Saturday, June 28, 2014

The 1900 Exposition Universelle Exhibit at the Petit Palais — Complete with a Display Room Dedicated to Paris Brothels

I don’t know how many people I heard gasping when they saw photos of the fabulous buildings created for the 1900 Exposition Universelle
marvels Stephen Clarke as he discusses "the fascinating exhibition at the Petit Palais" – Paris 1900
– of which the Petit Palais and Grand Palais are just two – and wondering aloud why the others weren’t preserved too. The river bank down to the Eiffel Tower was a façade of palaces instead of a busy road and a line of rather dull apartments, and the whole neighbourhood around the Tower was a patchwork of pavilions designed by the world’s most famous architects.
The author of Dirty Bertie: an English King Made in France goes on to reveal that he
was on a personal mission at the Petit Palais – I wanted to see how the city acknowledged the presence of one of its most influential people, the Prince of Wales, alias Dirty Bertie, the future King Edward VII. He was, after all, friendly (or more than friendly) with almost every French actress in the posters decorating the exhibition’s walls. He was the man who introduced Sarah Bernhardt to London (and took her along to high-society dinners to shock the snobs). And more seriously, he was the Englishman who was lobbying for closer ties with his friends across the Channel, at a time when most British politicians were spitting with rage over France’s support for the Boers. He was also calming his nephew the Kaiser, who was prone to outbursts of anti-French aggression (while cruising the Med, he “invaded” Morocco, just himself on a horse basically, to make a speech supporting Moroccan independence from France). By [maintaining] his close contacts with all of Europe’s leaders, Bertie was in fact protecting Europe’s balance of power, and in a way making France’s carefree 1900 lifestyle possible. So how was he acknowledged in the exhibition?

In a room dedicated to brothels. There – rather magnificently, I have to admit – was his love seat, the extraordinary piece of furniture he had built by a Parisian chairmaker, a cross between a gynecologist’s examination table and an art nouveau toboggan, with footplates to keep everyone in place and gilded woodwork to give the fornicatory proceedings a royal feel.

The chair was kept in Bertie’s private room at a luxury brothel called Le Chabanais, along with a bathtub that the exhibition, like everyone else, claims to have been filled with Champagne, which is almost certainly a lazy fantasy. Apart from the fact that you would need dozens of bottles to fill a bath, would anyone want to sit in the stuff, either chilled or (yuk) warm? You’d emerge smelling like a bar after closing time. No, much more likely, it was filled with conventional hot soapy water and used for frolicking, or to wash off the perfume and other liquids that might have come into contact with the royal skin. Après l’amour, the Prince had to go on to other appointments. He couldn’t step out reeking of brothel. And incidentally, the women would probably have made use of the bathwater too, their backstage living quarters being considerably less luxurious than the settings that the customers saw.

Anyway, the love seat, and a strangely-named engraving by Félix Vallotton – l’Étranger, ie the stranger or foreigner – were the only signs of Bertie’s presence in Paris. Vallotton’s engraving underlined the impression that Paris seemed to be almost ashamed of Bertie. We see a plump, top-hatted figure from the back as he chats up two smirking ladies of obviously ill repute, while a man in front bows reverently. It’s generally assumed that Bertie is the subject – he is the foreigner, the outsider, when he was in fact an integral, and vitally important, part of Parisian society. At the time, his presence at a theatre show could almost guarantee its success. He featured in novels by Proust and Zola, and Offenbach more or less wrote him into an operetta. His style, and that of his long-suffering wife Alexandra, were huge influences on Parisian fashion. Yet all he is in the exhibition is a buyer of brothel furniture and chatter-up of street girls. Not even a hint (as far as I could see) that three years later, against all expectations, the Entente Cordiale would be signed, largely thanks to Bertie.
Like I said, it’s a sumptuous exhibition, but it seems to be suffering from another case of France re-writing its own history.

Friday, June 27, 2014

What If Dan Quayle Had Misspelled the Name of a Previous Occupant of the White House?

The [White House's] press office misspelled the name of 40th president Ronald Reagan
reports Fox News
not once, but three times in media documents about President Obama's schedule on Wednesday.

In the version of Obama's schedule that is available online, Reagan's name is spelled "Regan."

"The President delivers remarks at the League of Conservation Voters Capitol Dinner (at the) Ronald Regan Building and International Trade Center," it says.

The Washington Times reports the name of the building was also misspelled twice on a daily email briefing sent to members of the media.
Remember Dan Quayle's "potatoes"? Imagine if it had been a Republican White House making a typo like that. We would never hear the end of it from the mainstream media.

