History

Baedekker Raids

The parentals are fixing up the house: and I\’ve just been looking (a few days back) at the results of the Baedekker Raids on Bath.

One stick of bombs went across the avenue where the ancestral spires are: haveing looked at where the bombs fell, you can now see it, if you see what I mean. There are two post war houses in an avenue of Edwardian ones: the two new ones on opposite sides of said avenue. And the third of the stick landed on the tennis court in the middle, destroying the pavilion.

Hmm, OK, so the connection? In the fixing up of the house the builders have found that the window frames facing that tennis court have all been pushed in: in essence, we\’ve had draughts coming through since 1942 as a result of the bomb blast.

Not a big or major problem, fixed with a bit of sealant. But the idea that I am sitting here listening to a builder repairing war damage from 58 68 (see comments) years ago (or, actually, listening to him drinking tea in between repairing such damage) is, umm, a little odd.

Interesting question

Boy did the Gini coefficient decline from 1934 to 1945! As Lew Rockwell said of Hitler\’s economics:

Proto-Keynesian socialist economist Joan Robinson wrote that \”Hitler found a cure against unemployment before Keynes was finished explaining it.\”

What were those economic policies? He suspended the gold standard, embarked on huge public works programs like Autobahns, protected industry from foreign competition, expanded credit, instituted jobs programs, bullied the private sector on prices and production decisions, vastly expanded the military, enforced capital controls, instituted family planning, penalized smoking, brought about national health care and unemployment insurance, imposed education standards, and eventually ran huge deficits. The Nazi interventionist program was essential to the regime\’s rejection of the market economy and its embrace of socialism in one country.

I think Jonah Goldberg says it well:

If you leave out the parts about killing all the Jews and invading Poland, what specifically about the Nazi political platform do you disagree with?

Quite, other than the military expansion I can\’t see anything at all there which is not devoutly desired by most columnists at The Guardian.

And there are certainly those in the comments sections who argue for the confiscation of the capital of rootless cosmopolitans, aren\’t there?

So what are these poppies all about then?

I knew him well enough to ask why he was crying and he said it was because he had just been to see his mother and she had been crying. It was the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, and she always cried on the anniversary of that battle. Her three brothers had been killed on the same day but the telegrams had arrived a week apart.

That year, I bought a poppy. And I bought one this year, as I have every year since.

The poppy appeal.

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Cause and effect

Oh dearie me. A slight confusion of cause and effect here.

Psychologists believe that traits such as selflessness and altruism have become part of our genetic make-up because they were attractive to mates.

Mebbe.

“The expansion of the human brain would have greatly increased the cost of raising children so it would have been important for our ancestors to choose mates both willing and able to be good, long-term parents,\” said Dr Tim Phillips and colleagues from the University of Nottingham and Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College, London.

\”Displays of altruism could well have provided accurate clues to this and so led to a link between human altruism and sexual selection.”

Sorta, but that\’s not the way we normally ought to think of such things.

Statistical analysis of their responses suggested that, in our evolutionary past, those with a stronger mate preference towards altruistic behaviour mated more frequently with more altruistic people.

That means that altruistic genes would be more prevalent than selfish genes.

Dr Phillips said: “These results are consistent with a link between human altruism towards non-relatives and sexual selection and throws an exciting new light on the puzzle of altruistic behaviour – which appears, at first sight, to be at odds with evolutionary theory.”

The results were published in the British Journal of Psychology.

Somebody really ought to send the psychologists down the hall to have a chat with their colleagues, the biologists.

Yes, OK, increasing brain size (and more importantly, increased neoteny as a result of trying to get that increased brain size through the pelvis) did raise the cost of raising children and yes, altruism (ie, sticking around and giving a hand) would be a good thing.

But we don\’t generally then go on to say that sexual selection was the mechanism by which this happened. Rather, the sexual selection carried on as normal (Woo! nice tits!) and those couples where there was more altruism (ie, the man stuck around) had greater success in raising children who went on to have their own children.

