Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Spanish Civil War: An Introduction for the Anglosphere Reader.

Building upon the review of Mine Were of Trouble, I would like to offer a list of books to help cradle English speakers get a grip on the War in Spain.

I am compelled to offer three framing comments at the beginning.

1. First, works about the War--even in English--are inevitably politicized. The War inspires strong passions in the Western world to this very day, and the historians who write about it are no exception. Even the act of toning down one's reactions and trying to assess the facts objectively, in a comparative framework with other ideological conflicts, is subject to accusations of bias. One is accused of (or lauded for) being pro-Republican or pro-Nationalist, pushing a narrative. And readers can be sucked in as well.

Raises hand.

The necessity for the reader is to recognize the historian's biases and his own and to engage in periodic reality checks.

For example: is the author presenting one side's atrocities in a different light than the other's? Pro-Republic authors frequently have a tic in this respect. This is best seen in what I call "the church caught fire and the priest died" pro-Republic depictions of the Loyalist pogroms of 1936.

Thousands of Catholics--laity, clergy and religious--were targeted and slaughtered by Republican forces in the wake of the rising of the generals.

In a grand irony, this butchery turned the officer corps' rising into a Catholic crusade. The initial proclamations of the Generals explicitly spoke of restoring order to the Republic and respecting its institutions, including the separation of church and state. And there really is no evidence that such were insincere. 

The massacre of the Faithful changed all of that, with Catholics of every class and region under Nationalist control becoming fiercely pro-Nationalist and swelling the ranks and resources of the Generals' forces. This forced the Generals to change their tone fairly quickly: by autumn of 1936 the Crusade for Catholic Spain was on.

The slaughter is acknowledged by Republic-favoring historians, but it is often described in the passive voice, occurring as opposed to directed--spasmodic, spontaneous and unforeseeable--definitely not the systematic killing of Nationalist firing squads. 

Um...no. The Republic threw open the arsenals to anti-religious fanatics and what followed was entirely foreseeable. Anti-religious rages had been blazing, albeit at a much lower level, for months before the War. What did they expect when they handed the militias military weaponry and the color of law? 

It is true that members of the Republican leadership tried--sometimes successfully--to intervene to save people, and eventually the pogrom wound down. But this was due as much to the flight of Catholics to Nationalist territory and the sending of the fanatical militias to the front lines to do some actual fighting against people who could shoot back as to policy. 

Bottom line: watch how each side is depicted for similar actions. Because pro-Nationalists get their passive voice on as well.

2. Secondly, have a note pad handy. It is taken me years to get the names of the various personages straight. When you first run across someone who appears to be a major personage, write down his or her name and political affiliation. Gil Robles was not Calvo Sotelo--that took me a while, for some reason. 

And do the same for the major factions. Because, you see, there is usually a very unhelpful Spanish acronym, or a puzzling adjective before an otherwise understandable noun, which describes the welter of contending organizations.

Trust me: you do not want to confuse the CEDA with the CNT, the PSOE for the PCE or POUM, or the Alphonsine monarchists with the Carlist ones, etc.

3. Learn Spanish.

At least the pronunciation--you are much less likely to sound like an idiota. Canada and CaƱada are...different places after all.  But getting at least a tentative grip on the language will help you see the mindsets better, too.

With those advisories in hand, on to the recommendations:

1. Hugh Thomas' one volume history. Still the gold standard. First published in 1961, and considered fair enough by the censors to be published and sold in Franco's Spain. Genuinely even-handed, even if it focuses more on the Republic. Which is actually fair enough in and of itself: the dysfunction of that half of Spain necessitates more words.

2. The Victorious Counterrevolution by Michael Seidman. Absolutely essential. It could also be entitled "How the Nationalists Won." A searching evaluation of the factors that led the Spanish "Right" to win their civil war when similar forces in Russia and China lost theirs. 

