Germany’s decision to embark on an ambitious naval programme has occupied a commanding position in the literature on the origins of the First World War. Viewed with hindsight, it might appear to foreshadow, or even perhaps to explain, the conflict that broke out in 1914. Wasn’t the decision to challenge British naval hegemony a needless provocation that permanently soured relations between the two states and deepened the polarization of the European system?
There are many criticisms one can make of German naval strategy, the most serious being that it was not embedded in a broader policy concept, beyond the quest for a free hand in world affairs. But the new naval programme was neither an outrageous nor an unwarranted move. The Germans had ample reason to believe that they would not be taken seriously unless they acquired a credible naval weapon. It should not be forgotten that the British were accustomed to using a rather masterful tone in their communications with the Germans. In March 1897, for example, a meeting took place between the assistant under-secretary at the British Foreign Office, Sir Francis Bertie, known as “the Bull” for his aggressive manner, and the chargé d’affaires and acting German ambassador in London, Baron Hermann von Eckardstein. In the course of their discussion, Eckardstein, a notorious Anglophile who dressed in the manner of Edward VII and loved to be seen about the London clubs, touched on the question of German interests in southern Africa. Bertie’s response came as a shock. Should the Germans lay so much as a finger on the Transvaal, Bertie declared, the British government would not stop at any step, “even the ultimate” (an unmistakable reference to war), to “repel any German intervention”. “Should it come to a war with Germany,” he went on, “the entire English nation would be behind it, and a blockade of Hamburg and Bremen and the annihilation of German commerce on the high seas would be child’s play for the English fleet.”
Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went To War In 1914, 2012.
August 5, 2015
August 4, 2015
The man who boasts that he habitually tells the truth is simply a man with no respect for it. It is not a thing to be thrown about loosely, like small change; it is something to be cherished and hoarded, and disbursed only when absolutely necessary. The smallest atom of truth represents some man’s bitter toil and agony; for every ponderable chunk of it there is a brave truth-seeker’s grave upon some lonely ash-dump and a soul roasting in hell.
H.L. Mencken, “Types of Men 10: The Truth-Seeker”, Prejudices, Third Series, 1922.
August 3, 2015
August 2, 2015
The one thing in Germany that never fails to charm and fascinate me is the German dog. In England one grows tired of the old breeds, one knows them all so well: the mastiff, the plum-pudding dog, the terrier (black, white or rough-haired, as the case may be, but always quarrelsome), the collie, the bulldog; never anything new. Now in Germany you get variety. You come across dogs the like of which you have never seen before: that until you hear them bark you do not know are dogs. It is all so fresh, so interesting. George stopped a dog in Sigmaringen and drew our attention to it. It suggested a cross between a codfish and a poodle. I would not like to be positive it was not a cross between a codfish and a poodle. Harris tried to photograph it, but it ran up a fence and disappeared through some bushes.
I do not know what the German breeder’s idea is; at present he retains his secret. George suggests he is aiming at a griffin. There is much to bear out this theory, and indeed in one or two cases I have come across success on these lines would seem to have been almost achieved. Yet I cannot bring myself to believe that such are anything more than mere accidents. The German is practical, and I fail to see the object of a griffin. If mere quaintness of design be desired, is there not already the Dachshund! What more is needed? Besides, about a house, a griffin would be so inconvenient: people would be continually treading on its tail. My own idea is that what the Germans are trying for is a mermaid, which they will then train to catch fish.
For your German does not encourage laziness in any living thing. He likes to see his dogs work, and the German dog loves work; of that there can be no doubt. The life of the English dog must be a misery to him. Imagine a strong, active, and intelligent being, of exceptionally energetic temperament, condemned to spend twenty-four hours a day in absolute idleness! How would you like it yourself? No wonder he feels misunderstood, yearns for the unattainable, and gets himself into trouble generally.
Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men on the Bummel, 1914.
August 1, 2015
… let’s not forget the Heads We Win Tails You Lose rule of the in-group affirmations which we loosely call “social sciences.”
Suppose you run a test to distinguish whether women, or men, are more willing to hire family — that is, engage in nepotism — when filling a job.
