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Remember that episode on the Simpsons when Homer went to clown college?

It all started when the first day of the month, Homer declared it was new billboard day! He sees ads that he found desirable (such as for food), but then saw one for Clown College. He says in disgust “Clown College? You can’t eat that.” He then drives off, determined to ignore the billboard.

Yet he can’t get it out of his head. In everyday situations, Homer images himself at Clown College, taking the classes to become a clown:

Homer_Simpson_Clown_college

Even when eating dinner with his family, he images them not as table mates, but as clowns:

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Finally, he gets up from the table and declares – seeming out of no where to the rest of his family – “You people have held me back long enough! I’m going to Clown College!” He then gets up and leaves the table.

I bring this up because over the past few months, I’ve been getting more interested in politics. I’m not sure what the catalyst is for this upsurge in interest [1], but here we are. I try to stay away from editorials, and instead I’ve done a few things:

a) I started subscribing to the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) daily newsletter, and I browse through the articles. The CFR is mostly non-partisan and provides a roundup of news from around the world. I even play to join the CFR if I can get a few members to recommend me (Note: I currently know nobody on the CFR).

b) I subscribed to Foreign Affairs, a newsletter and website that discusses foreign policy as it affects the United States. They are articles written by industry people with a lot of expertise. It cost $40 to sign up, and I read it most days

c) I listen to the podcast The President’s Inbox. This is put on by Foreign Affairs, and every 2-4 weeks they have a new episode of issues facing the President of the United States. One episode was on North Korea, another on jobs training, another on the impact of the US withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and so forth. The President’s Inbox is also non-partisan.

d) I clicked on an ad from Norwich (online) University about getting a master’s degree in diplomacy, or perhaps in international relations. I had no interest in this until a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been poking through it. I thought to myself “Hmm, it could be interesting to be a diplomat.” This is especially true when I saw that you could specialize in cyber diplomacy. I’m like “Well, I like geo-politics, and I’m skilled with cyber-space, and now they’ve merged these two together and created a course about it?” There’s a big need worldwide for cyber diplomacy because cyber security is such a difficult topic, and there aren’t that many people in general with the necessary skills. There’s even fewer who would want to do government work.

The drawback of this is that while the course can be completed in 18 months, and is done on your own time and is online, for me to go into diplomacy would be a pay-cut, probably 25-40% (I don’t know why the software industry pays me so well, but they do). And that’s for a mid-career level diplomat, not someone who starts from the bottom which I would probably have to do. Another drawback is that the tuition for those 18 months is $30,000. That’s a lot to shell out. While I could afford it, it would be a big investment for a repayment that is less than what I get now. And getting the wife to sign off on it is another big challenge.


So, it’s (d) that keeps sticking in my head. I’m like “A masters in diplomacy? How is that going to help me? This advertisement has no effect on me whatsoever!”

I just hope I don’t make an outburst like Homer Simpson during a meeting at work one day.


[1] Just kidding. It’s the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.

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Am I seriously doing another blog post? Yup, I guess so.

Myself and some friends were talking about President Trump the other night, I just can’t help myself. I articulated why I have problems with him.

There are many dozens, or even hundreds of reasons to oppose President Trump. But there are two meta-issues that I think undermine the United States in particular, and western society in general.

1. The refusal to divest himself from his business interests

Before the election, then-candidate Trump took a lot of heat from his business interests, and he said he would divest himself from them. But he never did; he said he would let his sons run the day-to-day business, but that he would remain invested. Unlike other members of cabinet who put their interests into a blind trust (e.g., Secretary of State Rex Tillerson), Trump did not.

This is problematic.

The office of the presidency in the United States is not supposed to be used to serve your own personal interests. The president has a lot of power, and therefore can use his office to enrich himself – at the expense of the nation.

For example, he owns a suite of hotels all across the United States, and internationally. He could push for hosting conferences, and foreign governments who travel to the US, to stay in his hotel. He can imply unfavorable treatment if they don’t. And if others want to play ball, they’ll do it. In this way, President Trump would have leveraged his position of power for personal gain, regardless of whether or not his interests align with the United States’ interests. The office of the president is supposed to align first with the US, regardless of whether they are in the interest of the office holder. In fact, even if they are opposed, the president is supposed to put the interests of the country first, not his own. Can you imagine a foreign government offering to spend a large chunk of money on Trump’s hotels in return for favorable treatment by the US government?

