Yorktown, North, Rockingham, Shelburne, Franco-Spanish Alliance, Vergennes, Adams, Franklin, Jay and the Treaty of Paris

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 5th, 2012

Politics 101

For the British to Maintain the Balance of Power in Europe an Independent America actually Helped Them

The war wasn’t over with Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown.  But his surrender changed everything.  The continuing war was becoming more and more unpopular in Britain.  And costly.  Britain was fighting four wars.   One with the Americans.  One with the French.  One with the Spanish.  And one with the Dutch.  The debt was growing so great that there were discussions about suspending some interest payments.  The British wanted out of these wars.  The opposition blamed Lord North for the latest debacle at Yorktown.  The Prime Minister resigned.  His government fell.  And the opposition took power.

The new Prime Minister, Lord Rockingham, had favored American independence.  His foreign secretary, Charles James Fox, had favored American independence.  In fact, those who had favored American independence filled all cabinet positions.  Except for one.  The Secretary of Colonial Affairs.  Lord Shelburne.  Fox and Shelburne did not much care for each other.  They quarreled.  Each having their own idea of how they should conduct the peace.  Fox sent Thomas Green to France to begin negotiations with the French.  Shelburne sent Richard Oswald to France to begin negotiations with the Americans (Benjamin Franklin was in Paris).

The French had a debt problem of their own.  And they, too, were anxious for the war to end.  But on favorable terms.  They were looking to change the balance of power with their eternal enemy.  The British.  And therefore wanted to negotiate the peace for the Americans.  Get back some of their lost North American territories.  And elsewhere.  Meanwhile the Spanish were laying siege to the British in Gibraltar.  Anxious to retrieve that from the British.  They were greatly interested in blocking American westward expansion.  And they also wanted to keep them off the Mississippi River.  Which flowed to the Gulf of Mexico through their Louisiana Territory.  So the politics were quite complex in negotiating the peace.  For the British to maintain the balance of power they enjoyed an independent America actually helped them.  While an independent America actually harmed the French and the Spanish.

Shelburne negotiated Directly with the Americans to use them to gain Favorable Terms with their European Enemies

The original peace commission in Paris was just John Adams.  Few could be found that were more adamant on American independence than he.  And this was a problem for the French foreign minister.  Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes.  He didn’t like Adams.  Who was not willing to compromise.  Vergennes wanted to end the war.  And stop the financial hemorrhaging.   And he was willing to compromise with the British to make that happen.  Willing to compromise away American independence.  American navigation of the Mississippi River.  American territorial ambitions beyond the Appalachians (leaving Maine, New York City, portions of the Northwest territories, Charleston and Savannah British).  And the American fishing rights off Newfoundland.  He was willing to give all that up to end the war with Britain.  He had only one problem.  John Adams.  Who refused to give up what the Americans were actually fighting for in the first place.

Vergennes instructed the French minister in America, the Chevalier de la Luzerne, to lobby the Continental Congress.  To have them order Adams to be less belligerent.  To be more willing to compromise.  And to accept the wise counsel of the King of France.  The most generous sovereign who made it possible for the Americans to bring the British to the negotiating table.  Luzerne was successful.  Perhaps with a little bribery.  The Congress sent Benjamin Franklin, John Jay and Henry Laurens to join Adams.  With the instructions to follow the advice of the French in the peace negotiations. 

Fox still favored granting American independence.  And he wanted to do it quickly.  To split the allies apart.  And make separate peace treaties to limit the damage.  For the French, Spanish and Dutch could hold out for a grander bargain.  Especially if the fortunes of war turned their way.  As the Spanish were hoping would soon happen at Gibraltar.  So the British warned that their allies could force the Americans to continue the war not for their own interests but that of these Europeans.  He told Green to tell Franklin that Britain was prepared to recognize American independence.  And that it was in America’s best interests to negotiate a separate peace.  Franklin suggested early that Britain may want to throw Canada into the deal.  To help pay for all the damage the British did to American property.  Shelburne wasn’t about to negotiate away Canada.  His answer was to bring up the debt owed to British creditors.  And reimbursing the Loyalists who lost their property in America.  Things that weren’t high on the American list of demands.  Then Rockingham died.  Shelburne became prime minister.  And Fox quit.  Pro-American independence ministers no longer filled the government.  Still, Shelburne continued to negotiate directly with the Americans.  So he could use them to gain favorable terms with their European enemies.

