Monday, December 21, 2015

How did that happen?

It's hard enough as it is to secure rape convictions but you'd hope it wouldn't be much of a feat when the defendant's only defense is that he fell and landed in her:

A Saudi millionaire has been cleared of raping a teenager after claiming he might have accidentally penetrated the 18-year-old when he tripped and fell on her.
Property developer Ehsan Abdulaziz, 46, was accused of forcing himself on the girl as she slept off a night of drinking on the sofa of his Maida Vale flat.
He had already had sex with her 24-year-old friend and said his penis might have been poking out of his underwear after that sexual encounter when he tripped on the 18-year-old
Abdulaziz said he had accidentally fallen on the youngster as she tried to seduce him, and that was how traces of his DNA came to be in her vagina. (Mirror)

Now, this doesn't necessarily mean the jury believed him over her, but merely saw that this story constituted "reasonable doubt". Of course, someone obviously forgot to explain the meaning of "reasonable" to the jury. The standard itself  ("guilty beyond reasonable doubt") is perfectly understandable, but it requires the jury to consist of reasonable individuals as well, and we know from the O.J. Simpson & Casey Anthony cases that a randomly drawn jury, even after accounting for "strikes" (although I'm not sure if the British have these), can end up consisting of morons or simply weak-willed invididuals who are susceptible to the manipulations of a single strong-willed individual.
This is NOT a call for lowering the standard of evidence. Some American colleges are setting up Mickey Mouse courts to try serious offenses such as rape, using a much lower standard of evidence ("preponderance of the evidence"), while it shouldn't be their job to investigate rape claims in the first place; that job belongs to the police and prosecutors. Serious offenses require serious standards of evidence. It's just that people may fail that standard sometimes. This case clearly should have resulted in a conviction.

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Saturday, May 09, 2015

Victory for some...

For the Soviet Union the Second World War ended 70 years ago. For millions in Eastern Europe, it was the beginning of another occupation by an utterly fascist system, an occupation that would last around 45 years. For German women it was the beginning of a massive rape wave, perhaps the biggest in human history, with Russian troops defiling any woman they could find. Women as old as 80 years and girls as young as 8 years were raped. Millions were raped, and hundreds of thousands died as a result. There were roughly 200 000 victims of rape in Berlin alone. These weren't merely reprisals for all the horrors that Nazis had inflicted on Soviet citizens; on their way toward Berlin, the Russians raped Belarusians, Poles, Ukrainians, Jews and even Russians liberated from labor camps and wives of German communists. This was officially encouraged, even if nominally banned. The higher-ups encouraged the mass rapes as a means to terrorize local populations and to reward Soviet soldiers. At the end of the day Soviet authorities, kinda like the modern Finnish justice system, did not consider rape a serious offense. Hitler himself had contributed greatly to the peril of German women (and civilians in general) by preventing the evacuation of German civilians in places such as East Prussia, where the Russians really went cavemen on the local population.

Unlike Germany, Russia, as a victor, has been unwilling to learn from history even though their current problems with their "near abroad" and with NATO expansion have everything to do with Soviet/Russian history of repression. Poland and the Baltic states are now NATO members because of their repression under Russian rule. World War II began with a joint Nazi-Soviet attack on Poland. Tens of thousands of important Poles were massacred by the Soviets during this first occupation period. Later, as the Germans were being pushed back, Stalin couldn't have cared less about liberating anyone; Poland was merely another territory to conquer and hold, which is why he prevented the United States from aiding Polish partisans (the Home Army) in their desperate struggle against Germany. Today's Ukraine is divided over Russia because Stalin first starved the Ukrainian population to death (Holodomor), then resettled the country with Russians. (Mistakes such as this and the purges almost cost the Soviets the war.) The entire population of Crimea was deported and replaced with Russians. After the war Stalin downplayed the importance of the Holocaust because the plight of the Jewish people didn't fit the general history of the "Great Patriotic War", and because so many Soviet citizens (including Ukrainians and non-Soviet Poles) had actively participated in the genocide.

Of course, there is little question the Nazis were worse. Had the Nazis won the war, Poland, for example, would have been colonized and its Polish population either exterminated or enslaved (and then exterminated), and its cities razed to the ground. As Bloodlands makes clear, when it comes to the systematic murder of innocent men, women and children, Nazis easily outperformed the Soviet Union. As far as the Nazis were concerned, murder was the objective. In the Soviet Union murder was a means to an end. Soviets killed Soviets; Germans killed non-Germans. Soviets killed before the war, Germans during the war. Stalin may have gotten a head start with the mass killings, but once the Nazis crossed the Molotov-Ribbentrop line in 1941, they more than made up for it, first by having the Einsatzgruppen shoot any Jews they could find, and then, as the war went on, by building gas chambers with which they could murder on an industrial scale. During the war, the Nazis perfected a psychopath-run (hence the "banality of evil") genocide machine, which enabled them to murder so many Jews in such a short time in such a difficult environment.