Check out the difference between the never-ending treatment of Dubya's flubs and the hardly-touched-upon Obama mistakes, from his 57 states to his Austrian language through his mistaking an icy Atlantic Ocean group of islands (las Malvinas aka the Falklands) with a tropic Indian Ocean one (the Maldives)…  

What's worse, it shows how little interest liberals have in the past, it being all about them and about the outstanding, second-to-none policy changes they are about to embark upon for the country and for the good of their (clueless) countrymen.

Indeed, do not forget how blessed we are to have smart policies from the smartest (and the most intellectual?) administration ever.

Searching the Forests of Normandy for the MIAs of World War II

Benoît Hopquin has an article in Le Monde on the search for the lost allied soldiers of World War II, i.e., the aviators whose planes were shot down and whose bodies were never found.
Dans la forêt du hameau de Grattenoix, un petit monument régulièrement fleuri a été érigé au milieu de la haute futaie, au centre de quatre cratères envahis par les ronces et les orties. Ici s'écrasa, le 21 janvier 1944, un bombardier américain B-24 Liberator, abattu alors qu'il était en opération contre une rampe de fusées V1. Six des dix membres d'équipage purent sauter en parachute. Quatre furent faits prisonniers et deux pris en charge par la Résistance. Deux corps furent retrouvés et dignement inhumés. Mais les dépouilles mortelles du pilote, le lieutenant Franck W. Sobotka Jr, de New York, et du mécanicien, le sergent Clair P. Shaeffer, de Pennsylvanie, restèrent introuvables.

Le 2 février 1944, Anne Sobotka, la mère de Franck, reçut le télégramme type. Il l'informait « avec un profond regret » que son fils était déclaré « manquant à l'appel ». « Si nous recevons des informations plus précises, nous vous les notifierons avec promptitude », concluait la missive.


Près de soixante-dix ans après, en ce petit matin ensoleillé de septembre 2013, Ian Spurgeon attend devant la mairie de Beaussault pour tenter d'honorer cette promesse de l'Etat américain à la mère d'un combattant. L'historien serre dans un dossier une copie du vieux télégramme et quelques informations sur Sobotka et Shaeffer. Il est accompagné de Christine Cohn, une autre historienne, et de Joan Baker, une anthropologue et médecin légiste.

L'équipe arrive de Washington. Elle appartient au DPMO, le service de la défense chargé des prisonniers de guerre et des disparus. Dans le jargon peu sentimental du Pentagone, on appelle ces derniers les MIA, pour missing in action. Au dernier décompte, ils sont encore 73 624 soldats américains de la seconde guerre mondiale qui errent sans sépulture connue. Ils sont quelque part dans un fossé, un champ ou une forêt d'Europe, dans un coin de jungle d'Asie ou dans un pli de rocaille des îles du Pacifique.
Lire aussi : tous nos récits, portraits et reportages dans le dossier 1944 : la libération de la France
 … la mémoire locale s'étiole. Les paysages changent, ici avec la construction d'une route, là d'un immeuble. Les souvenirs deviennent plus vagues. Les témoins directs disparaissent un à un. Agée de 91 ans, Edmonde, la mère de Lionel Legrand, est une des dernières survivantes à avoir assisté au crash du B-24 le 21 janvier 1944.

Elle reçoit les visiteurs étrangers en blouse, dans sa maison cernée par les poules. Sans jamais lâcher son balai, elle raconte, tandis qu'une courageuse interprète traduit son français patoisant : le bombardier en perdition passant au-dessus de la maison en direction des « bouais », le fracas puis son père courant avec d'autres hommes du village vers le lieu du drame. Ian Spurgeon note ses informations dans un petit cahier jaune, remercie. …


Certaines quêtes obtiennent un dénouement inattendu. Le pilote Billie Dove Harris, de l'Oklahoma, s'était marié à Peggy six semaines avant de partir au front. Son avion fut abattu le 17 juillet 1944. La jeune veuve reçut des messages contradictoires, le disant mort, puis vivant, puis disparu. Elle resta avec cette incertitude et ne se remaria jamais.

Par un incroyable concours de circonstances et un non moins improbable raté de l'administration américaine, Peggy Harris devait apprendre, après plus de six décennies, que son mari était en fait enterré à Colleville. Mieux, une place avait été baptisée en son honneur dans un village normand, Les Ventes, lieu de son décès. Peggy Harris se rendit donc en Normandie et put se recueillir sur la tombe de son mari. Elle rencontra des vieux habitants du village qui lui racontèrent les circonstances de l'accident.

