Magna Carta at 800: a Promise Unfulfilled (Michael Ratner)

magna carta

(This is the transcript, it’s true that the sound quality is awful.  But you may want to hear him passionately quote abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglas words when speaking at a Fourth of July celebration, beginning with: “Your Fourth of July is a sham!”.)

The English text of the Magna Carta is here.  The Charter of the Forest is here.

I’d received an email from CCR on 6/17, including this:

“I am thrilled to share a piece of good news and a significant victory for CCR. Today, in a case we brought over 13 years ago in the dark days after 9/11, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated claims against high-level government officials – former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former FBI director Robert Mueller, and former INS Commissioner James Ziglar – for their roles in the post-9/11 immigration detentions, abuse, and religious profiling of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian men. It is exceedingly rare for a court to allow claims against such high-ranking officials to proceed.”

Rather than reproduce the Court’s ‘final thoughts’ section he’d included, I’ll link to another Ratner interview on TRNN from yesterday: ‘Court Reinstates Case Against Former Attorney General, FBI Director and INS Commissioner’

The Wiki gives this simplified explanation of The Charter of the Forest; creating Commons for lands encroached upon by the Royals:

chater of the forest

“The King was required to “disafforest” Royal Forest, which meant (rather than chopping trees down) a requirement to give up possession of forest land. This might or might not have trees: it could also be heathland. In doing so the land became available to commoners.

The Charter provided a right of common access to (royal) private lands. Only with the Acts of Union 1707 between England and Scotland were these rights equalled within the realm.

It also rolled back the area encompassed by the designation “forest” to that of Henry II‘s time, essentially freeing up lands that had become more and more restricted as King Richard and King John designated greater and greater areas of land to become royal forest. Since “forest” in this context did not necessarily mean treed areas, but could include fields, moor or even farms and villages, it became an increasing hardship on the common people to try to farm, forage, and otherwise use the land they lived on. The Charter specifically states that “Henceforth every freeman, in his wood or on his land that he has in the forest, may with impunity make a mill, fish-preserve, pond, marl-pit, ditch, or arable in cultivated land outside coverts, provided that no injury is thereby given to any neighbour.”

Clause 10 repealed the death penalty for capturing venison (deer), though transgressors were still subject to fines or imprisonment for the offence; it also abolished mutilation as a lesser punishment.  Special Verderers’ Courts were set up within the forests to enforce the laws of the Charter.”

(Well, at least it went that far…)

Pablo Julián Davis’s ‘The Deafening Silence: Magna Carta At 800’ notes that in further self-parody, the MSM hasn’t taken note of the anniversary, save for:

“All the New York Times website could manage was an op-ed by Tom Ginsburg scolding us to “stop revering Magna Carta.”
(Credit where credit is due: National Review and The Nation, at least, have given the anniversary some of the serious attention it deserves. But from what this writer could tell from checking on a dozen mass media sites, the anniversary has passed almost entirely unnoted and unnoticed.)

He highlights some of the 63 Articles, most importantly, the 39th (as did Michael Ratner):

““No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised [deprived, dispossessed] or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor send upon him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.”  The 40th article is often cited as well: “To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice.”

The “freemen” referred to were, of course, English barons. Still, in that localized conflict in A.D. 1215 between two groups of the privileged, is the germ of constitutional law, the model of due process, and the ultimate source of our Bill of Rights.  Magna Carta establishes the bedrock principle that no one—not even the sovereign—is above the law.”

Why the Silence?

In the US, the groundwork has been laid for a state of exception by reason of a “war” vaguely defined, against no specific enemy, and of quasi-perpetual duration. A Republican president launched, and his Democratic successor has deepened, the practice of perpetual imprisonment without charge, and even of summary execution, as legitimate presidential powers. Could it be that Magna Carta has become an embarrassment? Or that its name troubles the conscience of at least some of our leaders?

