4/18/2014

Obama Torn A New One

US political interviewers are obsequious, cowardly and career-protecting. Consequently senior US politicians, particularly Presidents, are rarely challenged. This is one of the few exceptions to that. Obama cuts and runs and crumbles.

Le Boulevard De Capuchins - Konstantin Korovine


Padraig Pearse Panegyric At Graveside of O'Donovan Rossa

The Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) and It's Legacy

Prussian Entrenchment, Sedan, September 1870
Just finished reading Prof. Michael Howard's book on the war and it's one of the best researched and explained historical accounts I've read. The unification of Germany was forged in the field at Metz, Paris, Orleans and Besancon. This stronger Germany was the one which stoked the fires of war and aggression which flared into the nightmare of 1914-18. But the behaviour of Bismarck and the Prussian Kingdom towards the French was, for the most part, admirable, even after the ignominious defeat suffered by the French. The reparations were not excessive and there was no large-scale march into Paris (the token Bavarian unit which marched in playing German tunes was pelted with stones). The nature of warfare had changed too. Heavy artillery, machine guns and breech-loading rifles came into their own. Civilians were bombarded by mortars and cannon for the first time. One of the lessons not learned by the stupid and self-regarding militaries was the uselessness in this warfare of cavalry. The cavalry battalions in WW1 were to learn this lesson the hard way and too late. 
The book  made me return to the contemporaneous diaries by Parisian writer Edmond Goncourt, who's eyewitness accounts I blogged on a few years ago. Among the fascinating and often heart-rending incidents he describes during the siege of Paris were:
- Reliance on gossip and lying, propaganda-sheet newspapers for information. The French lost every battle they fought. The papers never told that story.
- The Parisians of all classes were reduced to eating horses, cats, dogs and worse. Edmond said that horsemeat gave him nightmares.
- The price of bread was protected by statute but it ran out. Women offered themselves to more affluent men in exchange for bread by 1871.
- Many cafes stayed open during the bombardment with impoverished menus and with customers sitting amongst the broken glass.
- A man at the next table to him in a cafe said he hadn't seen his wife for a month and didn't know what had happened to her. When he left, 2 diners told Edmond that she was dead from a shell and nobody had the heart to tell him.
- Starvation and a bitter Winter added to the tribulations of the Parisians who queued for hours for basic victuals and fuel.
- On Christmas day he overheard a soldier on leave say that 5 of his comrades had died in the night of hypothermia the previous week under canvas.
- Soldiers returning on leave or wounded complained of eye problems due to smoke from the burning of wood to keep warm. 
- An elderly widow in his street made two meals every night one for herself and one for her son who had died in the battle of Metz. She gave her son's portion to poor passers by. 
- At the butchers one day Edmond saw a woman of a noble family queuing, for the first time in her life it seemed, for her ration of horse-meat. She burst into tears when she received the portion. He thought it was from the nervous-tension of the war. I wondered when I first read that if it wasn't some kind of awakening for her to the world of the ordinary Parisian.
- When the war ended, the chemist Berthelot suggested to Edmond the defeat happened because Prussian officers were methodical and organised and studied maps well in advance of carrying out orders. French officers, he said, turned up on the day and asked what was going on. Professor Howard's conclusion, with the benefit of 80 years hindsight, was exactly the same.
Needless to say, lessons learned by both countries in the ensuing decades: zero.

4/17/2014

Gabriel Garcia Marquez RIP


Al-Qaeda Leaders Hold Rally In Yemen


ABC US News | ABC Business News

Elections Algériennes : bientôt un fantôme à la tête du pays ?


Elections algériennes : bientôt un fantôme à la... by lemondefr

Gunmen attack Iraq military base, kill 12 soldiers

Gunmen attack Iraq military base, kill 12 soldiers | News , Middle East | THE DAILY STAR:

"The attack in the Mahallabiyah area west of the city of Mosul also wounded 15 soldiers.
Iraq is suffering a protracted surge in bloodshed that has killed more than 2,650 people so far this year despite numerous operations by the security forces to end the violence.
Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the capital, is regarded as one of the most dangerous areas in Iraq.
Militants frequently attack members of the security forces, some of whom lack training and discipline."

Ukraine's 'Anti-Terrorist' Operation Underway

New York 7th Avenue at Night, 1929 - Tavik Frantisek SImon


Obama and Missiles


4/16/2014

We Are All Human