Saturday, February 27, 2010

Healthcare update

Many Americans watched the great health care square table summit, ostensibly to give Republicans a chance to give their input into a bill which Obama says is set in stone. It was defeatist and futile from the onset, but it gave me a chance to see how polarized the two parties are and how they just used the occasion to repeat their talking points. At least that is what I came away with from my hour or so watching of the non-event.

The Democrats talked about our moral responsibility to pass universal health care, and the Republicans talked about the equal need for fiscal responsibility. I personally think we need a big dose of both, not one or the other.

Some of you may suspect that I am not in favor of big government. I sort of like government by the people rather than government by the government. However, the deep need for some things have made me moderate my position for some big causes. Health care is one of those exceptions.

I have blogged about this before, and I made a list of the things I wanted. That list has been refined after a year of debate. Some things are still the same.

1. I want everyone to be covered. No exceptions.

2. I want everyone to participate in both the coverage and the payments for it.

3. "Everyone" means nobody gets to opt out or have their own special plan. Not even congress.

4. There must be one price for everyone. No special people and special low risk pools. One pool. Everyone is in that pool.

5. Every disease and injury is covered. Elective things like cosmetic surgery is not covered.

6. People who abuse the system go to jail.

One problem: the bill they came up with doesn't do this. Did we not say that congress would screw this up? Ha!

What do we do about insurance companies who now employ zillions of people?

Do we get to choose our own company still? (I don't want the government as my insurance company, friendly and compassionate and efficient as they are.)

Do we get to go across state lines to choose a company? Why would we want to if all charged the same and covered the same?

Where does the competition come from if all companies charge the same and cover the same?

How about all the people who don't have to pay because they made wrong life choices and don't have any money? I mean, are we going to do anything to make them go to work, or just pay their way? A lot of them are deserving and have nowhere to turn. But a lot of them just chose not to work as hard as others did or educated themselves. Will there be some justice there? Will they get to do some work for us one day a week? No? Not fair to them? Well, so be it.

A work in progress.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Racial hygiene

Integral to the Theory of Evolution is the concept of Natural Selection. Survival of the fittest. We can see this taking place in nature all around us and no one disputes the phenomenon; "survival of the fittest" is fact, not theory.

While "survival of the fittest" implies species improvement in the hit and miss natural state, "selective breeding" arrives at the same end much faster and by design. Selective breeding produces purebred dogs, cattle, race horses. It has been going on for a very long time and is a well-accepted practice.

But what about "pedigree" in humans?

Eugenics is the study and practice of selective breeding applied to humans. The aim is the same: improvement of the species. This usually really means "improving human genetic qualities." Advocates of eugenics seek to purify the human gene pool. Like thoroughbred horses, only humans.

Can this be a way to eradicate disease? Increase average IQ? Create a race of super humans?

Of course, just as in dog breeding, one would have to cull the litter. Not only would you have to choose the best male and females to mate, you would have to destroy the weak and sickly and defective, so they couldn't breed and contaminate the super race.

Germany following World War One was ripe for a Hitler, I have postulated, because of a need for both a savior and a scapegoat to achieve some sort of national redemption. Hitler was the savior; the Jews were the scapegoat. It goes deeper than that, though. If you read about the Thule Society, as suggested in an earlier post, then you know a little bit of background on the Aryan or Indo-Aryan race theories that seemed to be held by Hitler and his cronies.

During the 1920s and 1930s, a huge number of "dispossessed" run-of-the-mill Germans seemed to have bought into this "super race" theory as well. If you are a doormat, perhaps you dream of being something more worthy and special again; perhaps you become disposed to listen to people who promise to lead you back to self-respect, even greatness. People like Hitler and Goebbels. Perhaps you join the Nazi party. Perhaps you don't, but you believe anyway.

The Jews were only the beginning. There was a long list of "mongrels" and weaklings that would need to be purged if the Aryan race was to rise to its proper place in the scheme of human Natural Selection.

"Life unworthy of life"

Between 1939 and 1945, the German SS systematically killed between 11 and 14 million people.

