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Post A New Iron Curtain in Europe?
Created by John Eipper on 12/01/19 11:36 AM

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A New Iron Curtain in Europe? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy, 12/01/19 11:36 am)

Some weeks ago there was an unimpressive celebration of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9th). The event was not even properly remembered on WAIS.

But let's be honest: Weren't the days of the old Iron Curtain some kind of Golden Age?

At that time there were two Empires. Both were on the defensive and therefore war between them was considered almost impossible. Now a new Iron Curtain has been raised, but the Empires are no longer homogeneous and after all, where exactly is the Iron Curtain?

There is instability. Europe may descend into Chaoslandia. The old Iron Curtain has moved eastward 1200 Km thanks to the reneged promises of the Western Empire. But this has not given us more peace.

In the North there are rather oppressed Russian minorities, up to 25% in Estonia and Latvia with 5% in Lithuania, but we also have the strategic Russian enclave in Kaliningrad (Konisberg).

In the center we have Belarus, Ukraine (already in a civil war) and Moldova, where the US and Russia contend for influence. But Romania wants Moldova back, while Hungary wants the Carpathian Ruthenia while Volhynia and Podolia are desired by Poland. Lviv or Banderstadt has not yet completely forgotten that it was once Lwow.

Russia cannot lose Belarus and Ukraine. However the first is playing the role of independent nation while Ukraine is very much divided.

The South has the Georgian problems, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, plus the Caucasus where the Empire enjoys meddling. We have the strategic Russian enclaves of Sevastopol (Crimea) and Tiraspol (Transnitria).

And let's not forget the Balkans. Russia has for sure not digested the Kosovo separation, while Serbia and of course the Srpska Republic tend to be on the Russian side, as is Bulgaria. Just remember that Bulgaria even if a member of the Axis did not declare war against the USSR. But this not all.  The various nations hate each other and other powers want to meddle, such as Germany, Turkey, China, even Iran.

As you may have noticed, Europe may no longer be the greatest point of interest for the US, as the Pacific area is becoming more and more of importance. However the Empire cannot remain indifferent to any European crisis. The EU too is shattering. In fact the Empire is planning a great military exercise next year, moving 20,000 troops into Europe. But will be it a wise action?

The Italy of Berlusconi in the early years of this millennium tried to convince the Emperor to have Russia as a respected partner, but the Russophobe American Deep State did not like the idea.  Now the Empire has two powerful potential enemies--Russia and China.

JE comments:  Belarus is the independent one?  The common view is that it is Putin's most loyal vassal state.  Be that as it may, Eugenio Battaglia raises a very important question:  Has a new Iron Curtain arisen in Europe, less defined and "ferrous" but possibly more dangerous than ever?

The bipolar world of Cold War times was indeed stable, perhaps paradoxically so.  But very few of the new NATO nations in Eastern Europe would welcome a return to the old days.

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  • Macron and NATO's "Brain Death" (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 12/06/19 3:08 AM)
    As a follow-up to my post on the new Iron Curtain, I believe the situation may be worse than I originally thought.

    Macron has clearly stated that the NATO is in a state of brain death.

    The recent NATO meeting was not a success. Four leaders (Canada, France, UK and Netherlands) apparently made fun of Trump, who then refused to attend the usual press conference.

    The only things worth mentioning from the meeting were Trump's usual orders to the other countries to increase military spending by buying American weapons, while also threatening high tariffs for the European countries which dare to impose taxes on the big American tech companies. The proposed tax is a paltry 3% instead of the much higher rate imposed on domestic firms.

    The Iranian admiral Hossein Khanzadi has announced that starting on 27 December 2019, joint military maneuvers will start with Russia and China.

    NATO was imposed on the Europeans to keep the US in, the USSR out and Germany down. However with the present unclear leadership in the US (not of Trump only) and the unsatisfactory EU rules, Germany may be tempted to dominate all Europe not only economically.

    The EU is a natural failure, but so far no new country was ever born out of the peaceful, voluntary union of various nations. Generally one nation conquers another, then assimilates said nations and finally unifies them. See the examples of Italy, Germany, the UK, China, and so on.

