Pundit Wire

Liberty, Equality and Barbarity

Bastille Day July 14 is Bastille Day, the day on which the people of France celebrate the storming of the Bastille and the revolution that gave the world “liberty, equality and fraternity.”  That, at least, is the version we get in the history books.  But the French Revolution was a good deal more complex than that.  And so I am going to devote today’s post to an episode from the Revolution that most history books either gloss over or omit altogether.  It’s something called the War of the Vendée.

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The Love Affair That Sent the World to War

franzsophie2 The assassinations of Franz Joseph and Sophie set in motion the terrible machinery of great power alliances that had been building for years. A month later, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Russia mobilized to defend the Serbs, which brought a declaration of war from Austria-Hungary’s ally, Germany. France and Britain, which were allied with Russia, were quickly drawn into the conflict. War engulfed Europe.

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A Woman Against World War I

BvSuttner This summer marks the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. As we remember the jingoism, militarism, intrigue and paranoia that combined to produce one of history’s bloodiest debacles, we might spare a thought for the gallant and forgotten band of pacifists who offered Europe one last chance to pull back from the brink.

In particular, we might rescue from undeserved obscurity the Baroness Bertha von Suttner, whom the writer Stefan Zweig called the “majestic and grandiose Cassandra of our time.”

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Not Just a Pretty Face

prettyface Last week I was in New York to attend the founding meeting of the Professional Speechwriters Association. While there, I managed to take in a play at Manhattan’s Irish Repertory Theatre. Sea Marks: An Irish Love Story, tells of two middle-aged people: Colm, a fisherman who has lived all his life on a small rocky isle on the west of Ireland, and Timothea, a Liverpool divorcee who works in publishing.

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In Search of Scotland

SearchScotland On September 18, the people of Scotland will have the chance to vote on whether or not they want to remain part of the 307-year-old United Kingdom, or whether they want to reclaim their ancient status as a sovereign nation.

Anyone curious as to how the Scots could have held on to their sense of nationhood for more than three centuries in tandem with England could do worse than consult In Search of Scotland, by H.V. Morton.

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Ukraine/Russia: Self-indulgent Speechwriting Pretending to be Policy

Russia Ukraine Let’s hop back to 7 July 2009. President Obama is addressing New Economic School students in Moscow, his first major speech to a Russian audience since his election. Vice President Biden will soon be in Ukraine to spell out the new Administration’s policies there too.

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Gods, Gold and Greed

Houston-Grand-Opera-Das-Rheingold-April-2014-Photographer-Lynn-Lane_122152 In the year 1848, the continent of Europe was convulsed by revolution. In France, King Louis Philippe was driven from his throne and a republic proclaimed. Northern Italy and Hungary revolted against the overlordship of the reactionary Habsburgs. In Frankfurt, Germany’s first freely-elected assembly was convened to seek the unification of the German states by democratic means. In London, Marx and Engels published the first edition of the Communist Manifesto.

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Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Is West ‘Provoking’ Russia?

russiaFascinating question: if X responds badly to your action and cites your action as a reason for behaving badly, how far are you responsible for what X does?

Three scenarios…

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