The murder of 6 million Jews is well-known, but the list was much longer than Jews. Non-Jewish Poles, Communists, political opponents, members of resistance groups, homosexuals, Roma ("Gypsies"), the physically handicapped, the mentally deficient, Soviet prisoners of war (perhaps as many as 3 million), Jehovah's Witnesses, Adventists, trade unionists, psychiatric patients. And this doesn't even count the people who died simply of slave labor, starvation and disease in concentrations camps, and as a result of medical experimentation.

The first to go were the children with physical or developmental disabilities.

Then there were the medical experiments.

I sincerely hope your mind and sensibilities are such that you cannot begin to imagine the extent of these ghoulish horrors. Descriptions and even photos are available on the web. Do yourself a favor and don't look them up. I almost puked.

Quite simply, the Nazi doctors tortured Jewish and Gypsy children, and many others. Operations without anesthetics, "patients" put in pressure chambers, drug testing, castrations, frozen to death and exposed to countless traumas. The "Angel of Death", Josef Mengele, had his own infamous experiments on twins. Afterwards they were usually murdered and dissected.

After the war, many of Hitler's henchmen were tested and found to be quite psychologically normal. They were men of fine standing in their communities. They were husbands who kissed their wives. They were fathers who tucked their children into bed.

Then they went out and tortured little children, brutalized women, gassed millions, performed hideous experiments.

The word "villain" falls short here, if we are looking for sources of literary character development.

No, here we get into the realm of unspeakable monsters; things you are afraid to look at in the dark; real-life Bogeymen.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


If you are a novelist, rejection is part of the game. Not just novelists, of course, but writing novels is what I am reading up on right now. It seems there are a lot of good novels out there that have been rejected by publishers. That makes sense, I guess, but rejection by publishers is weird. Some of you already know that I feel traditional publishers are becoming obsolete, and will become more so as more and more authors start questioning just what it is they are really getting from publishers. But that is another post.

THIS post is to remind myself that publishers are not all-knowing experts - not even in the fields they are supposed to be specializing in. For example:

On the current fiction best seller list is a book called THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett. Ms Stockett says she stopped counting her rejections for this book at 45.

A WRINKLE IN TIME was rejected by 26 publishers.

Still think Publishers are smart and that you should listen to their criticism? HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE, WATERSHIP DOWN, THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, DUNE, AND GONE WITH THE WIND were all rejected. I'm sure you have your own list.

There are many quotes I have found that are meant to inspire writers not to give up. Here are a few:

“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.”–Barbara Kingsolver

“I discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, “To hell with you.”–Saul Bellow

“Talent is helpful in writing, but guts are absolutely essential.” –Jessamyn West

“We keep going back, stronger, not weaker, because we will not allow rejection to beat us down. It will only strengthen our resolve. To be successful there is no other way.” –Earl G. Graves, founder and publisher of Black Enterprise Magazine


Rejections or not, most of us are not going to stop writing. People who love to write, who MUST write, don't stop writing because they get a rejection slip. Or 1000 rejection slips. If my poetry is too bad to even blog, I will still keep writing it. If you love to write stories and create characters, you are not going to stop writing either.

If you are a writer who simply MUST get published by a "real" publisher, then perseverance is the order of the day, to be sure. If you write for yourself, mostly, that part doesn't matter. On the other hand, if you have a finished product that you know is good, that you truly believe in, there is no reason, in today's age of on-demand book printing and assisted listing, that you can't self publish it. Just make sure your confidence is confirmed by people whose literary opinion you value (not relatives!) before you take this step or you will be out your 300 bucks.

Then, if you honestly market the book you have just published, and nobody buys it still, then you were full of crap and are simply a no-talent hack. (That's a joke.)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Poor and Blind street musicians. Dumb also.

I just love the above painting. I really empathize with the old guy. I can't tell if he is singing loudly or simply sitting on a sharp stone. Note how he is frantically trying to downshift as the thing begins to get away from him, but his twitching foot finds no clutch.

I've been a bit under the weather for the past week or so living mostly on cough syrup and orange juice, just not feeling like doing anything, even blogging. Coming out of it now, slowly but surely.

So, have watched a lot of old black and white movies on tv this past week as I suck on my orange juice and blow my nose; today a nice 1937 classic starring Spencer Tracy: Captains Couragous (by Rudyard Kipling originally, though screenplay by someone else on account of death of the author.) Also starring Lional Barrymore as the ship's captain and a young John Carradine (Lional Barrymore was never young) and Mickey Rooney shows up at the end to unload something off the boat. I forget who the name of the rich kid who is the star of the book/movie. Rudyard, maybe. Not important.

