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Sunday Deposed Monarch Blogging: House Bonaparte

[ 0 ] July 15, 2007 |

On August 15, 1769, nineteen year old Maria Letizia Bonaparte gave birth to her fourth child. The first two had died before the age of one year, but the third, Joseph, survived, and would eventually become King of both Naples and Spain. Maria’s husband, Carlo Bonaparte, was a minor official of somewhat distinguished Corsican lineage. His fortunes had changed for the better when he decided to support the transfer of Corsica from Genovese to French hands. Carlo and Marie would have nine more children, six of whom would survive, and two more of whom would reign as kings of European countries.

Napoleon Bonaparte, the fourth son, was admitted to the Ecole Royale Militaire in Paris, where he studied artillery and completed the two year degree in one year. Abetted by the chaos of the Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte swiftly rose through the ranks, becoming a Brigadier General in 1794 at the age of 25. He soon became the foremost military hero of the Revolution, displaying an almost preternatural command of tactics and operations. In 1799, following a failed military expedition in Egypt, he participated in a coup d’etat that resulted in his rise to First Consul, the most important political position in France. In December 1804, with the blessing of the Pope, Napoleon Bonaparte had himself declared Emperor Napoleon I of the French.

The Emperor’s military success would continue for some time, including such stunning victories as Austerlitz (1805) and Jena (1806). Nelson’s destruction of the combined French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar, however, helped constrain the ambitions of the Emperor. Eventually the Emperor over-reached himself, both in deposing the Bourbon monarch of Spain and in invading Russia. The invasion of Spain resulted in a long and brutal insurgency that, aided by the British, helped sap French strength. The invasion of Russia resulted in the loss of most of the Grand Army. All of conquered Europe rose against Napoleon, and at the end of March 1814, with his enemies closing in, Napoloeon I abdicated in favor of his three year old son, who held the title King of Rome at the time. Napoleon I had previously installed his brother Louis as King of Holland, and Jerome as King of Westphalia. The Allies rejected the abdication, forcing Napoleon I to abdicate fully and accept exile for both himself and his son. Napoleon’s escape a year later returned him briefly to the throne before his final defeat at the hands of Blucher and the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo. Exiled again, Napoleon I would die in 1821. His son, under house arrest in Austria, died in 1832 at age 21.

The Emperor’s brother, Louis, fathered a son in Paris in 1808. The young Louis Napoleon grew up in Switzerland and Germany, and served for a while as a resistance fighter against Austrian influence in northern Italy. The young Louis-Napoleon took leadership of the Bonaparte family after the death of Napoleon II. A failed coup in 1836 led to another period of exile, until Louis-Napoleon returned to France following the disturbances of 1848. Shortly thereafter, Louis-Napoleon was elected President of the Second French Republic. In late 1851 he seized dictatorial power, and in 1852, upon the 47th anniversary of Napoleon I crowning as Emperor, became Emperor of the French.

Napoleon III undertook a less expansionist policy in Europe than his uncle, but made up for that with initiatives in Africa, the Americas, and Asia. He helped put Maximilian I on the throne of Mexico, only later to see the Austrian executed by his ungrateful subjects. Napoleon III also helped builder a kinder, gentler, and more easily repressed Paris. In 1870 Napoleon III entered a trap laid by Otto Von Bismarck that resulted in the Franco-Prussian War. France’s quick and utter defeat led to Napoleon III’s abdication and exile in Great Britain. Napoleon III’s son died nine years later while fighting with the British Army against the Zulu in South Africa.

Had things gone differently at Sedan, Napoleon III might have escaped deposition, either for himself or for his son. The political meaning of a having a Bonaparte as constitutional monarch would differ in important respects from having a Bourbon on the throne. Due to the close relationship between the Bonapartes and the Revolution, a Bonaparte constitional monarch might not have had such negative effects as a Bourbon on the Dreyfus Affair or on the formation of Vichy.