If it turns out that men are more likely to engage in nepotistic practices, the study will be titled:
Women More Ethical in Business Dealings Than Men
On the other hand, if it turns out that women are more likely to approve of nepotism, whereas men are less likely, the study will have the title:
Women More Caring Towards Family Members; Men Care Only About Filthy Careerism & the Welfare of Total Strangers Who Might Be Rapists
July 31, 2015
In 2012, Gloria Steinem complained that the Have It All question was a “bullshit” question because no one ever asked that question of men. It’s true. Society doesn’t often ask that question of men, but not because of sexism.
Women ask about having it all because they were told they could have it all…by women like Steinem. The old glossy women’s magazines are full of have-it-all glamour, declaring that women could easily have it all without men. Steinem did not actually coin the “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” quip, but she got the credit for it because it succinctly represented her preaching and the mood of the time. Women didn’t need anything but the old rules and the old men to get out of their way. Each woman was an island unto herself, a self-contained unit of success. Eventually, all of those things we told women back in the 60s to boost their confidence and get them out in the world became the standard by which we now demand singular performance from women.
Check the commentary in many of the lauded feminist pop culture franchises, most recently “Divergent,” “Frozen,” “Maleficent,” etc. Characters get the feminist seal of approval when they are separated from any sort of partnership with men. Having it all doesn’t count unless we are doing it without men.
Men, on the other hand, didn’t have some masculinist movement telling them that they could have it all, much less that they had to do it all on their own. Nor would they have been as receptive if they had. Unlike girls who tend to engage in pretend play in which they are the princess, then the chef, then the teacher or the pupil, all in the space of an afternoon, boys tend to also play games with rules, even if they’ve made them up by consensus. The boy who isn’t fast learns to hit the ball harder or to catch. They train each other in tradeoffs. The rules don’t bend. The boys adapt to the world the way it is. (I host large parties and play dates often. This plays out in my yard, every time.)
Asking women if they can have it all isn’t sexism. It is an aspiration that women who should know better foist upon women who don’t.
Leslie Loftis, “Irony, Thy Name Is Feminism”, The Federalist, 2014-07-28.
July 30, 2015
Feminism won, they succeeded, they got what they were after. They destroyed the glass ceiling, they smashed sexism in the culture, they’ve wiped out all kinds of barriers. A strong feminist would say there’s plenty of work to do but if they are honest, they’ll admit there really isn’t much left.
Compared to 1966 when NOW was founded, today is amazingly triumphant for the cause.
And when you succeed, people strangely feel no need to keep supporting the cause. Once the airplane was designed and functional, people stopped trying to make airplanes. Once Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball[, …] there wasn’t any need to keep pushing to get blacks in baseball.
The truth is, feminists got what they were after. Even in bad economic times, women are doing well. Women lost far fewer jobs and lost less earning power during the recession than men. Women are accepted in pretty much every position and job they try for. There are women on submarines these days in the Navy.
Feminism, at least as defined by the NOW crowd, is pretty much rejected by young women today. They don’t want any part of the “never shave, men are rapists, we are oppressed” outlook of the modern feminist. They liked the “stop treating me like an idiot child and let me have that job” sort of feminist, but that’s not what NOW offers.
Like most activist groups, NOW and other feminist organizations are casualties of their own success. They did what they set out to do. They succeeded. They won. And having won, now they have no purpose and are losing influence, power, and money.
But they also suffer what most organizations — especially activist ones — face. Each successive generation of leadership tends to get more radical rather than less. Unless the organization consciously and continuously strives to remain neutral or conservative, it becomes increasingly leftist over time. This is an artifact of the very nature of activists. People who are so driven and passionate about any one cause tend to be more emotionally driven and more radical by nature. Over time that increases each step and eventually you end up with loons in charge.
The Sierra Club was founded to enjoy and protect beautiful areas, they were naturalists. These days they’re radical environmentalists. Most large religious denominations face this as well, as more conservative and doctrinally-concerned leadership gives way to more “modern” and culturally-driven leadership and they lose their way.
So the organizations of feminism are facing success not with joy and triumph, but with greater wails of despair as they see (or invent) greater areas of horror and crisis. And as they grow ever more radical, they get ever less influential and meaningful in the culture.
Most women today would call themselves feminist but they usually will qualify that with “but not like those feminists.” The only ones who cling to the “those feminist” sort are college sorts and the kind of radical men-haters that folks like Rush Limbaugh like to ridicule.
