Caesar’s Proto-fascism

Caesar: And in Rome, Marc Antony is to speak for Caesar. His authority is not to be questioned.

Canidius: His word will be yours. As always, Caesar’s word is law.

Caesar: Of course. But remind him to keep his legions intact. They make the law legal.

– Wanger. W. (Producer), Mankiewicz. J.L. (Director). (1963). Cleopatra [Motion Picture]. United States: 20th Century-Fox

Operation Bernhard

Operation Bernhard was the name of a secret German plan devised during World War II to destabilise the British economy by flooding the country with forged Bank of England £5, £10, £20, and £50 notes.

The plan was directed by, and named after, SS Major (Sturmbannführer) Bernhard Krüger, who set up a team of 142 counterfeiters from among inmates at Sachsenhausen concentration camp at first, and then from others, especially Auschwitz.

Beginning in 1942, the work of engraving the complex printing plates, developing the appropriate rag-based paper with the correct watermarks, and breaking the code to generate valid serial numbers was extremely difficult, but by the time Sachsenhausen was evacuated in April 1945, the printing press there had produced 8,965,080 banknotes with a total value of £134,610,810. The notes are considered among the most perfect counterfeits ever produced, being extremely difficult although not impossible to distinguish from the real thing.

Although the initial plan was to destabilise the British economy by dropping the notes from aircraft, on the assumption that while some honest people would hand them in most people would keep the notes, in practice this plan was not put into effect.

Mussolini’s Rituals

‘Mussolini thought the Italians needed to be hardened, and he launched what he called an anti-bourgeois campaign. And among the things he banned, or tried to ban, anyway, was people shouldn’t shake hands, they should give the Roman salute, you know, raising their arm and their hand up in the air. […]

[A] man named Achille Starace, was kind of his circus master, who kept coming up with these ideas of rituals, mass rituals and other kinds of rites that he thought would make the Italians ever more devoted to their duce, which is the kind of Latiny term of leader that the Italians used to refer to Mussolini.

In fact, Mussolini required being referred to as DUCE, D-U-C-E,[1] it’s spelled, and it had to be written in capitals in the newspapers by the 1930s. It couldn’t just be written in the normal way.’

– Kertzer, D. (April 24, 2015) ‘Pope And Mussolini’ Tells The ‘Secret History’ Of Fascism And The Church. NPR.

[1] duce; ‘leader’ from Latin duco, meaning ‘I lead’. E.g. Il DUCE ha sempre ragione; ‘the leader is always right’.

Cows, Kaiser Wilhelm and Daylight Saving Time

Billions of people around the world experience general fatigue all day after losing an hour of sleep to daylight saving time. For years, conventional wisdom has been that it benefits one particular group: farmers, but that’s not actually true. There are no farming activities that benefit from daylight saving.

‘Of course daylight saving doesn’t benefit farmers, cows don’t care what time it is, because they’re cows, and cows are idiots.[1] So if it’s not for them, who is it for?

The modern daylight saving was introduced during the first world war as a fuel saving measure by the Germans. – That’s right, you lost an hour of sleep this morning thanks to Kaiser Wilhelm!

And while back then, daylight saving may indeed have saved fuel, in the modern era, energy consumption is a little more complicated. In fact, when Indiana adopted daylight saving in 2006, guess what happened: the data shows that daylight saving actually led to a 1% overall rise in residential electricity.

Of course it did, because switching on a lamp an hour later in the summer doesn’t really matter when you’re blasting an air conditioner and staying up all night psychotically scrolling through instagrams of your ex’s honeymoon to Morocco.

But that’s not to say daylight saving doesn’t have any effects at all. Studies show there is an increase of car accidents and work-related injuries the week after the time change. – That’s right, what you lose in sleep, you gain in mortal danger.

Despite all this, 70 countries around the world still observe daylight saving and yet by going by local news reports, none of them could tell you why. […]

So if it doesn’t benefit our energy bill, our health or our stupid, stupid cows, it has to make you wonder: daylight saving time, how is this still a thing?’