Like other French royals, the Bonapartes were exiled from France. Napoleon VI attempted to volunteer for the French Army in 1940, and ended up serving in the French Foreign Legion before being captured by Germans while seeking Charles De Gaulle. When Napoleon VI died, he designated his grandson, Jean-Christophe Napoleon, as head of House Bonaparte. However, Napoleon VI’s son, Charles Napoleon, also claims to be the head of House Bonaparte. Both of the claimants have assured followers that there is no conflict. Apparently, an obscure Polish group wants to elect Jean-Christophe King of Poland. Prospects for a return to the throne of Naples, Spain, Holland, Westphalia, Poland, or France seem grim. Several of those countries no longer exist, others have abolished the monarchy, and still others prefer domestic claimants.

Trivia: What deposed monarch was arrested while backpacking incognito in his home country in 1967?


[ 0 ] July 15, 2007 |

Saw the Police in Louisville last night. They were remarkably impressive. No Youtube highlights available from last night’s show, but the difference between the Police and some other “reunion” bands was profound; Summers, Sting, and Copeland were the only musicians on stage, they played quite a bit with the song arrangements, Summers was creative with the guitar, and they all looked like they were having fun. The mixing was also the best I’ve ever heard at a show of that size (Churchill Downs was full).

(Lots of) money well spent.

No Graver Injustice

[ 0 ] July 15, 2007 |

Sometimes I am appalled at the roadblocks that courts set up in the way of justice. Ironic, isn’t it?

The NY Times has the story today of Troy A. Davis, a 38-year-old man who has been on Georgia’s death row for 17 years. Mr. Davis was convicted of shooting a police officer who had come to break up a scuffle outside an Atlanta nightclub. There was no physical evidence tying him to the shooting. He admits to being at the scene but claims that he turned and ran as soon as someone threatened to shoot. At his trial, prosecutors, according to the Times, “relied heavily on the testimony of nine eyewitnesses who took the stand against Mr. Davis.” But in the years since his trial, seven of the nine witnesses have recanted or changed their stories, admitting that they were (again, per the Times) “harassed and pressed by investigators to lie under oath.”

Mr. Davis has exhausted his appeals. The Supreme Court last week refused to hear his case. And because of a recent (1996) law “intended to streamline the legal process in death penalty cases, courts have ruled it is too late in the appeals process to introduce new evidence and, so far, have refused to hear it.” Why streamlining the path to death is a good idea totally escapes me. But beyond that, the existence of a law barring evidence that could exonerate a man less than one week from his execution seems both barbaric and blindingly stupid. Sure, in the absence of such a law, some people who are guilty of the crimes for which they were convicted would abuse the system and seek to submit unimportant evidence up to the last minute. But to me this seems a small price in efficiency to pay in order to ensure we don’t put innocent people to death. (As you may have read before, I don’t believe in capital punishment to begin with. But within the framework we now have, this law seems particularly cruel.)

Yet Mr. Davis remains on death row, and his death warrant (pdf) has been signed. The only way he will escape execution (to be carried out between July 17 and July 25) is if the Goergia Board of Pardons and Paroles grants clemency. Which – predictably – seems highly unlikely, particularly given that the boar has commuted only 8 sentences since 1973, the last more than three years ago. And this in a state that has less concern than most states about the possibility of executing the innocent: Georgia is one of only two states that does not guarantee that condemned prisoners will have legal representation after they have exhausted direct appeals (e.g. for clemency hearings, etc.).

At root, whether or not Mr. Davis is innocent (which there is ample evidence to suggest he is, including the fact that one of the people to testify against him is the person others have fingered as the shooter), is not important. The fact that our justice system would set any roadblocks in the way of truth-seeking, particularly in the context of capital punishment, is just beyond me. Streamlining should not come at this cost.

