The Spanish Civil War started as a medium-size resource allocation dispute

“How the Spanish Civil War Became Europe’s Battlefield” is an interesting lecture series by Pamela Radcliff, a professor at UCSD.

According to the teacher, the political fight that started the war was about how much low-skill workers should be paid. The progressive Republicans wanted workers to be richer without them having to learn more (e.g., to read) or work harder. The conservative Monarchists, who became the Nationalists, did not want the government intervening in the labor market or allocating farmland, especially out of concern for small business owners.

The conservatives called the progressives “Communists” and the progressives called the conservatives “Fascists.” These monikers were inaccurate at first, but eventually each side lived up to the other’s worst caricatures. The progressives seized the means of production and had the workers take over from the capitalists. Farms were collectivized. The conservatives joined up with fascists in Germany and Italy. Both sides killed anyone who disagreed with them. (About 500,000 people were killed, including thousands of Catholic priests killed by the progressives.)

In other words, the political situation in mid-1930s Spain wasn’t that different from what we have here in the U.S. today! The Spanish, of course, did not enjoy the abundant natural resources that we stole from the Native Americans. And Spain did not have a big flood of low-skill immigrants like the one that is purportedly continuously enriching the United States (or at least the elites).

It would have been interesting if the Republicans had won the civil war. This would have been a tough challenge because, though President Franklin Delano Roosevelt wanted to assist his fellow progressive economic reformers, anti-Communist sentiment in the U.S. Congress prevented him from sending weapons and U.S. tax dollars. The Soviet Union did send weapons and personnel, but they were no match for what the Germans and Italians were providing to the Nationalists and the progressives did a lot of fighting and purging amongst themselves (anyone who didn’t follow the Communist line was labeled a Trotskyite). But if the Republicans had won, it would have been interesting to see their collective farms spread all across Spain, their central planning, their workers’ paradise in the heart of 1950s Europe.

Separately, Spain today is acting against its own economic interests, if our politicians are to be believed, by trying to reduce the number of economy-boosting low-skill immigrants:

Note that this lecture series is also available on Audible.

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The Dutch acknowledge their wicked past, but refuse to make reparations

From a recent trip to Mauritshuis, a house-turned-museum in The Hague. The curators say that the house was built with profits from slavery in Brazil, but apparently they refuse to give the house to Brazilians who are descended from slaves and then pay rent:

A few additional photos of/in the museum:

The most famous Vermeer was pressed into service for righteous shops, reminding customers to wear a mask:

Speaking of disease, the museum has a great Rembrandt, The Anatomy Lesson:

The other big art experience in town is Panorama Mesdag, which convinces you that you’re standing on a dune using the best technology of 1881. The foreground is real sand:

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The Dutch Pinball Museum in Rotterdam

Europeans who love Americana seem to be more passionate about their hobbies than we are. The Dutch Pinball Museum in Rotterdam confirms this general observation. I asked Gerard van de Sanden, the founder and collector, why he closed at 6 pm. “All of the American pinball collections stay open until midnight and sell as much alcohol as possible, which is how they make their money.” He replied that the late-night crowd didn’t treat the machines well and preserving the machines was more important to him than making a higher profit.

Compared to arcades in the U.S., the Dutch Pinball Museum is as quiet as a church. All of the machines have had their volume turned down low so that it isn’t deafening when the museum gets crowded. Visitors are friendly and enthusiastic. I talked to one couple where the husband has 11 machines in a backyard shed. They’d driven 3 hours from the farthest corner of the Netherlands to spend a Saturday here. The wife wasn’t an enthusiast, but joined nonetheless. On the way, they picked up friends, a couple where both husband and wife play. They have 5 machines inside their house.

For the Dutch lover of pinball, here’s the ultimate machine:

It’s made in Holland by the Dutch Pinball company. Despite the obscurity of the manufacturer, the owner says that the machine is not difficult to maintain (though metric tools are required).

Unlike the typical “play all you want” arcades that call themselves museums, this one makes an attempt to educate:

The collection includes an unusual modern game, a 40th anniversary Elvira’s House of Horrors (#31 out of just 199 made):

This is a great machine for playability, but I don’t love the theme, perhaps because I am not a horror movie fan and have never seen the Elvia TV show.