The American Negotiators were being Played by the Best of European Intrigue

In Franklin’s talks with Oswald he made it clear that independence was a prerequisite for peace.  Officially that was a problem for Oswald.  For his original commission from Shelburne directed him to negotiate with a commissioner from the colonies or plantations.  Not a commissioner from the United States of America.  Which, of course, would recognize American independence.  Vergennes urged Franklin and Jay to proceed anyway.  That official recognition could follow in the final peace treaty.  Jay suspected that the French were stalling.  He knew of the siege of Gibraltar.  And didn’t trust the Franco-Spanish alliance.  So he ignored Congress’ order.  And did not listen to the wise French counsel.  Joining Franklin and Adams in stating that independence was a prerequisite for peace.

The American commission had good reason to not trust their European allies.  The French wanted the British to agree to keep the Americans out of the fisheries along Newfoundland.  So they could fish these waters.  A bitter pill for a New Englander like Adams to swallow.  The French were also opposed to the Americans annexing Canada.  What they once called New France.  Before it became British.  While the Spanish were working hard behind the scenes to keep the Mississippi River away from the Americans.  Had they gotten their way the Mississippi south of the Ohio River would have been in Spanish hands.  As well as the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and parts of Louisiana. 

The American negotiators were being played by the best of European intrigue.  But thanks to the principled men America sent to negotiate the peace the Americans bested the Europeans at their own game.  John Adams.  Benjamin Franklin.  And John Jay.  For the Americas got their independence.  Territory that stretched to the Mississippi River.  And navigation on the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.  Even their fishing rights off of Newfoundland (though they would revisit that issue later).  It would be America’s greatest achievement in diplomacy.  The Treaty of Paris (1783).  And they made this treaty without consulting the French.  Who were miffed.  But thanks to Franklin America and France remained friends.  So the Americans won the Revolutionary War.  And the peace.  While avoiding any entangling alliances with the old European powers.  Not bad for a brand new nation on the world’s stage.

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The Mainstream Media and their Owners are biased in Favor of Government Largess, not Objectivity

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 10th, 2011

The Mainstream Media is Biased after All

Problems with a for-profit education dependent on federal student loans beset The Washington Post.  Reveals a clear and present bias.  And threatens the venerable masthead (see The Washington Post’s dependence on the government it covers by Glenn Greenwald posted 4/10/2011 on Salon).

“The fate of The Post Co. has become inextricably linked with that of Kaplan, where revenue climbed to $2.9 billion in 2010, 61 percent of The Post Co.’s total,” the article detailed; “the company is more dependent than ever on a single business,’ [CEO Donald] Graham wrote in last year’s annual report, adding that the newspaper had never accounted for as large a share of overall company revenue as Kaplan does today.”

And that single business is an educational one.  A network of for-profit universities aimed at those who can’t afford a traditional college education.  These ‘poor’ people often pay for this education with federal loans.  And, of course, education is highly regulated by the federal government.  So this puts this The Post Co. into a bit of a sticky wicket.

Put another way, the company that owns The Washington Post is almost entirely at the mercy of the Federal Government and the Obama administration — the entities which its newspaper ostensibly checks and holds accountable.

Which is another way of saying there is a conflict of interest.  Which may taint their objectivity.  At times.  Not necessarily.  But possibly.  Which may explain the dominance of FOX NEWS.  Who may be beholden to corporate interests, too.  But it is clear that they are not beholden to the Obama Administration.  No, the current administration doesn’t much care for FOX.  Which can’t help but to lend an air of objectivity.

Beyond being reliant on federal money and not alienating federal regulators, the Post Co. desperately needs favorable treatment from members of Congress, and has been willing to use its newspaper to obtain it…

The Post is hardly alone among major media outlets in being owned by an entity which relies on the Federal Government for its continued profitability. NBC News and MSNBC were long owned by GE, and now by Comcast, both of which desperately need good relations with government officials for their profits. The same is true of CBS (owned by Viacom), ABC (owned by Disney), and CNN (owned by TimeWarner). For each of these large corporations, alienating federal government officials is about the worst possible move it could make — something of which all of its employees, including its media division employees, are well aware.

Of course, they left off two other entities that depend on not alienating the federal government.  PBS.  And NPR.  They have no corporate middlemen.  They get their funding directly from the federal government.  So they’ll be even more careful not to bite the hand that’s feeding them.

It would appear that journalism somehow went awry.  They will still criticize corporate fat cats.  Just not the corporate fat cats that sign their checks.  Or the government that signs the corporate fat cats’ checks.

The whole point of the First Amendment’s free press guarantee is that adversarial journalism is possible only if journalists are independent of political power. Yet the U.S. now has exactly the opposite dynamic: most major media outlets are owned by corporations that are anything but independent of government: they are quite dependent upon political officials for their profit in countless ways. We have anything but an independent press, which is another way of saying we have anything but a free press.