Christopher Taylor, “WOMYNISTS”, Word Around the Net, 2014-06-04.
July 29, 2015
July 28, 2015
On one occasion, as Master Foo was traveling to a conference with a few of his senior disciples, he was accosted by a hardware designer.
The hardware designer said: “It is rumored that you are a great programmer. How many lines of code do you write per year?”
Master Foo replied with a question: “How many square inches of silicon do you lay out per year?”
“Why…we hardware designers never measure our work in that way,” the man said.
“And why not?” Master Foo inquired.
“If we did so,” the hardware designer replied, “we would be tempted to design chips so large that they cannot be fabricated – and, if they were fabricated, their overwhelming complexity would make it be impossible to generate proper test vectors for them.”
Master Foo smiled, and bowed to the hardware designer.
In that moment, the hardware designer achieved enlightenment.
Eric S. Raymond, “Master Foo and the Hardware Designer”, Armed and Dangerous, 2014-08-26.
July 27, 2015
OMG! You guys! That whole “Eloi and Morlocks” thing? It’s coming true! If you know how to work a screwdriver, your descendents really are doomed to an underground life, eating the descendents of telephone sanitizers and TV news anchors.
As evidence, I present the following snippet of dialogue from a TODAY® show segment where investigative reporter Jeff Rossen learns how to deal with a kitchen fire. (I seem to recall this being covered in second grade by a cartoon dalmatian, but that’s neither here nor there.)
I am including in the dialogue the parts where I was yelling at the television.
Savannah Guthrie: “A lot of us are intimidated though, like, by the idea of turning it on…” *makes gestures and facial expressions as though she’s holding a well-greased and annoyed cobra at arms length*
Me: “Wut?” *tilts head on side like RCA Victor mascot*
Jeff Rossen: “I… I will tell you, I actually never used a fire extinguisher before and I thought there would be a kickback and I was afraid to use it…”
Me: (yelling) “OH. MY. GOD! It’s a fire extinguisher, you sackless herbivore! What are you afraid of, you big girl’s blouse?”
It had honestly never crossed my mind that a grown human being could feel an ounce of trepidation about a fire extinguisher. That’s like… I don’t know, being scared of pillows, or footstools, or filing cabinets. And whatever you call this bizarre phobia, two out of five Manhattanites on my TV screen just admitted to suffering from it!
Tam, “Still more proof that speciation is well underway”, View From The Porch, 2015-07-16.
July 26, 2015
“What bicycle did you say this was of yours?” asked George.
Harris told him. I forget of what particular manufacture it happened to be; it is immaterial.
“Are you sure?” persisted George.
“Of course I am sure,” answered Harris. “Why, what’s the matter with it?”
“Well, it doesn’t come up to the poster,” said George, “that’s all.”
“What poster?” asked Harris.
“The poster advertising this particular brand of cycle,” explained George. “I was looking at one on a hoarding in Sloane Street only a day or two before we started. A man was riding this make of machine, a man with a banner in his hand: he wasn’t doing any work, that was clear as daylight; he was just sitting on the thing and drinking in the air. The cycle was going of its own accord, and going well. This thing of yours leaves all the work to me. It is a lazy brute of a machine; if you don’t shove, it simply does nothing: I should complain about it, if I were you.”
When one comes to think of it, few bicycles do realise the poster. On only one poster that I can recollect have I seen the rider represented as doing any work. But then this man was being pursued by a bull. In ordinary cases the object of the artist is to convince the hesitating neophyte that the sport of bicycling consists in sitting on a luxurious saddle, and being moved rapidly in the direction you wish to go by unseen heavenly powers.
Generally speaking, the rider is a lady, and then one feels that, for perfect bodily rest combined with entire freedom from mental anxiety, slumber upon a water-bed cannot compare with bicycle-riding upon a hilly road. No fairy travelling on a summer cloud could take things more easily than does the bicycle girl, according to the poster. Her costume for cycling in hot weather is ideal. Old-fashioned landladies might refuse her lunch, it is true; and a narrowminded police force might desire to secure her, and wrap her in a rug preliminary to summonsing her. But such she heeds not. Uphill and downhill, through traffic that might tax the ingenuity of a cat, over road surfaces calculated to break the average steam roller she passes, a vision of idle loveliness; her fair hair streaming to the wind, her sylph-like form poised airily, one foot upon the saddle, the other resting lightly upon the lamp. Sometimes she condescends to sit down on the saddle; then she puts her feet on the rests, lights a cigarette, and waves above her head a Chinese lantern.