Sunday Links and Brief Comments

[ 0 ] July 15, 2007 |
  • Publius has some sympathy for John McCain’s profound yet futile humiliation and self-abnegation. I do feel it with respect to his daughter; politics requires you to make alliances with ugly people and forget ugly tactics. But where any sympathy I had for McCain vanishes with his reprehensible legitimazation of the Bush administration’s torture and gutting of habeas corpus. It’s not even as if he just quietly sold out; he provided invaluable cover by claiming he wouldn’t compromise and then abjectly selling out. (The irony, of course, being that his preening meant that he would get no credit from the pro-torture-and -arbitrary-power base anyway, so he sold out for nothing.) To hell with him.
  • Some apologist for the new gilded age claims of St. Derek of Pasta Diving that “I cannot find another ballplayer with that same set of skills.” Yeah, unless he turns to his right and sees the player with vastly more impressive offensive and defensive skills…
  • Aspazia is a new mother.
  • Zuzu, ex of Feministe, has a new blog.
  • Albini speaks! Quite interestingly. (Via Wolfson.)
  • Scott McLemee points out that a central issue of the “Late Night Shots” clowns is that exclusivity fails if nobody else actually wants to be a member. This reminds me of the appalling Details article asking “is it OK to demand anal sex?” (Categorical answer, regardless of sex act in question: “No.” You’re welcome.) The point is not that it cannot be mutually enjoyable for many people, but to this particular subset of assholes “mutually enjoyable” would seem to defeat the purpose. As Amanda correctly notes, this is a classic example of patriarchy being bad for everybody, insulting to men as well as women.
  • Liberal or patriotic? According to SIRUS, this is a fair question….

Bridge Over Troubled Bongwater

[ 0 ] July 15, 2007 |

Above: Bill Kistol prepares to write today’s WaPo editorial, which forever propels the achievement of “dead-end, self-refuting hackery” beyond the reach of mere mortals.


Let’s step back from the unnecessary mistakes and the self-inflicted wounds that have characterized the Bush administration. Let’s look at the broad forest rather than the often unlovely trees. What do we see? First, no second terrorist attack on U.S. soil — not something we could have taken for granted. Second, a strong economy — also something that wasn’t inevitable.

And third, and most important, a war in Iraq that has been very difficult, but where — despite some confusion engendered by an almost meaningless “benchmark” report last week — we now seem to be on course to a successful outcome.

Next week: Kristol considers the unappreciated legacies of James Buchanan and Warren Harding. Also, why Papa Doc was good for Haiti after all.

Quatorze juillet!

[ 0 ] July 14, 2007 |

I almost forgot it was Bastille Day. There’s still time to, like, destroy a prison or something. Just don’t cut anyone’s head off and parade it around on a pike, OK?

Meantime, this crappy Rush song almost makes me wish the French Revolution had never occurred.

La la la la, la la la la, Chazmo’s World

[ 0 ] July 14, 2007 |

If one were looking for an especially repulsive mixture of homophobia and anti-Arab racism, it would be difficult to find a purer example than this thread at LGF, where rumors about Yassir Arafat’s cause of death — a rumor passed along by the most dubious of sources — has set the morning’s conga line into motion.

I realize, of course, that wondering if LGF is trafficking in homophobia and racism is akin to wondering if Ann Althouse has posted slanty photos from a coffee shop in the last week, but the thread deserves special mention for producing my nominee for Quite Possibly the Dumbest Comment Evah:

Today In Strawman Building

[ 0 ] July 14, 2007 |

HTML points us to this post by digamma. HTML says he “has” me, which is kind of strange because I basically agree with this:

No one on the left ever dreamed that Clinton would create a major progressive domestic policy shift. The most they ever hoped for was that he wouldn’t actively push conservative policies. And he fell well short of that goal.

The Telecommunications Act? Communications Decency? Antiterrorism? Welfare reform? These were all passed with Clinton’s signature and, with the POSSIBLE exception of welfare reform (on which he waffled repeatedly), with his enthusiastic support. You can’t blame the Constitution for that.