Now both of these documents are exquisitely relevant today, not only in regard to the Empire’s war on brown people™ around the planet, but domestically, aren’t they?  For the thousands of political prisoners held for long periods at Riker’s Island and other jails/prisoners without due process: neither charges nor trials.  In the practice of ‘Negro-farming’ in the St. Louis environs: warrants galore, failure to appear because: “in jail”, with fines adding up beyond measure; snatch and grabs of demonstrators on the street; people of color and those miscreants ‘protesting the state’ held incommunicado and/or tortured at Chicago’s  Homan Square and other jail and prison hell-holes; modern-day debtors prisons, and we could go on ad nauseum.    America’ Favorite Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s racist fukkery in Maricopa County?  No Worries; He’s Only Racist Against Mexicans‘.  Subprime mortgage rates for Negroes and Hispanics who qualified for prime, which then wwere sliced and diced for credit default swaps, and boy, howdy: they were guaran-damn-teed to fail) making many people of color the first to be foreclosed up post 2008?

(Please add to the list at will.)

I did search the cache to see if I could find evidence Obama noting the day (as Mr. Ratner had hoped), and  in an admittedly quick search, all I found was this graphic from a self-avowed right-wing author on Twiiter (perhaps he missed his guess?):

and from the Hashtag:




7 responses to “Magna Carta at 800: a Promise Unfulfilled (Michael Ratner)

  1. And happy Midsummer’s Eve or Solstice or whatever you like to call it. This comment was so uplifting at, I hope they won’t mind me reproducing it here (I’ll use two comments as it is lengthy):

    June 22, 2015 at 1:16 pm
    Here’s one for the Black Injustice Tipping Point:

    Grassroots Visionaries and Revolutionaries: Solidarity Economy Organizing in the Ferguson Uprising ~Julia Ho

    In the West Side neighborhood of St. Louis, Tosha Baker removes the bars from the windows of an old storefront space on the corner of Martin Luther King Dr. and Arlington Ave. As she looks around the empty room, she sees a new beginning for her and her community. For the past 56 years, this neighborhood has been home to Tosha’s family. By the end of the summer, she will finally realize her lifelong dream of opening up “The People’s Store,” which will serve as a space for community members to purchase affordable second-hand clothing and sell home-made goods on consignment such as African hair care products, tailored jeans, and hand-knitted scarves.

    About eight miles north of Tosha’s store in the small North County municipality of Dellwood, David Royal opens up his community center—aptly named the Center of Hope and Peace (COHAP)—for the day. Over the past month alone, COHAP has been a hub for canvassing around Ferguson City Council elections, a space for dozens of action planning meetings, a site for classes on topics such as African history, drumline and step team practice, job searching, and community Copwatching, and a consistent place for people to gather and socialize.

    David is a resident of the Canfield Green Apartments, also known as “Ground Zero” because it is the site where Mike Brown lay in the street for four and a half hours after being publicly executed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. To the handful of residents and community members who mourned Mike Brown, known affectionately in the neighborhood as “Mike Mike,” on the night of August 9th, it will always be remembered as the place where a peaceful candlelight vigil was viciously met with excessive police, tear gas, dogs, and rubber bullets. . .

    Reply ↓

  2. diptherio
    June 22, 2015 at 1:16 pm
    Here’s one for the Black Injustice Tipping Point:

    Grassroots Visionaries and Revolutionaries: Solidarity Economy Organizing in the Ferguson Uprising ~Julia Ho (continued)

    Ever since then, residents like David Royal have been vigilantly defending and organizing their community by watching over Mike Brown’s memorial site and hosting Know Your Rights and Copwatch trainings. After hosting a first round of trainings in late September, residents were each given body cameras and a network of “Canfield Watchmen” was created to videotape police anytime that they entered the apartment complex. Now, nearly a year later, the Watchmen are equipping people in the greater St. Louis area to document police violence in a way that can prevent future police killings and empower residents to patrol their own communities.

    Tosha and David are just two of the countless people whose lives have been shaped forever by the Ferguson uprising. We have been out in the streets of Ferguson daily fighting for Justice for Mike Brown and justice in our own communities. Our power and strength comes from the fact that we refuse to remain silent, and that we are dedicated to changing a system which devalues Black people by not only killing them in the street, but also incarcerating them at unprecedented levels and denying them access to decent jobs with living wages, resourced schools in their communities, affordable and accessible housing, and quality healthcare. We know that the whole damn system is guilty as hell, but we also know that there are real alternatives for us to create the city that we want to live in.