    The US has imposed a complete assimilation (forgetting any integration of various different traditions, customs etc.) on all the new arrivals and the natives.

    The present EU "goodists" are living an illusion. The proof is that instead of a push toward unity we are experiencing a push toward division. See Catalunya, England, Scotland, Balkans (which Clinton helped to destabilize), etc.

    The dream that a technical-economic integration could be enough to unite Europe without real deep feelings of being the members of the same nation remains an empty one.

    After all, the so-called European Unity was an American imposition, while Monnet, Schuman and De Gasperi (the so-called founding fathers) were only American puppets.

    France accepted the unity to dominate Germany, while Germany accepted it to regain its sovereignty.

    The Europeans have always made a real union impossible, and all the various states or empires who attempted this union have miserably failed.

    As Kissinger said: "Different nations in competition were not chaos to be eliminated but a complicated mechanism, reaching an equilibrium capable of protecting the interests, integrity and autonomy of each nation."

    The euro was supposed to unify the various states, but on the contrary it has developed a great strain and greater greed.

    In this climate, Italy is floating like a ship with a broken rudder in the middle of a hurricane: It cannot get out because otherwise the financial markets will kill its economy, but it cannot stay because the EU rules (imposed mainly by Germany and France) are killing its economy.

    JE comments:  The United States arose from the "peaceful, voluntary union of various nations" (OK, they were colonies).  But let's turn to NATO.  "Worldly" Americans are mortified by Trump playing the Ugly American at the latest summit, but Trump's base eats that stuff up.

    The central question on Europe's mind:  would Trump's America uphold its commitment to collective defense?  Let's pray the question never goes beyond the theoretical, but if I were Poland or a Baltic nation, I'd be nervous.

    Eugenio, how was the EU an American "imposition"?  My understanding is that the original Coal and Steel Community of 1952 was formed as a response to American (and Soviet) hegemony.

    (Coal and steel:  how quaint.)

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    • EU, Nationalism, Separatism: Response to Eugenio Battaglia (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 12/09/19 3:07 AM)

      Eugenio Battaglia (December 6th) once again severely criticized NATO and the European Union. This is nothing new, as several other WAIS colleagues have expressed an inexplicable feeling of disgust and hatred against the EU.

      I hope not to get into another controversy with Eugenio on this topic, but I am forced to question a couple of his statements.

      First, Eugenio says that the EU is a "natural failure, because no new country was ever born out of the peaceful, voluntary union of various nations." Maybe Eugenio is historically correct; however it is incorrect and naïve, or at least a conceptual mistake, to consider the EU an attempt to create a new "country." No such definition was ever the intention of the EU and I doubt this is ever going to be possible, unless a new wave of an unlikely European nationalism shows up on the continent. Perhaps it would be useful for Eugenio to review the history of the EU's creation to understand better its original purpose and achievements.

      Eugenio also criticized the EU "goodists." I consider myself a radical member of this group. He cited the "push toward division" of Catalunya, Scotland and the Balkans as examples of the EU's failure. Please Eugenio, correct me if I am wrong, but the examples you quoted are somehow misinterpreted.  Catalonian independentism does not seek separation from the EU, nor does Scotland. On the contrary in the last case many favor independence because they still find it necessary and useful to remain in the EU. I am not sure about the Balkans case, Croatia or Serbia, but I doubt their desire is to leave the EU.

      Eugenio seems to be an extreme Euro skeptic, as much as Salvini and his Italian populist-nationalistic party, but I am pretty sure (at least is what I would like to think) that most of the Italian population still considers it a privilege to remain in the EU.

      JE comments:  Croatia "just" joined the EU (in 2013), and Serbia is still at the candidacy stage.  What Brussels insider can update us on where this process stands?  It is telling that no new EU members have been admitted since the Brexit negotiations began in 2016.

      José Ignacio Soler is correct that no separatist/nationalist movement in Europe seeks to go it alone outside the EU.  Catalonian nationalists, for example, take it for granted that their new state would gain EU membership.

