Tag Archives: British history


19 Oct



Contests leave a lot to be desired. “No purchase necessary.” Hah! Who believes that? Buy the wrong size drink or fries? No prize piece; no chance to win. Yet, we expect our candidate to win the presidency; “no purchase necessary.” CITIZENS UNITED shocks our sensibilities. But, it is only unique in its scale. This is not the first breath of life into corporations. That was done long ago.


Early Rome recognized a group as a single fictional person. As early as 1444, the Rolls of Parliament stated “they [the Master and Brethren of the Hospital] by that same name mowe be persones able to purchase Londez and Tenementz of all manere persones.” Blackstone defines legal persons: “Natural persons are such as the God of nature formed us; artificial are such as are created and devised by human laws for the purposes of society and government, which are called corporations or bodies politic.” Why create such a legal fiction? To allow corporations to do their business: lease, buy or sell property, hire and fire employees, enter into contracts of all sorts. As England moved from a cottage industry into guilds, and then into the industrial age entrepreneurs created new ownership groups to organize workers and manage production. They needed the legal fiction of personhood to conduct business.


Some of these management groups were benevolent bosses;many were not. Nevertheless, workers found it ever more difficult to assure safe workplaces, reasonable hours and wages, and fair treatment. Child labor was rampant, seven day/18 hour workdays were not uncommon. Tenements were built alongside work sites for ease of access and assurance of a constantly available workforce. Workers were locked in to work sites. We no longer remember this in the West, but we can see it happening even today elsewhere in developing industrial economies. We see the abuse of corporations from Shell Oil in East Africa to FoxConn (Apple supplier) in China. In the West workers united amidst bloody attacks to form labor unions, opposed at every step by corporations. Unions remain under attack in Ohio, Wisconsin, and in any state where there is a Republican governor, or Republican-controlled state legislature.


Corporations, like real persons, do not like ANY regulation or control of their behavior, especially while trying to make money off someone else’s labor. Their lobbyists assure politicians protect their interests and assure their unbridled freedom. In return, through campaign contributions, ALEC and SuperPacs they assure politicians re-election, a high-paying job after they leave public-service, and life-long connections to fictional persons of wealth and power. This, too, is not new.


Queen Elizabeth was a somewhat secret partner with English Seadogs, or pirates; overlooking their attacks on Spanish and French fleets, and taking a share of the loot. The difference between a pirate and a privateer depended on whom was being robbed and who helped do the looting. To the gentry of England, who along with their Queen loaned and outfitted ships hoping for a share of Spanish gold they were privateers; to the French and Spanish, pirates. Practiced in maritime attack, Elizabeth mobilized them to help defeat the Spanish armada and destroy Spanish dominance of the seas, and of the newly-discovered Americas. This opened an era of English exploration and colony development, including Jamestown, Virginia (named after the Virgin Queen Elizabeth).


So protected were these Captains of (Industry) the Seas that they were knighted by their Queen: Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir John Hawkins, Sir Humphrey Gilbert and Sir Richard Grenville were all first and foremost pirates. She bridled their freedom only to the extent she was permitted to share in their loot, enrich her coffers and assure her continued rule. Otherwise she assisted them in their piracy. Congress  limits today’s “Great Pirates”, corporations, only to the extent it is permitted to share in their loot. CITIZENS UNITED was inevitable. Any one of you have a game piece? Or only our politicians?


Labor unions, teachers unions, environmental groups, civil rights groups (African-American,Latino,GLBT,veterans,immigrants etc) don’t begin to have the power assured to corporations. There is no comparison. They are not given game pieces; they have to buy the right person to get a game piece! They have to elect a politician who will put them in the game. They have to elect a politician who will appoint judges and Supreme Court justices who will understand how the game is played and make it more fair to everyone; and, assure that everyone has an equal chance to win, assure that everyone has a piece of the game.


The person willing to do so, President Barack Obama, is the greatest threat to the Great Pirates… ever. The great pirates will do all they can to attack and defeat him; with the full support of those in Congress they control (with whom they share their loot), blocking his every move of the Ship of State. We cannot let them win. It will not be easy. We have little time left. We must support President Barack Obama for president. We must throw out those in Congress who help the great pirates. We must support labor unions, civil rights groups, environmentalists.

“We are in this game together” means nothing to the great pirates  because they hold all the game pieces. This must end if we Americans are to truly win; not just a second term for Barack Obama, but a chance for the 98% to play the game.




