, subscribed to Ms. magazine, and knocked on many a door in support of progressive candidates committed to women’s rights. Until a month ago, I would have expressed unqualified support for Title IX and for the Violence Against Women Act.”

“It that was before my son, a senior at a small liberal-arts college in New England, was charged—by an ex-girlfriend—with alleged acts of “nonconsensual sex” that supposedly occurred during the course of their relationship a few years earlier.”

“What followed was a nightmare—a fall through Alice’s looking-glass into a world that I could not possibly have believed existed, least of all behind the ivy-covered walls thought to protect an ostensible dedication to enlightenment and intellectual betterment.”

“recent directive from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, has obliterated the presumption of innocence that is so foundational to our traditions of justice.”

“The frightening answer is that like the proverbial 800-pound gorilla, the tribunal does pretty much whatever it wants, showing scant regard for fundamental fairness, due process of law, and the well-established rules and procedures that have evolved under the Constitution for citizens’ protection. Who knew that American college students are required to surrender the Bill of Rights at the campus gates?”

“Across the country and with increasing frequency, innocent victims of impossible-to-substantiate charges are afforded scant rights to fundamental fairness and find themselves entrapped in a widening web of this latest surge in political correctness.”

“I fear that in the current climate the goal of “women’s rights,” with the compliance of politically motivated government policy and the tacit complicity of college administrators, runs the risk of grounding our most cherished institutions in a veritable snake pit of injustice”

TYR 10 March 2013 reads “Corporatism: A System Of Control Designed By The Monopoly Men Of The Global Elite”

Who Runs The World - Solid Proof That A Core Group Of Wealthy Elitists Are Pulling The Strings

Corporatism: A System Of Control Designed By The Monopoly Men Of The Global Elite @ The Economic Collapse

“The Dow is at a record high and so are corporate profits – so why does it feel like most of the country is deeply suffering right now?  Real household income is the lowest that it has been in a decade, poverty is absolutely soaring, 47 million Americans are on food stamps and the middle class is being systematically destroyed.  How can big corporations be doing so well while most American families are having such a hard time?  Isn’t their wealth supposed to “trickle down” to the rest of us?  Unfortunately, that is not how the real world works.”

“Today, most big corporations are trying to minimize the number of “expensive” American workers on their payrolls as much as they can.  If the big corporation that is employing you can figure out a way to replace you with a worker in China or with a robot, it will probably do it.  Corporations are in existence to maximize wealth for their shareholders, and most of the time the largest corporations are dominated by the monopoly men of the global elite.  Over the decades, the politicians that have their campaigns funded by these monopoly men have rigged the game so that the big corporations are able to easily dominate everything.  But this was never what those that founded this country intended. ”

“First of all, we continue to see incomes go down even though we live in an inflationary economy.”

“Today, corporate profits as a percentage of U.S. GDP are at an all-time high, but wages as a percentage of U.S. GDP are near an all-time low.”

Corporate Profits After Tax

“Meanwhile, wages as a percentage of GDP continue to fall rapidly…”

Wages And Salaries As A Percentage Of GDP

“Most of the jobs being created in America today are “low wage” jobs.  Tens of millions of Americans are working as hard as they can only to find that they can barely put food on the table and provide a roof over the heads of their children.  The ranks of the “working poor” are exploding and the middle class continues to shrink.”

“Right now, the system is designed to continually funnel more money and more power to the very top of the pyramid.  The global elite are becoming more dominant with each passing day.  Unless something dramatic happens, at some point the American people will become so powerless that they won’t be able to do anything about it even if they wanted to.”

“The idea of a very tiny elite completely dominating all the rest of us goes against everything that America is supposed to stand for.  In the end, it will result in absolute tyranny if it is not stopped.”