Thus, whether it was genetic or learned behaviour, altruism spread.

In short, it\’s not that people chose such mates, it\’s that those which did were more successful.

Were the 70s really this bad?

Even more astonishing is the way the musicians have shut themselves off from pop\’s recent past. You might have thought at least the Beatles\’ oeuvre had swiftly attained standard status, that Yesterday or Something might be precisely the kind of thing the balladeers with the shag-pile sideburns would gravitate towards, but no: it\’s still clearly considered too racy. During my light entertainment marathon, I hear two Beatles songs. One is courtesy of Little and Large: Syd Little sings Till There Was You while Eddie Large interrupts him doing impressions of Deputy Dawg. The other is Can\’t Buy Me Love, performed by the Morton Fraser Harmonica Gang: three men huffing away accompanied by a dancing midget in a wig.

Umm, yes, actually, they were.

Lovely piece btw, rtwt.

Interesting career move

My grandfather’s stepfather, Bill Wilcox, “shot” oil wells in West Virginia and Southeastern Ohio from the 1890s to the 1920s.  Back in the day, fracking meant drilling a hole, filling a coffee can with nitroglycerine, lowering it very carefully down the hole, and then detonating it (hence the term “shooting” the well).  We have family pictures of the process, including an honest-to-God gusher that Wilcox blew.

Obviously, this was a very, very hazardous occupation.  My grandfather said that Wilcox told him that for 16 Februaries in a row, at least one of his fellow shooters was blown up.  The rapid fluctuations in temperatures typical for that time of year made the nitro unstable, and put that together with icy and rutted mountain roads in West Virginia, or the hills of Ohio, and well, use your imagination.  As a result, Wilcox eventually spent every February dead drunk, or so my grandfather said.  It must of worked, as he survived into a ripe old age (although his liver was probably twice as old as that).

Any modern analogies anyone can think of?

Double genocide

Jonathan Freedland has problems with the Baltic States:

Even if the authorities were rigorous in maintaining a balance, and telling both stories honestly, I would still reject this \”double genocide\”. For the symmetry here is false. No one wants to top the persecution league table, but nor can one accept that those who were \”arrested, interrogated and imprisoned\” – to quote the Vilnius museum – suffered the same fate as those Jews who were murdered, despite the exhibit\’s attempt to equalise them under the bland umbrella term \”losses\”. The oppression of the Soviet years was terrible, but it was not genocide: to be arrested is not to be shot into a pit. They are different and to say otherwise is to rob \”genocide\”, a very specific term, of all meaning.

Part of the problem is in insisting in seeing the whole appalling tale as starting in 1939, or 1940, or ending in 1956 with Stalin\’s death.

It all actually started in 1917. There were \”Red\” revoluitions in the Baltics and yes, the bourgeoisie were shot out of hand. Then there were various attempts by the newly Soviet Russia to impose Soviet rule upon those formerly parts of the Russian Empire. In which, yes, the bourgeoisie were shot out of hand.

To the point that at times having hands which had no callouses, indicating that one was not a worker with hands, was a death sentence. As Gulag Archipelago tells us (or at least as I recall it doing so) even \”fine bones\” could be taken as evidence of an aristocratic breeding and earning you that 9 grammes.

There were invasions (variously, from Germany, Poland and that Soviet state) which moved back and forth over the lands with, each time the front changed, the supporters of the other side getting shot.

What happened in 1939/40, what went on happening under Stalin, what was still happening under Brezhnev for God\’s sake (yes, the deportations for being \”nationalist\”, something as simple as vociferously protesting that one be allowed to use one\’s own language carried on that long) were not the beginning at all. They were the continuation of something that had started only 2 decades before.

No, this most certainly does not excuse the genocide of the Jews: but nor does it excuse the deliberate and planned wiping out of the intelligentsia, the \”nation\” if you wish, of those Baltic States.

