Friday, December 19, 2014

A Few Thoughts on 2014 and Beyond






Pessimistic thoughts

This has been a year of war, pestilence, famine, terrorism, religious zealotry, as well as startling and gruesome examples of man's inhumanity to man. 

The Arab world, convulsing in paroxysms of unspeakable religious sangfroid, hatred and brutality, provokes undue existential anxieties in the West. Our drones fly around and kill people without trial or jury, assuaging our fears, but not our consciences.   We have been at war for thirteen years with no end in sight.  The government snoops in our personal business and belongings and runs us through scanners to see if we are weaponized. Explosives become more sophisticated.   Airliners are shot down by a kleptocratic, self-absorbed, homophobic, egomaniacal, murdering ex KGB officer who wishes to destabilize Europe to preserve his notions of being the next Czar and possibly forging a new Soviet Union.  It will not happen;  Russia is now a second rate power  with a sputtering economy.

Google, Amazon, and other Internet giants invade our privacy, foretelling a dystopian, Orwellian denouement. The top 1% of the American public controls 90% of the wealth and the middle class is caught in a technology vice displacing their jobs, their security, and their self-esteem.    Robots threaten to replace almost all human tasks within a hundred years.   Many scientists, including Stephen Hawking say that we are engineering our own demise, and that evolution is about to take a quantum leap with the frail, imperfectly designed human  about to be discarded on the slag heap of history.  Either we will be slaves of the machines or their masters, probably the former, he says.

Climate change threatens to inundate coastal cities in a slew of super storms, melting glaciers and drowning polar bears.

Some light

Despite all that, in the short term, there is reason to hope that the world is getting better.   Religious fervor is diminishing in most nations, the younger generation yielding to social pressures and the new religion of the Internet, technological innovation and scientific skepticism about age-old myths.

The Obama administration, empowered by its freedom from voter approval is set upon a course of leaving a transformational legacy, despite what promises to be a more ossified congress.  The great recession is over, the doomsayers have been proven wrong about the economy, unemployment is at a new low, the US Auto industry is on the upswing, the stock market is at new highs, medical science is on the verge of curing a host of intractable diseases including many cancers and other maladies, corporate profits are roaring, the US is now energy independent, and Petro nations including Vladimir Putin's Russia are reeling from one trick pony economies that are in free fall. People have health care and cannot be dumped by their insurance companies for pre-existing conditions.

Cuba

Here in Miami, some old-line Cubans are decrying the new move toward relations with Cuba, long overdue.
Fifty years of a failed policy, despite Marco Rubio's disingenuous bloviating, are correctly to be jettisoned along with an immigration policy that has failed miserably.    On the other hand, the younger generation of Cuban-Americans, born here and with no intention of returning to Cuba to become sugar farmers, cigar rollers, or nightclub impresarios, are mostly happy with the new direction of US policy.

The Cuban government fears that its chief oil supplier, Venezuela, will be a failed government.  Nicholas Maduro, the successor to Hugo Chavez, is running into increasing problems running his economy, because his oil revenues are down 60% and his social programs are not sufficiently funded, which could lead to riots in the street, not a good image for his socialist paradise.  Watch out for this in 2015.

Some of us remember the Cuban missile crisis, the Bay of Pigs, the bungled CIA attempts to assassinate Fidel with an exploding cigar and a number of other intelligence fiascos involving Cuba.  We have always conducted diplomacy with a host of dictatorships---Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Soviet Union, East Germany, etc.  Why not Cuba?  The arguments for punitive disengagement in the case of Cuba, a small nation just off our shores, and embargo is so 20th century. It has failed miserably.  Nations follow their interests and do not always do well on a diet of morality, even be it the ultimate ideal.

Opposition lies in a small cadre of Cubans who have controlled Florida swing-state voting.   Clearly that is why a moderate like Bill Nelson has voiced opposition to a movement he would normally favor, since he is ordinarily quite progressive.

National polls in other states mostly favor trade with Cuba, or at least diplomatic relations, and just think of it, those who still smoke Cuban cigars will no longer have to smuggle contraband through Canada.   What is next for Florida? Humm, let me think.   Legalized weed in Cuban cigars and Gay marriage?







