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May Day 2008: A Day of Remembrance

Welcome to The Distributed Republic's 5th annual remembrance of the victims of communism. Our busy personal lives made this year's event a bit sparser than usual, but we hope you enjoy the postings.

The Red Plague by guest blogger Professor R. J. Rummel (republished)

Complicity by Jonathan Wilde

Forced Labor: North Koreans Working Abroad by Rainbough Phillips

A History The EU Wants to Forget by Rainbough Phillips

A Video Memorial to Victims of Khmer Rouge by Rainbough Phillips

Gulag Love by Jonathan Wilde

Remembrance by Jonathan Wilde



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Complicity

At the end of World War II, Western governments collaborated with Josef Stalin in extraditing various people who sought refuge outside the Soviet Union. In The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn describes the plight of a few who ultimately fell back into Soviet hands.


At the same time, in May, 1945, Great Britain also acted as a loyal ally of the Soviets; the usual modesty of the Soviet leadership prevented this action from being publicized. The English turned over to the Soviet army command a Cossack corps of forty to forty-five thousand men which had fought its way to Austria from Yugoslavia. The extradition was carried out with a perfidy which is characteristic of British diplomatic tradition. The gist of the matter is that the Cossacks meant to fight to the death or emigrate overseas, maybe to Paraguay, maybe to Indochina, anywhere--as long as they would not have to surrender to the Soviets alive. The British provided the Cossacks with military food rations of extra quality, dressed them in fine British uniforms, promised them that they could serve in the British army, and even held military reviews. Therefore, the Cossacks did not grow suspicious when they were asked to turn in their weapons, on the grounds that this was necessary in order to standardize their equipment. On May 28 all officers, from squadron commanders upward, were summoned separately from their soldiers to the town of Judenburg, on the pretext that they would confer with Field Marshal Alexander about the future fate of the army. En route the officers were surreptitiously placed under a strong escort (the British beat them until they bled), and the whole motorcade was gradually surrounded by Soviet tanks. When they arrived in Judenburg, police vans were waiting, as were armed guards holding lists of names. They could not even shoot or stab themselves to death, since all their weapons had been taken away. Some jumped off the high viaduct into the river or onto the stones. Among the generals thus turned over to the Soviets, the majority were emigres who had fought as allies of the British during World War I. During the Civil War the British had not had enough time to show their gratitude; now they were paying their debt. In the following days the British extradited the enlisted men as treacherously, in trains which were covered with barbed wire.

In the meantime, a Cossack transport had arrived from Italy, carrying 35,000 people. They stopped in the Drava Valley near Lienz. There were Cossack soldiers among them, but also many old people, children, and women; none of them wanted to go back to their beloved Cossack rivers. The hearts of the British were not troubled, nor were their democratic minds. The British commanding officer, Major Davies, whose name will certainly survive from now on in Russian history at least, could be exuberantly friendly or merciless, as needed. After the surreptitious extradition of the officers, he openly announced on June 1 that there would be a compulsory extradition. Thousands of voices yelled: "We will not go!" Black flags appeared over the refugees' camp, where church services were being celebrated non-stop: people arranging their own funeral services while they were still alive! ... British tanks and soldiers arrived. The order was given through loudspeakers for everybody to get into the trucks. The crowd was singing hymns from the requiem service; the priests lifted their crosses high above their heads; the young people formed a chain around the elderly, the women, and the children. Then British soldiers started beating them with rifle butts and clubs, grabbing them and throwing them onto the trucks, including the wounded, as if they were packages. As the crowd retreated, first the platform on which the priests were standing broke down under their weight; then the camp fence collapsed. The crowd rushed to the bridge over the Drava; British tanks rolled on to stop them, but entire families sought death by throwing themselves into the river. Meanwhile, the British units in the neighborhood pursued and shot at the fugitives. (The cemetery where the people who were shot or trampled to death were buried still exists in Lienz.)