Tracy plays the character of Manuel. Manuel is a crewman who plays a hurdy gurdy and is always carrying it around with him. To my annoyance and I'm sure many others over the years.

"The hurdy gurdy dates back to the 12th century and was the first instrument to combine a keyboard with strings. The sound, however, is closer to the bagpipe than either a piano or a violin."

No shit.

And you know how I LOVE bagpipes.

Hurdy gurdy lovers (apparently there still are some since they still sell them) actually BRAG about having a drone.

Speaking of Scotland...

Donovan had a hit song 2 or 3 hundred years ago called Hurdy Gurdy Man. Thank god he didn't actually play one in the song.

If you've ever wondered why you have never seen Donovan with his mouth open, even while singing, he has bad teeth. A point of pride with a Scotsman, they say. I'm not judging. Except to say he could have spent some of his zillions on dentistry. Listening to a hurdy gurdy will make your teeth hurt too.
Click on any of these pictures to enlarge them if you dare. 'cept Donovan.

I wasn't going to put a link where you could actually listen to one, but why should you be spared? Go for it. (You have to shut him off after he plays it or else he keeps talking.)

Seriously, I recommend you use his site for all your medieval instrument needs. And don't be critical: no one has ever played this thing well in over 800 years. Make allowances.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The beer hall putsch

Following World War One, Germany was a proving ground for just about any political party or theory one might want to espouse. By early 1921, Hitler was becoming an amazingly effective speaker, and he mostly went around attacking all these dopey parties, especially the Socialists. He was very dramatic, his followers showing up in uniforms and swastikas and passing out propaganda to the disgruntled crowds. Soon his party was a force to be reckoned with.

Munich, Hitler's stomping grounds, became a hotbed of fervent German nationalism. Munich calls to mind beer and Octoberfest, and much of Hitler's speaking and rabble rousing took place in beer halls. Munich beer halls of the time held hundreds, sometimes thousands of people. Basically, the idea is to get people, who are downtrodden and dissatisfied with the government, drunk and rowdy and then scream at them over and over and over about how change was needed, change they could believe in. Then one would begin ranting at the scapegoats: socialists, traitors, inefective government, Treaty of Versailles, and, of course, Jews.

Hitler's Nazi party grew and grew. There was no end of destitute Germans looking for a messiah. Ummm... make that savior. The disgruntled teabaggers grew until they were a force to be reckoned with. Early followers included Rudolf Hess; former air force pilot Hermann Goering; future leader of the party's paramilitary "protection" organization (the SS Storm Divison) army captain Ernst Rohm. And, very importantly, former general of the German Army Erich Ludendorff. Ludendorff's presence gave Hitler the appearance of legitimacy. The crowds grew. The rhetoric escalated. The party grew larger.

By 1923, Hitler and the party leadership had determined to form their own government. With the tacit support of Bavaria's ruler, Gustav von Kahr, Hitler and his boys, and Ludendorff, along with the Bavarian police and army, waited for the right time.

On 8 November, 1923, Kahr was holding a meeting at a large Munich beer hall. Hitler and the SA stormed the meeting and demanded, at gunpoint, that Kahr and the local military establishment support a march on Berlin, for the destruction of the Berlin government. Kahr got cold feet and refused. The police and military wouldn't go against him. When Hitler and his followers marched on the Bavarian ministry the next day to take over, they were repulsed. 16 of Hitler's followers were killed. Hitler was arrested and put on trial for treason.

Unfortunately, during Hitler's trial, he was given almost limitless time to speak. His popularity soared as he reiterated his nationalist sentiments in his famous defense speech. What had been merely a thorn in the side of a local government suddenly became a national figure. Nonetheless, Hitler was convicted and sentenced to 5 years at Landsberg Prison.

While imprisoned, Hitler wrote most of volume one of Mein Kampf. He received favored treatment from the prison guards. He was a hero. He received much fan mail. In the end, he was pardoned due to public pressure and served little more than a year of his sentence. From that point forward, Hitler did everything by the book. Legal Hitler.

The beer hall putsch.

