FOR HISTORY BUFFS. Last time, we asked about the surprise awaiting English war planners in 1939. Here’s the answer: Supposedly a law was passed by the British Parliament in 1803 setting up observers to watch for a possible invasion by Napoleon. Somehow, the position was never abolished, even after Waterloo. During World War II, when civil servants came to set up aerial observers to signal a possible Nazi invasion, they found a small group – still waiting for Napoleon.
… A NEW QUESTION. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited in the English Parliament with one exception. Can you name it?
A METHODIST CONTRIBUTION. The superintendent of the Arlington, Virginia district of the United Methodist Church has several suggestions dealing with fairness and equality:
- prayer, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the time the officer held his knee on George Floyd’s neck.
- Education – reading books on racism
- Working for equal justice under law
- Personal experience with people different than us
MORE ON HOMESCHOOLING. New friend Andy contributes more on parents who suddenly find themselves teachers:
- If you see my kids locked out today, never mind –we are having a fire drill
- “Alexa, homeschool the children.”
- Kids watching too much TV? Turn off the sound and turn on the subtitles – now they are reading. 🙂
- “Arithmetic: Mommy has to homeschool three children for two months. She only has one bottle of wine left. How many more bottles does she need before the liquor store shuts down?”
- It took less than one week of homeschooling to understand why nuns used to hit their students with rulers.
- After one week of homeschooling, we have our first fundraiser. It’s a Go Fund Me… I’m going to need a lot of chocolate and medication.
THE BRITISH PARLIAMENT – 11 RULES. . Paul Anthony Jones writes in Mental Floss about this venerable institution.
The UK Parliament is one of the oldest in the world. It operates under strict rules and ancient traditions unheard of in modern politics. Here are a few of its prohibitions.
- GIVING A SPEECH IN A LANGUAGE OTHER THAN ENGLISH…
It’s not permitted to give a speech in the UK Parliament in any language except English unless absolutely necessary—despite the fact that from 1916–22 Britain had a native Welsh speaker as Prime Minister.
- … OR READING A SPEECH.
According to Companion to the Standing Orders and Guide to the Proceedings of the House of Lords, in most instances, the reading of speeches is “alien to the custom of this House, and injurious to the traditional conduct of its debates.” Members may have “extended notes from which to speak, but it is not in the interests of good debate that they should follow them closely.”
- USING NAMES.
Members of the House are prohibited from calling one another by name. All comments must be addressed via the Speaker to fellow “honourable members.” Only the Speaker may use members’ first names.
- LETTING THE SPEAKER “WALK” TO THE CHAIR AFTER ELECTION.
Tradition dictates that the Speaker must be physically “dragged” to the Speaker’s chair when elected to the position (although it’s more of a ceremonial dragging than an actual one). Supposedly this bizarre ritual is a holdover from the days when the Speaker of the House—once tasked with dictating Parliament’s will to the king—often found himself first in line for imprisonment (or worse) if the king didn’t like what he had to say.
- GETTING A VISIT FROM THE MONARCH.
No reigning monarch has entered the House of Commons since 1642, when Charles I stormed the House of Commons, an event that eventually led to civil war. When the queen officially oversees the State Opening of Parliament every year, her speech has to be read from the nearby House of Lords.
- AND 7. TAKING PHOTOGRAPHS AND APPLAUDING.
Members may have electronic devices—”provided that they cause no disturbance and are not used in such a way as to impair decorum.” They must be in silent mode and can’t be used “to film, take photographs or make audio recordings in or around the Chamber.”
Applause is also forbidden, which 56 newly-elected Scottish National Party MPs found to their cost in 2015, when they were admonished by the Speaker for spontaneously applauding their leader, Angus Robertson.
8., 9., AND 10. DRESSING CASUALLY, WEARING SUITS OF ARMOR, AND HAVING SWORDS.
