Quotulatiousness

November 13, 2017

Otto von Bismarck – V: Prussia Ascendant – Extra History

Filed under: Europe, France, Germany, History — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Extra Credits
Published on 11 Nov 2017

The northern German states now looked to Prussia for leadership, but that power brought increased attention from their enemies. Bismarck engineered a war with France by striking at Napoleon III’s pride and wound up winning a runaway victory to secure Prussia’s diplomatic power.

November 1, 2017

Spain versus Catalonia

Filed under: Europe, History, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Tim Black on the situation in Catalonia after the abortive declaration of independence:

L’Estelada Blava, the “blue-starred flag” of the Catalonian independence movement
(Via Wikimedia)

An excessive focus on history can obscure the real dynamic informing the Catalonia autonomous community’s push for independence from Spain. It makes it look as if what we’re seeing now is a revival of a longstanding strain of Catalan nationalism, drawing on its 12th-century legacy as a principality, fired up by the divided union of Aragon and Catalonia during the early modern era, and burnished with the left-wing romance of Catalonia’s stand-alone, red-and-black resistance to General Franco during the 1930s. It makes it look, ultimately, as if Catalonia is not only an entity distinct from the rest of Spain, it is also a victim of, if not Spain, than certainly the Spanish state.

Not that matters have been helped by the Spanish government’s brutal, anti-democratic response to Catalonia’s independence referendum, as unconstitutional and therefore illegal as it was. It merely reinforced the impression that this is a conflict between an oppressive state and an oppressed people. After all, such is the defensiveness and weakness of the Spanish political class, we saw armed units of Guardia Civil assaulting Catalan voters, forcibly shutting polling stations and confiscating ballot boxes, and now we see charges of rebellion and sedition being laid at the doors of the leading pro-independence Catalan politicians, which has even prompted the Catalan president Carles Puigdemont to flee to Brussels. This really does look like a conflict rooted in some longstanding desire of the Spanish state to bend the Catalans to its will.

But to think that misses the real catalyst for the Spanish crisis, which lies less in Madrid or Barcelona, than in the European Union’s HQ in Brussels. That’s because, in the EU’s flight, manned by Western Europe’s political classes, from the democratic accountability of national peoples, in its demonisation of the very idea of national sovereignty as a species of 1930s-style nationalism, indeed in its essential anti-national elitism, it has created a transnational, technocratic set of institutions that necessarily weakens national state structures, depriving nations of numerous lawmaking powers, border controls and economic independence. Admittedly, the Spanish nation state has never been particularly strong. In common with the rest of Europe, its party-political system is in disarray, with its two traditional behemoths, the Socialist and Popular parties, hollowed out, and populist rivals exploding on to the scene. And, specific to Spain, the state has failed properly to cohere itself as a state, with suppressed regional antagonisms re-emerging in the post-Franco era. But the EU has not only exacerbated the internal weaknesses of the Spanish state; it has also fundamentally undermined even the possibility of a functioning nation state.

[…]

Yes, the cultural distinction between Catalonia and the rest of Spain has come to the fore in recent decades, with the red-yellow-and-blue Estelada a familiar sight hanging from buildings, and Catalan a familiar sound on the streets. But it’s clear that the driving force is less cultural difference, no matter how divisive, than the experience of EU-driven austerity as an unnecessary drain on an economically rich region. This is why support for Catalan independence has only risen dramatically since the economic crisis. As the Financial Times puts it: ‘After decades during which Catalan support for independence hovered between 15 and 20 per cent, secessionist sentiment started climbing rapidly in 2009. By 2011, according to the closely followed survey by the Catalan Centre for Opinion Studies (CEO), support for independence was above 30 per cent. Two years later, it reached an all-time high of 48.5 per cent.’

This is not a uniquely Spanish phenomenon, either. In other EU member states, the same dynamic is at work, with richer regions or areas with a sufficiently distinct cultural identity seeking to unfasten themselves from the rest of their respective nations. You can see it in the desire for greater economic autonomy of the rich Lombardy and Veneto regions in northern Italy. And you can see it again in Belgium, with the wealthy northern region of Flanders continually seeking to decouple itself from the de-industrialised, relatively impoverished southern region of Wallonia.