This is double confounded by the fact that President Trump refused to release his tax returns, and only leaked the ones that were favorable to him (the 1995 return which shows him declaring a $1 billion loss, and the 2005 return where he paid about $35 million in income tax [mostly due to the Alternative Minimum Tax which his first budget proposal wanted to do away with]).

But because he refused to release his tax returns, we don’t know all of his financial holdings.

And this sets the stage for future presidents to refuse to divest themselves of their financial interests and truly abuse the office of the presidency for personal gain. The precedent the president has set has lowered the bar for future behavior that will be more shady and nefarious. The abuse of office in this manner is how dictators in banana republics operate.

I think this is why President Trump never released his tax returns; it will show that there is something shady going on, and mostly like there is Russia involvement in some way. Perhaps it’s due to financing and special deals (as his sons have said in interviews), but my hypothesis is that the reason Trump is acting all weird when it comes to Russia (e.g., giving them favorable treatment in return for nothing geopolitically), and not disclosing his tax returns, is because he is planning to personally profit during his time in office and that he has to pay Russia back.

2. His administration’s undermining of the geopolitical order set up after World War II

The United States was viewed as isolationist – or at least non-interventionalist – during the first part of the 20th century.

And in Europe, the force driving the continent was a mixture of nationalism (“my country is better than your country”) – and the concept of the balance-of-power.

The balance-of-power was (formally) set up after the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon changed the continent by mobilizing all of France and steamrolling over Europe before finally being defeated for good in 1815. To counter that, at the Congress of Vienna, the major powers (Russia, France, England, Austria, Prussia) established a system where entire countries would ally with each other to balance out the other, so any country that tried to invade another would be forced to deal with the other country’s allies. That is, if England and Prussia were allied with each other, then France couldn’t just invade one – they’d have to fight both. This system worked reasonably well because each country knew that a war would require massive resources and victory would incur heavy losses, making the cost/benefit ratio look unattractive.

But in the late 19th century, countries started devolving into nationalism. First Germany reunited with a series of wars, culminating with the Franco-Prussian War where they became the leading power of the Europe. The balance-of-power still held until World War I when Germany, buoyed by nationalism, instigated the war to end all wars. Which it was, until nationalism reared its head again, and World War II claimed 50 million lives.

After World War II, the world powers decided that the concept of the balance-of-power wasn’t good enough, so they instituted a system of integrated alliances. By creating trade unions based upon political and economic interconnectedness, it would create less hostility between countries. Countries are far less likely to go to war if they are both part of a political union that encourages trade; why would Country A invade Country B and incur the price of war, when they could just trade for the goods they want?

This is the foundation of the United Nations, but more importantly the European Union. Greater integration has increased the unity of Europe where the two worst wars of the past 100 years started, and also increased its stability. Nationalism doesn’t make sense, and that’s why it’s important to keep the EU together. The United States helps guarantee global stability by supporting the EU.

Yet President Trump and Co. are actively undermining the European Union:

a) He has clearly preferred to align with Russia whose geopolitical goals are to be a regional power, and their geopolitical goals are to weaken Europe so they can’t be a counterbalance to Russian influence

b) He has (well, had) undermined the Europe Union by endorsing hardline nationalists like UK-independence leader (at the time) Nigel Farage and saying he should be the UK’s ambassador to United States, and endorsing French nationalist Marine Le Pen. Both of those individuals are actively working to break up the EU.

If the EU does break up, then what happens next? It means we revert back to divisions based upon national borders, which leads to nationalism in place of greater political and economic integration. And that’s what led to the last great war in Europe. Peace is not achieved lightly, and undoing one of the things that led to it (another being more democracy) is a negative.

I think that’s bad for global stability; it’s bad for Europe, and therefore bad for the United States.


And those are the two meta-reasons why I oppose President Trump’s agenda.

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As I said in my previous post, I was on jury duty for a couple of days this month. They said the trial would take three days, but it actually only took two. There weren’t a lot of witnesses; the prosecution had 4 while the defense only had 1, the defendant.