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      • An Alternative to an Ever-Expanding EU? The Delors Plan (Angel Vinas, Belgium 12/09/19 2:45 PM)

        I'm very busy working on an expanded version of my latest book. However, I cannot let pass without commenting José Ignacio Soler's post on the EU in response to Eugenio Battaglia (9 December). I haste to add that I fully share José Ignacio's views.

        The EU was born out of the ashes of World War II and the fears of a possible WWIII. It grew under the umbrella of NATO and, a European Defense Community having been rejected by the French National Assembly, it started on the economic side. The interpenetration of national economies, particularly in those war-enabling sectors such as coal and steel, would make another war unthinkable on the Western part of the European continent. Its speed and innovative capacity defied all expectations. The economic growth of Western Europe since the 1960s is unthinkable without the EU and the will of Member States to jointly exercise sovereignty in ever-expanding areas.

        After the collapse of the Soviet Union the neutrals and the former Warsaw Pact members were very happy to join. The enlargement was a great success for the UK which wanted to dilute the trend towards ever more sharing of national sovereignties. This created new challenges and opportunities, particularly with an expanding single European market (energetically pushed forward by the Brits). The dilemmas between enlargement and internal strengthening of the EU were never solved. As soon as the international economy started floundering, old national rivalries emerged.

        There was never the slightest intention of creating a super State, even less a new nation. The undefined idea was to aspire to "an ever closer Union."

        The enlargement dreams turned sour. The former Communist countries had nationalistic-minded parties that were not keen on sharing wider parcels of sovereignty. I haven't forgotten the Czech case. The Hungarian and Polish cases came later on.

        I gave a course on the economic, political and security developments of the EU until I retired from University in 2011. I always thought that Jacques Delors´ strategy of creating a wide economic area in Europe without the former Communist States becoming integrated into the EU institutions might have been more intelligent.

        Now we have created a dynamic process in which the requests for admission are ever increasing, perhaps with good reasons. But some Member States have become wary of further enlargements (France at the fore). Once bitten...

        JE comments:  So nice to hear from you and Happy Holidays, Ángel!  When time permits, could you give us a deeper overview of the Delors plan?  Wouldn't a (permanent?) exclusion of the former East Bloc nations from the EU have ensured the perpetuation of the old Iron Curtain?

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      • A United States of Europe? Not a New Idea (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 12/11/19 3:38 AM)

        I wish to thank José Ignacio Soler for his kind and well-informed, if
        strongly worded essay of 9 December.

        First of all, I am convinced we both believe in the dream of a European Union.  The difference between us is that José Ignacio believes in the chances
        of the present EU while I consider the constitution of the present EU to be
        completely wrong.

        Our differences remind me of the diatribe in Europe starting in
        April 1929 when Asvero Gavelli began publishing the magazine Antieuropa
        (Against Europe) through 1943. The name of the magazine seems contrary to
        a European Union.  It was actually pro-Union, but...

        We may say that the dream of a United Europe is more than one thousand
        years old, but in modern times Giuseppe Mazzini on 15 April 1834 founded
        the Giovine Europe (Young Europe). The first members of this association
        were delegates from Poland, Germany and Italy (all not yet unified or
        existing states) to create a federation of the various European peoples
        against the Europe of the Kings united by the Holy Alliance of 1815.  Giovine Europe was first of all a spiritual association with the
        respect of the peculiarities of each people and had nothing to do with the
        materialism of Marx. Unsurprisingly, Giovine Europe and its national divisions were
        strongly persecuted by the kings.

        Victor Hugo in 1849 proposed the United States of Europe. On 5 September
        1929 the French PM, the Masons and Nobel Laureate Aristid Briand also proposed
        a United States of Europe. Also Lenin, Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, Edward
        Herriot, Winston Churchill and the Italian antifascist Spinelli while at the
        "confino" proposed the same thing. Italians presently tend to believe that
        all the credit goes to Spinelli (sic).

        But all these proposals, even if theoretically fascinating, were not sound
        ideas, as is the case with the present EU.