Parliament’s strict rules extend to what members are permitted to wear, with current guidelines requiring “businesslike attire” at all times. There have been some exceptions to Parliament’s strict dress code over the years, mostly as a means of protesting or raising awareness for various causes. In 2013, British Green Party MP Caroline Lucas wore a bold T-shirt protesting against the appearance of topless women in tabloid newspapers—and was promptly scolded by the Speaker for failing to meet Parliament’s strict sartorial rules.
Wearing a suit of armor is also banned, thanks to a law introduced by King Edward II in 1313. The same statute banned swords from the Chamber—although tradition states that the two opposing benches in the House of Commons are positioned precisely two sword-lengths away from one another. (There is one exception: The Serjeant at Arms is allowed to carry a sword.)
- USING “UNPARLIAMENTARY LANGUAGE.”
Of all the UK Parliament’s rules, those surrounding what is officially known as “unparliamentarily language” are among the most curious. For centuries, the Speaker of the House has repeatedly chided Members on their use of abusive, insulting, or slanderous language.
It is not permitted, for instance, to accuse a fellow MP of being a liar, a hypocrite, or a traitor. It is also against the rules to accuse anyone in the Chamber of being drunk.
But there is not, according to Parliament’s own rules, a “hard and fast list of unparliamentarily words.” Whether something is in breach of the rulebook depends simply “on the context” in which it was said. Nevertheless, some of the words that have been deemed unparliamentarily over the years include:
An MP found to use language along these lines is typically asked by the Speaker to withdraw the comments or asked to leave the chamber.
Some MPs, however, have found ways of getting around Parliament’s rules. The phrase “terminological inexactitude” is used to avoid accusing a fellow member of telling a lie. According to one tale, in the 19th century, opposition leader (and future Prime Minister) Benjamin Disraeli was asked to withdraw a statement he had made accusing half the government of being “asses.” In his half-hearted apology he stated, “Mr Speaker, I withdraw – half the cabinet are not asses.”
U.S. Courts Try Out Social Distancing, Video for Grand Juries (“After months of being shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic, the doors at Federal courthouses around the nation are slowly starting to swing open with the convening of socially distanced grand juries. Jurors, tasked with deciding whether to issue criminal indictments, will be seated far apart from one another, or in some cases—like in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, and in Montana’s federal district court—will be required to view proceedings via video in different rooms or courthouses. That use of video is worrisome, said Nina J. Ginsberg, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. ‘There is such a tendency to depersonalize what you’re seeing on a screen, and you’re distancing yourself from the gravity of the decisions that you’re making,’ she said.”)
Police promised reforms. They still fatally shoot nearly 1,000 people every year. (“The Washington Post has documented 5,400 fatal shootings by police in the United States since the start of 2015.”)
Experts doubt this is a moment of reckoning for policing in U.S. (“The politics of police reform that have quashed previous efforts still loom: powerful unions, legal immunity for police and intractable implicit biases.”)
The Marshall Project
I Wonder If They Know My Son Is Loved (“Visiting my son in jail for the first time, I know that I cannot protect him. Although he is too young to drink, the criminal justice system regards him as an adult.”)
New York Times
Officers Charged in George Floyd’s Death Not Likely to Present United Front (“Facing decades in prison and a bail of at least $750,000, two former Minneapolis officers blamed Derek Chauvin, and a third has cooperated with investigators, their lawyers said.”)
Tacoma mayor calls for officers to be fired over death of another unarmed black man who yelled ‘I can’t breathe!’ (“Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards called on Friday for all four officers involved in the death of Manuel Ellis, a 33-year-old black man, to be fired, after the county medical examiner ruled his death a homicide in police custody. He died March 3 while in handcuffs, after being restrained by officers on the ground.”)
Two ex-officers involved in Floyd’s death blame veteran officer in first court appearance (“Attorneys for two of the fired Minneapolis police officers involved in George Floyd’s death cast their clients on Thursday as rookies who were ignored by their superior, the Star Tribune reported.”)
America is awash in cameras, a double-edged sword for protesters and police (“Smartphone cameras, home security cameras, traffic cameras — digital eyes are a boon and danger to protesters.”)