Pinocchio Nose’s reply to those who would let dead dictators be

One of the more intriguing aspects of blogging is the comments one receives. Most posts, at least on this blog, receive no more than a handful of replies, but they tend to be thoughtful, articulate and often complimentary, for which I’m appreciative.

There is of course, the occasional anti-Semitic rant, which seems to be nothing more than boilerplate rubbish sent out on a semi-regular basis to posts that, say, identify the Nazis for what they were: A genocidal regime led by a ruthless tyrant and an array of sycophants. These mindless rants are easy enough to identify and delete, however.

Sometimes, though, one gets a comment that is both odd and intriguing.

I recently received a comment on a story that I posted back in November 2011 regarding then-ongoing debate about what Spain should do regarding the resting place of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco.

At the time, there was discussion about whether Franco’s body should be removed from Valle de los Caídos, or Valley of the Fallen, a sensitive historical site near Madrid, and reburied elsewhere.

The Valley of the Fallen is a Catholic basilica and memorial conceived to honor those who fell during the Spanish Civil War. It contains the remains of nearly 34,000 individuals.

Despite the fact that my post contained no commentary either way on whether Franco, who died in 1975, nearly 40 years after the end of the Spanish Civil War, should be buried among the victims of the brutal conflict, someone, albeit rather late, took umbrage with the fact that I deigned to touch on the controversy.

“Mind your own business and we shall mind ours; don’t poke your Pinocchio nose into everything,” they wrote, although I did take the liberty of cleaning up the comment to make it easier on the eyes. (The original can be seen in the comments section here.)

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Italian cataclysm forged on Pact of Steel

pact of steel photo

The three main Axis powers of World War II made for an improbable combination. Imperial Japan seemed an unlikely partner for Nazi Germany, considering the latter’s focus on racial purity and the “master race.”

Both nations, however, were militaristic and bent on expansion, and both were at opposite ends from a common foe – the Soviet Union – so there was much in the union that made sense.

Germany’s alliance with Italy, however, was much less logical, at least from the Italian point of view.

Outside of being led by a pair of dictators who embraced fascism, there was actually a great deal of difference between Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany when the Pact of Steel uniting the two countries was signed 75 years ago this month.

The two nations had fought on different sides in World War I, with Italy being a member of the victorious allies that laid down what Germans saw as the draconian terms of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. And while Germany lost the First World War, it acquitted itself well while Italy’s performance was seen by many as less than spectacular.

Despite having invaded and captured Abyssinia (today’s Ethiopia) in the mid-1930s, assisted Franco in the Spanish Civil War and taken over Albania in 1939, Mussolini knew his country suffered from a number of military shortcomings.

It had relatively few tanks and those it did have were of poor quality; its artillery was of World War I variety; and the nation’s primary fighter was a biplane that was obsolete compared to monoplanes used by the other major countries. Also, while the Italian navy did have several modern battleships, it had no aircraft carriers.

Italy recognized its military inadequacies. Under terms of the Pact of Steel it was stipulated that neither country was to make war without the other earlier than 1943.

But recognizing his military was ill-prepared Mussolini declined to get involved when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939.

Italy finally joined the conflict on June 10, 1940, mostly because Mussolini, having seen the lightning speed with which Germany was dispatching its European foes, was afraid he’d get none of the spoils.

On June 17, 1940, the day France sought surrender terms from Germany, Mussolini ordered an Italian invasion of southern France.

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Nun dies after 86 years of cloistered life

The Papal Conclave Day Two

One can’t help but be awe-struck at some of the facts surrounding the life of Sister Teresita Barajuen, a Spanish nun who died this week.

For one, she was 105 years old and had spent almost all of the past 86 years as a cloistered nun in the Buenafuente del Sistal Monastery northeast of Madrid.

Cloistered nuns live contemplative lives in which they spend much of their time praying.

They usually have little or no contact with the outside world and live in structures that prevent them looking outside their enclosures, and also keep neighbors from seeing into the court-yards or gardens used by the nuns.

Sister Teresa, as she was known, entered the Cistercian monastery when she was 19, many years before the onset of the Spanish Civil War which devastated the nation.