Pour l'heure, à Beaussault, les investigations s'arrêteront là. Le rapport du DPMO sera remis à un autre service au sigle tout aussi intraduisible, le JPAC, qui décidera ou non de l'utilité de procéder à des excavations. Franck Sobotka et Clair Shaeffer attendront encore un peu, là, quelque part dans la forêt de Grattenoix.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Guess Who Is Blamed by France's Newspaper of Record: After Over Five Years of Obama Presidency, Anything Wrong in Iraq Is Still All Bush's Fault

Barack Obama … is right
intones the editorial of France's daily Le Monde (Barack Obama is always right ; unlike, say, his predecessor who was always wrong, as we will discover later in the text)
– et ceux de ses adversaires politiques qui lui imputent la responsabilité de la situation en Irak ont tort ou affichent une mauvaise foi qui confine à l'indécence.

 … M. Obama est peut-être timide sur l'emploi de la force. Mais il faut une bonne dose d'impudence pour lui faire endosser la paternité des événements actuels en Irak. Hormis la part prise par les Irakiens dans leur propre malheur, la responsabilité première dans le démantèlement de l'Etat à Bagdad, dans la dissolution de l'armée, dans l'exacerbation des différends religieux et dans l'explosion du djihadisme en Irak repose d'abord sur celui qui décida d'envahir ce pays : George W. Bush.
In other words, Iraq, and the world, would be better off is only Saddam Hussein was still in power, sending his people to the death fields.

And how dare anybody even think of having the gall to raise their voice to put some of the opprobrium on Obama-the-merciful come to save the American people from itself and to apologize for all of America's past sins?!

To summarize: during the Bush years, everything was Bush's fault.

Electing a paragon like Obama — tolerant (like the Europeans), in harmony with the rest of the world (still like the Europeans) — would solve all the problems on the planet, while making the U.S. respected (and beloved) again.

Since then, we have had chemical massacres in Syria, a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Chinese threats in Southeast Asia. (Yes, yes, of course Assad, Putin, and Beijing have nothing but the utmost respect for Obama, and for America, a deeper love you will never see!)

Over five (!) years after Obama's election, who is responsible? It's... still Dubya!

(While on the internal front, everything is the fault of the… Republicans…)

The extreme violence of the assault on June 6, 1944? The Sounds on D-Day Were Soothing

A Frenchman with a German name, Maxime J E Heinisch, writes to the New York Times from Toulouse to say Merci
Every June 6, I, a young Frenchman, remember that I have had the chance to live my life because some foreigners gave theirs, and that many of these lives ended up on the sand without having the chance to fire or fight, a sacrifice that left most of them alone with fear while crossing over to the other side, literally and figuratively.

Every June 6, I remember the words from my grandparents that were all about soothing sounds: the quiet of the crepe soles of the American troops contrasting with those of the invader, or the smooth whistling of gliders landing quietly in the fields. It seemed to them that war’s deafening noises were vanishing with the Allied armies coming.

Every June 6, I also remember my hand full of cartridge cases, when at 9 I discovered Normandy’s beaches: There were so many in the gravel that my schoolmates and I at first thought that someone had spread them around.

On that sunny day, I felt the extreme violence of the assault, and as soon as I was back home, I pinned up the Star and Stripes and United States Army patches on the walls of my bedroom. This was the only way for me to say thank you at that time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

We don’t live in a sane culture, we live in a feminist culture; instead of curbing the worst instincts of women, our culture instead amplifies them

Women are hard wired to wonder if they aren’t missing out on something.  Could they find a better man?  Do they have enough money, the right clothes and shoes?  Are they being treated well enough by their husbands, and at their job?  
A Dalrock post linked by Instapundit links in turn to another, previous Dalrock post entitled The Whispers, which is worth quoting on its own.
I think this pretty neatly fits with the concept of hypergamy, and it does serve a biological purpose.  Women need to make sure they choose the best mate possible, and that they have the status and means to care for the child.

But constantly wondering if what you have is enough isn’t always a virtue;  in the wrong context (most of modern life) it is a prescription for unhappiness.  Not just their unhappiness, but that of their family, especially their children.  A sane culture would curb the dangerous part of this tendency.  It would caution women of the danger of never being happy, as the Brothers Grimm tale The Fisherman’s Wife does (post pending).

But then again we don’t live in a sane culture, we live in a feminist culture.   Feminism’s founding motto is “I never get to have any fun!”  Instead of curbing the worst instincts of women, our culture instead amplifies them.

