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Monday, February 24, 2014

The ramblings of a lunatic

Finished reading Mein Kampf (an English translation of it to be exact, not the one filled with notes). There's been a lot of debate among historians as to whether Hitler's policies once he became chancellor followed a careful plan or whether those policies (such as the Holocaust) emerged more spontaneously, as a reaction to changing circumstances. Some Nazi sympathizers even claim Hitler had no choice but to do what he did because of the hostility of his foreign adversaries. To me it's quite clear that everything that happened was laid out in detail in this book, written in the mid 1920s, and that no one in Germany or abroad could honestly claim they did now know what Hitler's intentions were.

Reading the book, it's obvious Hitler is bored by economics. He rants a lot about Marxism but very little about its economic implications. He sympathizes with workers and blames the bourgeoisie (and Jews) for the rise of Marxism among the working class. In his views, employers should consider the welfare of the community first and avoid excess discrepancies in wage rates. Hitler's views on capital and stock markets aren't too different from those advocated by the contemporary utopian-fascist Zeitgeist movement. In Hitler's mind, the ills of both Capitalism and Communism are fused together in the "International Jew" who seeks to destroy national economies through the stock market, thus forging some kind of a "Eternal Jewish Empire". To prevent that, national economies such as that of Germany must be liberated from "interest slavery" and the machinations of the stock market. Throughout the book, Marxism is practically considered synonymous with the Jew.

Hitler does not explicitly state any plan to exterminate the Jewish people; but then again he didn't mention anything about that even as the Holocaust was under way. Still, it's quite obvious Hitler harbored such plans early on. He believes Jews would not be content with a state in Palestine because of their supposedly international character; such a state would merely function as a base of operations for the Jews' global quest to destroy all non-Jewish nation states. Regrettably, Hitler doesn't go into detail about the roots of his antisemitism. In his childhood and teens, he was even sympathetic toward the Jewish people for all the persecutions that had taken place in the past. Then, in Vienna, Hitler seems to have been brainwashed by antisemitic literature such as Protocols and Henry Ford's (the American car industrialist) writings. Why he decided to believe such obvious nonsense remains a mystery but then again the vast majority of people on this planet believe in something stupid, be that gods, homeopathy, astrology, UFO landings or 9/11 conspiracies. In the past persecution of Jews has served the self-interests of the persecuting parties (such as the financial and religious interests of spendthrift and zealous monarchs), but if Hitler had merely wanted to use Jews as scapegoats, he probably wouldn't have murdered millions of them in secret. Quite simply, Hitler was both an idiot and a racist.

Hitler is more explicit about exterminating opposing political ideologies and their proponents, expressing regret at the missed opportunity at the end of the World War to exterminate Marxists. Hitler believes that any half-assed attempt to destroy a doctrine is bound to be counter-productive. Therefore, any attempt to destroy a doctrine must be thorough and persistent, but even then such an attempt is almost certain to fail unless combined with a "spiritual revolution" (e.g., National Socialism against Marxism): "Any violence which does not spring from a firm, spiritual base, will be wavering and uncertain." He's also explicit about destroying parliamentarianism, even clearly stating the Nazis would participate in parliamentary institutions only to destroy such institutions for good. In this Gospel of Open and Explicit Intolerance, Hitler has, it seems, learned from the best:

"Here, too, we can learn by the example of the Catholic Church. Though its doctrinal edifice, and in part quite superfluously, comes into collision with exact science and research, it is none the less willing to sacrifice so much as one little syllable of its dogmas. It has recognized quite correctly that its power of resistance does not lie in its lesser or greater adaptation to the scientific findings of the moment, which in reality are always fluctuating, but rather in rigidly holding to dogmas once established, for it is only such dogmas which lend to the whole body the character of a faith."
"The greatness of Christianity did not lie in attempted negotiations for compromise with any similar philosophical opinions in the ancient world, but in its inexorable fanaticism in preaching and fighting for its own doctrine."
"Christianity could not content itself with building up its own altar; it was absolutely forced to undertake the destruction of the heathen altars. Only from this fanatical intolerance could its apodictic faith take form; this intolerance is, in fact, its absolute presupposition."
"The individual may establish with pain today that with the appearance of Christianity the first spiritual terror entered into the far freer ancient world, but he will not be able to contest the fact that since then the world has been afflicted and dominated by this coercion, and that coercion is broken only by coercion."
What is also explicitly stated is the Nazi policy of Lebensraum, that, in order to survive, the German nation must extend its frontiers at the expense of Russia and other territories inhabited by Slavic peoples. He criticizes the Second Reich for adopting a policy of trade & overseas colonies (thus putting Germany on a collision course with the British Empire) rather than of eastward conquest. This perceived necessity of soil acquisition seems to be another result of Hitler's poor understanding of economics: he believes more in Malthusian alarmism than technological progress and trade. Hitler also mentions the necessity to enslave lower races, comparing that to the exploitation and domestication of animals. What later became known as Generalplan Ost, a plan to conquer, enslave and exterminate tens of millions of people in Eastern Europe, is the core Nazi foreign policy doctrine through which everything else is viewed. In order to execute the plan, however, Germany's western front, i.e., France, the "mortal enemy" of Germany, must first be secured militarily, preferably with the aid of the British Empire. Hitler doesn't believe Germany's issues with France can be resolved through defensive strategies but instead pushes for a "final active reckoning with France". The resulting "destruction of France" would merely be a means to enable eastward expansion, not an end in itself. (Hitler seems to consider himself a realist as he emphasizes that Germany should never bother with humanitarian affairs but instead pursue the national interest vigorously, but of course his ideas come off as utopian, reckless and idealistic: Bismarck would turn in his grave. Hitler is not completely paranoid about France though; many French politicians and military leaders were calling for Germany's partition.)

Hitler is also, no surprise, extremely socially conservative. He sees women as passive beings whose job is to get married and start having children, he seems obsessed with STDs, prostitution and contraceptives, proposing early marriage as a solution. Also, like many conservative men, he drools over the idea of a teenage boy's well-trained body. Hitler makes numerous references to God, and believes his actions are guided by Fate/Providence, and sees many benefits in religions ("Precisely for the masses, faith is often the sole foundation of a moral attitude.") but doesn't come off as an adherent to any specific religious doctrine. He even employs God to support his racial views: if "defectives" are allowed to propagate, then in a few hundred years' time "you will find but few images of God, unless you want to profane the Almighty"; thus preventing these people from propagating would be "the most humane act of mankind". He also criticizes Jews on religious grounds, claiming theirs is not a religion at all: "The Jew cannot possess a religious institution, if for no other reason because he lacks idealism in any form, and hence belief in a hereafter is absolutely foreign to him (...) The Talmud is not a book to prepare a man for the hereafter, but only for a practical and profitable life in this world." Jesus is applauded for fighting the Jews' exploitation of religion for financial gain when he tosses them out of the Temple.

In addition to Hitler's views on the Jewish people, his views on the First World War illuminate his selective reading of history. Like many in Germany at that time, Hitler believed the war was not lost on the battlefield, conveniently forgetting the collapse of the Habsburg Empire, the constant influx of fresh American troops & supplies, and the lack of resources at Germany's disposal. While he viewed the alliance with the Habsburgs with disgust, he perceived the war as inevitable and ultimately fought for German freedom and independence. The lost territories would be regained, along with other German-inhabited regions, in due time and not through peaceful negotiations: "We must clearly recognize the fact that the recovery of the lost territories is not won through solemn appeals to the Lord or through pious hopes in a League of Nations, but only by force of arms." Of course Chamberlain tried to spoil his fun by completely giving in to his outrageous, unreasonable demands. With the gift of hindsight, we know that Hitler would have none of it, for in his mind "Germany will either be a world power or there will be no Germany".