24 Jun


Louise Annarino

June 25, 2012

Democratic republics in the West did not emerge in full blossom overnight; nor will they in the East. The seeds of power within people must be planted in good soil and be kept moist despite periods of drought. Those who feed the country’s growth are ever in danger of being choked by weeds. Egypt’s journey, and that of other nations seeking some form of democratic republic, is our own.

As we watch the Egyptian military generals write and rewrite laws to secure their power base in the face of shared power with a president and parliament not of their choosing, let us recall the first parliaments in England which were made up exclusively of the privileged few, heirs to the original land barons granted fiefs by their king for military service to protect and defend his crown, and more importantly, his crown jewels. The king was loath to part with his landholdings which generated his wealth. The barons agreed to supply a percentage of crops, minerals, forest, game and resources to the king in exchange for permission to act as lord over the serfs who were attached to the land, and to  supply troops whenever called upon to do so by the king. In this way, both the king and his barons grew excessively wealthy. Sound familiar?

In 1215 King John agreed to the Magna Carta, the great charter, which gave legal rights to the Barons and Earls and mandated that the king listen to them and follow their advice. Before the Magna Carta the king called a parliament at his whim with no legal obligation to follow the barons’ advice. The Magna Carta granted no rights to the serfs; but, merely became a tool of the landed gentry (who had personal armies supporting them) to control the king in order to protect their own interests. Sound familiar?

In 1265, following a war between Henry III and Simon De Montfort, De Montfort briefly established a parliament which also included  burgesses, representatives from each county,city and town until Edward I, who killed De Montfort in battle, called is first parliament in 1275 which included churchmen,two knights from each county, and two commoners from each town ( the house of burgesses). Since 1327 parliament set the pattern we know today: House of Lords, House of Commons, Monarch.

It took another hundred years to establish that Parliament’s House of Commons controlled granting money raised through taxation to the king (usually to wage war); and wrote statutes creating the law of the land, replacing the writ to the king for favor system of an earlier day.

Overthrowing the leaders of countries does not necessarily mean more power to the people. It took great Britain several hundred years and a civil war to do so. The United States, copied Great Britain’s lead, replacing the monarch with a president. The House of Lords became our Senate; the House of Commons our House of Representatives. There are those who pressured newly-elected President George Washington to accept the appellation Your Majesty. He insisted on Mister, in a new nation where all men are considered equal. And so we say, Mr. President when addressing him.

The U.S. shortened Great Britain’s time-line: 1776 – Declaration of Independence, 1789 – Constitution and first 10 Amendments ratified, 1789 – Judiciaries Act passed, 1803 – Marbury v. Madison. Hopefully, emerging democracies can shorten the time it takes to become nations of law and not men, and avoid civil war. Building a strong middle class will help.

The industrial revolution which began in the 1500’s with the guild movement solidified in 1760-1850. It is no coincidence that the movement to end serfdom occurred on the same time frame. Prior to industrialization in England, land was the primary source of wealth. “The landed aristocracy held enormous powers [through] the feudal system. However, a new source of great wealth grew from the Industrial Revolution, that which was derived from the ownership of factories and machinery. Those who invested in factories and machinery cannot be identified as belonging to any single class of people (landed aristocracy, industrialists, merchants). Their backgrounds were quite diverse, yet they had one thing in common: the daring to seize the opportunity to invest in new ventures. It was these capitalists who gave the necessary impetus to the speedy growth of the Industrial Revolution.”1

In the United States, the Industrial Revolution made the North economically stronger than the South, which barely maintained a landed gentry system on the backs of slave labor and that of poor white sharecroppers. The bloody rise of labor unions prevented this quasi feudal-serf system from taking root in the North. Despite fighting a Civil War to end slavery, and the efforts of labor unions, we still see vestiges of the old feudal system within our economic institutions, policies and practices both north and south. Since the election of our first African-American president those differences in how we choose to govern ourselves have become more overt. Ohio and Wisconsin, as well as every other state,thanks to ALEC, are fighting to protect unions, not just to protect the unions but to protect all workers from being reduced, once again, to serfdom. 2

In China, Thailand, Guam, Africa and all over the globe multi-national corporations are locking in workers for excessively-long shifts, with little or no pay. Human trafficking in workers, slave or forced labor, is on the rise world-wide in every imaginable  industry including my favorite – chocolate. 3

What is the connection here? It is that human beings seek power over their own lives. Money is power, so they seek money. The reason taxes are a big deal to both Tea Party Republicans and Liberal Progressives, The US Chamber of Commerce and the churches, Wall Street banks and non-profit organizations, Democratic and Republican parties, the upper class-middle class- and poor is because money buys power. Money bought the King. Money bought the Corporations. Money bought the politicians. We all want money because we all value power. Why? Power brings freedom: the freedom from want, the freedom of choice over need, the freedom of association, the freedom to say no just because we want to do so. If we truly believe we are all entitled to be free, then we must also believe we are all entitled to enough money to feel power over our own lives.