Below are several bits from Bloodlands:

"The men of the Dirlewanger Brigade burned down three hospitals with patients inside. At one hospital, wounded Germans who were being treated by Polish doctors and nurses asked that no harm come to the Poles. This was not to be. The men of the Dirlewanger Brigade killed the Polish wounded. They brought the nurses back to camp that evening, as was the custom: each night selected women would be whipped by officers and then gang-raped before being murdered. This evening was unusual even by those standards. To the accompaniment of flute music, the men raised a gallows, and then hanged the doctors and the naked nurses."

" roundups that took several days, the Germans and the Jewish police would blockade particular blocks or particular houses, and force their inhabitants to go to a collection point. Germans shot small children, pregnant women, and the handicapped or elderly on the spot. In larger towns and cities where more than one roundup was necessary, these measures were repated with increasing violence. The Germans were aiming for daily quotas to fill trains, and would sometimes pass on quotas to the Jewish police who were responsible (at the risk of their own position and thus lives) for filling them."

"In October 1941, Mahileu became the first substantial city in occupied Soviet Belarus where almost all Jews were killed. A German (Austrian) policeman wrote to his wife of his feelings and experiences shooting the city's Jews in the first days of the month. 'During the first try, my hand trembled a bit as I shot, but one gets used to it. By the tenth try I aimed calmly and shot surely at the many women, children, and infants. I kept in mind that I have two infants at home, whom these hordes would treat just the same, if not ten times worse. The death that we gave them was a beautiful quick death, compared to the hellish torments of thousands and thousands in the jails of the GPU. Infants flew in great arcs through the air, and we shot them to pieces in flight, before their bodies fell into the pit and into the water.'"

"Having surrendered their valuables and documents, people were forced to strip naked. Then they were driven by threats or by shots fired overhead, in groups of about ten, to the edge of a ravine known as Babi Yar. Many of them were beaten: Pronicheva remembered that people 'were already bloody as they went to be shot.' They had to lie down on their stomachs on the corpses already beneath them, and wait for the shots to come from above and behind. Then would come the next group. Jews came and died for thirty-six hours. (...) One naked mother spent what she must have known were her last few seconds of life breastfeeding her baby. When the baby was thrown alive into the ravine, she jumped after it, and in that way found her death. Only there in the ditch were these people reduced to nothing, or to their number, which was 33,761."

"Jewish women suffered in particular ways. Despite regulations against "racial defilement," some Germans quickly developed a taste for rape as prelude to murder. At least once Germans carried out a "beauty contest" of Jewish women, taking them to the cemetery, forcing them to strip naked, and then killing them. In the ghetto, German soldiers would force Jewish girls to dance naked at night; in the morning only the girls' corpses remained. Perla Aginskaia recalled what she saw in a dark apartment in the Minsk ghetto one evening in autumn 1941: 'a little room, a table, a bed. Blood was streaming down the girl's body from deep, blackish wounds in her chest. It was quite clear that the girl had been raped and killed. There were gunshot wounds around her genitals.'" 

The Nazis also wiped out entire villages in counter-productive anti-partisan reprisals: for every German killed, hundreds of innocent civilians were murdered. Such operations took place not only in the East but in Western Europe as well. In the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane, a Waffen-SS company massacred 600 civilians by a mistake (in the sense that they intended to massacre the inhabitants of another village). The men were separated from the rest, shot and then burned (while still alive). The women and children were taken to a church which was then set on fire. Those trying to escape were shot with machineguns. A baby was crucified.

So, if anything good came out of World War II, it was the physical extermination of what Hitler called the "good ones" of the Germanic race; the barbaric, racist, warmongering Germans with psychopathic and sadistic tendencies.

But in the very long run, Communism outperformed Nazism: the big difference between Nazism and Communism was their longevity. Nazis fell far short of their extermination targets due to the quick self-implosion of the Herrenvolk. Communism was much more long-lived and thus managed to amass a higher body count.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

One leader

Since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine many have been drawing parallels between the prelude to WW2 and the current Russian-driven crisis. What's really funny is how oblivious the Russians themselves are to these parallels (even while desperately trying to draw their own), making a whole bunch of historical ironies possible. Useful idiots who consider themselves anti-fascists were rallying behind Vladimir Putin in Moscow a few days ago with banners saying Putin, People, Russia. You can't make this stuff up: they're actually using one of the best-known Nazi slogans (ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer) to rally against fascism (or, rather, "fascism"). A common misconception in Russia is that "fascists" staged a coup in Kiev and that these "fascists" are supported by the West. Now, in Russia the word "fascist" doesn't quite mean what it does in the rest of the world. Communists (both in the Soviet Union and elsewhere) used to call anyone who disagreed with them a fascist, kinda like some modern feminists call anyone who disagrees with them a misogynist. That meaning of the word seems to have survived to this day and thus anyone who disagrees with Kremlin is automatically branded a fascist. The irony here is of course that Putin himself has been pursuing fascist policies for years now, concentrating more and more power into his own hands. There's nothing out of the ordinary about that really, not in Russia; the Soviet Union was one of the best examples of fascism taken to its extreme. 

 Everyone in the West of course knows all this. But Russians don't, and with the Russian media increasingly in the hands of Kremlin, they'll become even more ill-equipped to make informed decisions, believing the West is out to get them just for the fun of it.

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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