Heir of last Austrian monarch: WWI inevitable

WWI_British_cemetery_at_Abbeville

The grandson of the last emperor of Austria-Hungary believes no one nation was responsible for World War I, and that if the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June 1914 hadn’t triggered the conflict another event would have.

Karl Habsburg-Lothringen, grandson of Charles I, who ruled Austria-Hungary from 1916 until the end of the war two years later, told a group of European newspapers earlier this month that his family should not be blamed for causing the conflict that cost more than 10 million lives.

“If you were to simplify it, you could say that the shooting (of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary) in Sarajevo started the First World War,” he said. “But if there hadn’t been the shooting in Sarajevo, it would have kicked off three weeks later somewhere else.”

The fatal shooting of Franz Ferdinand, the heir to Austro-Hungarian throne, on June 28, 1914, by 19-year-old Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip is widely held to have begun a chain reaction that dragged much of Europe, including Russia, Germany, France and Britain, into war.

“It would be wrong to point the finger at one state,” Habsburg-Lothringen said. “If you do that, you would have to take into account that there were already significant tensions, especially between Germany and Russia, who had already started to mobilize their troops along the borders.”

Instead, Habsburg-Lothringen, 53, pointed to nationalism and militarism among the leading European nations as among the main causes for the war.

“Many were already in the starting blocks, waiting for the great conflict,” he said. “If you had to blame someone, then the greatest blame would lie with nationalism itself.”

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A grudging nod to the ‘crusading’ spammer

crusades

It’s taken more than five years of blogging, but I’ve finally come across a spammer who has grudgingly earned my respect.

A recent search of my spam folder showed the usual array of half-assed unsolicited emails, ranging from “Toronto Escorts” (sorry, I’m not an “escort” kind of guy and if I were, I wouldn’t travel 1,500 miles to be “escorted”), to sites for cosmetic surgery loans and cellulite diets.

And, of course, there were the usual abusers of English grammar: “My family members all the time say that I am killing my time here at net, however I know I am getting familiarity daily by reading thes fastidious content.”

But tucked amid the above detritus was this gem, appended on to a post I had written about the gruesome reality of the American Civil War: “This takes into account the view of the Latin Church and medieval contemporaries such as Saint Bernard of Clairvaux that gave equal precedence to comparable military campaigns against pagans, heretics and many undertaken for political reasons. This wider definition includes the persecution of heretics in Southern France, the political conflict between Christians in Sicily, the Christian re-conquest of Spain and the conquest of heathens in the Baltic.”

Oh, this was still spam; the comment came from an individual promoting a Spanish-language herbal remedy website.

But it was several notches above the usual unsolicited monstrosities that are the bane of electronic communication.

Given the nature of the comment and the fact that it had to do with war, if not the War Between the States, I decided to attempt to seek the source of the comment.

It took just a few moments to discover the comment was taken directly from Wikipedia’s definition of the Crusades, specifically, the 20th century description of the Crusades as inclusive of all military efforts against either foes in the Middle East or Europe, at the direction of the Papacy.

So, it appeared, someone had taken the time to cut and paste this comment, rather than randomly generating barely decipherable text – think “All your base are belong to us” – or, as another spammer did, sending a useless shill: “Coach Jerseys – 5850 yuan to 3510 yuan.” (I’ll get back to you after I get my yuan-to-dollars converter fixed.)

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Where does Tillman statue fit in SC’s future?

Ben Tillman Statue

Earlier this month a Charleston writer took out a full-page advertisement in The State, the daily newspaper of Columbia, SC, calling for the removal of a statue of former governor and US senator Ben Tillman from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds.

Will Moredock has long advocated for the removal of the imposing statue of Tillman, an unabashed racist who perhaps more than anyone else in South Carolina came to embody the evils of post-Reconstruction racism.

Pitchfork Ben Tillman never hid his hatred for blacks or his efforts to maintain white supremacy.

“We have done our level best [to prevent blacks from voting] … we have scratched our heads to find out how we could eliminate the last one of them,” he said in 1900. “We stuffed ballot boxes. We shot them. We are not ashamed of it.”

Tillman’s populist rabble-rousing and first class demagoguery got him elected governor in 1890, turning out the conservative Bourbons, and he was re-elected two years later.

In 1894, he was appointed to the US Senate, where he served until his death in 1918, and he never missed a chance to voice his narrow-minded sentiments.

Tillman is said to have pioneered the use of race to mobilize white voters, and historian James M. McPherson has claimed that Tillman “created the model for two generations of Southern ‘demagogues.’”

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Grad to world: I deserve more, now!

Narcissus-Caravaggio

The Huffington Post has always seemed a bit of an odd creature. Described as an online news aggregator and blog, the site offers news and original content, and covers a variety of topics, including politics, entertainment, culture and comedy.

Yours truly isn’t a regular reader of The Huffington Post, but when I came across a story about a 24-year-old recent college graduate unhappy with the low pay associated with her first job – titled “I Feel Like I’m Just Starting My Life And I’m Already Miles And Miles Behind” – I initially thought it was a parody, something along the lines of The Onion.