Here’s an experiment you can try on your own.  Find a five year old, and ask them why did all of your friends get ice cream today and you didn’t? or  why are all of their toys better than yours? Find a bunch of toys they don’t have which look like they would be really great to play with.  Then ask them why their parents don’t love them enough to buy them for them.  For best results, taunt them relentlessly every day.  Wake them up in the middle of the night and ask why their classmates get to sleep in a more comfortable bed than they do.  At breakfast ask them if they think their classmates are eating better food right now.  Find new and interesting things they should feel slighted about.  Try this for say, 30 years.

Now test and see if they are happy.
Read the whole thing™ and check out quotes from Stephen Baskerville's Taken Into Custody (The War Against Fathers, Marriage, and the Family).

As for Instapundit readers, also check out what has to say:
Thing is, I think women in general have *always* been status-conscious when it comes to their relationships with men. Women (again, in general) are obsessed with relationships, period. The never-ending comparisons, check lists, gossip, the microscopic parsing of every conversation, every nuance of every syllable in a conversation with That Man ... this is as old as the hills & hasn't really changed since wimmins were wearing bearskins & grinding meal with stone. This is what wimmins do.

What has changed are the cultural & technological contexts.

Too many to list, but we are aware of the biggies: material affluence, labor-saving machines in the home, mass media, huge changes in law & labor force participation, artificial contraception, feminization of the culture at large, radical moral autonomy & sexual license in place of traditional Judeo-Christian concepts of marriage & family, etc etc.

The combination of all these is a toxic brew exacerbating what have always been women's unfortunate tendencies towards relationship nit-picking, status-checking & insecurity. The physical harshness of life, the lack of a mass media echo chamber, the prominence of traditional religion, social taboos against and legal obstacles to divorce, used to act as strong restraints on excessive dwelling on discontent & fantasies of ditching one's familial & marital obligations ISO the elusive "carefree" life.

Those restraints for the most part have faded & been dismantled, but the less-than-admirable psychological, emotional & behavioral tendencies they held in check did not go away. So we now have the dismal portrait of what a society looks like when unrealistic expectations in relationships and marriage are a dime a dozen, selfishness is hyped and rewarded, neurosis is coddled, promiscuity romanticized & celebrated, and happiness is the ever-elusive mechanical rabbit that keeps the dogs racing around and around the track.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Myths of World War I Debunked and the BBC's Debunking List Debunked in Turn

The BBC presents an opinion piece called 10 big myths about World War One debunked, but a couple of Instapundit readers do a good job of debunking the Dan Snow article in turn, mainly JMH:
The BBC "Myth" article is mostly a crock. Good God, have they forgotten so much over there? The "myths" that they are correct about are mostly ones I've never heard anyone mention.

1. Bloodiest war in history to that point: They're right about this.
2. Most soldiers died - never heard anyone make this claim. BBC made it up so they could debunk it.
3. Men lived in trenches for years on end - No, but they didn't spend three days there either. Men lived in detestable conditions for weeks on end.
4. The Upper Class Got off Lightly: Never, ever, heard anyone make this claim either. Anyone with any knowledge of WWI knows this isn't true. Again, they made it up so they would have something to debunk.
5. Lions led by Donkeys: The source of the quote is in dispute, but the truth of the claim is not. The British had terrible generals throughout the war, especially at the top. Donkeys doesn't mean they were cowards (they weren't), it means they were stupid and stubborn (they were).
6. Gallipoli - yes, there were British soldiers in the general area, but the ANZACs were the ones landed on the wrong beaches and stuck in an untenable position.
7. Tactics remained unchanged - yes, yes they did. This is not a myth, it's truth, at least as far as the British were concerned. The Germans did learn new tactics. The French didn't necessarily change tactics, but they changed strategies. The British donkeys stubbornly stuck to the same failed tactics year after year.
8. No one won - Of the six Great Powers (Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, France. UK, Ottomans) that started the war, two (Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire) no longer existed at the end, two more (Germany, Russia) saw their governments ended and replaced by new forms, and the final two (France and the UK) lost so many men, they were no longer World Powers at the end of the war. So, yes, it's true that no one won.
9. Versailles - Was it harsh, or was it just stupid and misguided? At the time it was called the Peace to end all Peace.
10. Everyone hated it - oh, so somebody who got a cush, rear-echelon job where he could make time with the lonely ladies didn't mind it, eh? Idiots.
Related: also check out Debunking Three Big Myths of World War I

While discussing who bears the responsibility for starting the conflict, JMH goes on to add that
Germany started it if you blame the Schlieffen plan for leaving Germany no other option for responding to Russian mobilization but invading France.

Russia started it if you blame them for mobilizing against Austria despite clear warnings from Germany that would mean war with Germany.