Thursday, December 4, 2014

Flying Misery Class 2014


I fondly remember flying Eastern Airlines from Miami to New York when I was a child.  My dad made me put on a sport coat and tie, we rode to the airport, left our car in the small parking lot off Northwest 36th St., handed our bags to the clerk and boarded the DC 6 and were on our way.  While on the plane, we were served with real food, on a linen tablecloth, and Eastern Airlines cutlery that included glassware and a hot entree.  Dad had a complimentary Scotch and Soda, his drink of choice. The seats were spacious and comfortable and the flight attendants cheerful and buoyant. And that was not first class.


Last Sunday, November 30th my wife and I, after a family reunion, were to return home on an Air France flight from Paris to Miami.


Arriving at Charles de Gaulle Airport three hours early to enable us to do some leisurely duty-free shopping and relax before the flight, we were greeted by a throng of perhaps 1000 people checking in to various flights, and only two ticket agents at the counter.  (There were places for at least 10 agents.) The lines were totally gridlocked.  The sight was horrifying.  People, all in the same queue, resembled an assemblage of chickens in an industrial coop on a Perdue chicken farm (at which animal rights activists are concerned mightily about cruelty to animals)   But I digress. 


After fuming in the lines for about a half an hour and going nowhere, I proceeded to the counter to complain to the station manager.  He apologized, but had advised my wife "he had no personnel."  Enraged, I told him he should be sacked straight away.


A few feet away were some Air France people who were standing around doing nothing at the First Class check in area.  When I remarked that they should go over and help the others check the passengers in he said, "That's not my job."


Advised that the flight would be delayed because of the overly lengthy check in times, we thought we would have time to shop and catch the plane.   The check in process consisted of going to a bank of boarding pass machines, some of which were out of order or concealed by the throng, and no one to direct on using them or guide us through the process, then standing in another line to deposit one's bags.


By this time, 2 1/2 hours had passed and the information supplied by the check in agent that the flight would be delayed because of the length of check in turned out to be deceptive misinformation deliberately calculated to assuage an angry slew of passengers.   The few check in agents were overwhelmed by total managerial incompetence, and disdainful of angry customers.   "I am just one person," was the contemptuous response from one of the clerks.


After this passage through a depressing medieval  Star Chamber clearly designed for religious heretics, we had to race down the one mile walkway, and then catch a train to the terminal.  Along the way. we walked at break neck pace past shops we wanted to visit, but barely had time to make our plane, before they closed the doors.  Chock full of people most of whom had already boarded from connecting flights, the overhead racks were full and we had to struggle to find a place for our carry-on bags. As we had passed through business and first class seating, we envied the priced-out-of-reach wide seats, some of which could be beds during the ten hour flight to Miami and the condescension of the first class passengers, who clearly felt superior.  But they were not, they just had paid an unconscionable amount of money simply to be treated as human beings.


One cannot not justify the multi thousand-dollar price difference between the classes.  After all this was not a two-week cruise where some semblance of a rationale for the price could be made.  And being over 70 years old and wanting to have enough money to retire without living in the street is a reasonable argument for pragmatism.


As we struggled to our seats, they narrowed to the extent that anyone over the size of a Hobbit could fit. In addition, I suffer from a bad back, a result of back surgery that limits my sitting time.   The armrests squeezed my hips and I knew that for ten hours, I would be crushed in an orthopedic vice, not to mention my knees colliding with the seat in front.  Fortunately there was a nice young man in front of me who did not recline after I had knocked the wine off my tray table (if you want to call it that), spilling it on the passenger next to me, a pleasant German fellow who said he would not send me the cleaning bill.


My wife wrote a letter of complaint to the Air France and their apology consisted of an offer of a $50 gift certificate for her inconvenience.  Thanks a lot.  Two first class tickets would be an apology.  A $50 gift certificate is an insult, and further evidence of the contempt with which the airlines regard their customers.
This is not a unique story and I know that I hate air travel more and more.

Update December 9:  Since I wrote this rant, I received a slew of emails from readers who shared experiences not dissimilar to mine.  






Thursday, November 6, 2014

Election Post Mortem 2014



As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: you liberate a city by destroying it. Words are to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests.

Gore Vidal

It is enough that the people know there was an election.  The people who cast the vote decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.

Joseph Stalin


President Obama now faces a 2 year lame duckdom of dealing with a newly constituted congress, controlled by Republicans, and a new senate majority leader to be  who had vowed to see to it that Mr. Obama was only a one term President. He did not get his wish, but now he has gotten his power.  Mr. McConnell and Mr. Obama clearly have different perspectives and, even worse, bear each other no good will.