It is interesting that many attack the Republicans for being in the hip pocket of the big corporations.  And some of their loudest critics are themselves in the hip pocket of big corporations.  But claims of media bias are laughed off by those in the hip pocket of big corporations.  Meanwhile, they attack FOX NEWS for not being a legitimate news organization.  When many of these attackers are themselves far from legitimate.  So are these people inherently immoral?  Amoral?  Or are they just human?

Currying favor with political officials is how they secure scoops, leaks and access. Because media stars are now as wealthy and celebrated as the politically powerful whom they cover, they identify on socioeconomic and cultural grounds with these political officials; media stars are far more integrated into the halls of political power than they are outside of them.

They’re just human.  Craving attention.  Fame.  Wealth.  The good life.  And more fame.  They all want to be Walter Cronkite.  To become a legend.  By achieving greatness just for reporting the greatness of others.  That’s why reality television is so successful.  People watch rank amateurs achieve celebrity without any real talent.  And they say, hey, that could be me.  And so it is with many of today’s journalists.

FOX NEWS Dares to say the King Isn’t Wearing any Clothes

So how biased is today’s media?  Perhaps not that biased.  Here’s a newspaper story pretty critical of President Obama (see O meets the fog of war posted 4/10/2011 on New York Post).

Gen. Carter Ham, who commanded US military forces in Libya until control of the operation was handed over to NATO, told a Senate hearing Thursday that “there might be some consideration” of sending US ground troops to Libya to aid the anti-Khadafy rebels.

But President Obama said there would be no boots on the ground.  That we were only there on a humanitarian mission to protect Libyan civilians.  That we would be in and out in days, not weeks.  That there would be no mission-creep.  But this sounds like mission-creep.  A lot like in Vietnam.  We were only advisors at first.  To help an outmatched military force.  Then the mission crept.  And the next thing we knew we had hundreds of thousands of boots on the ground.  Could history be repeating?

The point being that situations, both on the ground and in the air, tend to change in unpredictable ways.

Gen. Ham surely knows this. Indeed, brand new second lieutenants know it.

But there’s no indication that President Obama and his defense team understand it — which probably explains why he doesn’t hesitate before making sweeping promises about the length and nature of America’s military commitments.

Perhaps.  While another Democrat president bungles us into another long-term military commitment in a land far from home that never attacked us.

Now that’s a pretty critical, objective news report on the Obama administration.  Perhaps the news media can maintain objectivity in the face of their corporate overlords dependent on the federal government for their profits.  Wait a tic.  The New York PostRupert Murdoch owns this, doesn’t he?  The same Rupert Murdoch who owns FOX NEWS?  Why, yes.  He does.  No wonder the New York Post isn’t afraid to say the king isn’t wearing any clothes.  Their income isn’t dependent on pleasing the king.

I guess a good rule of thumb for objective journalism is this.  Does Rupert Murdoch own the media outlet?  If so, it’s not an Obama administration toady.  And most likely objective.

A Detailed and Objective Mea Culpa

If you want to read more about the problems besetting The Washington Post thanks to its Kaplan division you can read a pretty detailed and objective accounting of it in The Washington Post (see The trials of Kaplan Higher Ed and the education of The Washington Post Co. by Steven Mufson and Jia Lynn Yang posted 4/9/2011 on The Washington Post).  It’s a fascinating read.  And quite the mea culpa.

Yes, they may be biased.  But they don’t like the position they’re in.  And that says something about the organization.  Besides, Charles Krauthammer is a columnist over there.  Not exactly a friend of the Obama administration.  And any paper that has Krauthammer as a columnist is all right by me.

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LESSONS LEARNED #30: “Liberal talk radio is not successful because liberals are not deep thinkers.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 9th, 2010

CENSORSHIP BY ANY OTHER NAME IS STILL CENSORSHIP

When an oppressive, totalitarian regime seizes power, they shut down the radio and television stations.  It’s at the top of their ‘to do’ list.  Because it’s the fastest media.  Then they turn to the newspapers.  Once they control the content they open for business again.  We call it censorship.  The people only hear what they want the people to hear.  And they kill/imprison those who persist in trying to distribute anything other than the state’s propaganda. 

When you control the media, you can tell any lie.  You can report the state has increased food protection while millions die from famine.  You can report the great economic success of the Five Year Plan while people wait in lines for hours to get their rations of soap and toilet paper.  You can report the success of your Keynesian economic policies while record numbers of people go unemployed.  If you have control of the media you can tell any lie.  And prevent the telling of any truth.

When government pursues policies that are not popular, the telling of lies and the controlling of truths becomes policy.  Enter the Fairness Doctrine.  JFK used it to muzzle the Right when they debated the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.  LBJ used it to muzzle conservative radio stations (who were attacking his Great Society policies, not the Vietnam War).  Nixon tried to use it to silence his enemies (it doesn’t work, though, when your enemies are liberal media outlets). 