        Asvero Gravelli wanted a European Union based on homogeneous nations with
        their traditions but without egotism, and already with the same political
        system based on authority, order and justice. Otherwise the Union cannot
        work; see Historica n° 3/2019.

        At present the EU has a huge amount of silly economic rules and a single
        monetary system, the euro. Unfortunately the euro is based on the
        quicksands of different welfare and taxation systems,
        financial reserves, costs of living, social measures, bureaucracies,
        abysmal differences in wages which lead to the monkey business of
        multinational firms going from one state to another to find the cheapest
        producers to get the maximum profit. Unless these differences are
        nullified, the Union cannot work. Apparently the differences are increasing.

        On top of this, the egotism (hidden racism) of the various leaders makes them
        fight each other, mostly along party lines, while they fill their speeches with sacred words such as union,
        democracy, integration, liberalism, rights, etc.

        Therefore a new "Antieuropa" is needed to reach a real united Europe with
        the principles of faith, discipline, sacrifice, justice and duty and
        without the present confusion of looking only towards individual rights and
        profits--which at the end means no rights and no profits for the majority.

        JE comments:  Weren't the Romans the first to seek a United Europe?  Eugenio Battaglia is correct, however, that such a vision has so far only been achieved through conquest.

        Did "Antieuropa" have a fascist agenda, with the "anti-" part referring to a World Order after liberal democracy?  By the way, when was the last time a political leader succeeded with a call for discipline (ouch) and sacrifice (double ouch)?  Kennedy (ask not what your country can do for you) gave us a tepid appeal for sacrifice, but I know of nobody in the last half-century.  Jimmy Carter modestly asked us to turn down our heat, and voters punished him for it.

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    • Somalia and the "Peaceful, Voluntary Union of Nations" (Brian Blodgett, USA 12/11/19 8:23 AM)
      Eugenio Battaglia's comment (December 6th) that "no new country was ever born out of the peaceful, voluntary union of various nations" caught my attention. I bring up the Somali Republic.

      The Somali Republic, the official name of Somalia, formed from the unification of the Trust Territory of Somaliland (formerly Italian Somaliland) and the State of Somaliland (formerly British Somaliland) in 1960.

      In 1960, the leaders of both Italian Somaliland and British Somaliland decided, based on public opinion, to merge. At this time, Britain still controlled their part of the country but agreed to end its rule of the State of Somaliland to merge with the Trust Territory of Somaliland five days prior to the formation of the Somali Republic.

      The Trust Territory of Somaliland was under Italian control prior to 1941 when it was occupied by British and South African troops during the East African Campaign of the Second World War.  It remained under British control until 1949 when it became a Trust Territory by the United Nations yet under Italian administration but with a promise of independence after 10 years.

      I am rather sure that there are other countries that joined together peacefully and voluntarily.

      JE comments:  Very sadly, the peaceful part for Somalia didn't last.  Do I understand that (a defeated) Italy was allowed to return to administering Somaliland in 1949?  I somehow never knew this.

      A joyous Holiday season to Brian Blodgett, one of the most honorable members of WAISworld's 2019 Honor Roll.  Brian, here's my first resolution for 2020:  let's finally meet in person.

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      • Somalia and Nationalism (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 12/13/19 4:53 AM)
        In response to Brian Blodgett (11 December), Somalia was not the union of two different nations but the union of two countries both having the same Somali nationality. So it is not a clear example.

        JE comments:  Doesn't this depend on how you define nationality?  Eugenio Battaglia appears to opt for language, and the even vaguer standard of "ethnicity."

        As an extreme counterexample:  do the two Koreas count as one nation?  Strong arguments could be made for yes or no.

        Regardless, greetings from lovely Varadero, Cuba.  I've noticed a twist in my e-mail accessibility from our visit last year.  It appears that my jeipper@waisworld.org account does NOT work, but the "reply" option does.  Just to be on the safe side and to keep the WAIS content flowing, try the following three addys:

        waisforums@waisworld.org (or simply hit "reply" to this e-mail)

        eipper@hotmail.com (my "secret" civilian addy)

        jeipper@waisworld.org (this account seems to be blocked, however)

        A message for Silvia Ribelles:  Can you please re-send the post you sent yesterday?  Many thanks!