    Reply ↓

    • those are very heartwarming doings, juliania, and good on those folks, and i sure do wish them well. they go well (put paid to, in a small respect) with my glummies on the thread next door about ‘the good guys seem to losing’.

      oh, just fyi: comments are considered being in ‘the Commons’, as are Tweets and Twitterpics, so all are fair to reproduce elsewhere.

  3. paul craig roberts goes full-tilt boogie in ‘When Governments are Unaccountable to Law; Magna Carta in the Age of the American Caesars’

    “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.

    A new slave existence is being created in front of our eyes as law ceases to be a shield of peoples and becomes a weapon in the hands of government. 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. Formerly self-sufficient agricultural communities are becoming wage slaves for international agribusiness corporations. Everywhere privilege is rising above law and justice is being lost.

    The concentration of wealth and power is reminiscent of the aristocratic era and of Rome under the Caesars. The demise of the rule of law has stripped ordinary people of security and dignity. Peoples of the world must protect themselves by acting in defense of the Great Charter’s principle that governments are accountable to law. Governments unaccountable to law are tyrannies whatever they might call themselves, no matter how exceptional and indispensable they declare themselves to be.”

    “Monday in Westminster in London, the International Tribunal for Natural Justice is forming. If my understanding of this work of Humanitad is correct, we have a cause for hope. Perhaps the Tribunal will try the criminals of our time, almost all of which are “leaders” of Western governments, on the Internet with juries and prosecutors so that populations everywhere can witness the evil that every Western government represents.”

    then, the denouement, looking toward the future.

  4. Note, it was the nobles who rose up against a weak king and demanded rights and privileges as nobles — or they could and would make it impossible for the King to rule. The King had no alternative but to cave to the demands of the nobles, and so he did.

    Our contemporary nobility has all the rights and privileges it could want and yet more rights and privileges — for the nobility — are in the hopper to be enacted; the Rabble get a periodic bone thrown at them, but little or nothing is truly substantive as those bones are often already picked clean.

    800 years of struggle against arbitrary rule and injustice — actually much more than that, but 800 years since the promise of justice and something approaching equality under the law (for some) — has yet to end. For We, the Rabble, it may never end. Every gain is made at an ever greater cost, it seems. And every attempt at forward progress is met with ever fiercer resistance by the PTB, our contemporary nobility.

    As many have pointed out, the promise of the Magna Carta was and is largely a sham. 800 years of struggle, and we are still struggling for basic dignity and justice.

    So maybe it’s just as well that much of the media “forgot” to celebrate.

    • ‘a sham for all but a few’, the few being those you often call Our Betters. great metaphor of the rabble being tossed an occasional hard-won bone, and often picked clean. yes, the bones remaining from Vulture Capitalism, and soon they’ll devise ways to grind them and ingest them, as well. unless.

      yes, most media ‘forgot’, but not in the UK. guess they’re more used to Royalty. i sure did like Frederick Douglas’s truth-telling. these days he would have been imprisoned for life, or worse.

      i’d wondered why paul craig roberts had indicted ‘western’ capitalism. do you think that it’s because russian and chinese are both ‘state captalism’?

  5. ahem and oh, my:

    Pentagon rewrites ‘Law of War’ declaring ‘belligerent’ journalists as legitimate targets

    “When asked what this means, professor of Journalism at Georgetown Chris Chambers told RT that he doesn’t know, “because the Geneva Convention, other tenets of international law, and even United States law – federal courts have spoken on this – doesn’t have this thing on ‘unprivileged belligerents’.”
    This means that embedded journalists, who are officially sanctioned by the military and attached to a unit, will be favored by an even greater degree than before. “It gives them license to attack or even murder journalists that they don’t particularly like but aren’t on the other side,” Chambers said.
    Even the Obama Administration’s definition of “enemy combatant” was vague enough, basically meaning any male of a military age who “happens to be there,” Chambers added.”

    you might enjoy this title from ‘The Law of War Manual is here (no, really)’ by Marty Lederman, including this hilarious caveat:

    “Importantly, the preface states that the manual “is an institutional publication and reflects the views of the Department of Defense,” and that, although it “has benefited significantly from the participation of experts from the Department of State, Office of the Legal Adviser, and the Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel, . . . the views in this manual do not necessarily reflect the views of those Departments or the U.S. Government as a whole.”

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