Except for the period of 1936-39 conflict which caused the nuns to flee from the fighting, Sister Teresa lived her entire life as a nun in the Buenafuente del Sistal Monastery, according to the website

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Is independence in Catalonia’s future?

The drive for self-determination doesn’t appear to be fading in Catalonia, the northeast corner of Spain which accounts for one-fifth of Spain’s economic output and one-seventh of its population.

The region’s ruling party, which supports more autonomy from Spain, suffered a setback in this past weekend’s elections, seeing its total seats in the provincial parliament fall from 62 to 50.

Despite their setback, the governing Convergence and Union alliance said Catalans backed the party’s proposal for referendum on independence from Spain.

Indeed, support for another pro-independence group, the Republican Left of Catalonia, surged from 10 seats to 21, Agence France-Presse reported.

As a result, pro-sovereignty parties from right and left have a clear combined majority.

“But the prospects of them joining in battle for a new nation of 7.5 million people remain uncertain,” the wire service added.

Catalonia has long had an independent streak.

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German Stuka being pulled from Baltic

The Stuka dive bomber gained notoriety in the opening hours of World War II when the German aircraft, with sirens wailing, dropped bombs on the Polish town of Wielun, killing some 1,200 civilians in what is considered one of the first terror bombings in history.

Stukas produced a distinctive wail as they dove nearly vertical to release their payload or strafe civilians or military targets with their machine guns. The piercing siren is still a mainstay of World War II videos shown today.

This week, German military divers are working to hoist the wreck of a Stuka dive bomber from the floor of the Baltic Sea, one of the few known Stukas still in existence in any condition, according to The Associated Press.

Divers have been working over the past week to prepare the bomber to be hoisted to the surface, using fire hoses to carefully free it from the sand. They have already brought up smaller pieces and also hauled up its motor over the weekend, the wire service reported.

They are now working to free the main 30-foot fuselage piece and expect to bring it up on today if weather permits, said Capt. Sebastian Bangert, a spokesman from the German Military Historical Museum in Dresden, which is running the recovery operation.

Initial reports are that the fuselage is in good condition despite having spent the last seven decades at the bottom of the sea, he said.

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Judge on trial for probing Franco-era crimes

Evidence that Spain still has not come to grips with the atrocities of its 1936-39 civil war may be implied from the fact that a Spanish judge is on trial in Madrid not for being an alleged culprit in the crimes but for investigating them.

Baltasar Garzon is being prosecuted for ordering the investigation in 2008 into the disappearance of 114,000 people during Spain’s civil war and General Francisco Franco’s subsequent dictatorship.

Garzon is charged with overreaching his powers by trying to prosecute the atrocities despite an amnesty agreed to in 1977 as Spain moved towards democracy two years after Franco’s death, according to Agence France-Presse.

While he does not face jail time, Garzon could receive a 20-year ban from the legal profession that would effectively end his career, according to the wire service.

Amazingly, Garzon’s trial marks the first time any Spanish court has heard testimony about Franco-era atrocities:

The first witness, Maria Martin, recalled how in 1936 when she was just six her mother was jailed and then shot dead, and her body dumped into a mass grave on the side of a road in the central town of Pedro Bernardo.

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Spanish commission: Move Franco’s body

Evidence that Spain continues to grapple with the lingering effects of dictator Francisco Franco’s nearly four decades of authoritarian rule can be found in the ongoing debate over whether his body should be exhumed from its resting place in a mausoleum near Madrid and reburied elsewhere.

An official commission Tuesday endorsed transferring Franco’s remains to a place “designated by the family, or to a place considered worthy and more suitable,” it said in a report.

Franco’s family has said it opposes his body being removed from Valle de los Caídos, or Valley of the Fallen, a sensitive historical site near Madrid, according to Agence France-Presse.

The Valley of the Fallen is a Catholic basilica and a monumental memorial erected at Cuelgamuros Valley in the Sierra de Guadarrama. It was conceived by Franco to honor those who fell during the Spanish Civil War and constructed on his orders between 1940 and 1958.

The commission of lawyers said in their report that the site should be officially designated as a memorial for victims of both sides in the conflict and Franco’s remains should be removed because he did not die in the war, but rather of natural causes in 1975, according to a Huffington Post report.

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