In those same days, just as treacherously and mercilessly, the British extradited to the Yugoslav Communists thousands of their regime's enemies who had been Great Britain's allies in 1941! They, too, were to be shot and exterminated without trial.

But even that was only the beginning. During all of 1946 and 1947 the Western allies, faithful to Stalin, continued to turn over to him Soviet citizens, former soldiers as well as civilians. It did not really matter who they were as long as the West could get rid of this human confusion as quickly as possible. People were extradited from Austria, Germany, Italy, France, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, from the American occupation zones, and from the territory of the United States as well.

I myself fell under Vlasov fire a few days before my arrest. There were Russians in the East Prussian "sack" which we had surrounded, and one night at the end of January their unit tried to break through our position to the west, without artillery preparation, in silence. There was no firmly delineated front in any case, and they penetrated us in depth, catching my sound-locator battery, which was out in front, in a pincers. I just barely managed to pull it back by the last remaining road. But then I went back for a piece of damaged equipment, and, before dawn, I watched as they suddenly rose from the snow where they'd dug in, wearing their winter camouflage cloaks, hurled themselves with a cheer on the battery of a 152-millimeter gun battalion at Adlig Schwenkitten, and knocked out twelve heavy cannon with hand grenades before they could fire a shot. Pursued by their tracer bullets, our last little group ran almost two miles in fresh snow to the bridge across the Passarge River. And there they were stopped.

Soon after that I was arrested. And now, on the eve of the Victory Parade, here we all were sitting together on the board bunks of the Butyrki. I took puffs from their cigarettes and they took puffs from mine. And paired with one or another of them, I used to carry out the six-bucket tin latrine barrel.

Now, a quarter of a century later, when most of the Vlasov men have perished in camps and those who have survived are living out their lives in the Far North, I would like to issue a reminder, through these pages, that this was a phenomenon totally unheard of in all world history: that several hundred thousand young men, aged twenty to thirty, took up arms against their Fatherland as allies of its most evil enemy. Perhaps there is something to ponder here: Who was more to blame, those youths or the gray Fatherland? One cannot explain this treason biologically. It has to have had a social cause.

Because, as the old proverb says: Well fed horses don't rampage.

Then picture to yourself a field in which starved, neglected, crazed horses are rampaging back and forth.


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Gulag Love

In chapter 15 of her book Gulag: A History, Anne Applebaum writes about prisoners who sought love in the camps, and sometimes found it, albeit via unconventional means.


So desperately did people deprived of everything long for sentimental relationships that some became deeply involved in Platonic love affairs, conducted by letter. This was particularly the case in the late 1940s, in the special camps for political prisoners, where male and female prisoners were kept strictly apart. In Minlag, one such camp, men and women prisoners sent notes to one another via their colleagues in the camp hospital, which was shared by both sexes. Prisoners also organized a secret "mailbox" in the railway work zone where the women's brigades labored. Every few days, a
woman working on the railroad would pretend to have forgotten a coat, or other object, go to the mailbox, pick up what letters had been sent, and leave letters in return. One of the men would pick them up later. There were other methods too: "At a specific time, a chosen person in one of the zones would throw letters from men to women or women to men. This was the 'postal service.' "

Such letters, remembered Leonid Sitko, were written on tiny pieces of paper, with tiny letters. Everyone signed them with false names: his was "Hamlet," his girlfriend's was "Marsianka." They had been "introduced" through other women, who had told him she was extremely depressed, having had her small baby taken away from her after her arrest. He began to write to her, and they even managed to meet once, inside an abandoned mine.

Others developed even more surreal methods in their quest for some kind of intimacy. In the Kengir special camp, there were prisoners--almost all politicals, deprived of all contact with their families, their friends, and the wives and husbands they had left back home--who developed elaborate relationships with people they had never met. Some actually married one another across the wall that divided the men's and women's camps, without ever meeting in person. The woman stood on one side, the man on the other; vows were said, and a prisoner priest recorded the ceremony on a
piece of paper.