Less often, it is a mere male thing that rides the machine. He is not so accomplished an acrobat as is the lady; but simple tricks, such as standing on the saddle and waving flags, drinking beer or beef-tea while riding, he can and does perform. Something, one supposes, he must do to occupy his mind: sitting still hour after hour on this machine, having no work to do, nothing to think about, must pall upon any man of active temperament. Thus it is that we see him rising on his pedals as he nears the top of some high hill to apostrophise the sun, or address poetry to the surrounding scenery.
Occasionally the poster pictures a pair of cyclists; and then one grasps the fact how much superior for purposes of flirtation is the modern bicycle to the old-fashioned parlour or the played-out garden gate. He and she mount their bicycles, being careful, of course, that such are of the right make. After that they have nothing to think about but the old sweet tale. Down shady lanes, through busy towns on market days, merrily roll the wheels of the “Bermondsey Company’s Bottom Bracket Britain’s Best,” or of the “Camberwell Company’s Jointless Eureka.” They need no pedalling; they require no guiding. Give them their heads, and tell them what time you want to get home, and that is all they ask. While Edwin leans from his saddle to whisper the dear old nothings in Angelina’s ear, while Angelina’s face, to hide its blushes, is turned towards the horizon at the back, the magic bicycles pursue their even course.
And the sun is always shining and the roads are always dry. No stern parent rides behind, no interfering aunt beside, no demon small boy brother is peeping round the corner, there never comes a skid. Ah me! Why were there no “Britain’s Best” nor “Camberwell Eurekas” to be hired when we were young?
Or maybe the “Britain’s Best” or the “Camberwell Eureka” stands leaning against a gate; maybe it is tired. It has worked hard all the afternoon, carrying these young people. Mercifully minded, they have dismounted, to give the machine a rest. They sit upon the grass beneath the shade of graceful boughs; it is long and dry grass. A stream flows by their feet. All is rest and peace.
That is ever the idea the cycle poster artist sets himself to convey — rest and peace.
But I am wrong in saying that no cyclist, according to the poster, ever works. Now I come to reflect, I have seen posters representing gentlemen on cycles working very hard — over-working themselves, one might almost say. They are thin and haggard with the toil, the perspiration stands upon their brow in beads; you feel that if there is another hill beyond the poster they must either get off or die. But this is the result of their own folly. This happens because they will persist in riding a machine of an inferior make. Were they riding a “Putney Popular” or “Battersea Bounder,” such as the sensible young man in the centre of the poster rides, then all this unnecessary labour would be saved to them. Then all required of them would be, as in gratitude bound, to look happy; perhaps, occasionally to back-pedal a little when the machine in its youthful buoyancy loses its head for a moment and dashes on too swiftly.
You tired young men, sitting dejectedly on milestones, too spent to heed the steady rain that soaks you through; you weary maidens, with the straight, damp hair, anxious about the time, longing to swear, not knowing how; you stout bald men, vanishing visibly as you pant and grunt along the endless road; you purple, dejected matrons, plying with pain the slow unwilling wheel; why did you not see to it that you bought a “Britain’s Best” or a “Camberwell Eureka”? Why are these bicycles of inferior make so prevalent throughout the land?
Or is it with bicycling as with all other things: does Life at no point realise the Poster?
Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men on the Bummel, 1914.
July 25, 2015
Perhaps the most valuable asset that any man can have in this world is a naturally superior air, a talent for sniffishness and reserve. The generality of men are always greatly impressed by it, and accept it freely as a proof of genuine merit. One need but disdain them to gain their respect. Their congenital stupidity and timorousness make them turn to any leader who offers, and the sign of leadership that they recognize most readily is that which shows itself in external manner. This is the true explanation of the survival of monarchism, which invariably lives through its perennial deaths. It is the popular theory, at least in America, that monarchism is a curse fastened upon the common people from above — that the monarch saddles it upon them without their consent and against their will. The theory is without support in the facts. Kings are created, not by kings, but by the people. They visualize one of the ineradicable needs of all third-rate men, which means of nine men out of ten, and that is the need of something to venerate, to bow down to, to follow and obey.