– Oliver. J. et. al. (2015, March 8) Daylight Saving Time – How Is This Still A Thing?: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

[1] The authors would like to underline they do not endorse the view that all cows are idiots. A 2004 study by Cambridge University researchers revealed cows have “eureka” moments, taking pleasure in their own learning achievements. When the cows made improvements in learning, they showed emotional and behavioral reactions that indicated excitement.

Dazzle Ships

Dazzle camouflage was a military camouflage paint scheme used on ships, extensively during World War I and to a lesser extent in World War II.

After the Allied Navies failed to develop effective means to disguise ships in all weathers, the dazzle technique was employed. At first glance, this was an unlikely form of camouflage, as ships were painted with zebra-like black, grey and white stripes.

This type of camouflage was used, not to conceal the ship, but rather to make it difficult for the enemy to estimate its type, size, speed and direction of travel. Also, each ship’s dazzle pattern was unique to avoid making classes of ships instantly recognisable to the enemy.

After seeing a canon painted in dazzle camouflage trundling through the streets of Paris, Pablo Picasso is reported to have taken credit for the innovation which seemed to him a quintessentially Cubist technique.

Necrocracy and the Eternal President

North Korea displays all the trappings of a fundamentalist theocracy (Tellis, Wills. 2007). It has long been established that the North Korean culture of government has taken the shape of a leadership cult with special reverence for its founder Kim Il-sung. This worship became particularly apparent in the 1990s when its founder – the first in the current trinity of Kims – passed away.

‘Under the leadership of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Korean people will hold the great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung in high esteem as the eternal President of the Republic and carry the revolutionary cause of Juche through to completion by defending and carrying forward the idea and achievements of Comrade Kim Il Sung.’

– Preamble to the Constitution of North Korea (1972, revised 1998)

In 1998, four years after the death of the so-called beloved and dear leader, it was established that Kim Il-sung would hold the office of President of the Republic for the rest of time.

Subsequent North Korean leaders (a hereditary privilege of the Kim family since the founding of the state) have been made head of the party and of supreme commander of the army, but the office of president is still held by the man who died in 1994. This makes North Korea the only state in the world with a dead president; effectively, the only necrocracy in the world.

How the Greeks Knew the Earth was a Sphere

‘As long ago as 340 BC the Greek philosopher Aristotle, in his book On the Heavens,
was able to put forward two good arguments for believing that the earth was a round sphere rather than a Hat plate. First, he realized that eclipses of the moon were caused by the earth coming between the sun and the moon. The earth’s shadow on the moon was always round, which would be true only if the earth was spherical. If the earth had been a flat disk, the shadow would have been elongated and elliptical, unless the eclipse always occurred at a time when the sun was directly under the center of the disk. Second, the Greeks knew from their travels that the North Star appeared lower in the sky when viewed in the south than it did in more northerly regions. (Since the North Star lies over the North Pole, it appears to be directly above an observer at the North Pole, but to someone looking from the equator, it appears to lie just at the horizon. From the difference in the apparent position of the North Star in Egypt and Greece, Aristotle even quoted an estimate that the distance around the earth was 400,000 stadia. It is not known exactly what length a stadium was, but it may have been about 200 yards, which would make Aristotle’s estimate about twice the currently accepted figure. The Greeks even had a third argument that the earth must be round, for why else does one first see the sails of a ship coming over the horizon, and only later see the hull?’

– Hawking. S. (1998) A Brief History of Time New York, United States: Bantam Books p. 2

On Freedom from Pain

Chorus of Theban Elders: ‘Therefore, while our eyes wait to see the destined final day, we must call no one happy who is of mortal race, until he hath crossed life’s border, free from pain.’

– Sophocles, Oedipus Rex

Taken from Oedipus the King, lines 1529-1530; as published in The Tragedies of Sophocles (1917), translated by Richard Claverhouse Jebb.