Bottom line: no bleed-out from a previous war (World Wars I and II, respectively), better logistics, better use of resources, much less corruption and infighting. Nationalist soldiers ate well and civilians had a functional currency which meant they managed to do the same. Foreign assistance was not as decisive as pro-Republic historiography suggests--the Nationalists just did better with theirs than the Republic did. Alas for Spain, the regime would founder economically after the War and only start to get its legs underneath it with American aid and the abandoning of quasi-fascist demands for autarky.

3. Martin Blinkhorn's history of the Carlists in the Second Republic and the War. At least you will understand how one of the major members of the Nationalist coalition thought and fought.

4. Franco and Hitler by Stanley Payne. Payne is the dean of American historians on all things Spanish, but the Civil War is his specialty. 

Payne is often accused of being pro-Nationalist--and to be fair, he is a friend of Franco's daughter, Carmen. But he is also a consistent puncturer of pro-Franco mythology created by the regime, not least of which were their attempts to retcon Spain's relationship with Germany during the Civil War and World War II. Contrary to Cold War mythmaking, Franco wanted to join WW2 on the side of the Axis. But neither side could get past this negotiation stalemate: Spain had not recovered from the Civil War and needed resources before it would commit to a declaration of war, and Germany wanted Spain to commit to a declaration of war before it would send resources. The most Payne will concede to the regime is that it had a very distorted understanding of Nazi war aims and Hitler's plans, looking through the outdated experience of German aid in the civil war. It did not understand what Hitler's completed new order would mean, and how small a place was planned for Spain within it. Spain's escape from destruction in World War II was mostly lucky, owing more to Barbarossa consuming Germany's focus--and eventually its armies--than it did to cannily fending off Germany's overtures. Though there were definitely pro-Allied elements in Spain who helped.

5. Finally, a novel: General Escobar's War. A fictionalized account of the devoutly-Catholic General Antonio Escobar Huertas's actions during the Civil War, it is genuinely moving. Escobar stayed with the Republic despite his brother and youngest son going over to the Nationalists, and he was executed by the victors in 1940. It created quite a stir when it was published in 1982, as it does not spare either side. 

I have more suggestions, but the above should occupy you for a while.

The Thanksgiving Indult: an update.

Sharon Kabel has written the definitive essay on the question of the legendary "Turkey Indult."

It cites me, so you know it's good. 

Humor aside, it is exhaustively-researched and well-worth a read. It also prompts questions about the relaxation of abstinence and fasting requirements before the 21st council. Tolle, lege.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Looks like I dumped Disney+ just in time.

The Mouse is putting disclaimers on The Muppet Show now. 

Your weekly reminder that the Woke Train has no brakes.

Raise the corporate tax rate you say? No objections here.


Friday, February 19, 2021

The Epic of Peter Kemp, Part II: The English Legionnaire.


Kemp's autograph.

Postcard of Carlist Requete and child issued 
by the Navarra postal service during the War.

From left to right: Carlist badge; 
1924 commemorative medal for veterans of the Third Carlist War;
Another Carlist badge with motto "Dios, Patria, Rey."