October 16, 2017

What Happens When You Inbreed? – Brit Lab

Filed under: Health, History, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

BBC Earth Lab
Published on 17 Dec 2015

Does inbreeding really lead to deformities and nasty diseases could inbreeding actually be a good thing? Greg Foot finds out the answers.

September 18, 2017

5 Medieval Dynasties That Still Exist Today

Filed under: Europe, France, Germany, History — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 18 Aug 2017

The medieval period produced a lot of powerful dynasties which fought for influence and wealth in Europe. These families where once the most powerful people on the planet, but who and where are they today? Here are 5 Medieval dynasties that still exist today.

July 24, 2017

QotD: Salvador Dali, in his own words

Filed under: Books, Europe, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Here, then, are some of the episodes in Dali’s life, from his earliest years onward. Which of them are true and which are imaginary hardly matters: the point is that this is the kind of thing that Dali would have liked to do.
When he is six years old there is some excitement over the appearance of Halley’s comet:

    Suddenly one of my father’s office clerks appeared in the drawing-room doorway and announced that the comet could be seen from the terrace… While crossing the hall I caught sight of my little three-year-old sister crawling unobtrusively through a doorway. I stopped, hesitated a second, then gave her a terrible kick in the head as though it had been a ball, and continued running, carried away with a ‘delirious joy’ induced by this savage act. But my father, who was behind me, caught me and led me down in to his office, where I remained as a punishment till dinner-time.

A year earlier than this Dali had ‘suddenly, as most of my ideas occur,’ flung another little boy off a suspension bridge. Several other incidents of the same kind are recorded, including (this was when he was twenty-nine years old) knocking down and trampling on a girl ‘until they had to tear her, bleeding, out of my reach.’

When he is about five he gets hold of a wounded bat which he puts into a tin pail. Next morning he finds that the bat is almost dead and is covered with ants which are devouring it. He puts it in his mouth, ants and all, and bites it almost in half.

When he is an adolescent a girl falls desperately in love with him. He kisses and caresses her so as to excite her as much as possible, but refuses to go further. He resolves to keep this up for five years (he calls it his ‘five-year plan’), enjoying her humiliation and the sense of power it gives him. He frequently tells her that at the end of the five years he will desert her, and when the time comes he does so.

Till well into adult life he keeps up the practice of masturbation, and likes to do this, apparently, in front of a looking-glass. For ordinary purposes he is impotent, it appears, till the age of thirty or so. When he first meets his future wife, Gala, he is greatly tempted to push her off a precipice. He is aware that there is something that she wants him to do to her, and after their first kiss the confession is made:

    I threw back Gala’s head, pulling it by the hair, and trembling with complete hysteria, I commanded:
    ‘Now tell me what you want me to do with you! But tell me slowly, looking me in the eye, with the crudest, the most ferociously erotic words that can make both of us feel the greatest shame!’
    Then Gala, transforming the last glimmer of her expression of pleasure into the hard light of her own tyranny, answered:
    ‘I want you to kill me!’

He is somewhat disappointed by this demand, since it is merely what he wanted to do already. He contemplates throwing her off the bell-tower of the Cathedral of Toledo, but refrains from doing so.

During the Spanish Civil War he astutely avoids taking sides, and makes a trip to Italy. He feels himself more and more drawn towards the aristocracy, frequents smart salons, finds himself wealthy patrons, and is photographed with the plump Vicomte de Noailles, whom he describes as his ‘Maecenas.’ When the European War approaches he has one preoccupation only: how to find a place which has good cookery and from which he can make a quick bolt if danger comes too near. He fixes on Bordeaux, and duly flees to Spain during the Battle of France. He stays in Spain long enough to pick up a few anti-red atrocity stories, then makes for America. The story ends in a blaze of respectability. Dali, at thirty-seven, has become a devoted husband, is cured of his aberrations, or some of them, and is completely reconciled to the Catholic Church. He is also, one gathers, making a good deal of money.

George Orwell, “Benefit of Clergy: Some Notes on Salvador Dali”, Saturday Book for 1944, 1944.

