Friday, May 29, 2015

March to save a school/Magna Carta Messed Up the World, Here's How to Fix It

   The effort to save Baltimore’s Langston Hughes Elementary School continues on Sat., May 30 with a rally on the school parking lot, 5011 Arbutus Ave. (south of Belvedere Ave.) at 4 PM.  Then there will be an one-mile march to Pimlico Elementary/Middle School, where the children are expected to walk to next fall. Save this gem of a community public school. Call George Mitchell at 443-416-1443. Read a story of last week's march at http://www.peoplesworld.org/baltimore-a-new-generation-of-protestors-comes-into-being/.


 Chomsky writes: "In a few months, we will be commemorating the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta - commemorating, but not celebrating; rather, mourning the blows it has suffered."

Noam Chomsky. (photo: byline)
Noam Chomsky. (photo: byline)

Magna Carta Messed Up the World, Here's How to Fix It

By Noam Chomsky, The Noam Chomsky Website

29 May 15

http://readersupportednews.org/images/stories/alphabet/rsn-I.jpgIn a few months, we will be commemorating the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta—commemorating, but not celebrating; rather, mourning the blows it has suffered.

The first authoritative scholarly edition of Magna Carta was published by the eminent jurist William Blackstone in 1759. It was no easy task. As he wrote, “the body of the charter has been unfortunately gnawn by rats”—a comment that carries grim symbolism today, as we take up the task the rats left unfinished.

Blackstone’s edition actually includes two charters: the Great Charter and the Charter of the Forest. The former is generally regarded as the foundation of Anglo-American law—in Winston Churchill’s words, referring to its reaffirmation by Parliament in 1628, “the charter of every self-respecting man at any time in any land.” The Great Charter held that “No freeman shall be arrested or imprisoned,” or otherwise harmed, “except by the lawful judgment of his equals and according to the law of the land,” the essential sense of the doctrine of “presumption of innocence.”

To be sure, the reach of the charter was limited. Nevertheless, as Eric Kasper observes in a scholarly review, “What began as a relatively small check on the arbitrary power of King John eventually led to succeeding generations finding ever more rights in Magna Carta and Article 39. In this sense, Magna Carta is a key point in a long development of the protection of rights against arbitrary executive power.”

Crossing the Atlantic, the Great Charter was enshrined in the US Constitution as the promise that “no person shall…be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” and that “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury.”

The wording seems expansive, but that is misleading. Excluded were “unpeople” (to borrow Orwell’s useful concept), among them Native Americans, slaves and women, who under the British common law adopted by the founders were the property of their fathers, handed over to husbands. Indeed, it wasn’t until 1975 that women gained the right to serve on juries in all fifty states.

The Fourteenth Amendment applied the “due process” provisions to states. The intent was to include freed slaves in the category of persons, but the effect was different. Within a few years, slaves who had technically been freed were delivered to a regime of criminalization of black life that amounted to “slavery by another name,” to quote the title of Douglas Blackmon’s evocative account of this crime, which is being re-enacted today. Instead, almost all of the actual court cases invoking the Fourteenth Amendment had to do with the rights of corporations. Today, these legal fictions—created and sustained by state power—have rights well beyond those of flesh-and-blood persons, not only by virtue of their wealth, immortality and limited liability, but also thanks to the mislabeled “free-trade” agreements, which grant them unprecedented rights unavailable to humans.

The constitutional lawyer in the White House has introduced further modifications. His Justice Department explained that “due process of law”—at least where “terrorism offenses” are concerned—is satisfied by internal deliberations within the executive branch. King John would have nodded in approval. The term “guilty” has also been given a refined interpretation: it now means “targeted for assassination by the White House.” Furthermore, the burden of proof has been shifted to those already assassinated by executive whim. As The New York Times reported, “Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties [that] in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants…unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.” The guiding principles are clear: force reigns supreme; “law” and “justice” and other frivolities can be left to sentimentalists.

Problems do arise, however, when a candidate for genuine personhood is targeted. The issue arose after the murder of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was accused of inciting jihad in speech and writing as well as unspecified actions. A New York Times headline captured the general elite reaction when he was assassinated: As the West Celebrates a Cleric’s Death, the Mideast Shrugs. Some eyebrows were raised because Awlaki was an American citizen. But even these doubts were quickly stilled.

Let us now put the sad relics of the Great Charter aside and turn to the Magna Carta’s companion, the Charter of the Forest, which was issued in 1217. Its significance is perhaps even more pertinent today. As explained by Peter Linebaugh in his richly documented and stimulating history of Magna Carta, the Charter of the Forest called for protection of the commons from external power. The commons were the source of sustenance for the general population: food, fuel, construction materials, a form of welfare, whatever was essential for life.

In thirteenth-century England, the forest was no primitive wilderness. It had been carefully nurtured by its users over generations, its riches available to all. The great British social historian R. H. Tawney wrote that the commons were used by country people who lacked arable land. The maintenance of this “open field system of agriculture…reposed upon a common custom and tradition, not upon documentary records capable of precise construction. Its boundaries were often rather a question of the degree of conviction with which ancient inhabitants could be induced to affirm them, than visible to the mere eye of sense”—features of traditional societies worldwide to the present day.