The German people empowered Hitler with absolute authority to do away with democracy, institute racial laws, attack foreign countries and kill millions of people. They shouldn't have been surprised when bombs started falling on their cities.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Syria, finally

It seems that the good guys have finally decided to act against Syria despite protests from the likes of Russia. As I argued earlier, non-action in the face of the likes of Bashar Assad would only make it easier for dictators to crush internal revolts in the future. The chemical attack on a residential neighborhood near Damascus was a direct result of earlier do-nothing behavior. The regime had already tried out chemical weapons several months ago on a smaller scale (and fired SCUD missiles into residential areas) just to see what the West would do. The West did nothing but slightly increased its rhetoric, so the regime decided to move it up a notch. (This should also remind us of the importance of American hegemony: without it Assad would have gone completely cavemen on his own people a long time ago with Russia nodding in approval.) The regime's timing could not have been more arrogant and bold: the attacks were carried out while UN inspectors were not many miles away. To anyone living in the West Assad's behavior may seem irrational, considering the international environment and Obama's threats about crossing the "red line", but it's a fact that Middle Eastern dictators have had problems in the past understanding the civil, diplomatic threats that Western leaders issue. Even Saddam Hussein believed, to the very last second, both in 1991 and 2003, that the United States would not invade.

For the West, there should be no turning back now. If the regime is left unpunished, Assad will become even more ruthless. The reverberations of Western inaction would be felt elsewhere too: America's enemies are surely paying attention. Obama may be extremely reluctant to act but even he should understand that it never had to come to this: had he been more decisive before, all this could have been avoided. But Obama, with his doctrine of realpolitik, was caught completely off guard by the Arab revolts that beautifully demonstrated the power of ideas, ideas that Obama's predecessor believed were not as alien to the ordinary Arab as was commonly and fashionably thought. America can now demonstrate that it stands behind those ideas by putting its money where its mouth is instead of being obsessed with maintaining the status quo, i.e., the one where ruthless dictators are kept in power for the sake of stability, breeding resentment toward America among the common folks.

To be sure, there are no easy solutions to the situation in Syria or the Greater Middle East in general. Arming moderate forces (probably easier said than done) within the opposition should alleviate the problem America faces with respect to Islamic rebels. Keeping boots off the ground seems like a no-brainer. As in Libya, air strikes and cruise missiles may be an effective and cheap solution (it should be noted that the West may wish for a regime change but doesn't seem eager to set that as an objective), contributing virtually nothing to America's long-term budget problems (which result from entitlement spending) while providing the kind of assets against the regime the rebels never could have dreamed of. In the long run, it can only be hoped that the ongoing revolutions mark the beginning of the end of autocracy in the Middle East, just as the 1848 revolutions did in Europe.

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Misrepresenting Israel's stance on negotiations

YLE, our beloved state-controlled broadcasting company, is once again misleading the public about Israel. According to them, it's only now that Israel has agreed (article in Finnish) to negotiate peace with the Palestinians. And how have they done that? By agreeing to release a bunch of dangerous Palestinian prisoners. The Palestinian negotiators had set the release of these prisoners as a precondition - among several other preconditions such as freezing settlement constructions - for peace negotiations. Of course, Israel has been ready and willing to negotiate without preconditions for several years now. Remember the 2009 10-month settlement freeze (which did not apply to East Jerusalem, a plot of land Israel is never going to surrender)? The Palestinians stalled for months, entering the negotiations only when the freeze was about to expire, and then immediately demanded that the freeze be extended. So, if anything the Palestinians have refused to negotiate unless their conditions are met, as if they were in any position to present such demands. And, in any case, meeting any of these conditions would probably only bolster them to demand more.

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Saturday, April 06, 2013

Why the North might want war

Many are asking what could North Korea possibly gain from an all-out war, a war that'd certainly lead to its own destruction. If North Korea really wants to provoke a war, it will be because of this:


(The Washington Post)

Their military equipment is at least fifty years old, nearing or way past its "best before" date. Soon it will be of little use and North Korea has absolutely no money (or anything for that matter) to obtain new equipment. And, with the Soviet Union long gone, they've got no real friends either. Combine this with the fact that the North Korean regime probably truly believes that the United States and South Korea are out to get them, just waiting for the right moment to invade, and you end up with a regime that believes it's running out of time. Either they set off what they believe to be inevitable now that they still have the initiative, or they wait and watch their (largely imaginary) military prowess decay and fade away, leaving behind a carcass of a country, to be consumed by the vulturous America and South Korea.

So yes, in the crazy, self-induced world the North Korean regime lives in, a war would make sense.