I won’t get into the case here because it wasn’t a pleasant case. It wasn’t something trivial like a DUI or break-and-enter, but instead a sexual assault case.

Instead, I’m going to skip ahead to the jury deliberations.

We ended up coming to a verdict of guilty, and you might think I’d feel a sense of civic pride for “putting the bad guy away”. Indeed, a lot of people were joking to me “GUILTY! GUILTY!” during the trial, and afterwards when I told them what the case was about, they all reeled back in discomfort. But I didn’t feel good at all, I had a mixture of depression, sadness, relief, and guilt.

 

First, when I entered the jury room, I was reasonably convinced of the defendant’s guilt. I thought that the victim had a story that was believable; and the defendant did not, and made up his counter story, and lied under oath.

But there were other jurors who were less convinced and gave more weight to the defendant and the principle of innocent until proven guilty. I didn’t like how I was less willing to believe in the defendant’s innocence, and gave much less plausibility to the defendant’s story than others.

Our system of justice is built on the foundation of innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I didn’t want to be a guy who brought biases into court (“If he’s here he must be guilty”) because if the situations were reversed and I really was innocent, I’d want the jury to understand that same principle and grant me the same standard of justice.

I was worried that I wouldn’t grant this defendant that same standard that I’d want others to grant me.

After all, some jurors were hesitant at first. Why weren’t they right and me wrong? I didn’t like that I could be wrong but was unable to see it.

 

Second, some jurors who were not hesitant admitted they were convinced by a piece of video evidence that I also found convincing.

But I didn’t need the video evidence (or maybe I did… but if I didn’t, it goes back to my first point of not being willing to grant the presumption of innocence).

But I thought to myself “We are convicting on the basis of this video. What about all of the other sexual assault cases that don’t have video evidence? All of the ‘he said, she said’ cases?”

If you’ve ever wondered how sexual assault cases have such a low conviction rate, it’s because the prosecutor can’t prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. You need more than just “he said, she said”. Otherwise, you have to presume that the defendant is innocent.

And I found that depressing.

It’s only luck that video evidence was in this trial, and that the defendant did something extraordinarily incriminating in the video that undercut his entire argument.

But I was overwhelmed by the role that luck played in this trial.

Third, delivering the verdict was stressful.

Extremely stressful.

As a jury, we discussed all of the evidence, and we went around the table asking for everyone’s input. We then held a vote, but didn’t come to a consensus.

We went back and discussed some more. We took another vote (secret ballot) and read out to ourselves all the votes, and they all came up Guilty.

When that last vote came up Guilty, a massive knot formed in the pit of my stomach. You know the feeling, it’s when you feel terrible because something bad happened.

Because by rendering a verdict of guilty, we forever changed the defendant’s life. He will go to prison where he will be targeted by other inmates, and he will have to register as a sex offender.

We notified the bailiff and went back into the court room where we delivered the verdict to the judge. She read the verdict aloud, and once again the knot in my stomach returned. Actually, it felt like I was punched in the chest and it physically hurt.

It wasn’t fun. I was responsible for making an impact in someone’s life and it would have negative consequences.

The defendant requested that we all say for the record that the verdict was our own decision, and we each said yes.

And then it was done.

* * * * * * *

Afterwards we talked to the attorneys about the facts of the case, and got more background that we didn’t get during the trial.

Indeed, the trial only had the facts of the case. There was virtually no background or criminal history of the defendant. After I found out about it, it probably would have changed the opinions of the jurors to come to a guilty verdict faster.

I came home, and took the rest of the day off. The mental stress was finished.

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This whole Donald-Trump-Russia connection is getting weird.

Way back during the campaign, I wasn’t sure about what to make of President Donald Trump and his admiration of Russia and Vladimir Putin. At the time, I assumed that then-candidate Donald Trump was being manipulated, and obviously so – Putin would praise Trump and Trump would think it was genuine, and because he has such a need for praise, he would return it. But the praise from Putin was not real, it was false because Putin knew Trump would respond to it. Trump never figured it out. I also thought that Trump admired Putin’s way of running the country (Putin was a former mid-level FSB agent who is now rumored to be one of the richest, if not the richest, men in the world).

