Armistice
Armistice Day in London, November 11, 1918. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

RED LIGHT DISTRICT

Why use free sunlight when you can consume vast amounts of energy-producing special red light to encourage crops to grow a bit faster? US agricultural innovation at its finest. And with our own Scott Morrison looking to ape Donald Trump in abusing journalists, look at another, greater president who also went to war with the media. The important role of Tricky Dick in the SALT nuclear arms treaties with the Soviet Union is the only flaw in this otherwise excellent account of why Trump’s abandonment of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is so dangerous for the world. Meantime, that “Hillary will run in 2020” yarn is bullshit.

A HUNDRED YEARS ON

Unsurprisingly, national origins colour the take writers and reviewers offer about the centenary of the Armistice. The New Yorker has an excellent piece, though from a US point of view, including lamentations about British military historians, whereas a British military historian is at pains to explain why the Brits were able to defeat the German fighting machine.

What’s missing from this sort of Anglophone coverage of course is the French perspective — as even a quick trip to the Musée de l’Armée reveals, the history of both world wars looks quite different to the French, and non-Francophones have to wait for a translation of books or articles to get a sense of it (e.g. see how different WWII looks from the perspective of De Gaulle in Jean Lacouture’s mammoth biography of the general; I can also recommend Gregor Dallas’ At The Heart Of A Tiger, the only English-language biography of Clemenceau).

But Emmanuel Macron has incurred the wrath of French historians with his comments on Marshal Petain — Mediapart covers it here and you can read it via Google Translate.

Elsewhere, The Economist on lessons from the ensuing century after the signing of the armistice. And at Overland, a Kiwi perspective on how the importance of socialist agitation in ending the war has been grievously edited from history.

STAYING IN EUROPE…

Last week was also the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht. Deutsche Welle examines how German museum directors preyed on the destruction of Jewish culture wrought by the Nazis. Are the French failing to meet their Paris Agreement targets? Quelle surprise!  And a new paper assesses the piecemeal, but truly colossal, privatisation of public land in the United Kingdom. For sports lovers, here’s your full guide to Football Leaks, the vast scandal roiling soccer in Europe.

THE NUANCES OF NUANCE

Can one be too nuanced? What was it The Housemartins once deplored — the man “who sees both sides of both sides”? Let us consider whether Roland Barthes is of any use in the age of Trump.

The Housemartins

And forget those ridiculous “who should it kill?” self-driving car stories — they’re nonsense.

I used to be strongly opposed to compulsory voting but have come around to regarding it as a victimless crime that might even have some benefits. I’m still not sure (especially as a non-mammal eater) I’d go so far as to join Catherine Marshall in urging America to embrace Australia’s tradition of the democracy sausage but here you go.

And Australian researchers argue there’s good evidence the internet helps reduce prejudice. Hmmm.

SCIENCE STUFF

Nearly half of countries now have a fertility rate below replacement level. You’ve heard of pumped hydro, but make way for pumped rubble, and does anti-matter fall the same as regular matter? Or does it fall up instead of down? It should act just like matter, but maybe it doesn’t. We need to observe it to confirm.

GREAT HATCHET JOBS OF OUR TIME

More a Zorro-like slash than an axe murder, but let’s go back to 2003 now for a Terry Eagleton assault on then-new biographies of George Orwell, who, like the authors of the biographies themselves, doesn’t emerge unscathed from the ensuing melee. I can’t resist quoting: “Williams writes that ‘Orwell’s interest lies almost wholly in his frankness,’ which is only one up from claiming that Proust’s interest lies almost wholly in his asthma.”

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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