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Israeli offensive: long overdue

Throughout the year, Palestinians have been firing hundreds of rockets into Israel. October and November were particularly active in terms of rockets fired. In response to this escalation, on November 14 the Israelis beautifully assassinated Ahmed al-Jabari, the 2nd in command of the Hamas military wing. He had played a major role in turning Gaza into a full-blown terrorist entity and helped bring about Israel's destructive Operation Summer Rains offensive by kidnapping Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier, in 2006. You don't negotiate with terrorists like him; you kill them. Even before this assassination the Palestinians had fired about 200 rockets into Israel in the course of just a few days: on November 11 over a hundred rockets were fired into Israel. If anything, Israel's recent offensive has been long overdue as Hamas has been well able to build up its army and smuggle weapons into Gaza despite Israel's blockade. Over a thousand rockets were fired into Israel last week, an indication that Hamas has been gaining strength. Even more, a rocket recently landed near Jerusalem, indicating an improvement in rocket technology. Considering this, ending the Gaza blockade would be disastrous as it'd only embolden Hamas and other terrorist groups.

In some circles there's this popular theory that Israel doesn't even want to seek peace with Palestine, that they want Gaza to remain in a permanent state of misery while building new settlements in the West Bank, eventually leading to its annexation. Of course, it was only seven years ago that Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip, dismantling its settlements there, forcibly removing hundreds of Jewish settlers. This remarkably generous act was interpreted by Hamas as a sign of weakness as they proceeded to take over the entire Gaza Strip and continued their war on the Jewish state. (Similarly, Israeli withdrawal from Southern Lebanon didn't make Hezbollah any less popular.) Imagine if the withdrawal had worked as intended: Israel would, in all likelihood, be much more anxious to pursue a peaceful solution to the West Bank problem, having some hope that the resulting Palestinian state would not turn into just another hostile neighbor à la Iran, Southern Lebanon, Syria or Gaza. Moreover, Israel's security concerns have only multiplied in the wake of the Arab Spring that may have, in fact, emboldened Hamas to act, hoping the new government in Egypt might come to their aid. This new aspect only makes Israel's ongoing offensive even more important as they need to show Hamas that they have nothing to gain, in terms of their goal of destroying the Jewish state, from the Arab Spring.

Meanwhile Hamas continues to act like the barbarians they are. They've been doctoring images and putting civilians in the line of fire for the purpose of selling their cause to the world, and dragging mutilated bodies of "spies" on the streets of Gaza. These "people" are in charge of running the Gaza Strip, a position they seized Nazi-style by first winning some elections, then doing away with their rivals and subjecting the entire Strip to serve their cause. While it's regrettable that civilians are dying due to Israeli airstrikes, in no way should Israel be held responsible, not so long as it's the Gazans who elected Hamas to lead them and shoot rockets at Israel. And if the Palestinians do not in fact endorse Hamas' provocations but are at the same time unable to do anything about it, that leaves only Israel to take matters into their own hands.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Quiz


http://www.isidewith.com/ ---- I was listening to Bill O'Reilly talking about the elections and he's 100% right that if Obama wins it'll be because of the huge number of people who "want stuff" from the government and they think Obama will give it to them. In the long run it will not end well.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

The price of a non-marketable good

Came across this crazy piece of news. A pair inherits an art piece ("Canyon") worth $65 million and has to pay an inheritance tax worth $29 million. The problem, however, is that the art piece includes a stuffed bald eagle, which cannot be sold since the bird is protected. (Obviously, if a stuffed bald eagle could be sold this would only encourage people to hunt them.) In other words, "Canyon" cannot be sold due to the stuffed bald eagle and yet the pair is stuck with a tax bill of $29 million. So how can it have a price tag of $65 million? How can a non-marketable good have a market value (the price of collectibles is obviously based on their market value, not some out-of-the-hat valuation)?

Even more worrying, the IRS is acting like the vengeful, petty bureaucrats that they are:

Placing a value on an item that cannot be sold is no easy feat. The venerable auction house Christie’s placed the value of "Canyon" at zero. The IRS initially put it at $15 million, then jumped the figure to $65 million when Sundell and Homem refused to pay, according to The New York Times.
The IRS, which declined to comment on the matter, is not only asking for $29 million in taxes, but also an $11.7 million “gross valuation misstatement” penalty, according to Forbes.

Inheritance taxes are nuts anyway. What exactly has the federal government done to deserve $29 million out of "Canyon"? They're simply robbing someone's estate.

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