This kind of love persisted, even when the camp administration raised the wall, covered it with barbed wire, and forbade prisoners to go near it. In describing these blind marriages even Solzhenitsyn momentarily drops the cynicism he applies to almost all other camp relationships: "In this marriage with an unknown person on the other side of a wall ... I hear a choir of angels. It is like the unselfish, pure contemplation of heavenly bodies, It is too lofty for this age of self-interested calculation and hopping-up-and-down jazz..."


Each year, we publish articles detailing the darkside of human nature that asserted itself in communist societies. Yet prisoners somehow managed to find moments of joy in slave labor camps. Their platonic love stories are a testament to the strength of the human spirit.


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Remembrance

Why bring up communism again? Isn't the idea dead? Haven't most communist societies collapsed?

The answer is that the tragedy has never been properly memorialized, its victims rarely acknowledged. Too many too easily brush aside the suffering that occurred. Today, we do our small part to remember some of the victims. Keep them in your thoughts--the millions of victims of communism worldwide, the Cossacks extradited to the USSR by nations of the 'free world', the victims of the Khmer Rouge, and the North Korean laborers in modern day Russia and Czech Republic.


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May Day

Tomorrow, we'll be having our annual May Day remembrance. This is our big event each year. We'll appreciate any links, emails, and plugs you make. Tell all your friends about it.


End the Olympics

Says William Buiter:

I won’t be watching the Olympics this year. A sufficient reason for this decision is that the spectacle is just not interesting anymore, because most of the time I don’t know what I am watching. Is it a competition between athletes or some convolution of a competition between athletes and a contest between pharmaceutical labs trying to find the optimal combination of illegal performance enhancement and likelihood of detection?

I would certainly be interested in following a competition between different teams of researchers to find new performance-enhancing drugs. But I would not want to watch this live on television. The competition would involve studying the ranking of academic departments in the fields of pharmacology, chemistry and associated bio-medical sciences, the evaluation of peer-reviewed research papers and of replicable lab results, and reviewing market analysts’ assessments of the leading biomedical and drugs companies.

This does not make for good spectator sport, however. Only the sad individuals who get a buzz out of watching chess, darts or golf on television could could find live broadcasts of competitive pharmacological research exciting.

Among the other reasons he gives, the nationalism bothers me the most. Why does it matter so much that the US win the gold in basketball? The best players from all over the world already play in the NBA.

I'd be okay with reducing the Olympics to an international women's beach volleyball competition.


Isn't it ironic?

Story:

Horns blaring, a caravan of truck drivers arrived in Washington on Monday to protest high gasoline prices.

The group, Truckers and Citizens United, circled the National Mall before traveling to RFK Stadium to park. From there, they were to march and take shuttles to the Capitol, where an afternoon rally was scheduled.

Ron Wenger, an organizer with the group, said they have a procession of about 350 vehicles -- including trucks, buses and cars.


On the Deuce

Matt Simpson joins the procedural rights discussion.

Curunir cites prison statistics I hadn't seen before and asks a question.


Don't Whine. Ever.

I'm probably late to this, but I just saw this talk by Randy Pausch, a professor from Carnegie Mellon who's dying of pancreatic cancer. Find an hour to set aside and watch.


CNN = Garbage

A day before the one-year anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting, CNN has published an article about the suicide of a student at VT.

William Kim still calls the cell phone of his son, a 21-year-old senior at Virginia Tech, just to hear his voice. He feels cheated out of a chance to save his only boy.

His son, Daniel Kim, wasn't a victim of last year's massacre that left 32 students and professors dead. His son committed suicide eight months later, after falling into a deep depression.

A Korean-American, Kim feared that classmates might mistake him for shooter Seung-Hui Cho.

"They treated it like some kind of joke," William Kim said of the way the university handled his son's warning signs.

Hmmm... I wonder what they're trying to imply? Why I bet they're trying to draw a parallel! Surely they're trying to survey VT's policies to tie together the Cho case with the student in the more recent event!

Notice the weasely way in which the article tries to draw the two events together.