Kemp would spend several weeks being trained and shunted from Requete cavalry to infantry, until finally he entered the front line with a Carlist infantry unit on New Year's Day 1937. His company commander was a former lawyer and Basque Carlist who enlisted when the rising occurred. Kemp speaks well of the man, who had also went through an officer training school--which added a much-needed level of professionalism to the Requete unit.
The Spanish Civil War is often described as a "dress rehearsal" for the Second World War. This "common knowledge" is at best misleading and usually dead wrong. Yes, the fascist and communist powers would learn lessons from the Spanish conflict: e.g., machine-gun armed tanks were virtually worthless and control of the air was essential. And the Soviet Union learned the most, in the form of the design process which led to the T-34 tank. [As an aside, the subtitle for the above-linked book is among the worst you will read--author Steven Zaloga flatly states that the war in Spain was not a proving ground for tank warfare, let alone blitzkrieg tactics. But putting "blitzkrieg" in the title will sell more books, so.]
For the most part, however, the totalitarian advisors for each side would spend most of their time grinding their teeth down to the roots when it came to large-scale operations: the Spaniards on each side had their own agendas and approaches, and were not usually interested in the newest tactics or operational ideas--outside of heavy artillery and aerial bombardments. 
In fact, the Spanish war was a lot more like the First World War, only without the dense lines of entrenchments. Between the difficulty of entrenching in the oft-stony soil and the dislike of entrenching by both Republican and Nationalist soldiers, such tended to be rudimentary, outside of the front lines near Madrid. But, like Europe's 1914-1918 suicide attempt, it would be primarily a conflict between foot-mobile infantry and artillery.
Kemp's first combat assignment was near Madrid--and thus it would be the most he would see of entrenchments.
His Requete unit held half of a village near the capital, with Republican militiamen from Asturias holding the other half. The front line literally ran through the avenues, with Kemp's position being a larger building surrounded on three sides by Republican forces. And which could only be reached by crawling through a sandbag tunnel.
Which brings me to another feature of the War--neither side liked to give up ground, even when it made much more tactical sense to do so. 
So the Requetes held it, despite regular assaults and no obvious benefit to holding it. Kemp's depiction of the chaos of night attacks and the danger of being sniped or mortared are harrowing, delivered in an effective, economical writing style.  
And then the dread began: the Requetes could tell that the Asturians, with plenty of miners in their ranks, were tunneling toward their position, planning to take it out with an underground detonation. But there was no way to stop the process. And then the unit was given orders to rotate out of the lines to a new position to the north.
A week later, the Asturians detonated their mine and took out the entire company that had taken their place. 
Kemp and his fellow Requetes were moved into position just in time to receive a major Republican counterattack at the Battle of Jarama. Again, Kemp serves the reader well with his description of the narrow victory of his unit.
But while Kemp loved the Carlists, he wanted to be a part of a unit with a more professional ethos. And in Spain, then as now, the Legion Espaniola was the most professional of them all.
 A tradition of the modern Legion: 
Legionnaires participating in the Holy Week procession in Malaga.
The Spanish Legion was and is much like the French Foreign Legion, only the majority have always been Spaniards. Today, it is Spain's "rapid deployment force." In the Spanish Civil War, the Legion was the best-equipped and most experienced force in the Spanish Army. It saved the rising and enabled the Nationalists to go immediately onto the offensive. 

Kemp gravitated to the Legion and, after pulling some strings, was inducted as an alferez, or second lieutenant.

Legion discipline then was harsh, with the officers having the right to summarily execute Legionnaires for disobedience. As Kemp was to learn on two occasions during his exemplary service with the "Bridegrooms of Death," life as a Legionnaire meant obedience above all else.
As with his stint in the Requetes, Kemp was given the gimlet eye for his Protestantism--again because of the assumed association with Freemasonry. As an Irish Legionnaire told him, membership in any Masonic order was the end of your rise in the Legion. And other foreigners in the Legion had assorted grudges with England, and made sure Kemp was aware of their disdain. But otherwise, "Mister Peter" was accepted and admired for his ability to fight. 
The first of Kemp's firsthand encounters with the Legion's "obey or else" culture occurred when he ordered the arrest of a lower-ranking Legionnaire for disobeying orders.
While the officers were angry with disobedience, Kemp's Colonel was almost as angry for how he handled it. The Colonel berated him: "You have a pistol--you should have used it! Now we have to waste time on a trial!"

The second involved an Irish prisoner from the International Brigades. The Brigades were full of brave men, to be sure--but Communist propaganda and pro-Republic revisionism have slathered on layers of mythic heroic gloss which do not hold up to serious scrutiny. They were largely Communist, and Communism would have done to Spain what Communism does had they prevailed. 