How about we compare this to what I actually wrote:

This also comes up a lot in debates with my Naderite friends, but while there are any number of valid critiques of Clinton, to attack him for not achieving any major progressive initiatives after 1994 is bizarre; with a Republican Congress this simply wasn’t a possibility.

digamma and HTML, in other words, simply misread the post. I never said that Clinton was beyond criticism — indeed, I specifically said otherwise. What I actually said was that Clinton couldn’t be criticized for not being able to singlehandedly pass major new progressive initiatives, which digramma concedes. If we’re talking about DOMA, the Telecommunications Act, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, etc., criticize away; I certainly have. But his comment was a non-sequitur, and the claim that I’m “moving the goalposts” by pointing this out bizarre.


[ 0 ] July 14, 2007 |

Reports on the credibility and journalistic standards of dead-ender hero Michael Yon…are not promising. Which I supposes goes without saying. (I think the definitive warblogger moment was Judy Miller being invited at the keynote speaker at the Pajamas Media launch party. They don’t want good reporters; they want Bush administration propagandists and stenographers.)

Moving from Ordinary Villainy to Cartoonish Super-Villainy

[ 1 ] July 14, 2007 |

Washington Post:

The White House has refused to give Congress documents about the death of former NFL player Pat Tillman, with White House counsel Fred F. Fielding saying that certain papers relating to discussion of the friendly-fire shooting “implicate Executive Branch confidentiality interests.”

No Shame. These people do not operate by any understandable moral or ethical code.

Via Danger Room.

Coalition Operations and the War on Drugs

[ 0 ] July 14, 2007 |

A difference of opinion is developing between American and European approaches to poppy eradication in Afghanistan. Jon Lee Anderson in the New Yorker:

In Uruzgan, the Dutch have advocated a policy of nonconfrontation and the pursuit of development projects. (The Dutch commander, Hans van Griensven, was quoted in the Times in April as telling his officers, “We’re not here to fight the Taliban. We’re here to make the Taliban irrelevant.”) A European official told me that the Dutch had doubts about [eradication leader Doug] Wankel’s mission; they feared that it might be counterproductive, because it was only about destroying poppies and did not include any of the other seven pillars of the national plan. “There was concern that it might crosscut other activities focussed on security and development,” he said.

Wankel was frustrated by the wariness of the Dutch. “Most or all Europeans are opposed to eradication—they’re into winning hearts and minds,” he said. “But it’s our view that it isn’t going to work. There has to be a measured, balanced use of force along with hearts and minds.” He conceded, however, that the Uruzgan operation fell squarely on the use-of-force side of the scale. Later, he told me, aid, seed, and fertilizer would be offered to the farmers around Tirin Kot, but not yet. Other Americans were frankly contemptuous of the Dutch policy, which they regarded as softheaded. The Western official told me, “We don’t have a lot of time here. If we don’t get a handle on this soon, we’ll have a situation where you can’t get rid of it, like we had in Colombia for a while, where the narcos owned part of the government and controlled significant parts of the economy. And we have a lot of evidence of direct links with the Taliban. These problems, and organized crime, too, are being embedded here while they’re talking about ‘alternative development.’”

I’ll try to be as even-handed as I can: The Europeans are utterly correct, the Americans are completely wrong, and the American approach will result in far more pain than necessary in Afghanistan, if not outright defeat. There is nothing intrinsic about poppies that makes their cultivation or their cultivators pro-Taliban; poppy producers seek Taliban protection and give the Taliban aid because of the eradication program.

Doug Wankel is part of the eradication program, the leader of a group of private Dyncorp contractors:

“We’re not able to destroy all the poppy—that’s not the point. What we’re trying to do is lend an element of threat and risk to the farmers’ calculations, so they won’t plant next year,” Wankel said later. “It’s like robbing a bank. If people see there’s more to be had by robbing a bank than by working in one, they’re going to rob it, until they learn there’s a price to pay.”