Now, in the majority, McConnell faces the prospect of doing something to endear his party to alienated Democratic and minority voters who, except in Kentucky, saw him and Mr. Boehner as the principal choreographers of obstructionism.   That may not be entirely true now; they are freed of the Tea Party albatross since that group of feckless individuals are now consigned to the fringe where they belong.
Progressives who are now either apoplectic or almost in a suicidal funk may not be as disappointed by the next two years as they think, since the "evolving values" of the GOP are now faced with the prospect of building some sort of defensible record against what will probably be the Clinton juggernaut.  Now they must govern or at least create the perception that congress is getting something done.  Angry voters will make them pay the price in two years if they do not.  

The Democratic candidates were certain that they wanted less to do with the President during their campaigns than the Ebola virus.   The President, increasingly isolated, was glad to oblige.  He seems like a pale shadow of Woodrow Wilson, who could not sell his agenda to the American public either.  
Both are misplaced academics, with Obama having the additional strike against him of either race, or an unwillingness to deal with those in congress with whom he regards with thinly disguised contempt.  His remarks at the national press club this year were telling, and although supposedly a joke, his revulsion of having a drink with McConnell was clearly enunciated.  “You have a drink with Mitch McConnell,” he said in reply to those who suggested that he do so.


Despite all this animosity and polarization, and the lack of attention to pressing issues,
the country faces a crisis of income inequality, climate change, decaying infrastructure, foreign policy threats, national defense, NSA eavesdropping and an economy that shows declining unemployment to a rate of now below 6%, a figure made less impressive by the fact that people who are not looking for jobs any longer because they cannot locate them and are not included in the lower figure for job growth.  Although the United States is currently doing better than the rest of the advanced nations in terms of growth, and has an upcoming energy windfall (we will be a net exporter, not importer of energy).  The fact remains that the old jobs done by many humans are now supplanted by robots and computers. So even though corporate profits are soaring, the stock market is booming, the sad problem is that most of the wealth generated in our new economy goes to the top 1%.   The middle class is losing the battle of fulfilling the American dream of home ownership and having children who are doing better than their parents.

This angers and frightens voters and that is what happened in this election.

The campaigns, conducted mostly on a local level, as do most mid-terms, had focused on the incompetence of the national administration, and showered their opponents with negative ads.  The gubernatorial race here in Florida set a new standard for money spent and unusually obnoxious negativity.   No discussion of issues important to the state permeated any of the debates, if you want to call them that.  Moreover, the obscene amounts of money spent for TV ads dissing the opponent may have won the election, but served no use in advancing a sane national agenda.  If Florida can vote for an amoral businessman to “create jobs” (the economic recovery having nothing to do with it) then the voters get what they deserve.


On the other hand, a Republican friend of mine correctly pointed out that a President needs to lead and there was not much evidence of that leadership in the last few years.  Aside from the isolation that is inherent in living at the White House, the President’s circle of friends and advisers has shrunken.
Obama did not lead; he thought that his ideas were so good that opponents would fall in place because those ideas  were of such quality they could not be disputed.   Getting down and dirty to get what he wanted was out of the mix;  LBJ did not do that.  FDR did not. JFK did not. Neither did Lincoln.  They were politicians who moved in a political world.  It seems clear now that Obama is incapable of making any such gestures.  He was fine as a campaigner, but in the business of governing a messy democracy, heavily influenced by talk radio, a 24/7 news cycle, huge amounts of advertising money, and pundits analyzing his speeches almost before they are finished, the evolution of the political animal must be as fast as tweets.   People no longer tune into Walter Cronkite or Huntley and Brinkley.  The network news is almost as anachronistic as Billy Graham, a cavalcade of hemorrhoid medications, blood pressure pills and other remedies for the geriatrics who tune in.

The fact is that Obamacare is increasingly successful, the stimulus worked, the auto industry was kept alive, the economy although weak, is recovering slowly.  But many of the things which happen in the currents of history fall outside the scope of Presidential power.   For example, the revolutions in the Middle East, financial collapse in 2008, the bubble in the stock market, Ebola, ISIS, Israeli-Palestinian inability to reconcile, Russian aggression and the limits of American power, emanating from a world that is increasingly amorphous and disparate as well as "allies" who now have national interests that differ from ours. And people, let’s not omit Junior Bush’s invasion of Iraq on hyped intelligence and following up with occupation misfeasance that set the wheels in motion for ISIS, and empowered Iranian ambitions for both nuclear weapons and Middle Eastern hegemony.