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  • Why Are the Former Soviet Bloc Nations More Religious? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 12/08/19 3:55 AM)
    When commenting on my post "A New Iron Curtain in Europe?" (December 1st), our esteemed moderator very correctly stated, "Very few of the new NATO nations in Eastern Europe would welcome a return to the old days [under the Soviet empire]."

    However according to Noticias Cristianas.com, we can observe a startling difference between the countries under one empire and the other.

    The domination of the US has transformed the various countries of Western Europe from a traditional concept of society into a very modernized one, while the domination of Eastern Empire has paradoxically reinforced the old concepts of "God, Fatherland and Family" (by this I mean traditional family).

    As I've been saying for a long time, scandalizing all my friends, perhaps if Italy had ended up under the Soviet heel in 1948, by now with the collapse of the empire it would be "spiritually" better off.

    I nonetheless wonder as WAISdom's Bastian Contrario: would I be still alive or would I never have emerged from the "reeducation camps"?

    In Armenia, Georgia, Serbia, (Greece), Romania, more than 70% of the population believes that the Christian religion is part of the national identity. In Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Norway, France, and Spain, from 65% to 85% do not consider the Christian religion to be an important part of the national identity.

    In the Western Europe there are fewer Christian followers.  Abortion, divorce, euthanasia, and gender fluidity are very popular. Italy is even trying to abolish the use of the words father and mother in official documents, replacing them with Parent 1 and Parent 2, regardless of whether one is a man and the other a woman.

    In the Baltic States, Hungary, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, the number of Christians has considerably increased.

    Therefore we may conclude that Soviet propaganda was a complete failure, while in the West the "individual rights" have triumphed.

    JE comments:  We never raised this question before:  Why does Eastern Europe turn towards religion, while Western Europe grows ever more secular?  Perhaps banning religious practice is the best way to make it flourish?  Conversely, if you shove an official church down people's throats, they will reject it.  This is the case of Spain with the legacy of Francoism.

    Regarding "irreligion," the East/West distinction is not unversally applicable.  The Czech Republic is one of the least religious nations on earth, equal to ultra-secular Sweden and less believing than the French.  And perhaps surprisingly, the Finns are 5% more devout than their Estonian cousins.

    There's a lot to discuss here.  Note that as a general rule (see below), the poorer nations are more religious.


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    • Intelligence, Knowledge, and Religion (Tor Guimaraes, USA 12/09/19 3:36 AM)
      First, Happy Holidays to all.

      John Eipper responded to Eugenio Battaglia on December 8th: "Why does Eastern Europe turn towards religion, while Western Europe grows ever more secular?"

      Perhaps the fact that the USSR frowned on organized religion gave the Christians a good opportunity to blame all their problems on Communism. I see something similar going on in China, but in reverse. When their Communist Party was lifting hundreds of millions of Chinese from abject poverty, not many commentators were giving the Party much credit. Now that things are getting much more challenging and rough waters are ahead, it will be much easier to blame them. This might be an interesting observation but only superficially.

      When it comes to religion, to me the most important question is why do so many people still prefer to believe in superstition and fake news, instead of science and scientific facts? After reading my book God for Atheists and Scientists one more time for inspiration, perhaps I found the answer: The reason why humans have had many hundreds of organized religions over time is the effect from the gap between human intelligence and knowledge. Let me explain.

      First let's define what I mean by intelligence. While in reality we may have hundreds of dimensions or types of intelligence, some of the most basic factors are ability to think problems through; ability to recognize patterns and trends; concern about the future and sustainability; trust, faith, and compassion; imagination and creativity.

      Early people became intelligent but had very little knowledge, so they feared things that they could not understand and imagined gods, created rituals, places and rules to protect them. Thus we have had a huge variety of gods and religious artifacts: the sun, moon, Olympus, Valhalla, religious books, etc.