We should apportion blame equally for, as I\’ve said before, it\’s the killing of people that\’s wrong. Whether you kill them in the name of some lunatic racial or religious theory or some equally crackpot class war and internationalist one is irrelevant. You\’re still murdering people in the name of your insane political theories and you\’re just as guilty as the other bloke murdering in the name of his.

The only possible moral response to the 20th century history of those countries is a pox on all their houses.

The past really was different

The Reverend Robin Roe.

Irishman, Church of Ireland priest, British military chaplain, MC, Ireland and British Lions rugby international (plus Barbarians, London Irish etc).

Rugby led directly to his Army duties as, when England played Ireland at Twickenham in 1952, Roe was one of two novice priests – both Protestants – in the Irish team. The other, Canon “Gerry” Murphy (now chaplain to the Queen at Sandringham), had done military service and encouraged his team-mate to do the same.

Umm, no Mr. Fry, no…..

And sometimes it\’s great for Stephen Fry going on a rant about something. For instance, during a discussion of Witchcraft he discusses how most witches put on trial in England were acquitted – and fewer than 500 hundred were killed for being witches, he says this about The Da Vinci Code…

\”We were much gentler than you might think. They were acquitted… We were apparently rather resistant to the idea of destroying witches in England, unlike views espoused in certain books – and I use the word book very loosely – like, The Da Vinci Code…\” *makes a spitting noise* \”It is complete loose stool water. It\’s arse gravy of the worst kind… that particular pan of that kind of material claimed that about 5 million women were burned or hanfed around Europe for being witches. There\’s no evidence there was anything like as much as that. Probably about 500 hundred. And they weren\’t burned, they were hanged.\”

No, not really true.

It\’s true that in England there were few to no burnings for witchcraft (although it was used for other offences) but Scotland was another matter.

Although many people might associate burning at the stake with witchcraft, it was much less used for that offence in Britain than in other parts of Europe – particularly France, Switzerland and the Nordic countries. In England witchcraft was a felony and thus punishable by hanging. Alice Molland is thought to have been the last person to suffer for witchcraft, at Exeter in 1684.  However, Scotland did burn witches and there are many recorded instances of both sexes suffering this fate.  On the 18th of May 1671 Janet McMuldroche and Elspeth Thompson were strangled and burned at Dumfries.  The following are the words of the warrant for their execution, dated two days earlier : “Forsamuch as in ane court of Justiciarie holden be us within the Tolbuithe of drumfreis vpon the fyftein day of May instant Jonet McMuldroche and Elspeth Thomsone were found guiltie be ane ascyse of the se[ver]all articles of witchcraft spe[cif]it in the verdict given againest them theiranent Were decerned and adjudged be us the Lords Commissioners of Justiciarie to be tane vpon thursday next the eighteen day of May instant Betuixt tuo and foure houres in the afernoone to the ordinare place of executione the toune of drumfreis And their to be wirried at ane stake till they be dead And theirafter their bodies to be brunt to ashes And all their moveable goods and geir to be escheat.
Note : (wirried means strangled and escheat means confiscated)
The last person to be burned as a witch in Scotland was Janet Horne at Dornoch in Ross shire in 1727.

It\’s also true that many (if not most) were strangled before the body was burnt but that\’s not quite a hanging. and it\’s also not true that this was common across Europe.

Well, Art, I can see several things wrong with this

\”By the early 1800s, however, with the publication of David Ricardo\’s landmark work on free trade and the adoption of his ideas by Adam Smith, the British state had embraced global liberalism, and the British-dominated world economy that emerged after the Congress of Vienna of 1815 was defined almost entirely by these values.\”

Umm, Adam Smith died in 1790, Wealth of Nations was first published in 1776, Ricardo published his first work in economics in 1809, his major work on comparative advantage in 1817 (with the Congress of Vienna, as noted, in 1815), Britain didn\’t adopt free trade until the abolition of the Corn Laws in 1846 and, umm, we know that Ricardo didn\’t read Smith until 1799 while on holiday in Bath (and I really must find that house next time I go back home).