By the eighteenth century, the charter had fallen victim to the rise of the commodity economy and capitalist practice and moral culture. As Linebaugh puts it, “The Forest Charter was forgotten or consigned to the gothic past.” With the commons no longer protected for cooperative nurturing and use, the rights of the common people were restricted to what could not be privatized—a category that continues to shrink, to virtual invisibility.

Capitalist development brought with it a radical revision not only of how the commons are treated, but also of how they are conceived. The prevailing view today is captured by Garrett Hardin’s influential argument that “Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.” This is the famous “tragedy of the commons”: that what is not owned will be destroyed by individual avarice. A more technical formulation is given in economist Mancur Olson’s conclusion that “unless the number of individuals is quite small, or unless there is coercion or some other special device to make individuals act in their common interest, rational, self-interested individuals will not act to achieve their common or group interests.” Accordingly, unless the commons are handed over to private ownership, brutal state power must be invoked to save them from destruction. This conclusion is plausible—if we understand “rationality” to entail a fanatic dedication to the individual maximization of short-term material gain.

These forecasts have received some challenge. The late Elinor Ostrom won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2009 for her work showing the superiority of user-managed fish stocks, pastures, woods, lakes and groundwater basins. The historical review in her study, Governing the Commons, ignores the Charter of the Forest and the practice over centuries of nurturing the commons, but Ostrom did conclude that the success stories she’d investigated might at least “shatter the convictions of many policy analysts that the only way to solve [common-pool resource] problems is for external authorities to impose full private property rights or centralized regulation.”

As we now understand all too well, it is what is privately owned, not what is held in common, that faces destruction by avarice, bringing the rest of us down with it. Hardly a day passes without more confirmation of this fact. As hundreds of thousands of people marched in the streets of Manhattan on September 21 to warn of the dire threat of the ongoing ecological destruction of the commons, The New York Times reported that “global emissions of greenhouse gases jumped 2.3 percent in 2013 to record levels,” while in the United States, emissions rose 2.9 percent, reversing a recent decline. August 2014 was reported to be the hottest on record, and JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association predicted that the number of 90-degree-plus days in New York could triple in three decades, with much more severe effects in warmer climates.

It is well understood that most of the world’s fossil-fuel reserves must remain in the ground if an environmental disaster for humankind is to be averted, but under the logic of state-supported capitalist institutions, the private owners of those reserves are racing to exploit them to the fullest. Chevron abandoned a small renewable-energy program because its profits are far greater from fossil fuels. And as Bloomberg Businessweek reports, ExxonMobil announced “that its laserlike focus on fossil fuels is a sound strategy, regardless of climate change.” This is all in accord with the capitalist doctrine of “rationality.”

A small part of the remaining commons is federal land. Despite the complaints of the energy lobbies, the amount of crude oil produced from onshore federal lands in 2013 was the highest in over a decade, according to the Interior Department, and it has expanded steadily under the Obama administration. The business pages of newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post are exultant about “the boom in American energy production,” which shows “no signs of slowing down, keeping the market flush with crude and gasoline prices low.” Predictions are that the United States will “add a million more barrels of oil in daily production over the next year,” while also “expanding its exports of refined products like gasoline and diesel.” One dark cloud is perceived, however: maximizing production “might have a catastrophic effect” in “the creation of a major glut.” And with climate-change denier James Inhofe now chairing the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and others like him in positions of power, we can expect even more wonderful news for our grandchildren.

Despite these long odds, the participants in the People’s Climate March are not alone. There is no slight irony in the fact that their major allies throughout the world are the surviving indigenous communities that have upheld their own versions of the Charter of the Forest. In Canada, the Gitxaala First Nation is filing a lawsuit opposing a tar-sands pipeline passing through its territory, relying on recent high-court rulings on indigenous rights. In Ecuador, the large indigenous community played an essential part in the government’s offer to keep some of its oil in the ground, where it should be, if the rich countries would compensate Ecuador for a fraction of the lost profits. (The offer was refused.) The one country governed by an indigenous majority, Bolivia, held a World People’s Conference in 2010, with 35,000 participants from 140 countries. It produced a People’s Agreement calling for sharp reductions in emissions, as well as a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth. These are key demands of indigenous communities all over the world.

So, as we commemorate the two charters after 800 years, all of this gives us ample reason for serious reflection—and for determined action.

© 2015 Reader Supported News

 Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

 

2 comments:

Al Ellis said...

The Magna Carta is the most important document in Anglo-American history:

"Eight hundred years of reform is being overturned as Washington and its vassals invade, bomb, and overthrow governments that are out of step with Washington’s agenda."

Happy Birthday Magna Carta

Paul Craig Roberts
Monday, June 15, 2015, is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. In his book, Magna Carta, J.C. Holt, professor of medieval history, University of Cambridge, notes that three of the chapters of this ancient document still stand on the English Stature Book and that so much of what survives of the Great Charter is “concerned with individual liberty,” which “is a reflexion of the quality of the original act of 1215.”
In the 17th century Sir Edward Coke used the Great Charter of the Liberties to establish the supremacy of Parliament, the representative of the people, as the origin of law.