But in the final analysis the American public is more and more subject to the economic sledgehammer of inequality.  That inequality stems from less and less of us able to afford a home, or a higher education for their children.  CEOs making obscene salaries and 15% of the public living below the poverty level as well as the vanishing of the middle class. This does not make happy voters.  Republicans or Democrats who ignore these issues do so at their peril and even worse, at the peril of our republic.  Whether the Republican formula that funnels more tax breaks to the rich and ignores the needs of the middle class in their philosophy of "job creation" and trickle down economics works or will work is still open to question.  It has not worked in the past.  Moving to the center does work and that is what Republicans have not done, focusing instead on red herring social issues such as abortion, climate change denial, religious hypocrisy,  and the 47% who are sucking at the teat of big government.  

So, Republicans, I wish you success, because now, in your hands, rests the fate of our floundering ship of state.



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

ISIS AND EBOLA ON THE MOVE


 
 
 
 
Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
Marie Curie

Ebola.

The media frenzy about the potential spread of Ebola in the United States is a typical overblown rumination on the 24/7 news cycle.   We know it spreads in Africa, because of the absence of a health care infrastructure, stable governments, and the remnants of a British, French, Belgian and German system of empire that robbed the natural resources of lands of uneducated people who had not yet entered the 19th and 20th centuries.

America participated, of course, in these colonial enterprises by importing slaves in irons on boats that would not now be worthy of transporting animals, let alone humans.

So the question we must pose, is what are the causes of such primitive civilizations and why did not the African continent spawn more advanced societies?  After all, they have had a few hundred years to do so.  The reasons for this delay has not yet been fully answered, although many have offered their opinion, including scholars who are well-versed on this topic.  Bernard Lewis, the great Princeton University scholar and author, argues that the conditions of Arab-Muslim primitivism are a result of self-inflicted wounds as a result of culture and religion and the subjugation of women rather than colonialism.

The same retrograde civilizations are now confronted with a monumental health challenge, including the prospect of 10,000 new cases of Ebola a week in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria.  This is clearly catastrophic, and could make the Black Death of Europe look pallid by comparison.  But the Black Death (bubonic plague) took place in Europe, reaching England in 1348 and killing half the population.   It was finally discovered to have been spread by flea-infested rats and originated in China, travelling across the trade routes.

Ebola can now travel through people taking airplanes, but not is as easily spread, since it requires direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids.  It is not an airborne virus.   It is not at all encouraging, however, that a supposedly protected health care worker in the US has been infected by perhaps a slip-up in protocol while removing infected gear.  It is evidence that the virus can be spread easily by direct contact and a slip in sanitary protocol.  But now that so many people are potentially victims of this scourge, a vaccine may be around the corner, because big pharma can make money on it.  Ebola, although around for 13 years or so, was never enough of a threat to warrant interest.  Just a few dead Africans.  Not enough to warrant investing in a cure.

Nevertheless, people at the CDC do not expect a pandemic here in the United States, nor in the more advanced countries of Western Europe.    A person taking an airplane ride to anywhere, though, might harbor some fearful thoughts of who might be their seat mate or if they are passing a drink to a fellow passenger.  What happened to the 300 pound fatso problem in the coach seat next to you?  Seems like a wonderful experience by comparison.

This air travel paranoia already extends to underwear bombers, disappearing airplanes, homicidal maniacs, unruly passengers who are driven crazy by people reclining their seats in front of you and not to mention, poor service, surly flight attendants, and excruciatingly long lines in the airport.  Maybe the Black Death was better.  One could simply stay home and die surrounded by family and friends under the thatched roof, while warring armies fight each other over religious differences, heretics and let’s not forget heathens such as Jews and atheists.

 

ISIS/ISIL

ISIS or ISIL (synonymous) distills Islamism into a culture of violence, and gruesome snuff videos.   ISIS criminals have had whatever essence of humanity degraded into a savagery not seen since the Holocaust.  Thousands have been slaughtered in the name of religion.  Thirteen years of American training of the Iraqi army has been squandered on people who have no moral courage to stand up for what is right.   American tanks and weapons have been captured by ISIS fighters who now employ them to fight to establish a caliphate, driven by a madman-leader who seeks a world where women are slaves and those men who oppose them are beheaded online.