It’s Europe, so the collection must include a soccer game:

If you love space, the collection includes Black Hole and Stern’s fascinating innovative Orbitor 1:

With five technicians working in the background, the collection is quite strong on playable older machines. Example:

When you’re done, take the water taxi back to the city center.

Then hit the Markthal:

Where else can one experience great pinball in Europe? The owner suggested Krakow, Poland.

Separately, Rotterdam itself offers a mixture of Western debauchery and Islamic rectitude. A strip club is close to Halal Fried Chicken, for example:


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The film flame is alive in Holland

For the old and nostalgic, or the merely old at heart, Fotohandel Delfshaven in the Netherlands (they’ve moved to downtown Delft, actually) is a great destination. There’s a gallery/showroom downstairs and a team of guys upstairs who try to get everything back to working condition. The store also sells some broken cameras for those who just want to decorate a bookshelf. They sell film and arrange processing:

The front of the shop contains an early smartphone camera prototype:

If you were inspired by astronaut Tom Hanks’s bravery in going to the moon on Apollo 13, why not buy a prototype of the electric Hasselblad that Hanks would have used if not for the unfortunate oxygen tank explosion?

What’s inside a ‘Blad?

For maximum taste and subtlety points, a gold-plated Leica:

I prefer the red Rolleiflex:

You don’t have to be rich to come away with a working film camera. $250-500 should suffice for a high-quality restored example. If you adjust 1960s or 1970s prices to Bidies, you’re actually paying far less for one of these cameras than it cost new.

Delft is a great town and I highly recommend a visit to Fotohandel Delfshaven (or come over to our house and I’ll pull a subset collection out of the closet!).

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Biking without bike infrastructure: the Netherlands

In Danish happiness: bicycle infrastructure I described the Danish system of road/curb/bike path/curb/sidewalk. What if a significant percentage of a society used bicycles for transportation, but nobody bothered to build infrastructure? That’s the Netherlands!

I recently visited a friend in Delft, a university town south of Amsterdam. There are no generally no curbs at all in the downtown area. The road is informally divided into car/bike/pedestrian, but these divisions can change depending on what exactly is sticking out from a house, possibly forcing pedestrians into the bike area, or whether a truck is trying to use the road.

The risk of injury has ballooned in the last few years due to the popularity of cargo bikes and electric bikes. Instead of getting hit by a 200 lb. person-bike combo going 8 mph you’ll get hit by a 400 lb. person-small person-groceries-bike combo going 15 mph. “Trouble in cyclists’ paradise: Amsterdam accused of favouring pedestrians” (Guardian 2021) describes the increasing conflict between walkers and bikers in Amsterdam.

There aren’t as many collisions as you’d imagine, but pedestrians are required to be constantly mindful. This works for the Dutch, but tourists are frequently wandering casually into near-collisions with cyclists. What the cyclists have gained is balanced by a loss of mental peace and capacity among pedestrians.

Here’s a narrow street designed for pedestrians in The Hague:

The bicycle is being used for transportation, not recreation, so it might be whipping by these pedestrians at 10-20 mph. Here are the two transportation modes interacting in Delft:

Maybe those white boxes are supposed to delineate between walking and biking? Or maybe there are two lanes for opposite directions? I didn’t figure it out.

Just a few of the bikes parked near the Amsterdam Zuid secondary station:

What if you choose “neither” but don’t have a car and/or don’t want to pay what my rich local friend said were insanely expensive parking fees? Take the tram!

My take-away: the Danes did it right.

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American Eagle eschews Rainbow-first retail in Rotterdam

May 2023, Manhattan, American Eagle shop windows:

July 2023, Rotterdam (different city), American Eagle (same retailer):

Despite the fact that rainbow flags are almost non-existent in this region, and therefore are sorely needed, American Eagle doesn’t roll out its 2SLGBTQQIA+ message in Rotterdam. If the company is committed to this cause (which they should be), why don’t they promote it in Rotterdam? If the company is not committed to this cause, why do they promote it in New York City?


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Ireland in the European heat wave

Below, a photo from last week in Ireland (ferry near Carlingford). Due to the brutal European heatwave, this family had already brought out their summer parkas.