France started it if you blame them for egging the Russians on against Austria because their government wanted a war with Germany before Germany got any stronger and while Russia was their ally.

Austria started it if you blame them for using the death of a noble they didn't even like as a pretext for subjugating Serbia.

Germany started it if you blame them for supporting Austria's strong-arming of Serbia out of fear that they couldn't lose Austria as an ally because everyone else was allied against Germany.

Serbia started it if you blame them for shooting the Austrian Crown Prince as an act of pointless, idiotic terror.

Britain started it if you blame them for not just effing declaring a side before Germany gave Austria the green light. If they'd said they would be on Frances side, Germany would have restrained Austria. If they'd said they were going to sit it out, France would have refused to support Russia. Instead they dithered, and let everyone believe what they wanted.

Or, you can blame the Ottomans for the centuries of mis-rule that created the ethnic and religious powderkeg in the Balkans and the final decades of collapse that set everyone else scrambling for the pickings.

Or, finally, I supposed if you are Barack Obama, you can blame George W. Bush. Or maybe a hard drive crash. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

No one is afraid of big, bad America anymore — This is what it looks like when the world’s only superpower decides it’s going to get in touch with its inner self

This is What Declining American Power Looks Like
writes Benny Huang
Emperor Nero was said to have played the fiddle while Rome burned; Barrack Obama was busy working on his golf game while Iraq did the same. According to his press secretary Jay Carney, the president was fully engaged in that whole Iraq thing while he chipped  and putted his way across Porcupine Creek, an exclusive golf club.

And maybe that’s where he should have been. I don’t know.
 … A little known fact about Obama is that he has fired more hellfire missiles that any other Nobel Peace Prize winner!
So he isn’t afraid to pull the trigger and make bad guys die. Yet despite using drones like playtoys, Obama’s presidency marks an American retreat. I’ll leave that up to the reader to determine whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I know some conservatives and some liberals who can agree that sitting out the next global conflict would be just what the doctor ordered.

Where did it all begin? If I had to put a finger on it, I would say that it began in April of 2009 when, in the midst of his world apology tour, Mr. Obama bowed to the Saudi king. American presidents have not traditionally bowed before foreign leaders. We fought a revolution so that we wouldn’t have to. Though he lied and said that his obvious bow was not a bow, liberals pooh-poohed the whole thing, and pretty soon he was bowing to the Emperor of Japan, the president of China, a robot, and probably the bellhop at his hotel.

The message was clear: We’re not the same superpower we once were. We have been humbled.

Then he began making deep cuts to the military, which is usually a popular thing to do when most people have been deluded into believing that the military receives more funding than welfare programs or education, a preposterous lie. Proposed personnel cuts would reduce the Army in size to a number not seen since 1940. The future of the A-10 Thunderbolt, every infantryman’s best friend, is uncertain due to budget cuts. Long-held garrisons in Europe are being closed.

Not surprisingly, the bad guys of the world are misbehaving. In Egypt, a “pro-democracy” movement that looked suspiciously like a pro-Shariah law movement swept Hosni Mubarak, an American ally, from power. Russia tore away a piece of its neighbor, the Ukraine, without any fear of reprisal from the US or NATO. In Syria, Bashar Assad defied Obama’s “red lines” and (likely) used chemical weapons against his own people. In Iraq, a fledging force of Islamists is routing the Iraqi Army and taunting the United States.

This is what it looks like when the world’s only superpower decides it’s going to get in touch with its inner self.

American fingers have been plugging holes in too many levees for far too long. We’ve held back the North Koreans from attacking their southern cousins, but for how much longer? How many small former satellite states will Putin decide to invade? What’s to prevent China from taking Taiwan? If the Iranians create a worldwide economic catastrophe by blockading the Strait of Hormuz, who will stop them?

Not us. No one is afraid of big, bad America anymore.

It’s clear that the United States has been overextended. In every corner of the world, wherever there is a conflict, the United States picks a side and attempts to influence outcomes using hard or soft power. No other country takes foreign policy to such extremes. Never in the history of the world has one country attempted to do so much—pledging to defend nations such as Japan, Taiwan, and Germany, using its navy to fight piracy and keep the world’s shipping lanes open, battling the narcotics trade, and responding to humanitarian disasters. We do it all!

Whether we can keep doing it is doubtful. Besides the fact that we’re in debt, the young people of our nation, like most of their peers in post-industrial nations, aren’t joining the military in droves.
Yet we should not forget that the news we’re hearing now about the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, about ISIS in Iraq, and about a truculent Russian Federation, are really stories about declining American power. This is what happens when Team America: World Police decides to turn in its badge.