      Psychologically, having intelligence and relatively little knowledge leads to fear, hoarding, selfishness, violence, and superstition. As knowledge grows these negative feelings will subside, but as the world gets more complex, most people can't keep up with the increasing requirements for knowledge to make intelligent decisions such as choosing our leaders. More wealthy and powerful people can hire specialists, managers, lobbyists to ensure their position and manipulate the masses, thus gaining increasing wealth and power. Furthermore, private interests have their own ideologies, agendas, as well as resources to invest and manipulate. That can produce political parties and other groups which may cooperate or clash. With no common ethics, there is no overall leader, no common values, no trust, no communication, and only partial representation. Thus as a nation, decisions will be muddled leading to partisan actions and reactions, and overall chaos. Chaos leads to widespread frustration, loss of hope, despair, violence, and oligarchic dictatorship.

      JE comments:  Yes, Happy Holidays, Tor!  I never asked you this before:  Does your God the Universe theology allow for holidays?  Isn't there something fundamentally irrational and unscientific about making one day more significant than another?

      In English at least, a "secular" holy-day is an oxymoron.

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      • Thoughts on Secular Holidays (Tor Guimaraes, USA 12/10/19 3:20 AM)
        John Eipper commented on my last post: "Does [Tor Guimaraes's] God the Universe theology allow for holidays? Isn't there something fundamentally irrational and unscientific about making one day more significant than another?"

        My God the Universe says that as long as we can afford it, and we are willing to work very hard for it, every day can be a holiday. We can get as creative as we want and commemorate anything we want, even indulge in superstitions just for fun. However, if you take any superstition too seriously it could become a detrimental distraction or even something hurtful to people who disagree with you. Have fun but be careful.

        JE comments:  Can a day be special if there are no "normal" days to make it so?  How about any day can be a holiday?

        Some secular holidays for December 10th:  Dewey Decimal System Day, Jane Addams Day, and (most important) International Human Rights Day.  Given our love of books, justice and dignity, I consider all three holidays very WAISly.

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        • What's the Deal with US Holidays? (Enrique Torner, USA 12/10/19 12:56 PM)
          Speaking about holidays, in Spain a holiday means nobody (or hardly anybody) works. Since I come from this perspective, US holidays have always puzzled me.

          There are holidays in which some people work, and others don't, and you never know if you are getting mail, but not getting your trash picked up, or the other way around. Universities work on some holidays when schools don't, and the other way around. Our university takes off on Martin Luther King Day, but not on Veterans' Day. Why is that? And then there are all these "secular holidays" that are hardly printed anywhere which I love that are no holidays at all: National Cookie Day (December 4 this year), National Doughnut Day (June 7), and so on, in which you can get a free donut or cookie if you go to certain places.  Of course, you end up buying more, so these ones make financial sense. But how do you explain the other "holidays"?

          Incidentally, "holiday" comes from "holy day." Whatever happened to the "holy" origin? It's evident that the religious origins of holidays have been taken over by pagan ones. But that started happening centuries ago, when English called "domingo" (from the Latin Day of the Lord) Sunday, the Day of the Sun.

          JE comments: More likely it's the other way around: Christian holidays originally "piggybacked" on pagan ones (Christmas for the winter solstice, etc.).

          In Spain, a "holiday" is a "día festivo" or the more generic "fiesta." Who doesn't love a party?  Spanish Americans prefer to say "días feriados," which literally are "market days."  Now they are the days when the markets tend to be closed.

          In a spasm of curiosity, I Googled "what nation celebrates the most holidays."  The answer astounded me, and a dozen donuts go to anyone who guesses without Googling.  As always, you're on your WAISly honor not to cheat.

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          • Who Wants a Dozen Donuts? (John Eipper, USA 12/11/19 6:06 AM)

            I've received two responses to yesterday's WAIS Quiz:

            What nation has the most official holidays?

            Ed Jajko guessed Japan.  Paul Rootare suggested Germany.  Close, but no donuts.

            Here's a hint:  it's not any of the former Axis powers.

            As always, the WAIS Honor Code applies.  No Googling allowed.

            A dozen donuts go to the winner.  I'm still unsure how to ship them.