One day during the decisive campaign for Teruel, an Irish prisoner from the Brigades was captured. He insisted he had been forcibly drafted by Republican authorities into one of the British brigade units. Kemp deemed the man credible, and asked where they should send the prisoner.

"He has to be shot."

Kemp recoiled in horror, and his immediate superior, in an effort to soften the blow for an admired officer, told him to take the matter--and the prisoner--up the command chain. Maybe something could be done?

It could not. The Legion Colonel told Kemp that the prisoner had to be shot--and that Kemp had to order it be done. 

Numb with horror, Kemp began to transport the man back, and delivered the fatal verdict to the Irishman. Resignedly, the latter requested that it be quick.

Kemp gave the order, and the two Legionnaire sergeants who had accompanied Kemp and the prisoner shot the poor man dead.
Both of the sergeants then solicitously assured Kemp that death had been instantaneous and the man had suffered not at all. It was only later that Kemp learned that the Colonel had ordered Mister Peter to be tailed by another pair of Legionnaires, both of whom had orders to summarily execute Kemp if he refused to carry out the order.

When Kemp returned to his unit, he erupted at a Spanish colleague, who heard him out and then patiently explained the "problem" with his thinking. Namely, that the Spanish on both sides were not happy with foreign meddling in their war. Kemp then shot back with the obvious--what about German and Italian support for the Nationalists?

To paraphrase the Legion officer's response: We are not delighted about that either, to be honest. Oh, sure--we'll take the help--especially with the Soviets backing the Republic. And we are happy to have men like you and the other foreign volunteers fighting alongside us. But in truth, we are not even entirely comfortable with your presence, even if we like you as a soldier. This is a Spanish war, and foreigners meddling makes it worse.

Truth to tell, there is a lot of history underlying the Spaniard's sentiment: between the long decline of Spain, foreign meddling in the War of the Spanish Succession, Napoleon's invasion, Louis XVII's invasion, the First Carlist War and America's crushing humiliation of Spain in 1898, resentment of foreign machinations, "assistance" and outright degradation stoked a furnace of resentment. And in Espana, memories are long. Not to mention vindictive.

Besides, the Spanish Legionnaire responded: if the Republicans capture you, they'll do the same. 

And, as it turns out, such was the case. After the Second World War, Kemp managed to be on speaking terms with British volunteers of the International Brigades. 
This is only strange if you are unfamiliar with the next part of Kemp's saga: his fight against Nazism as a member of Britain's elite Special Operations Executive. Killing Nazis earned you some leeway on the left after 6/22/1941. One of the British Brigade veterans confirmed that, yes, captured foreign volunteers for the Nationalists were shot out of hand. 

It doesn't make either side actions morally correct, but it was consistent.
The Legionnaires then embarked on their part in the grueling campaign for Teruel, where the brutal winter of 1937-38 was just as lethal as the lead. In the final stages of that campaign (a back-breaking victory for the Nationalists), Kemp was critically-wounded by a mortar shell. His Legion brothers rushed him to the medics while fully expecting him to die. Instead, Kemp had the good fortune to fall into the hands of one of the finest surgeons on the peninsula, who not only saved him but restored him to full function.
At this point, Kemp's fame among the Nationalists had spread very high indeed, and the book ends with his meeting with one Francisco Franco in early 1939. Kemp doesn't report much of the conversation, though he states Franco spoke to him for half an hour. 
This lines up quite well with the historical record: Franco was a notorious chatterbox in private. The most famous example being the pedantic Caudillo boring Hitler to tears for several hours during their one meeting in 1940.

The part of the exchange Kemp vividly remembered was the ending, when Franco asked Kemp what he would do next. Kemp replied that he would enlist in the British army, given that war with Germany was on the horizon.

Franco replied: "I do not think there will be a war." Fortunately for Spain, there wasn't. Though it came closer than most people think. But that--and Kemp's fighting in the Second World War--are for future posts.