June 25, 2017

Spain and the Spanish Arms Industry in WW1 I THE GREAT WAR Special feat. C&Rsenal

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, WW1 — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 24 Jun 2017

Spain was one of the neutral nations of World War 1. A deep social divide and a decline from world power meant that they stayed out of the global conflict. Still, the war affected Spain in many ways. One of the consequences was the establishment of a huge arms industry that supported France and other fighting nations.

June 20, 2017

QotD: The essential horror of army life

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

One of the essential experiences of war is never being able to escape from disgusting smells of human origin. Latrines are an overworked subject in war literature, and I would not mention them if it were not that the latrine in our barracks did its necessary bit towards puncturing my own illusions about the Spanish civil war. The Latin type of latrine, at which you have to squat, is bad enough at its best, but these were made of some kind of polished stone so slippery that it was all you could do to keep on your feet. In addition they were always blocked. Now I have plenty of other disgusting things in my memory, but I believe it was these latrines that first brought home to me the thought, so often to recur: ‘Here we are, soldiers of a revolutionary army, defending Democracy against Fascism, fighting a war which is about something, and the detail of our lives is just as sordid and degrading as it could be in prison, let alone in a bourgeois army.’ Many other things reinforced this impression later; for instance, the boredom and animal hunger of trench life, the squalid intrigues over scraps of food, the mean, nagging quarrels which people exhausted by lack of sleep indulge in.

The essential horror of army life (whoever has been a soldier will know what I mean by the essential horror of army life) is barely affected by the nature of the war you happen to be fighting in. Discipline, for instance, is ultimately the same in all armies. Orders have to be obeyed and enforced by punishment if necessary, the relationship of officer and man has to be the relationship of superior and inferior. The picture of war set forth in books like All Quiet on the Western Front is substantially true. Bullets hurt, corpses stink, men under fire are often so frightened that they wet their trousers. It is true that the social background from which an army springs will colour its training, tactics and general efficiency, and also that the consciousness of being in the right can bolster up morale, though this affects the civilian population more than the troops. (People forget that a soldier anywhere near the front line is usually too hungry, or frightened, or cold, or, above all, too tired to bother about the political origins of the war.) But the laws of nature are not suspended for a ‘red’ army any more than for a ‘white’ one. A louse is a louse and a bomb is a bomb, even though the cause you are fighting for happens to be just.

George Orwell, “Looking back on the Spanish War”, New Road, 1943 (republished in England, Your England and Other Essays, 1953).

May 8, 2017

Spanish Civil War – Lessons NOT Learned – The British, French & US

Filed under: Europe, Germany, History, Military, Russia — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 28 Mar 2017

The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) was probably the most significant war between the First and the Second World War. [M]any important lessons were learned and NOT learned by the British, French, US, German, Italian and Soviet Forces.

Military History Visualized provides a series of short narrative and visual presentations like documentaries based on academic literature or sometimes primary sources. Videos are intended as introduction to military history, but also contain a lot of details for history buffs. Since the aim is to keep the episodes short and comprehensive some details are often cut.

March 4, 2017

Barcelona opens the first brothel in Europe “staffed” with sex dolls

Filed under: Business, Europe — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

I have to admit, I didn’t see this one coming (if you’ll pardon the expression):

A new brothel has opened in Barcelona that offers men the chance to fulfil all their fantasies – as long as their fantasies involve hyper-realistic silicone dolls.

Lumidolls, which operates from an apartment building in downtown Barcelona, claims to be the first sex doll agency in Europe and offers hour-long ‘appointments’ with one of its four dolls for just €80.

The dolls, which are individually crafted from thermoplastic elastomer to be unique, have three orifices and flexible limbs enabling them to be maneuvered in almost any position.

Such sex dolls have already proved a huge hit in Japan and China – especially with husbands working away from home who want to avoid being unfaithful – but Lumidoll claims to be the first such brothel to open in Europe.

H/T to Clodagh Doyle for the link.

Update: Amy Alkon on a related topic.

Men Aren’t “Dehumanized” By Vibrators And Women Aren’t “Dehumanized” By Sex Robots

People have intelligence higher than that of a cat, fooled by a laser pointer.