European readers: How are you doing in this record-setting climate change-caused event? After a multicultural tram ride in The Hague 10 days ago, I told my host that it was “like being in Detroit, but without air conditioning.”

We, personally, have been living in “dangerous heat” here in South Florida, with a temperature of up to125 degrees according to the NYT on Tuesday:

We met a neighbor on yesterday morning’s dog walk. His son had on long pants and was heading out to play three games of baseball in the “danger” zone.

When the professional climate Scientists at the New York Times are forecasting 125 degrees, what are the amateur enthusiasts at the Weather Channel expecting for West Palm Beach? A high of 89 degrees:

Maybe the Danger will hit later in the week?

What’s the record high temperature for West Palm Beach in July, according to the National Weather Service? 101 degrees. That was set in 1942. How about the average July high temp for West Palm? The Google says it is 91 degrees. The NYT reminds us that “summer temperatures have become hotter and more extreme in recent decades.”

The forecast is for high temps right around the historical average high temp and the Scientists at the New York Times say that coastal South Florida is in a “Danger” situation. Was any relief in sight, as far as the NYT Scientists were concerned? No:


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How are the French doing on this Bastille Day?

Happy Bastille Day to our brothers, sisters, and binary-resisters in France! Wikipedia says this day is also for “the Fête de la Fédération that celebrated the unity of the French people.”

What’s the situation in France right now with “the unity of the French people”? Are the mostly peaceful protests over and the French population, including Muslim immigrants, are now unified once more?

I can’t figure out what the theory behind low-skill immigration in France is. Even the French are no longer impressed by French culture. Why would immigrants to France want to adopt traditional French cultural values? If immigrants to France aren’t going to adopt French cultural values, why do the French want them as neighbors? It can’t be for financial reasons given that low-skill migrants in the world’s most expensive welfare state (by percentage of GDP) are going to be burdensome (the U.S. had the world’s 2nd most expensive welfare state, but that was before coronapanic enhancements so maybe we are actually number 1 now).

Here’s a picture that I took back in October 2022 from the Centre Pompidou:

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The Californian comments on the marvels of Europe

Overheard in Delft… a chubby California blonde was on her iPhone describing the marvels of the city to friends back in Sacramento and San Francisco: “It’s incredibly clean, not like the cities in our country.”

This was late on a Sunday afternoon and, in fact, the streets and sidewalks were somewhat trashed by all of the weekend tourists and strolling locals. Trash cans are relatively sparse, takeout food is common, and smoking is more common than in the U.S. In fact, even before the weekend I had noticed that the city was dramatically more littered, especially with very small items, than what we’re accustomed to in the parts of Florida that we visit.

A potential source of trash (my host forced me to eat fries with mayonnaise):

Locals eating just outside the shop:

Three tourists (background left) eating/drinking outside of the old city hall:

A lot of the houses in the center are tidy:

For fans of 1980s Artificial Intelligence:

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Dutch government falls one day after my arrival

Just a day after my arrival in the Netherlands, the government has fallen. “Mark Rutte: Netherlands coalition government collapses in migration row – reports” (BBC):

His conservative VVD party had been trying to limit the flow of asylum seekers, following a row last year about overcrowded migration centres.

This week Mr Rutte tried to force through a plan which included a cap on the number of relatives of war refugees allowed into the Netherlands at just 200 people per month.

But junior coalition partners the Christian Union, a pro-family party, and the socially liberal D66, were strongly opposed.

A compromise proposal, known as the “emergency brake”, which would only trigger the restrictions in the event of an excessively high influx of migrants, was not enough to save the government.

The proposed law seems unworkable. What’s “excessive”? Roughly 27 percent of people who live in the Netherlands aren’t “Dutch” (stats). There was never a popular vote asking for this level of immigration or any other level. The native-born people with whom I have spoken so far have said that the country is too crowded with both low-skill migrants and mass tourists and that their desired number of both would be 0. None of them was ever asked “In an ideal world, what percentage of your neighbors would be from Africa and the Middle East?”

How does it look on the ground? I’m staying in a college town (Delft), but have seen no coffee shops or stores practicing Rainbow-first Retail (examples from Bozeman, Montana), which would be likely to offend Islamic migrants. Any trip by public transit includes companions who don’t appear to share Western sexual mores. Near the center of The Hague, the third-largest Dutch city:

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