A putsch is simply German for a coup, or governmental takeover attempt.

Beer halls in Germany were (and the tradition continues) places where political and social debates were held - even political rallies. One of the largest beer halls in Munich was the Burgerbraukeller. That is where Hitler tried his putsch.

Von Kahr, the Bavarian commissioner, was making a speech in front of 3000 people when Hitler and his brownshirts marched into the beer hall. No one was allowed to leave (a machine gun was set up pointing at the auditorium doors.)

The three Bavarian leaders, commissioner von Kahr, Bavarian state police head, colonel von Sessier, and general Otto von Lossow, were taken into a side room by Hitler and his party leaders (including Rudolf Hess) and given a chance to come out openly to their side. During this time, speeches were held in the adjoining hall, by Goering and others. No one was allowed to leave, not even to go to the bathroom. Hitler was irritated when von Kahr refused, but left the room to speak to the crowd, as he had promised them 15 minutes earlier.

Within seconds, the mood of the crowd changed over to Hitler. Dr. Karl Alexander von Mueller, professor of modern history and political science at the University of Munich, a supporter of von Kahr, was an eyewitness:

"I cannot remember in my entire life such a change in the attitude of a crowd in a few minutes, almost a few seconds. Hitler turned them inside out, as one turns a glove inside out, with a few sentences. It had almost something of hocus-pocus, or magic about it."

Hitler knew the exact buttons that needed to be pressed. He pressed them.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Freed at last

Today is the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release from prison.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What rhymes with ideology?

I am getting a bit depressed with all this reading about Hitler. It started as an exercise in fiction character development and now I have wandered too far into Hitler's actual life, which turns out to be not all that fascinating. I will take a couple days break from him and get back into better spirits. I don't think I would want to write a work of fiction with someone acting like Hitler acted, anyway but I will see the project through.

I have been hearing a lot (on the news, I mean) about "ideology" and "Ideologues". Naturally, I thought of Redbrand and the Scientist. Anyway, I was feeling all smug and superior because I am not an ideologue (of course) but got to thinking that maybe I should have some sort of political beliefs instead of just being so anti right wing and anti left wing. At least they know what they believe. All I believe is that all politicians should be waterboarded and then shot. What kind of belief system is that? Exactly.

I finally looked the word up and it says an ideology is just a list of things that define a person's political or sociological beliefs. What a letdown. All this time I thought it might have had something to do with "ideas".

I thought I would go around and make fun of all my readers' political beliefs in turn. Then I says to myself, "Max, that's pretty stupid, even for you." See, I only have 5 readers and 3 of them are part-time already. So, I've decided not to do that. Then I thought I would make up five "generic" descriptions of political ideologies and you could just pick the one that fits you best. Then it occurred to me that Lidian and Alison would be turned off by the first paragraph and wouldn't even care anyway. Well, if I made the list rhyme, Lidian might read it.

'bama 'bama he's our man!
If he can't do it, nobody can!

Like that. Only that is just an old football cheer and is not nearly deep enough. Although it pretty much sums up Red's belief system, I think. I know he's too polite to correct me, so I may never know for sure.

I was going to make up a more intricate poem about Federalism and how Washington is the answer to all our ills, if only the damn state lines would disappear. But I couldn't find anything to rhyme with Federalism except Socialism, and we've been all over that ground before. Plus, you all know how sensitive I am to other's feelings.

I sometimes wish I lived in the UK where there is no political discord and no social conflicts.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Not missing them yet

Wednesday will be the third day in a row that government offices in Washington are closed due to the snow storm, they said on the news tonight. Has anyone noticed?

I thought not.

Monday, February 8, 2010

After the war

Much has been written about Adolf Hitler's political views and the formation of his theories, as well as his transformation into a charismatic speaker and political leader. In my own opinion, there were two things that seemed to guide him and motivate him. First was his belief that Germany had been betrayed from within, and the belief that betrayal had come largely from International Jewry. Second was a rage against the humiliating terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the degrading condition of the German people, and a conviction that they must be led out of this condition by a person who was willing and able to take charge and effect Germany's resurrection; and a growing belief that he was that person.