Yes, we are quite able to discern between, say, a microwave and a human chef and a sex robot and a woman. Despite what this hysterical numbskull writes at Prospect Magazine about the “huge problem!!!” in robotics and AI

And Maggie McNeill also chimes in:

Update the second, 23 March: It was reported last week that the Barcelona sex doll brothel has been forced to move, due to opposition from non-sex-doll prostitutes and their union:

The original location in Barcelona at 2 Baixada de Sant Miquel had been in the Spanish city’s Gothic quarter, north of the cathedral.

But the brothel, not far from La Rambla in the heart of the city has now moved to a mystery new location with a receptionist saying the address would only be given out to paying customers.

Prostitutes who work in the city with Aprosex – the Association of Sex Professionals – objected saying a doll cannot match the services of a real person and denigrates real sex workers to merely being an object.

A statement on their website read: “The sex-affection of a person can not be provided by a doll. They are different and compatible services. They do not communicate.

“They do not listen to you or caress you, they do not comfort you or look at you. They do not give you their opinion or drink a glass of champagne with you.”

Janet, a prostitute with over 30 years in the industry, who works in the city’s Raval district said: “It is another strategy of the patriarchy that presents us as objects without rights or soul. A privilege of the wealthy classes.”

February 20, 2017

QotD: Privilege

Filed under: Europe, History, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Then there are the charming SJWs (no, it’s not an insult. They called themselves Social Justice Warriors. They don’t get to escape the name when it turns out everyone knows how stupid it is) in my field who call me a race and gender traitor. Children are confused like that. How can you be a traitor to an allegiance that doesn’t exist and which you never swore fealty to.

Doesn’t exist, you say? But race! Gender! Well, they SAY gender is a social construct and as for race, I know enough history (if they don’t) to know it’s a cultural construct. In the nineteenth century they talked of “the Portuguese race” and the “British race.” I understand that under the microscope, absent some kind of marker like sickle cell, you can’t tell anyone’s skin color. You can, interestingly enough, at the cellular level, tell the sex of the cells. But the SJWs tell us it’s a social construct, and they are honorable women and girly men.

Actually what is a social construct are the archetypes they push into those things: females and other races as archetypal oppressed races. As a Samoan e-friend put it, her people weren’t oppressed by whites. They didn’t care what whites were doing. The Portuguese might have been oppressed by the whiter parts of Europe, kind of sort of. I mean, at various times English Literature referred to them as a vile race, the French did whatever the French were doing, and the Germans tried to organize the study of Portuguese literature (among other things.) But in the end, the Portuguese were too busy fighting their eternal enemies, the Portuguese, and occasionally distracted enough to fight the Spaniards, to care overmuch about more remote European countries. They were rather busy not being eaten by Spain, as every other country in the Peninsula was. (Well, technically not being eaten by Castile, but…)

Here do I get oppressed by non-Latin people? Meh. I’d like to see the idiot with enough gumption to try to oppress me. Sometimes they stereotype me and are rude to me, but I ignore them and that works.

Sarah Hoyt, “The Privilege Of Not Caring”, According to Hoyt, 2015-05-17.

January 25, 2017

Simón Bolívar – IV: Defeat is Not Surrender – Extra History

Filed under: Americas, History — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on Dec 10, 2016

Failure had taught Simón Bolívar one important lesson: no single state in Spanish South America could win independence alone. To succeed, he needed to form one great state, united and able to stand up to the might of Spain.

January 22, 2017

Simón Bolívar – III: Leavings and Returns – Extra History

Filed under: Americas, History — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on Dec 3, 2016

The failure of his first attempted revolution in Venezuela only fanned the flames of Simón Bolívar’s determination to end Spanish reign over South America. Convinced that he needed to unite the entire continent in freedom, he gathered troops and set out with a new purpose. But his ferocity threatened to overwhelm his ideals.

January 19, 2017

Simón Bolívar – II: Francisco de Miranda – Extra History

Filed under: Americas, History — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on Nov 26, 2016

When Napoleon conquered Spain, the Spanish colonies no longer had a clear leader to follow. Bolívar seized on this opportunity to promote his dreams of Venezuelan independence, but he stumbled from lack of experience. A man named Francisco de Miranda took control instead.