When we are without money for too long we feel powerless as a result. It is this feeling of being powerless which brings out our racism, sexism, homophobia etc. Those who feel powerless resent others who seem to be acquiring power. Hidden in our psyche is the racist belief that an African-American has no business being so powerful when white men now feel so powerless. That is the crux of this election. Even Roman Catholic bishops, losing esteem and power over their flocks due to their misogynist attitude toward women and their cover-up of pedophilia within their ranks are fighting for power by attacking President Obama. Even Christian church leaders accustomed to financial power and preaching its attainment as a Gospel truth, which fell apart in the recession, are attacking President Obama. They have no qualms viciously attacking him, trying to knock him off his game. Unfortunately, his game is governing this country we all love.

What can we do? We can stop attacking people who want power, who want money, who want to feel safe; who cannot feel truly free without these things. We all want these things. We all want freedom.

We can stop attacking each other lest we all end up “Humpty Dumpty”. 4  Despite British and American love of freedom, and each country’s Civil Wars to establish equality among all its citizens and clearly unified governance, neither would suggest civil war as a positive step. We can learn from these past divisive periods. History does not have to repeat itself around the globe, nor within our own borders. We can stop being so afraid that we needlessly try to knock one another off the wall. We can recognize that there is enough wealth to share so that all feel powerful and free.

We celebrate freedom in this country without understanding its roots. No banker, no corporate executive, no shareholder, no priest nor bishop, no Tea Bagger, no liberal, no politician, no judge, no citizen will feel free until they feel financially secure. This was the beauty of a strong middle class; it made everyone feel free. It was an imaginable state of being for the poorest citizen aspiring to move higher through education and hard work; and for the richest executive who fell from grace, a safe place to land. Without a middle class, no American feels free.Not the wealthiest, not the poorest, and not the middle class.

To America and to the world a message of freedom: Build and protect the common man’s wealth, the middle class. The BRITISH COMMONWEALTH is a not a fluke. American economic success since the Civil War is not a fluke. Stop seeking to be excessively wealthy; instead, seek to build wealth within the middle class, a commonwealth within and among nations. With commonwealth comes common power. With such a sense of power comes a sense of freedom and peace. The Eurozone is struggling with this concept as I write.

Look at what Britain accomplished. Look at what the U.S. accomplished. Those lessons will serve us well. this is what President Obama has been trying to remind us.  Destroying the middle class destroys our commonwealth, pushes Humpty Dumpty off the wall; and, neither all the king’s horses nor all the king’s men can put us back together again. Life is too fragile for such nonsense.



1. http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/1981/2/81.02.06.x.html


3.http://www1.american.edu/ted/chocolate-slave.htm “Presently, about 700,000 children and women are trafficked around the world annually. The UN says that profits for this trafficking amount to approximately $7 billion a year (Anti-Slavery International).”

4.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humpty_Dumpty  “In 1648 Colchester was a walled town with a castle and several churches and was protected by the city wall. The story given was that a large cannon, which the website claimed was colloquially called Humpty Dumpty, was strategically placed on the wall. A shot from a Parliamentary cannon succeeded in damaging the wall beneath Humpty Dumpty which caused the cannon to tumble to the ground. The Royalists, or Cavaliers, ‘all the King’s men’ attempted to raise Humpty Dumpty on to another part of the wall, but because the cannon was so heavy ‘All the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again’. In his 2008 book Pop Goes the Weasel: The Secret Meanings of Nursery Rhymes author Albert Jack claimed that there were two other verses supporting this claim. Elsewhere he claimed to have found them in an “old dusty library, [in] an even older book”,but did not state what the book was or where it was found. It has been pointed out that the two additional verses are not in the style of the seventeenth century, or the existing rhyme, and that they do not fit with the earliest printed version of the rhyme, which do not mention horses and men.”