Anyone spot any other errors?

Only Ritchie could say this

The man\’s sure up on his British political history, ain\’t he?

Before the election it amazed me that some from the same Manchester School of economics- like Giles Wilkes of Centre Forum were being called “progressives”. He wasn’t – he’s now a ConDem adviser. The positions are simply irreconcilable – and I bet he’s loving every minute of all the cutting he’s no doubt relishing.

As I suspect Clegg is.

These people infiltrated the Lib Dems better than the Trots (thankfully) ever did Labour.

Seriously?

Sure, OK, disagree with Manchester and all that but to call adherents of Manchester Liberalism infiltrators into the Liberal Democratic Party is showing the historical awareness of a wet cod.

Our favourite retired accountant does know that Cobden and Bright were founders of both, no?

Not a bad thing to hope for

Not a bad thing to strive for either:

\”You will die for this and it will all have been for nothing,\” said Willy Pueschel, the Gestapo inspector who interrogated him three times.

\”Not for nothing,\” replied Otto, \”I didn\’t become one of you.\”

Snippets of history

General Fugh wasn’t the first Chinese flag officer in the US military. That was Brigadier Uzal G Ent, who led the raid on the Ploesti oilfields in 1943 and personally selected Paul Tibbets as pilot of the Hiroshima mission. Brigadier Ent’s grandfather was one of two ethnic Chinese Thais who settled in South Carolina in the 1840’s. They were Chang and Eng Bunker, the original Siamese twins. I’ve not been able to find out which one was his granddad.

Anotherof the Bunker\’s descendants also joined the Air Force.

MacShane again

Yes, it\’s Our Dennis:

There is a deeper rightwing revisionism at play. Stalin\’s crimes are being elevated to a par with the exterminations of Jews by those who want to banalise or relativise the Holocaust and reduce its historical centrality to just another example of wartime mass murders. Stalin\’s famines of the 1930s or his deportations in the 1940s are held up as the right creates its own moral equivalence between Nazism and Communism. The latter was foul, evil and those who were Stalin and Trotksy\’s mouthpieces in European democracies have done lasting damage to the democratic left.

But Hitlerism\’s Holocaust converted an entire nation\’s engineers, chemists, railway systems, diplomats as well as the military and the police into an industrially organised network absorbing massive resources as it combed Europe to transport Jews from every remote corner of the continent to be put to death in Nazi extermination camps on Polish soil.

And Stalin\’s efforts converted an entire country into a death camp based upon class not race.

So what?

If you want to say that Tories are bastards for hanging out with dodgy Latvians then that\’s just fine (and yes, the same point is just fine when asserted about UKIP and Lega Nord if that\’s what you want to do). But we really should be taking that biblical injunction to note beams and motes seriously. If a political party having members who attend parades in memory of those fighting for one ghastly dictatorial system means that said political party is beyond the pale then so also is a political party which has members who attend parades in memory of those who fought for another ghastly dictatorial system.

This is as true of Waffen SS veterans as it is of MVD or KGB ones, as true of those who would praise Pol Pot, Cuba, North Korea and, yes, all three of Stalin, Trotsky and Lenin.

As I\’ve said before, we can note the difference between people being killed on the grounds of race and and those being killed on the grounds of class. But it\’s the killing of people which should be bringing the condemnation, not the grounds for the killing. For it\’s the killing of people that\’s wrong, d\’ye see?

And thus there is a moral equivalence between Nazism and Communism.

Indeed, we might even go further….facism existed in various flavours and only in one instance did it become that pit of evil whereas almost everywhere communism has gained power the flavour of the death camps was similar.

Tom Friedman\’s version of history

Following the defeat of Egypt and other Arab armies by Israel in the 1967 war, Nasserism, a k a Arab nationalism, the abiding ideology of the day, was demolished.

Err, it was \”pan-Arab nationalism\” that was defeated. The idea that all Arabs should be brothers together, rather than fighting for their own national interests.