George Gascon: the Child-Murderer's Friend.

The newly-elected district attorney for Los Angeles County continues to impress.

Now, he has instructed his prosecutors to remove the sentencing enhancements for a murdering child molester

The DA for nearby Orange County has correctly deduced that that is morally reprehensible, and is wresting the case back from the anthropomorphic sack of offal next door.

And Gascon's policies have created some fascinating-but-predictable incentives for already-incarcerated violent felons, but I will leave that to the reader to discover.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

As another commenter has pointed out, this is probably a feature of the secret agreement, not a violation.

The Sinofascist homage to Hitler's "German Christianity" kicks into high gear--with the Party straight up ordaining all the schismatic leadership--without reference to the Chair.

Say what you will about Judas, at least he was compensated for selling out his Brother.

Hat-tip to Don for the unsurprising find.



Wednesday, February 17, 2021

More to come.

No, I haven't returned to Facebook. Life without regular "social" media has been salutary.

Work is getting a little less insane, and a functional snowblower helped us get through winter's mightiest swipe of the season yesterday.

The second half of the Peter Kemp book review will be up no later than tomorrow--it's another long one, as is my verbose wont. And it has a few pictures, which may be interesting to those who like their blog posts illustrated.

Hope all is well at your end, patient readers.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Whatever happened to Shelly Duvall?

When last seen, the "Shining" actress was the subject of an exploitative Dr. Phil episode, which revealed she has mental health issues.

But while she still has some, she's also not nearly as far gone as that episode suggested. And she has a supportive small Texas community and caring fans who are looking out for her.

A great account of a forgotten talent who went through horrific stress in the film factories, but who is still hanging on

What's clear is that Duvall came to Austin later that year to shoot a small part in The Underneath, a Steven Soderbergh crime drama. She was having financial issues at the time but is vague about what led to them. "It's not just owning something that makes money," she says. "You have to also control it. You have to make sure it's a good deal." She figured she'd do the film then head to Houston "because my mother said she might be able to help me. She said, 'You know, you do so many things, why don't … you do some art?' And I kept thinking, 'Yeah, Joni Mitchell gets $40,000 a painting. I might as well try.' " The paintings never materialized, but Duvall never left Texas. For the next two decades, she fell completely off the map.

That is until 2016, when she was contacted by a Dr. Phil producer. She grows visibly distressed at the mention of McGraw's name. "I found out the kind of person he is the hard way," Duvall says. "My mother didn't like him, either. A lot of people, like Dan, said, 'You shouldn't have done that, Shelley.' " (She had submitted to the interview without Gilroy's knowledge.) After the broadcast and ensuing backlash, McGraw made repeated attempts at contacting Duvall: "He started calling my mother. She told him, 'Don't call my daughter anymore.' But he started calling my mother all the time trying to get her to let me talk to him again."

(A spokesperson for the Dr. Phil show replies: "We view every Dr. Phil episode, including Miss Duvall and her struggle with mental illness, as an opportunity to share relatable, useful information and perspective with our audiences. We don't attach the stigma associated with mental illness which many do. With no one else offering help, our goal was to document the struggle and bring amazing resources to change her trajectory as we have for so many over 19 years. Unfortunately, she declined our initial offer for inpatient treatment that would have included full physical and mental evaluations, giving her a chance to privately manage her challenges. After many months of follow-up, in collaboration with her mother, she ultimately refused assistance. We were of course very disappointed, but those offers for help remain open today.")