The king business begins to grow precarious, not when kings reach out for greater powers, but when they begin to resign and renounce their powers. The czars of Russia were quite secure upon the throne so long as they ran Russia like a reformatory, but the moment they began to yield to liberal ideas, i. e., by emancipating the serfs and setting up constitutionalism, their doom was sounded. The people saw this yielding as a sign of weakness; they began to suspect that the czars, after all, were not actually superior to other men. And so they turned to other and antagonistic leaders, all as cock-sure as the czars had once been, and in the course of time they were stimulated to rebellion. These leaders, or, at all events, the two or three most resolute and daring of them, then undertook to run the country in the precise way that it had been run in the palmy days of the monarchy. That is to say, they seized and exerted irresistible power and laid claim to infallible wisdom. History will date their downfall from the day they began to ease their pretensions. Once they confessed, even by implication, that they were merely human, the common people began to turn against them.
H.L. Mencken, “Types of Men 8: The King”, Prejudices, Third Series, 1922.
July 24, 2015
It was one of this Kaiser’s many peculiarities that he was completely unable to calibrate his behaviour to the contexts in which his high office obliged him to operate. Too often he spoke not like a monarch, but like an over-excited teenager giving free rein to his current preoccupations. He was an extreme exemplar of that Edwardian social category, the club bore who is forever explaining some pet project to the man in the next chair. Small wonder that the prospect of being buttonholed by the Kaiser over lunch or dinner, when escape was impossible, struck fear into the hearts of so many European royals.
Wilhelm’s interventions greatly exercised the men of the German foreign ministry, but they did little to shape the course of German policy. Indeed it may in part have been a deepening sense of impotence and disconnection from the real levers of power that fired up Wilhelm’s recurring fantasies about future world wars between Japan and the USA, invasions of Puerto Rico, global jihad against the British Empire, a German protectorate over China and so on. These were the blue-sky scenarios of an inveterate geopolitical fantasist, not policies as such. And whenever a real conflict seemed imminent, Wilhelm pulled in his horns and quickly found reasons why Germany could not possibly go to war. […] Wilhelm could talk tough, but when trouble loomed he tended to turn and run for cover. He would do exactly that during the July Crisis of 1914. “It is a curious thing,” Jules Cambon, French ambassador in Berlin, observed in a letter to a senior official at the French foreign ministry in May 1912, “to see how this man, so sudden, so reckless and impulsive in words, is full of caution and patience in action.”
Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went To War In 1914, 2012.
July 23, 2015
The brother-in-law of a friend of mine died recently. He was 76, a good age considering his lifestyle. He had spent many years from morning till night sitting in a corner with his Spanish red wine, smoking and watching television. It was not a way of life that attracted me, but it was his choice and he stuck to it with a fine determination.
No doubt if he had followed doctors’ orders from the moment he first came to their attention (he had suffered, not surprisingly, a progression of serious illnesses) he would have survived a few years more. Clearly he did not think the bargain a good one: twenty years of abstinence for an extra four years, shall we say, of boredom. In a way I admired him for his utter rejection of what most people would consider common sense. A world ruled by common sense would be intolerable in its smug dullness.
The other admirable thing about the deceased was that he would have never claimed, never have dreamed of claiming, that his mode of life was anything but his own choice; he was responsible for its consequences, up to and including his death. He had made his bed, in fact his deathbed, and he was content to lie in it.
Theodore Dalrymple, “Warning: May Cause Lawsuits”, Taki’s Magazine, 2014-07-30.
July 22, 2015
Ginny probably had agreed to the change because she had taken up a new political cause, and the spasms of pain that came on at night interfered with her fund-raising activities for the Barry Goldwater presidential campaign. Heinlein approved of Goldwater, both personally and politically — a New Deal liberal who had evolved in a sensible way, responding to the actual political realities the country had found itself in after World War II.
Ginny was setting up a “Gold for Goldwater” fund-raising campaign with five other field workers — a grassroots organization, outside the somewhat hidebound local Republican hierarchy. “Spend what you think we can afford,” he told Ginny. He had been disillusioned with party politics for nearly a decade, but this was a campaign worth fighting.
William H. Patterson Jr., Robert A. Heinlein, In Dialogue with His Century Volume 2: The Man Who Learned Better, 2014.