These actions have provoked debates whether Islam is an evil in and of itself, or a peaceful religion that has been distorted by fundamentalist zealotry.  Prominent public intellectuals have been debating this issue on television, You tube, Twitter and in the print media.   Some interpret passages from the Koran and cite examples of how it prescribes the death penalty for those who wish to leave the religion, and others maintain that such strictures occur in the misogynistic Old Testament and even in the Christian bible, quoting some calls by even Jesus to take up the sword.  All the texts are contradictory—Christian, Jewish and Islamic because contrary instructions abound in all of them.  And history shows they were written at different times, including the Old Testament.

It is hard to ignore religious persecutions throughout human history—the Crusades, the disembowelments of heretics, the burnings of witches and religious dissidents, the Holocaust, the Tutus, the Armenian slaughter, the slaughters at Srebrenica, ethnic cleansing, as exemplars of man’s basic inhumanity to man and the inability some of the people who do believe to achieve comfort from the inability of religion and prayer to have any of those prayers answered.  Perhaps in few hundred years--the time it normally  takes cultures to change--we will evolve beyond the primitive instincts of antipathy and the need of man to war with one another.  But do not count on it any time soon.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Middle East on the Anniversary of the Great War (to end All Wars).

"He Who sows the wind shall reap the whirlwind..."
Hosea 8:7

One hundred years after the Central Powers fought the Allies in the forests of the Ardenne, Flanders, and the trenches throughout France where millions died excruciatingly  in bloody disembowelment, dismemberment and gaseous clouds of poison, Europe is deluged with the remnants of their colonial empires.  the Sykes-Picot treaty artificially carving up the Middle East and that presided over the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire still lives with us today--as a creaking anachronism.   Some argue that the only real countries in the Middle East are Egypt, Persia (Iran) and Turkey. Recently, however, the boundary between artificially created Iraq and Syria is vanishing into a morass of perverted theocracy.

The warring tribes of Arabia, as depicted in T.E. Lawrence's classic tale, still exist in an even more virulent format.  In one part of that great film, Anthony Quinn enters a tent to unify the Arab tribes in their British-inspired battle against the Turks.   Bedlam ensues, the tribes shouting insults and homicidal threats against each other.  Lawrence is aghast but phlegmatically persists in his quest to become Lawrence of Arabia.

Nothing really has changed in the Arab world, except an exacerbation of the old conflicts partially because of the technological empowerment and unification of previously amorphous individuals who heretofore were mostly disconnected, and exacerbating the old religious dichotomies between the sects.   The tribes still exist, therefore, but with  more cohesiveness because they are able to talk on cell phones, plotting a new Arab world order based upon Sharia law. Since the opinions as to whose Sharia is correct differ and there is little, if any rational discourse among the factions, we have religious war.  In addition, US meddling created a power vacuum,  filled by warring fundamentalists.

The Western colonial powers which had misanthropically built their oil-driven economies upon the subservience of these more primitive societies are now reaping the whirlwind. The European colonial powers, having participated in the carving up of the Middle East into artificial territories are now subsumed by immigrants derived  from their colonial past.

However, in all fairness, it is not entirely their fault.   The Islamic world simply has not yet had a Reformation.  That Reformation occurred in Europe in the 16th century.  The Islamists are just a few centuries behind, steeped in ignorance, subjugation of women and barbarism.  Most of us in the West cannot really any longer understand fundamental religious wars although much of our civilization arose from them.  Getting involved in them is a zero-sum game.

The Arab world, wracked by tribalism, Islamism, fundamentalism, and a perversion of the faith is on a great particle-accelerator cultural collision course with modernity.  What is hard to understand is why, in a more modern world, these religious differences have become even more pronounced.

Were all the beheadings and slaughter of religious minorities always present, or are they just more visible today because of information technology?  Was it simply the rule of steel-fisted autocrats who suffered no dissent that tamped down any opposition? It sort of begs the question that if the concentration camps in Poland had been visible through satellite imagery, would the Nazis have been able so secretly prosecute their unspeakable crimes?