Consider this excerpt from a first-person account by Monica Simon, a Penn State grad who works full time at an online advertising firm in Philadelphia and earns $23,000 a year after taxes:

“I like it, but it doesn’t pay as well as I’d like it to. So I’ve looked around for other jobs. But really, I can’t find any. I’m thinking about going back to school because I’m not even sure at this point if this job is going to hold out in the future. Right now I’m just up in the air on what steps to take next.”

Comic genius, right? Sadly, no. In fact, there’s more real-life woe-is-me bleating:

“I probably take in about $1,800 a month. My anxiety is constantly high about bills I have to pay,” Simon writes. “My student loans make me so nervous because I have my family co-sign on them. It’s not just my credit on the line. It’s theirs, too. That’s a constant anxiety that I have.

“Sometimes I get paid and then I have, maybe, $150 left over for the two weeks,” she adds. “I really don’t have enough for food and gas, so I rely a lot on my credit cards. I just feel I’m getting way behind where I want to be for my age. I feel I’m just starting my life and I’m already miles and miles behind.”

That’s right, this is no parody. This is an adult woman who is whining because her first job doesn’t, it appears, allow her to assume the lifestyle she expected to walk into right out of college.

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Turning a sharp eye on the ‘good-old days’

child's grave

David Boaz of the Cato Institute pulls excerpts from three books to demonstrate how different – and difficult – life was not too many generations ago.

The first is from a Washington Post review of Flyover Lives, a family memoir by Diane Johnson, and describes, among other things, the once all-too-common reality of infant mortality:

It must be just about impossible for a denizen of middle-class 21st-century America to imagine the toil and suffering that Catharine Martin [born 1800] and her counterparts underwent every day: living in crude houses – mere huts when they first settled in Illinois and elsewhere – slaving at open fires to prepare food for their families, and worst of all watching children fall ill and having nothing in their powers to help them: ‘Within a year of her marriage, with the fated fertility of women then, Catharine had her first baby, and named her Catharine Anne, after herself. They called her Sissie. This baby was followed by Charlotte Augusta in 1830 and Martha Olivia in 1831. When they were one, three, and five years old, all three little girls died in the space of a week or two.’ Catharine herself was ill but survived to write many years later: ‘When I got up, my house was empty, three little prattlers all gone, not one left.’

Having walked through many an older cemetery and seen family plots with several infant gravestones – sometimes a half-dozen or more – next to those of their parents, I can only wonder at the grief previous generations often had to endure, and their ability to do so.

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Ivan the Terrible: Bite and bark were equal

Ivan_Terrible painting

Ivan the Terrible possesses one of history’s great nicknames, and he apparently came by it honestly.

While Ivan (1530-1584) oversaw the transformation of Russia from a medieval state to an emerging regional power and was the first ruler to be crowned as Tsar of All the Russias, he was also given to bouts of cruelty and in fact killed his own son, the heir apparent, when he struck him with his scepter during an argument (depicted above).

Ivan was assumed power in 1547, but it wasn’t until later that his malevolent character became clearer.

In 1553 Ivan suffered a near-fatal illness and a few years later his wife Anastasia died.

In what would appear to be a common theme among Russian tyrants, Ivan suspected treason, specifically that nobles had poisoned Anastasia and were plotting to remove him from power.

Russia was already experiencing difficult times and Ivan’s mood was further darkened when one of his advisors, Prince Andrei Kurbsky, defected to a rival power, Lithuania, where he took command of the Lithuanian troops and devastated the Russian region of Velikiye Luki.

This only made Ivan more paranoid of Russian nobility.

In the winter of 1564, Ivan secretly left Moscow, declaring that he wanted to abdicate.

The panicked populace called for his return and, after some time, Ivan agreed but on his own terms – demanding absolute power to punish anyone he believed was disloyal, according to the website Russiapedia.

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Reality strips away some of Civil War’s glory

Cold_Harbor_burial_party

American Civil War aficionados marking the sesquicentennial of the conflict are gearing up to remember what was probably the bloodiest year of the 1861-65 struggle.

From Grant’s Overland Campaign and the Siege of Petersburg to the Red River Campaign, the Atlanta Campaign and year-end battles at Franklin and Nashville, 1864 was one long year of attrition in which a seemingly endless supply of Union forces ground down their Confederate counterparts.

By year-end, the war was within a few months of being over, though that fact was hardly evident at the time.

While the War Between the States was heavily covered by journalists – both US and foreign – by the spring of 1865 reporters were as eager as soldiers to return to their homes.

Given that Southern newspapers were in short supply due to war devastation and Northern papers were busy focusing on happenings in Washington DC following the end of the conflict, there was little actually being written about what life was like in the immediate aftermath in many of the battle-ravaged areas.

Boston writer John Townsend Trowbridge was dispatched south in the fall of 1865 with an interesting mission: Travel the scenes of the recent conflict and describe battlefields, the plight of the Southern people, the mood of the region and the condition of recently freed blacks.

First published in 1866 under the title A Picture of the Desolated States and the Work of Restoration, Trowbridge’s work has been reissued under different titles, including The Desolate South: 1865-1866, and, simply, The South.

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