  • Kim wasn't a victim of the massacre. And I'm not the Pope.
  • Kim was a Korean-American. How very eerie considering the dearth of Korean-Americans at engineering schools!
  • Kim feared that others would mistake him for the shooter. Look at all the evidence the authors present to back up that statement!

After drawing this self-evident parallel, CNN describes how VT came up short once more. One of Kim's online World of Warcraft buddies sent an email to the VT health center saying he was worried about Kim. The health center then called the cops who went to Kim's off-campus apartment to check up on him. They left his apartment a short while later. Clearly VT left him dangling!

This is a bullshit article, a hatchet job by two people, Abbie Boudreau and Scott Zamost, who are not looking for truth, only sensationalism. They have no business being journalists.

Suicides happen at every university. No details are given of what actually happened when the cops met Kim. Did he present himself as not being depressed? Would others have handled the situation the same way? Did the cops try to set him up with psychiatrists? Those facts are not explored.

There is also clearly a matter of personal responsibility at play here. Universities can only do so much. They can't make someone not kill themselves if the person is determined to do it. Other institutions surely had influence as well but are never called into question - the family, the church (if the student attended one), his friends, his roommates, etc. The authors are trying to portray a systemic failure on the part of VT but have presented no proof that such exists. I understand a grieving father trying to find fault somewhere. But I expect reporters to be less biased.

Leaving aside all those facts, given the time of the piece and the ridiculous parallels the authors try to draw between the deadliest school shooting in history and the suicide of a single troubled college kid way back in December, the piece is simply an attempt to ruin the reputation of Virginia Tech. It reeks.


Speaking of fitness...

Nina Shen Rastogi exposes a myth common to fitness circles: that the body benefits from drinking massive amounts of water.  On various forums I visit, the recommendation is to drink a gallon(!) of water a day.  The only benefit these people are getting is the exercise from frequent walks to the bathroom.


Evolutionary Fitness

We have not spent the last 65 million or so years finely honing our physiology to watch Oprah. Like it or not, we are the product of a very long process of adaptation to a harsh physical existence, and the past couple centuries of comparative ease and plenty are not enough time to change our genome. We humans are at our best when our existence mirrors, or at least simulates, the one we are still genetically adapted to live. And that is the purpose of exercise.

- Mark Rippetoe, Crossfit Journal, issue #63


The sun is starting to grow jobs

I've been meaning to post this article from the NY Times on the rise of "Greentech" companies in California.

SunPower, which makes the silicon-based cells that turn sunlight into electricity, reported 2007 revenue of more than $775 million, more than triple its 2006 revenue. The company expects sales to top $1 billion this year. SunPower, based in San Jose, said its stock price grew 251 percent in 2007, faster than any other Silicon Valley company, including Apple and Google.

Not coincidentally, three-quarters of the nation’s demand for solar comes from residents and companies in California. “There is a real economy — multiple companies, all of which have the chance to be billion-dollar operators,” said Daniel M. Kammen, a professor in the energy and resources group at the University of California, Berkeley. California, he says, is poised to be both the world’s next big solar market and its entrepreneurial center.

The question, Professor Kammen says, is: “How can we make sure it’s not just green elite or green chic, and make it the basis for the economy?”

...

“We’re at the dawn of a revolution that could be as powerful as the Internet revolution,” Mr. Reicher said. The problem is, he said, “renewable energy simply costs too much.”

Imagine that: energy prices rise and alternative energy becomes profitable! Whoda thunkit?

The article didn't mention the company that many people believe to be the gorilla of the sector: Phoenix-based First Solar. I got lucky and got in at 195 last month. Someone whose opinion about tech I respect believes the stock is going to $900 eventually.

Disclaimer: Yes I know that many of these companies benefit from subsidies.


In case you missed it...

...lots of great videos on Youtube today.


McCain on bailouts

He's sounding more and more economically conservative of late:

“I will not play election-year politics with the housing crisis,” said Mr McCain. “It’s not the job of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly, whether they’re big banks or small borrowers.”