I never thought that Trump was indebted to Russia, I thought it was all psychological manipulation.

I heard a podcast the other day that Trump’s infatuation with Russia and Putin is an admiration for Putin that runs deep. As I said, Putin now controls a lot of wealth but keeps it all off the books. The underlying message was that Putin mixed business and government with strong arm tactics to appropriate wealth (and poison his enemies), and Trump wants to emulate this – to use government as a springboard to personal wealth and power. I kind of thought that was why he was running for President back in 2015 and 2016, and this fueled into my suspicions.

And then I read an article on Vanity Fair today: How Ex-Spy Christopher Steele compiled his explosive Trump dossier. I won’t go over the details of this, but everything is becoming uber suspicious:

– Steele had several Russian sources, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure; a former top level intelligence officer still active in the Kremlin; and a handful of other sources

– A bunch of different top aides to Russian politicians who were pretty good candidates for these sources have turned up dead

– The dossier said that Trump’s team and Russia co-ordinated on a strategy to undermine NATO alliances in the region which is exactly what happened during the campaign

– A Russian cyber security expert was arrested for treason

– So many of President Trump’s top nominations to positions of power, or close associates, look shady. From former NSA director Michael Flynn, to Attorney General Jeff Sessions who forgot to disclose he met with Russian diplomats, to Trump’s personal associates Carter Page and Roger Stone (who said he had a back channel to Wikileaks and then walked back the claim). Every time they talk about Russia, it gets so weird.

– Then-candidate Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has deep ties to pro-Russian activity in the Ukraine during the past 5 years

– Even Roger Stone, who predicted that John Podesta would be exposed soon enough, just a little while before the Podesta email leaks, had an interview on NPR. I listened to it and he denied everything. But he said some weird things, like “I never used #wikileaks” when I said the leaks from Podesta were coming.”

Huh? Why would you offer up that? It’s like he was trying to say things that he didn’t say in order to distract away from things he wanted to hide.

He sounded, to me, like he was hiding something.

* * * * * * * * *

And now I’ve become suspicious. At first I thought it was just Putin manipulating President Trump. But now I think there was some collusion.

There’s simply too many weird things going on.

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Last year, I wrote a few blog posts about my reaction after the election of Donald Trump and how at first I was in shock, but then I started to get over it.

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Since he was inaugurated last week, I’ve either been holding out hope that it wouldn’t be as bad as it sounded like (repealing the Affordable Care Act), pleased that it was all bluster (saying torture works, but then deferring to his Defense Secretary [no doubt intended to appease the base at first, but then the rational people]), or accepted that we as a society are probably screwed due to climate change (leading to depression). Fortunately, I’ve been busy at work to distract my attention.

But today I am angry.

Steaming mad

You may have heard that President Trump recently issued an executive order banning people from entering the country if they are from one of several Muslim-majority nations (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya). There are a few other bans, including an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria. While saying it is not a Muslim ban and that it’s intended to avoid allowing radical terrorists into the country, many people think it’s just a euphemism to exclude Muslims because many countries that do export terrorists (unintentionally, usually) were left off the list.

My left-leaning Facebook feed exploded in outrage.

Baring teeth smile

I’ve stayed off of social media, but inside I am mad. Really mad.

Trump had said before the election that he was going to do this, so it should come as no surprise. But it still surprised me that it’s this blatant.

What bugs me about this is the lack of empathy for people trying to escape war-ravaged regions, and people on the other side – who are not in that situation – saying “Sorry, you were born in the wrong place. Go away, you’re not welcome here.”

Sarcastic smile

I find this cold-hearted and arrogant and I can’t imagine denying others entry who are fleeing from terrible circumstances (I know that there needs to be vetting; it’s something that’s already done).

For you see, back in the 1940’s, Jewish emigrants from Europe were trying to escape the destruction that was going on in their country, and no other country accepted them – including the United States. They had to turn back, and many of them ended up dying in the concentration camps.

When I was younger, I wondered “How could this be? How could nobody accept them?”