The price the farmers have to pay:

When we were ready to move on, the farmer said, as if to be polite, “Thank you—but I can’t really thank you, because you haven’t destroyed just my poppies but my wheat, too.” He pointed to where A.T.V.s had driven through a wheat patch. Wankel apologized, then commented that it was only one small section. “But you have also damaged my watermelons,” the farmer insisted, pointing to another part of the field. “Now I will have nothing left.”

Maybe it would have helped if the Americans had explained why they were destroying the Afghan crops, but since the explanation amounts to “We have to destroy your crops because our people like poppies, but can’t be allowed to have them; ain’t freedom great?”, I’m not sure that it would have gone over so well.

The appropriate policy is not crop destruction; that will only push farmers towards the Taliban, and I very much doubt that it will significantly affect opium production. Unless the US is willing to undertake Taliban-style measures for opium eradication, the opium problem isn’t going to go away. Much better to develop an alternative regime that involves the purchase of Afghani produced opium, which would bring farmers into the legitimate economy and give them a reason to fight the Taliban, rather than support it. In addition to being a colossal waste of money and a justification for having the highest incarceration rates in the world, the pursuit of the War on Drugs is going to result in the loss of Afghanistan.

See also Danger Room.

Worst American Birthdays, vol. 21

[ 0 ] July 13, 2007 |

If not for the icy hand of death, Nathan Bedford Forrest — Confederate general and inaugural Grand Wizard of the KKK — would have turned 186 years old today.

A Tennessean by birth, Forrest was a slave trader and Mississippi plantation owner during the years leading up to the Civil War; black flesh and bonded labor enriched this blacksmith’s son to such a degree that he was capable of throwing more than a million dollars toward the war effort. During the conflict, Forrest established his reputation as a remarkable cavalry leader who distinguished himself at Ft. Donelson, Shiloh, Chickamauga, and the “battle” at Fort Pillow, where Confederate troops under Forrest’s command slaughtered hundreds of Union soldiers and Tennessee cavalrymen — many of whom were killed and mutilated after resistance had come to an end. The legacy of Ft. Pillow continued to shadow Forrest throughout his life, though it did not prevent his home state from celebrating him with countless public statues as well as parks and schools named in his honor.

Bankrupted by the defense his beloved institution, Forrest was forced to sell off much of his plantation land after the war, and he set about the task of regaining his fortune and social standing. He sold timber, tried to organize a paving company, purchased a railroad, and apparently pondered the idea of leading a war of conquest against Mexico, where he believed he might mine gold. None of these plans bore fruit. Indeed, for the first two years after the war, it seems Forrest’s only major accomplishment was to kill a black ditch digger with an axe handle, an incident for which Mississippi jury acquitted him.

Forrest’s most notable post-war endeavor was to serve as the (perhaps merely figural) leader of a newly organized “social club” known as the Ku Klux Klan. Founded in Pulaski, Tennessee in 1866, the KKK nominated Forrest to the title of Grand Wizard in 1867. Although Forrest claimed not to be a member of the Klan, he acknowledged his sympathy with the organization and vowed to assist its “honorable” cause; in the very least, he allowed his name to be used to publicize and recruit for an organization dedicated to restoring white dominance throughout the former Confederacy.

To this day, Nathan Bedford Forrest’s defenders insist that he was a kinder, gentler Klansman, objecting to its vigilantism and thuggishness. Moreover, they claim — not without some reason — that he eventually came to view former slaves as potential equals, politically as well as economically. Such apologists, nevertheless, fail to explain what great gestures their hero ultimately made to reverse the catastrophic demise of black freedom — a cause to which Forrest devoted the near-entirety of his life.

. . . Brian C.B. offers some thoughtful remarks in the comments thread. For the record, I don’t disagree that Forrest’s biography — or any of the folks whose birthdays I acknowledge from time to time — is more complicated than I suggest. There’s something inherently cartoonish (and, I concede, unserious) in compiling a list of “Worst American Birthdays,” as I think certain entries have shown. That said, comments like Brian’s are well-taken and appreciated — much more so than the “you’re being mean to Jewel/you’re just jealous of Toby Keith” variety….

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