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            • The Donut Contest: What Nation Has the Most Holidays? (Silvia Ribelles de la Vega, USA 12/12/19 2:57 AM)
              John E asked for WAISer guesses on the nation with the most official holidays.

              My vote is France. My brother lives in Paris and it seems as if they are having picnics day in and day out because they don't have to go to work.

              John, have fun in Cuba. Dipping your toes in the Caribbean must be such a treat at this time of the year!

              JE comments:  Great guess, Silvia, but sorry, no beignets.  Perhaps France is too secular?  There are eleven recognized holidays each year in France.  The US has ten.  The "champion" observes more holidays than both nations put together.

              I'll run a couple of other responses, but here's the spoiler:  we're still looking for the correct answer.

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            • The Donut Contest: Come Back Tomorrow? (Enrique Torner, USA 12/12/19 3:19 AM)
              Japan? Germany? Such efficient, hard-working countries? No way!

              The winner for most official holidays has to be Spain, the laziest country in the world, according to Mariano José de Larra's "Vuelva Usted mañana"! [Come back tomorrow].

              Send me those delicious donuts! Larra couldn't be wrong, could he?

              JE comments: Enrique, that's one of my favorite stories to teach.  Readers are invited to identify with Mr Sans-Délai, an exasperated Frenchman caught in endless Madrileño bureaucracy.  It's an absurdist and hilarious vignette.

              I too would have guessed Spain, or else Colombia, which turns out to be tied for fifth. Both countries always seem to be celebrating something. The Hispanic nations are also big on the "puente" (bridge), which involves extending a holiday by a few days. The granddaddy of bridging occurs in Seville, where the "Feria" comes two weeks after Easter/Holy Week. The result? Nothing gets done in the week between.

              But lazy?  Enrique, partying this hard is hard work!

              Spain observes "only" eight holidays nationally, although local holidays add up to a total of 12.

              Want to know the winner?  I could ask you to Come Back Tomorrow, but I'll post the answer before we board the plane for Cuba.

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            • Another Try for the Donuts (Edward Jajko, USA 12/12/19 3:39 AM)

              What about the Vatican State? Every day is a commemoration of at least one saint.  Some days commemorate All Saints or All Souls; and throughout the year there are special days like Christmas and Easter.

              JE comments:  Today, December 12th, the saint is a biggie:  Guadalupe, Patroness of the All the Americas.  Our Orthodox friends celebrate the slightly more obscure St Spyridon the Wonderworker.  He healed the incurably sick, and cast out demons on the side.  Impressive!

              Ed, I believe I still owe you lunch for a lost sports wager or two (moral:  never bet on Detroit teams), but you'll have to get your own donuts.  Really sorry about that.

              I'll accept submissions until 2 PM today, US Eastern.

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            • Want Donuts? Look towards Asia (Alan Levine, USA 12/12/19 4:03 AM)
              As for the country with the most public holidays, I'll guess Bhutan or India or Nepal.

              JE comments: Alan, this is the closest guess so far. You're thinking outside the box, but--ouch--not quite enough to score a box of donuts.  It turns out that India is tied for third (with Kazakhstan), with 21 official holidays.

              As for Bhutan, it frequently ranks among the world's happiest nations, even without donuts.

              So I've partially let the donut out of the box:  the winning country (with 28 annual holidays) is Asian.


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            • Still Another Shot at the Donut Prize (Brian Blodgett, USA 12/12/19 5:08 AM)
              Going off a completely scientific line of reasoning, I figured the winner for the most public holidays would be a country that has a high percent of people with the same religion. As for which religion, I would think Catholicism and then Brazil.

              (I would have picked Italy, but John said it was not any of the former Axis powers.)

              JE comments: You are partially on the right track, Brian. The "winner" is religiously homogeneous, at 97%.  But (hint hint) it's not a Christian country.

              At the same time, a tolerant nation of religious diversity would automatically have more holidays. Think of the Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Buddhist days and celebrating them all.

              Brazil has only eight holidays nationally, although there are state and municipal events.