Many of the youth, in Iran, for example, would like to shed the religious strictures cast upon them by their authoritarian theocracy.  They just do not have enough steam to do it.    The United States has lost much of its power to change the course of events, but perhaps can contribute to the destruction of the more radical elements through selective and covert activity and strategic bombing, such as is occurring now in Iraq and Syria.  This, however, is problematic at best and useless at worst, becuase nation-building takes hundreds of years.

Here in the US there are some who fear that ISIS wishes to establish a caliphate and to kill all the infidels (us).  Such marginal threats may exaggerate Islamophobia here, and fears of another 9/11, but with our security forces spying on everyone, it seems less likely that someone will bring a suitcase nuke to the Homeland anytime soon, although, who knows?  This results in a demand for more vigilance, more effective means of defense strategy and less freedom.

But as dangerous as current threats seem, we have lived through much worse, such as over 700,000 Americans dead in a civil war, and 253,000 dead GIs in World War II and 53,000 dead in Viet Nam.  War seems so 19th and 20th century, but  the current television news broadcasts say not. President Obama in expressing this thought, invoked, of course, the ire of Lindsay Graham and John McCain, who, though not saying so, would probably like to send more US troops tnto the fray.

We think that moderation in addressing our problems today, as important as they are, seems more prudent than rushing into another war.  Should the US be the world's policeman?   Should we have been afraid of the Communists dominoes falling in Southeast Asia?  Is South Korea a product of American determination?   Should the Europeans, especially the Germans be devoting far more of their GDP to deter a  egomaniacal kleptocratic, aggressive Vladimir Putin who has stifled dissent in Russia and has usurped control of the media?  Believing that Putin has 80% internal approval means that Russians are stupid or that they do not have access to full information or, perhaps, Russian culture gravitates towards autocracy.  After all, their democratic institutions are less than 35 years old. Finally, Russia reasserting control over Ukraine is not an entirely new condition.  Why Putin wants a Ukrainian economic albatross around his neck does not entirely make sense, except an narcissistic, egomaniacal power trip, or a paranoid fear of NATO dominating what was former Soviet territory.   In any event,  paranoid egomaniacs have been in charge of large nations before and the result has not been, shall we say, utopian.   This KGB gangster fits quite neatly in that paradigm.

Today, September 1st is the 75th anniversary of the German invasion of Poland, generating the conflagration of World War II, resulting in 50 milliion deaths.  Churchill had warned about the dangers of appeasement.   Does the moderation of the Obama administration represent the actions of Neville Chamberlain?     These lessons of history are not so easy to interpret; today's world is far more open and, at the same time, more complex.   The new world order is not, by any means a bipolar environment of America and the USSR.  Republicans such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham plead for more active US involvement, but do not advocate direct US "boots on the ground."   Democrats say that we need to do more to support the rebels.  But which ones?  Where are the moderates in the Arab world who speak out against ISIS?  

The Middle Eastern whirlwind sowed by Bush and Cheney has not even begun to be played out.






Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Book Review: Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin


 

 

Book Review:

 

"Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin" by Timothy Snyder

 

A monumental feat of scholarship, meticulously researched, and marked by a deep understanding of the killing fields that comprised the Ukraine, Poland, and part of the Soviet Union, during 1933-1945, Snyder, a Yale historian, has carefully documented the unspeakable with a new perspective that staggers even the most macabre of imaginations. 

 

Within the period covered by the book, and in what Snyder calls the Bloodlands, Nazi Germany murdered ten million people and Stalin another four million.  These stupefying numbers (not including Western Europe or other parts of Europe) occurred because of some events that had gone as planned and some that had not.  They occurred because of the personalities of two monstrous individuals, Hitler and Stalin, both of whom used their duplicity to rationalize their crimes to either consolidate their own power or to provide the justification for their acts.   Hitler saw the war going the wrong way in 1941 and shifted his idea of victory to make Europe Judenrein (free of Jews).  Stalin, when collectivization and modernization failed, caused massive starvation in the 1930s, created the “Great Terror,” murdering his own people by the millions through starvation, gunshot, and deportation to the Gulags in order to win a "victory" against his perceived enemies and the enemies of his brand of Communism.

 

This is a unique version of the history we are used to seeing in the countless books that have been written about World War II and the Holocaust.