Sad smile

The answer is that the United States and the allies were at war with Germany. They were worried that the refugees had German spies among them that would infiltrate American society and undermine the US war effort. To avoid taking that chance, the US rejected them all.

That’s the same reason that’s being given today, the refugees from Syria pose a threat to US society and would undermine it from the inside.

But even more than that, I’ve written how my own grandmother was effectively a refugee after World War II, coming to North America 4 years after the war ended. But not before spending 3 years in a Soviet work camp.

What would have happened if immigration officials would have said “Sorry, but you’re German. We can’t trust you, we just fought a war with you people. Besides which, your husband fought for the Germans and was our enemy. You are too much of a risk.”

Or, what if they have said “You spent 3 years in a Soviet work camp? We’re in a cold war with the Soviets, you could be a spy. Sorry, you can’t come in. Go back to Europe.”

What then?

Thumbs down

Today, I am in the reverse position. I get a say on whether to accept refugees from places that need to be escaped from (well, not really; the party I voted for didn’t win [even though more of us voted the same way I did]). I am only in the position I am in by sheer luck. I did nothing to be born in Canada and get a privileged position of also being a US citizen. I was born in the right place at the right time.

By contrast, these other people were born in the wrong place. It’s not their fault; how can I hold that against them when the exact same thing wasn’t held against my own ancestors over 75 years ago? Had that happened, I wouldn’t be alive today. I owe my very existence to a national policy that is at odds where US policy is headed.

That’s not fair, and it makes me angry that the refugee-deniers are exploiting their privilege.

What makes my head spin is not that the US government is doing this against the wishes of the people. I know that Trump sits on a base of support, and his comments are intended to unite them behind him. I estimate that at least 25-30% of the US population is in strong support of this. Another chunk who supported Trump may not totally agree but are willing to go along with it since it doesn’t affect them.

And that is what gives me deep pause…

Don't tell anyone smile

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I was talking to a co-worker the other day about how the US political system – well, the political commentary – is all about the personality of the person running it. For example, a few weeks ago Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton named Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia as her running mate (for Vice President). I was impressed with the choice; I’d read some of his answers on Quora and liked what he had to say. It turns out that in addition to being a US Senator, he was previously the Governor of the state of Virgina and previous to that, held several jobs in public service.

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Yet the response to Tim Kaine amongst the media is “He’s boring. He’s too boring.” I then look at all the media circus around Donald Trump, and he generates coverage by trying to stay in the headlines even though he is clearly totally incompetent when it comes to running for public office, especially the President of the United States.

In the US, it’s all about the glitter and sizzle.

Yet contrast this with the Scandinavian countries. Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway… these all have strong social safety nets, their citizens are well cared for, they have low crime rates, low rates of poverty, and regularly rank among the happiest in the world.

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But can you name the leader of even one of those countries?

I can’t. Because they have a system of government that prioritizes getting things done, and not on the larger-than-life personality.

To me, competence and results is so much more important than the flash and glitter. And Scandinavia gets results because that’s what is important to them. They don’t have the same culture which places being in the spotlight (narcissism) and personal fame as one of life’s goals.

Which brings me to Canada.

In October 2015, Canada elected Justin Trudeau as its Prime Minister. He is the leader of the Liberal party, and they replaced the ruling Conservatives who had been in power since 2006. Justin Trudeau is the son of Pierre Trudeau, one of Canada’s longest serving Prime Ministers who was in power during the 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s.

While I don’t have a problem with Justin Trudeau, I do have a problem with the public image that he, and the media (and so many of my Facebook friends) have created around Trudeau – a cult of personality. There are stories of him giving mini-lectures on quantum physics; stories of him running into hikers while he himself is out on vacation; pictures of him doing yoga poses; and so forth.

There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these things… except that it creates a cult of personality around a single individual and leads us (Canada) down the path of American-style personality-politics which revels in the glitter, instead of northern European-style system-oriented, results-oriented politics.

I like Justin Trudeau, I probably would have voted for him; but I do not like the overly friendly media personality that pushes how “cool” he is. The media (and my Facebook friends) are contrasting him to the previous Prime Minister Stephen Harper – “look at how hip and with it the new guy is, and look at how stodgy and uptight the old guy ways.” That’s wrong, by constantly preaching to us how great a guy the Prime Minister is, it weakens the role of the press that is supposed to hold politicians accountable. Yes, I know you like his policies, but your job is not to reinforce his image. The government’s job is to create a system that works for all Canadians. By crafting a public image that he’s a cool guy undermines your responsibility, and it sets us up for problems down the road for the next guy.