August 25, 2016

The Brothers Gracchi – I: How Republics Fall – Extra History

Filed under: Europe, History, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 6 Aug 2016

Rome had doubled the size of its empire in a single generation, but such expansion came at great cost. The wars enriched the wealthy and impoverished the soldiers who fought in them. Into these turbulent times came a talented and well-connected young man named Tiberius Gracchus, who soon learned the power of appealing to the populace over the elite.
____________

Rome had expanded rapidly during the 2nd century BCE. It now stretched from Spain to Greece, with holdings in Africa, and showed no signs of stopping. At home, this growth destabilized the entire economy. Slaves from captured lands became field workers for the wealthy. Common soldiers who used to own land could no longer tend it during the long campaigns, and returned to find themselves either bankrupt or forced to sell to the large slave-owning elites. Now these displaced landowners flooded Rome looking for work, but many of them remained unemployed or underemployed. In the midst of this, two boys named Tiberius and Gaius were born to the Gracchus family. They were plebeians, but of the most distinguished order. Their mother, Cornelia, was the daughter of Scipio Africanus. Their father was a two-time consul who’d celebrated two triumphs for winning great campaigns. But their father died early, so Cornelia raised her children alone and made sure they had a firm grounding in the liberal arts. As soon as he could, the elder boy, Tiberius, ran for office as a military tribune and joined the final campaign against Carthage. There he earned great honor for himself, and learned from the Scipio Aemilianus, his half-brother who also happened to be the leading general. Upon return to Rome, he ran for quaeastor and was sent to serve in the Numantian Wars in Spain. This time, the general he served under was struggling and suffered defeat after defeat. At the end, he tried to flee, only to be captured by the Numantians along with the entire army. The Numantians insisted on discussing surrender terms with Tiberius Gracchus, whose father had long ago earned their respect, and he successfully negotiated the release of 20,000 captured soldiers. In Rome, however, the elites looked on his treaty with scorn: they felt his surrender made Rome look weak. The families of the soldiers had a far different perspective: they celebrated Tiberius, and even saved him from punishment at the hands of the Senate. He had learned that power could be found in appealing to the people.

August 13, 2016

QotD: The aftermath of the Spanish Civil War

Filed under: Europe, History, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The declared portion of the Spanish Civil War lasted from 1936 to 1939. It has passed into legend among Western leftists as a heroic struggle between the Communist-backed Republican government and Nazi-backed Franco, one that the good guys lost. The truth seems rather darker; the war was fought by two collections of squabbling, atrocity-prone factions, each backed by one of the two most evil totalitarianisms in human history. They intrigued, massacred, wrecked, and looted fairly indiscriminately until one side collapsed from exhaustion. Franco was the last man left standing.

Franco had no aspirations to conquer or reinvent the world, or to found a dynasty. His greatest achievements were the things that didn’t happen. He prevented the Stalinist coup that would certainly have followed a Republican victory. He then kept Spain out of World War II against heavy German pressure to join the Axis.

Domestically, Spain could have suffered worse. Spanish Fascism was quite brutal against its direct political enemies, but never developed the expansionism or racist doctrines of the Italian or German model. In fact it had almost no ideology beyond freezing the power relationships of pre-Republican Spain in place. Thus, there were no massacres even remotely comparable to Hussein’s nerve-gassing of Kurds and Shi’as, Hitler’s Final Solution or Stalin’s far bloodier though less-known liquidation of the kulaks.

Francisco Franco remained a monarchist all his life, and named the heir to the Spanish throne as his successor. The later `fascist’ regimes of South and Central America resembled the Francoite, conservative model more than they did the Italo/German/Baathist revolutionary variety.

One historian put it well. “Hitler was a fascist pretending to be a conservative. Franco was a conservative pretending to be a fascist.” (One might add that Hussein was not really pretending to be about anything but the raw will to power; perhaps this is progress, of a sort.) On those terms Franco was rather successful. If he had died shortly after WWII, rather than lingering for thirty years while presiding over an increasingly stultified and backward Spain, he might even have been remembered as a hero of his country.

As it is, the best that can be said is that (unlike the truly major tyrants of his day, or Saddam Hussein in ours) Franco was not a particularly evil man, and was probably less bad for his country than his opponents would have been.

Eric S. Raymond, “Fascism is not dead”, Armed and Dangerous, 2003-04-22.

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