 

Stalin's plans for modernization in the early 30s, causing great famine  and in 1937 and 1938, the Soviets identified kulaks (peasant farmers) as enemies of Soviet power also including minorities on his “enemies” list, instituting mass murder of his own people.

 

In 1939 Hitler and Stalin invaded Poland as allies. There followed a policy of “belligerent complicity,” involving the killing of women and children on both sides of a line drawn by the German foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop and his Soviet counterpart, Viacheslav Molotov. This line was drawn in the bloodlands, mostly the Ukraine and down the middle of Poland.

 

Stalin never suspected that Hitler would later double-cross him in 1941, ignoring many warnings from his ministers and foreign heads of intelligence.      This was followed by Hitler’s policy of General Plan Ost using the Western Soviet Union as a colony for Germany, wherein the local populace would be enslaved, murdered, deported or otherwise exterminated and then replaced with ethnic Germans. This plan had to be delayed, but when the Soviets were not conquered as quickly as Hitler expected, in 1941, Hitler then embarked on the Final Solution—the murder of all Jews he could touch. This would be his victory.

The two systems--Stalinism and Nazism, Snyder points out, created a symbiotic relationship, allowing each perversion to justify crimes committed at essentially the same time and place, an almost quantum mechanic of death.

 

This book is a must read for anyone who is interested in European history and the slaughter committed by civilized nations run by paranoid madmen--the nations of Goethe, Schiller, Beethoven, and Wagner  and the other of Tolstoy, Tchaikovsky, and Rachmaninoff.  
Country
Estimated Pre-War Jewish population
Estimated Jewish population killed
Percent killed
253,000
228,000
90
65,000
40,000
60
375,000
245,000
65
90,000
80,000
89
64,000
14,000
22
8,000
120
2
2,000
?
?
France
350,000
90,000
26
Germany & Austria
240,000
210,000
88
70,000
54,000
77
650,000
450,000
70
Italy
40,000
8,000
20
5,000
1,000
20
Netherlands
140,000
105,000
75
Norway
1,800
900
50
Poland
3,300,000
3,000,000
91
600,000
300,000
50
975,000
107,000
11
90,000
75,000
83
1,500,000
900,000
60
43,000
26,000
60
Total
8,861,800
5,933,900

 

Bloodlands are in red, and do not include non Jews who were killed in the millions as well as the above figures.

 

USSR: Bloodlands


 
Human losses of the USSR in World War II (included in the above figures of total war dead)

Country
Population
Military
deaths
Civilian deaths due to
military activity and crimes against humanity
Civilian deaths due to
war related famine and disease
Total
deaths
Deaths as
% of 1939
population
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/58/Flag_of_the_Soviet_Union_%281923-1955%29.svg/35px-Flag_of_the_Soviet_Union_%281923-1955%29.svg.png Soviet Union
(within 1939 borders)[10]
168,500,000 [36]
8,700,000
to 13,850,000
4,000,000
to 9,000,000
6,000,000
18,000,000
to 24,000,000
13.6 to 14.2
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/8f/Flag_of_Estonia.svg/35px-Flag_of_Estonia.svg.png Estonia
(within 1939 borders)
1,100,000[37][38]
50,000
50,000
4.5
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/84/Flag_of_Latvia.svg/35px-Flag_of_Latvia.svg.png Latvia
(within 1939 borders)
1,900,000[37][38]
190,000
40,000
230,000
11.6
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/ae/Flag_of_Lithuania_%281918-1940%29.svg/35px-Flag_of_Lithuania_%281918-1940%29.svg.png Lithuania
(within 1939 borders[39][40])
2,500,000[37][38]
275,000
75,000
350,000
14.5
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/1/12/Flag_of_Poland.svg/35px-Flag_of_Poland.svg.png Poland,
Eastern Regions
(figures included with Poland)
11,500,000[38][41][42]
2,000,000
2,000,000
17.2
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/73/Flag_of_Romania.svg/35px-Flag_of_Romania.svg.png Romania
Bessarabia and Bukovina
(figures included with Romania)
3,700,000 [37]
300,000
300,000
8.1
Less: population transfers ethnic Germans 1939-1941
(400,000)[43]
Growth of population 1939–mid-1941
7,900,000[36]
Approx. Totals(borders 1946-1991)
196,700,000[36]
8,700,000
to 13,850,000
7,000,000
to 12,000,000
6,000,000
21,800,000
to 28,000,000
11.0 to 14.2