In 2018, Duvall was paid a visit by Ryan Obermeyer, an artist from nearby Austin who grew up with Faerie Tale Theatre and was concerned for her welfare. "I brought a postcard of one of my paintings with my phone number on it and left it with Dan," says Obermeyer, 39. "She called me 10 minutes later saying she'd love a visit." That led to regular lunches and an unlikely friendship. Duvall had amassed from her career a collection of memorabilia — Kubrick had gifted her the "July 4th Ball — 1921" photo that serves as The Shining's closing shot — most of which has gone missing. Obermeyer suspects she failed to pay the rent on a storage locker and the contents were sold at auction. He found some of Duvall's personal letters on eBay and bought them back for her. He also tries his best to connect Duvall to old friends. For example, in 2019, he facilitated a surprise FaceTime call with Paul Reubens, who played Pinocchio on Faerie Tale Theatre, for Duvall's 70th birthday. To commemorate that milestone, Obermeyer also threw her a party at her favorite restaurant, Red Lobster, and invited a handful of her most die-hard fans. "One guy even came from Australia," he says. "We had a 'Faerie Tale' cake."

Thursday, February 11, 2021

My problem with the second impeachment.

The Anglo-American system of law does not permit victims to be prosecutor, judge or jury members. 

Here, they are playing all three roles.

Watching the prosudgjurors incite themselves yesterday crystallized it for me. 

And it crystallized that we have been a post-legal society for a while, too. 

Yes, executive immunity kept it from being a federal court matter.

But this isn't any better.

It's all good, I'm sure.

Your odds of being killed by a rabbit are low, but they are never zero.

Wisdom from Juan Vasquez de Mella.

 "[Traditionalism] must not be a kind of crow lurking in the crevices of feudal keeps, disposed to damn every scientific discovery and condemn all the marvels of industry, a kind of romantic poet who, bowed down with present-day reality and a nostalgia for the past, turns tearful eyes toward bygone centuries."



Friday, February 05, 2021

The ultimate private prison is being built around us.

It has digital bars--but they're built by "private enterprise," so it's perfectly Constitutional.

Behold, your electronic purchases are being sifted and referred to the FBI--and Lord only knows where else in our Permanent Patriot Act America.

And we're good with it, because convenience.

I'll let Andre Gregory explain it:


Update: While hip-hop isn't, to use the modern parlance "my jam," Tom MacDonald has some insights as well:

They never freed the slaves, they realized that they don't need the chains
They gave us tiny screens, we think we're free 'cause we can't see the cage


Thursday, February 04, 2021

Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth...

Amazon skimmed away the tip wages of some of its Flex drivers for three years.

The company is worth billions upon billions--but stripped away $61.7 million in tips

In late 2016, the FTC alleges, Amazon shifted from paying drivers the promised rate of $18–25 per hour plus the full amount of customer tips to paying drivers a lower hourly rate, a shift that it did not disclose to drivers. Amazon used the customer tips to make up the difference between the new lower hourly rate and the promised rate. This resulted in drivers’ being shorted more than $61.7 million in tips.

The FTC alleges that the company then intentionally failed to notify drivers of the changes to its pay plan and even took steps to make the changes obscure to drivers, with one employee reporting to colleagues that Amazon “did not want to communicate any pricing changes to [drivers], so we are only ‘reacting’ to any questions.” After making the change, the company continued to promise drivers and customers that 100 percent of tips would be passed through to drivers.

Amazon received hundreds of complaints from drivers after enacting the change, as drivers became suspicious when their overall earnings decreased. Drivers who complained received form e-mails falsely claiming that Amazon was continuing to pay drivers 100 percent of tips. Internally, Amazon employees referred to the company’s handling of the change and driver complaints about it as an “Amazon reputation tinderbox” and “a huge PR risk to Amazon.”

A pittance for a conglomerate awash in cash, thanks to the pandemic.

Down with the oligarchs. 

Hat-tip to Don for the find.

Sorry--work intervened. Massively.

Posting will still be light over the next week plus, but some small stuff will get posted.

Enjoy some sardines, or something. My youngest two thought the tinned fish was palatable enough last week.


The GOP Garbage Squad.

Nine awful human beings whose views are unworthy of the slightest respect. Especially after caterwauling about spending money on Ukraine, no...