              One takeaway from the Holiday Quiz:  WAISers are motivated by donuts!  We'll soon be heading to Canada to catch the plane for Cuba.  Must stop at Tim Horton's on the way.  We have T Ho's on this side of the border, too, but there's nothing like the genuine article.

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            • The Donut Prize? Almost There... (David Duggan, USA 12/12/19 8:47 AM)

              I'm going to guess Malaysia.

              JE comments:  We're getting very warm. Malaysia and our Holiday Nation do share a common neighbor.  If my geography serves me, we've now limited the pool to three.

              I'll give the answer in two hours, from the Windsor (Ontario) airport.

              A reminder:  for the next seven days, please direct incoming WAIS posts to jeipper@waisworld.org.  Hitting "reply" to this e-mail will not work.


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            • Holiday Special: The Winner Is... (John Eipper, USA 12/12/19 11:31 AM)
              So what country has the most public holidays?

              My comments on David Duggan's post limited the candidates to nations sharing a border with Malaysia's neighbor. I had Thailand in mind for that neighbor, which would make the finalists Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. (I just checked the map, and Papua New Guinea also shares a neighbor with Malaysia: Indonesia.  But you can't drive there.)

              Either way, the winner is...Cambodia, with 28 public holidays.

              Donuts to WAISer Alan Levine, who wrote:  "OK, John, you're narrowing it down considerably! Sharing a common border
              with Malaysia means Thailand is the connecting link and that means it
              has to be Burma, Laos, or Cambodia. Burma has been facing various forms
              of civil war for a long time, so I'm going to guess it isn't that. So
              50/50: I'll guess Cambodia. Maybe they have a bunch of holidays going
              back to the Angkor Wat epoch. Donuts?"

              Yes Alan, donuts for you!  Sitting here in Canada, I'll see if Tim Horton's delivers as far as DC.  Honorable Mention goes to Harry Papasotiriou in Athens, who guessed the correct answer 31 minutes later.  Shipping to Greece will be trickier, but Harry:  how about lunch when we next meet?

              Let's look over the impressive list of Cambodian holidays:


              The king alone gets three days for his birthday, plus his coronation day. In addition, the royal mother and father each have their respective birthdays, for a total of six. Add to this the Royal Plowing ceremony, four days for remembering your ancestors, Victory over Genocide day, and a host of others, and you have a busy calendar. That's more than five work weeks.

              Perhaps this is a natural reaction to the horrors (and presumably, dearth of holidays) under Pol Pot?

              According to the link above, today is a normal day in Cambodia.  They're still recovering from International Human Rights Day on Tuesday.

              Congratulations, Alan and Harry!  We board the plane for Cuba in a few minutes.  Please remember to send incoming posts to my "private" WAIS address:  jeipper@waisworld.org

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    • Religion and Nation-Building: Eastern Europe (Bàrbara Molas, -Canada 12/10/19 2:54 AM)
      John E raised this question on December 8th: "Why does Eastern Europe turn towards religion, while Western Europe grows ever more secular?"

      In my research, I find that religion as a modern phenomenon tends to be related to the need for nation-building, or in other words to spur unity in diversity. To a greater extent than Western Europe, Eastern Europe's twentieth-century history was characterized by the establishment of new frontiers that forcefully grouped people from different cultures who had recently been through traumatic experiences largely defined by ethnic prejudices. The need to adapt to such new "national realities" could have encouraged looking to foster some sort of "spiritual" unity in the absence of cultural, or ethnic, unity. Religion in such cases tends to be a very useful resource, for it provides with a cross-cultural common framework that allows for the establishment of shared values, giving a chance to socio-political stability.

      JE comments:  Couldn't we point to Spain as the first modern nation to practice this tactic?  Or rather, the first nation to use this tactic to become "modern"?  When the Christians took the city of Granada in 1492, their next act was the expulsion of Spain's Jewish population. 

      An interesting counterexample would be Yugoslavia under Tito:  three or four religions, two alphabets, and a half-dozen languages.  We could argue that Titoism was superimposed as a secular religion to cancel out that messy diversity.  Of course, it ultimately didn't work.

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