There were a lot of political parties in Germany in the early 1920's. Hitler supported the DAP, and in 1920 became that party's minister of propaganda. That same year he engineered a name change of the party to the NSDAP - National Socialist German Worker's Party or "Nazi" from the first two syllables. At the same time he adopted a swastika as the party's emblem (a good luck charm often used in the past) and incorporated the Roman Salute used by Italian Facists. Never underestimate the power of symbolism.

Hitler met, and found a mentor in, Dietrich Eckart. If you would know Hitler's thinking and his rise to power, in my opinion, you must study Deitrich Eckart, The Nordic connection and Peer Gynt, Buddist "Maya", Indo-Aryan philosophy and... ooooooEEEEEEooooo... The Thule Society. Learn about those things, and read about Dietrich Ekart, and you will come to know Adolf Hitler a lot better. I don't think Hitler was really into the occult though. I think he got the swastika from his brief time with the Thule Society.

In what might be called an almost magical transformation, Hitler became a hypnotic speaker and expert crowd manipulator. People became transfixed and ecstatic when he spoke, surrounded by symbolism. I attribute much of this to Dietrich Ekart. Hitler rose in the party. He began to meet some important people.

In 1924, Hitler and his crew tried a violent takeover of the country but failed and was sent to prison for treason. This takeover attempt (The Beerhall Pusch) is interesting and I will write about it tomorrow. While in prison he wrote the two-volume book "Mein Kampf."

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Great War leaves Germany ripe for revolution

Hitler served in WWI on the Western Front, France and Belgium, as a runner. A runner meant carrying messages along the line, and it was dangerous. He was the equivalent of a Private First Class in American army terms (Lance Corporal, British.) Runners get shot at a lot.

Hitler participated in several of the major battles along the Western Front, including Ypres. Ypres saw 40,000 men killed in 20 days. Hitler was decorated for bravery twice, winning both the iron cross second class and the iron cross first class - very unusual for such a low-ranking soldier. However, he was never promoted to full corporal because regimental command thought he lacked leadership skills.

Let me repeat that. Hitler was about 27 years old now, and he had not exhibited leadership skills.

Later in this series of posts I will contend that Hitler became a charismatic people magnet almost overnight. I believe I can show evidence to support that unlikely statement. But for now, remember that during the war, he didn't exhibit any of these talents.

Some have said he wasn't promoted simply because he wasn't (yet) a German citizen. I don't believe that. You can, if you want.

Although Hitler's job was dangerous, at least it brought him often to regimental headquarters. In between runs he worked on his artwork, drawing cartoons and illustrations for an army newspaper.
As the war was coming to a close, in October of 1918, Hitler was gassed. He was admitted to a field hospital, temporarily blinded by mustard gas. For the life of me, I can't make the connection, but Hitler was to say later it was during this time in the hospital waiting for his sight to return that he first became convinced that his life purpose was to "save Germany." Maybe YOU can figure out what the two things have to do with one another. I am more concerned that his gassing gave him the seed of an idea; in his book Mein Kampf there is a short passage that goes by quickly but makes me blink:

When the government began printing money to cover debts, hyper-inflation occurred and German money became worthless. At one time, they were printing 50-million mark notes. These were worth about $1 American for a while and then nothing. People used to write grocery lists on the backs of million mark notes - ironically, since they couldn't buy groceries. Soon it cost too much to print money.

In the above description, I am touching only on the highlights to give an overview of the German despair following WWI, and, admittedly, I am giving the point of view of the Germans who believed in the "stabbed-in-the-back" theory: Hitler and his friends, for example. Obviously the victors had a different point of view. The allies felt the German army was defeated (and it was, according to Western history books). France had suffered great damage and had lost 1.5 million dead, so they NEEDED reparations to rebuild.

As an American, I do not share the "stabbed-in-the-back" theory; I think Germany started the war and that its Empire and aristocracy got almost what it deserved. I say "almost" because the Kaiser spent his last days in comfort at his country estate in the Netherlands. But I write the account so you can see the way Hitler and thousands of other Germans felt.

Next: We learn a new word: Putsch.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Great War, its affect on Hitler, and it's aftermath

Despite Hitler's often unhappy childhood and his disappointment at not being allowed by his father to attend a school where he could pursue his love of art, I am convinced it was the circumstances during and following WWI which were really to shape Hitler's subsequent path.