Ronald Reagan, a supporter of First Amendment rights, revoked the doctrine during his administration.  And the Left has been trying to bring it back ever since.  (They even want to extend it to the Internet – another medium the Left does not control.  But that’s another story for another time.)

FAIR IS NOT FAIR

The liberals say it’s not fair that a Rush Limbaugh can go on the air for 3 hours a day 5 days a week without an opposing viewpoint to ‘balance’ his views.  Bill Clinton said it’s not fair because there is no ‘truth detector’ to separate fact from fiction (he said that before he was impeached for perjury).  When they talk about ‘fairness’ it’s code for censorship.  What they want is to silence these alternate viewpoints. 

If you want to talk about being fair, let’s be fair.  Do conservatives have an unfair advantage in media?   The Culture and Media Institute (a Division of the Media Research Center) published a special report for the Media Research Center titled Unmasking the Myths Behind the Fairness Doctrine.  It’s 30 pages but well worth your time in reading it.  On page 5 of this report they cite audience reach and circulation statistics for the top 5 sources of information liberals and conservatives use:

Broadcast TV news, millions/day   Liberal  42.1     Conservative  0.0
Top 25 newspapers, millions/day   Liberal  11.7     Conservative  1.3
Cable TV news, millions/month     Liberal 182.8     Conservative 61.6
Top talk radio, millions/week         Liberal  24.5     Conservative 87.0
Newsweeklies, millions/week        Liberal   8.5      Conservative  0.0

When you look at these numbers, you see a dominance of liberal sources.  In fact, talk radio is the only source in the list where conservatives make up a larger percentage of the audience than liberals.  And yet talk radio is the only source that liberals cite as needing a fairness doctrine.  What does that tell you?  The only bias that exists in the media is against conservatives.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Air America, the all-liberal national radio network (now there’s fairness), went belly up.  Chapter 7 (liquidation).  They tried Chapter 11 (reorganization) earlier but the reorganized business couldn’t make any money either.  By contrast, Rush Limbaugh has been on the air since the late 1980s.  And, according to him, he has never had a down year or had to lay off a single employee.  Why?

Radio is free.  To us.  The listeners.  Others pay so we can listen free.  Advertisers.  Do they do this out of altruism?  No.  They do it out of greed.  They advertise to increase their sales revenue.  It’s a win-win.  They promote their products and services.  We listen for free.  And broadcasters make enough money to cover their bills and earn a profit.  (Well, I guess that’s more of a win-win-win.  There’re three winners.  But I belabor the point.)  It’s really a simple formula.  There’s only one catch.  Advertisers only want to advertise where people are actually listening.

And that was the problem with Air America.  No one was listening.  Weak ratings equal weak advertising sales.  Liberals can exist in the realm of National Public Radio (publicly funded no matter how few people listen), but if their revenue is tied to their popularity, they’re screwed. 

LIKE READING BOOKS

FOX paired liberal Alan Colmes with conservative Sean Hannity on Hannity and Colmes.  The show had a successful run.  Sean Hannity still has that timeslot.  Alone.  As well as the #2 radio program behind Rush Limbaugh.  Colmes has not gone on to such bigger or better things.

Colmes blamed the failure of Air America on unfair treatment.  The conservatives got the best stations and time slots.  So Air America never had a chance.  Despite having big on-air talent like Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo.  But it wasn’t unfair treatment that favored conservatives.  It was advertising revenue that favored conservatives.  If the liberals could have delivered the ratings conservatives did, they’d be on the best stations in the best time slots.  But they couldn’t.  So they weren’t.

Liberals like to be entertained.  They’ll tune into SNL and The Daily Show.  For they love a good personal attack on a conservative.  They’ll watch the network news that is full of entertainment news.  They’ll buy The New York Times and read the Arts section.  They’ll tune in and listen to the shock jocks on FM and satellite radio. But they don’t like thinking about serious issues.  To them listening to talk radio is like reading a book.  And where’s the fun in that?

FARTS ARE FUNNY

Liberal talk radio will never have the numbers conservative talk radio has.  Not in a center-right country.  The intelligentsia (liberals in the media, college professors, etc.) is a very small minority.  The other liberals are just children who haven’t grown up yet.  And how many children do you know that eat their vegetables?  Wash behind their ears?  Read a book?  Or engage in deep, philosophical thought?  I don’t know any.  The kids I know think fart jokes are funny.  Think about that the next time someone laughs at a fart joke on TV.  I’ll bet you it’s a child that’s laughing.  Or a liberal.

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