A number of legal scholars have made the irrelevant point that the Magna Carter protected rights of the Church, nobles, and free men who were not enserfed, a small percentage of the population in the early 13th century. We hear the same about the US Constitution–it was something the rich did for themselves. I have no sympathy for debunking human achievements that, in the end, gave ordinary people liberty.

At Runnymede in 1215 no one but the armed barons had the power and audacity to make King John submit to law. The rule of law, not the rule of the sovereign or of the executive branch in Washington acceded to by a cowardly and corrupt Congress and Supreme Court, is a human achievement that grew out of the Magna Carta over the centuries, with ups and downs of course.

Blackstone’s Commentaries in 1759 fed into the American Revolution and gave us the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The Geneva Conventions extended the rule of law to the international arena.
Beginning with the Clinton Administration and rapidly accelerating with the George W. Bush and Obama regimes and Tony Blair in England, the US and UK governments have run roughshod over their accountability to law.
Both the US and UK in the 21st century have gone to numerous wars illegally under the Nuremberg Standard established by the US and UK following Germany’s defeat in WWII and used to execute Germans for war crimes. The US and UK claim that unlike Germany they are immune to the very international law that they themselves established in order to punish the defeated Germans. Washington and London can bomb and murder at will, but not Germany.

Both governments illegally and unconstitutionally (the UK Constitution is unwritten) spy on their citizens, and the Bush and Obama executive branches have eviscerated, with the complicity of Congress and the federal courts, the entirely of the US Constitution except for the Second Amendment, which is protected by the strong lobby of the National Rifle Association. If the gun control “progressives” have their way, nothing will be left of the US Constitution.

Washington and its European satellites have subordinated law to a political and economic hegemonic agenda. Just as under the heyday of colonialism when the West looted the non-white world, today the West loots its own. Greece is being looted as was Ireland, and Italy and Spain will not escape looting unless they renege on their debts and leave the EU.

Western capitalism is a looting mechanism. It loots labor. It loots the environment, and with the transpacific and transatlantic “partnerships” it will loot the sovereign law of countries. For example, France’s laws against GMOs become “restraints on trade” and subjects France to punitive law suits by Monsanto. If France doesn’t pay Monsanto the damages Monsanto claims, France is subject to punitive sanctions like Washington applies to Russia when Russia doesn’t do what Washington wants... continued at paulcraigroberts.com

Al Ellis said...

Debunking Magna Carta Leads Back To Serfdom — Paul Craig Roberts


June 15, 2015 | Categories: Articles & Columns | Tags: | Print This Article Print This Article

Debunking Magna Carta Leads Back To Serfdom

Paul Craig Roberts

In my column for the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2015/06/12/happy-birthday-magna-carta-paul-craig-roberts/, I wrote: “A number of legal scholars have made the irrelevant point that the Magna Carta protected rights of the Church, nobles, and free men who were not enserfed, a small percentage of the population in the early 13th century. We hear the same about the US Constitution–it was something the rich did for themselves. I have no sympathy for debunking human achievements that, in the end, gave ordinary people liberty.”

My celebration of this document was reposted today on a number of websites including as far away as Hong Kong. But the New York Times and a dolt of a law professor at the University of Chicago named Tom Ginsburg chose to debunk the Magna Carta on its 800th anniversary. “Stop Revering Magna Carta,” Ginsburg tells us. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/15/opinion/stop-revering-magna-carta.html

Ginsburg alleges that the Magna Carta “wasn’t effective. In fact, it was a failure.” The law professor maintains that Magna Carta’s fame rests on myths, not on reality.

What absolute nonsense. In this age of American Caesars, we need to celebrate the Magna Carta, not debunk it.

The Magna Carta is the most important document in Anglo-American history. The Magna Carta launched a long struggle culminating in the Glorious Revolution in the 17th century. The struggle established that law flows from the people to whom it is accountable and not from an unaccountable monarch ruling by Divine Right. The Magna Carta gave Americans the Constitution and Bill of Rights. These are massive human achievements. The rule of law is a shield of the people. Rule by decrees is a weapon in the hand of tyranny.

Ginsburg debunks Magna Carta as the product “of an intra-elite struggle, in which the nobles were chiefly concerned with their own privileges.” At one time it was expected that a professor of law understood that law unfolds to the limit of its logic. For example, the asset freeze provision in the 1970 Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was directed at organized crime. However, the law quickly spread beyond this intent and even jumped over the boundaries of the criminal code into civil divorce suits.

The 13th century English barons might not have been concerned with the rights of serfs, but their insistence that the king was accountable to law grew, like the mighty oak from an acorn, into a political system in which government is accountable to law that flows from elected representatives of the people.

It is this human achievement that is being lost, perhaps because law professors are more inclined to debunk human achievements than to celebrate them.

If you wish to understand how the rule of law was accomplished and how it is being lost, read The Tyranny of Good Intentions. http://www.amazon.com/Tyranny-Good-Intentions-Prosecutors-Constitution/dp/0307396061/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1434393556&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Tyranny+of+Good+Intentions

posted by A. Ellis