Here we should pause to note that Adolf Hitler was an Austrian by birth, not a German. However, even though he wouldn't become a German citizen until 1932, his loyalties, since he was a very young man were always with Germany and against the Austrian monarchy. Except for his birth, Hitler never really identified with Austria or the Austro-Hungarian Empire as it was before WWI.

Another reason that occurs to me for Hitler's lack of love for Austria was simply because his father was such a loyal Austrian civil servant who was also loyal to the Austrian crown. Just a thought. He was rebellious sometimes simply for the pleasure of being rebellious.

Of course, most people who lived along the border considered themselves "Austrian Germans" rather than simply Austrians. But Hitler went further and considered himself German. Period.

For all that, he did spend much of his formative years in Austria, and Vienna was at the time the most anti-semitic city in Europe. Hitler himself said it was there he first became an anti-semite.

The undereducated Hitler had a hard time of it during his time in Vienna. He struggled to support himself as a painter. He copied scenes from postcards and tried to sell them to tourists and Merchants. Ironically he was aided in these efforts by Jewish merchants. He was rejected for a second time by an art school. He ran out of money. 1909 found him living in a homeless shelter, then moved to a workhouse for poor men. He regretted his purposeful failing in school to spite his father; the lack of those courses were the reason he kept getting rejected for art school. They told him he was better suited to be an architect, anyway ("Your painting stinks!" I imagine was the underlying sentiment.) Indeed, Hitler did love architecture, but, again, his lack of the educational basics stopped him cold. Then came war.

In the end, though, Bavaria was Hitler's love and it was Munich, not Vienna, that became his stomping grounds. To underscore (for me) his lack of allegiance to Austria, Hitler refused to serve in the Austrian military when the war broke out, running off to Bavaria instead. Unfortunately for Hitler there was a strong alliance with Austria at the time and the Munich police arrested him. Oddly, he was found unfit for service and was allowed to return to Munich. I say "oddly" because there wasn't anything wrong with him. Unless you count being crazy.

Another coincidence I find striking: the judge who decided Hitler was unfit for military service was the SAME JUDGE who, years later would sentence him to prison for treason.

As soon as he was excused from military service to Austria, when Germany entered the war in August, Hitler petitioned King Ludwig III of Bavaria to enter military service under Bavaria, and his petition was granted. So Hitler went off to war.

Hitler served in France and Belgium in the
16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment. Here he is
(left) with some of his comrades in arms.
(click to enlarge)
World War One didn't have to happen. That's hardly earthshaking news; I can't think of any other war that had to happen, either. If there were ever a textbook example of entangling foreign military alliances, WWI was that example.

So why DID it happen? Serbia had humbly apologized and groveled sufficiently to the Austrians, even enough to satisfy Austria's ally the German Kaiser. Yes, even the Kaiser thought war would no longer be "necessary." But.

Here I must resist going back even further in history to talk about how the Serbs felt themselves put upon by the hated Turks, and Muslims in general, and vowed to retrieve their beloved Kosovo, lost in the 1300s, but Serbs never forget. More recently they made another attempt to reclaim their stolen territory (in their typically clumsy way) but were again rebuffed when Bill Clinton kept bombing Belgrade. They still haven't forgotten, make no mistake about that. So I won't go back that far in history. Sufficient for you to know that the Serbs had no love for the Ottomans OR the Austrians (who were looking to consolidate their ambitions in the Balkins.)

Bottom line: Austria wanted to attack Serbia. Serbia was a hot bed of bomb-throwing terrorists - trained by their buddy Russia, of course. Terrorism was their only weapon against Austria, really. Not much has changed in the world when the underdog feels oppressed. Anyway, Russia has been Serbia's ally forever. Russia is largely Slav, see? In fact, had Russia not been weakened by the fall of the Soviet Union and pretty disorganized at the time, you can bet Bill Clinton et al would not have been bombing Serbia 20 years ago. Back to WWI and Hitler.

Sarajevo in June of 1914 was a lovely city, the capital of Bosnia. Generations later, this beauty would be highlighted when the winter olympics were held there, in 1984. Then came another war, and the city became a devastated hell on earth. Then another recovery: life goes on. But in June of 1914, the heir to the Austrian throne paid a diplomatic visit to the beautiful city of Sarajevo. This visit was just too attractive a target for the Russian-trained Serbian terrorists to resist, and so it came to pass three of them were in Bosnia watching the parade in downtown Sarajevo that Sunday.
The terrorists were pretty inept, as terrorists often are. Two of them were supposed to bomb the archduke's carriage but were thwarted when the parade took an unexpected turn. But a 19-year-old devotee to the Serb cause was where he needed to be and blasted away with his gun at the carriage as it passed, killing Franz Ferdinand and his wife.

Suddenly, the old Emperor Franz Josef's prayers were answered and he had his excuse to attack Serbia. Not that he cared that much that his nephew had just been killed. The old man didn't even like his heir-apparent and his commoner wife. Franz Ferdinand had become crown prince only after the Emperor-geezer's own son Rudolf had blown the top of his head off in a suicide pact with his mistress Marie earlier on, and had to wear a bandage turban to his own funeral. But I digress.

So it came to pass that Austria sent Serbia an ultimatum so insulting and so degrading in its terms that no country with any pride could possibly endure to be so insulted. War was inevitable.

But the Serbs agreed! They agreed to all the major terms and only declined a few of the unimportant terms. Surely this was an opening for diplomacy. Even the Kaiser assumed that war was averted.

All of you know what REALLY happened though. Picking on the minor points of the demand that Serbia declined, Austria attacked Serbia anyway, and those tangled European military alliances kicked in to start Armageddon:

Austria attacked Serbia;
Russia declared war on Austria;
Germany declared war on Russia;
France declared war on Germany;
The UK joined France.
Since all major participants had colonies, the conflict soon spread around the world.

The treaty binding Russia, France and the UK was called the Triple Entente. Austria and Germany and Italy (no, I don't know why Italy) and the Ottoman Empire were called the Central Powers. The millions of soon to be dead people of Europe called it a nightmare.

Next: Hitler's service in WWI. Did mustard gas blindness produce his first epiphany?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Adolf Hitler: Patriot? German Teabagger? Or simply your average monster?

If this gets too long, I will stop and do another post later.

I had intended to do a "time line" post on the space shuttle Columbia in this space, but that can wait until I get riled up again about it.

There is a debate of sorts going on about Adolf Hitler, between a reader of this blog and myself, but I sincerely hope the debate is joined by other readers with an interest in history after this post; I need some fresh input.

The debate stems from two different interests. My own is mostly my deep interest in history, and her interest MAY stem from an interest in the character development of fictional villains. She can speak for herself. Either way, there is a debate regarding the motivations and circumstances of Adolf Hitler; we speculate on why he turned out like he did. If any of you would like to add to the debate, or mention things I have left out, I hope you will.

For my part, I am trying to put forward and support a theory that Adolf Hitler's rise to power, or his DESIRE to rise to power in Germany, was, originally, at least, more to restore or rescue Germany from its national humiliation from its defeat in World War One, than it was some sort of deranged megalomania or superman complex.

This is one of those subjects that, when you try to find the root causes of this or that part of his personality, you find yourself having to go further and further back in his history. I wanted to find a starting point later than simply his birth. I would have liked to start at the beginning of WWII and simply say Hitler was a German nationalist who hated Jews, but how can you make statements like that without offering some background? After all, it was trying to come up with the backgrounds that makes a "villain" either merely a bad person or a truly evil person that started this debate in the first place.

I think there are 4 points that need to be considered if we are to understand what underlying forces and beliefs drove Hitler, and I don't think being a big man in the eyes of others had much to do with it. I don't think one can kill 6 million people - and many millions more when you count the people killed in the actual fighting - simply because one is on a power trip, or because he was beaten by his father as a child.

1. German nationalism.
2. Hatred of Jews.
3. His interest in war and things military.
4. How - no matter what his beliefs - could such an insignificant person rise to national power.

A few of the things I am going to assert in my assessment of his beliefs, motivations, and his rise to power come simply from Wikipedia articles, but mostly I relied on biographies and "expert" analyses of historians (there are dozens), both online and in my personal library. My historical facts regarding the earlier events leading up to WWI come from C. L. Sulzberger's magnificent account detailing the end of the imperial era, "The Fall of Eagles."
I'm going to stop here at the end of my introduction.


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