Look at Fox News – they are unbashedly Republican, and they are derelict in their duty of whole heartedly supporting Donald Trump and his plethora of bad ideas. That’s what you get when the media is more concerned with protecting the brand than being responsible to the public.

If this guy has a cult of personality, what happens when the next guy learns from this guy and creates his own cult? The fierce partisanship of US politics should be a warning to Canada, and the press must not play a role in that.

It’s too late for us Americans. But Canada, there’s still time for us to save ourselves!

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I often read Cracked.com, a humor site, and the way they write articles is to say “Six things you didn’t know about <blah>”. They then write them in descending order. This blog post is my attempt at writing an article Cracked.com-style.


Last year, I had the chance to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp in southern Poland. That was depressing and left me with a feeling of disgust for humanity.

This year, I went on a much cheerier trip to Germany and along the way, visited Munich. Munich is the second largest city in Bavaria (third largest in Germany), a region in southwest Germany which was one of the last independent German states to join Germany in the 1870’s. Munich is a great city (with architecture, great atmosphere, and great beer) but I learned a few things on a 3rd Reich tour we took. The tour talked about the events between World War I and World War II, and there were several things I had never heard of before. It’s a war that could have been avoided.

So here’s some things about World War II that you probably never knew. The big one? That Munich is considered the birth place of Nazism because it’s where Hitler got his start.


6. Munich had a history of nationalistic fervor

Towards the end of World War I, the war had become unpopular with the local population, especially in Bavaria. Because the region had a large rural population, the farmers and their families were starving because they had to divert all of their resources to the military and couldn’t slaughter their last pig to feed themselves. Bavarians always considered themselves Bavarians first and Germans second, so they weren’t happy that they were being bled dry.

All of this led to rising resentment against the established government, and the last king of Bavaria ended up fleeing. That was the end of that monarchy.

After World War I, in November 1918, Bavaria set up a provisional government headed by Provisional National Council Minister-President Kurt Eisner who promised to hold elections later on in 1919. He probably could have been a decent administrator of the region. Level headed and pragmatic, he was.

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However, due to growing discontent he promised to abdicate earlier but unfortunately he was shot and killed in February 1919 before he could resign. Munich had become a hotbed of extremism, with various elements wanting to reinstall the old regime.

Eisner’s assassin was a German nationalist; he was also shot, but survived to stand trial. At his trial, his defense was that he did it to save the regime, to save Germany. He was sentenced to death, but a judge in his trial, Georg Neithardt, had a history of supporting nationalist causes and ended up reducing his sentence to five years in prison. The judge effectively ignored the law. The law was later changed to make it easier to acquit the assassin. This all happened in Munich, the hotbed of Germany nationalism.

Several years later, the time and place of Munich would be key to Hitler’s rise as he resurrected the doctrine of German nationalism; beer, drinking men, and spirited speeches would grow the Nazi party slowly over time. It isn’t a coincidence that it started in Munich, it was part of a pattern.

 

5. Hitler cheated death once when he should have been executed for trying to overthrow the government but instead got a light sentence (a few years commuted to a few months)

After World War I, the tail end of which Hitler sat out because he had been temporarily blinded in a poison gas attack, he wandered around aimlessly before joining the Nazi party (a movement he didn’t invent, but took to a new level). He bought into the stab-in-the-back myth (an incorrect belief that the German military would have won the war had the civilian leadership not sold them out) and ascended the ranks. From here, he gave his famous speeches in beer halls around the country including the famous Hofbrauhaus in Munich, and it was from there he launched his famous Beer Hall Putsch which was an attempt to overthrow the government of Bavaria. It failed, and Hitler was arrested.

The judge was sympathetic to his case because he was in Bavaria, a conservative region of Germany that longed for the old regime. This was the same judge who acquitted the guy who shot the interim prime minister/president of Bavaria I talked about above.

The judge gave Hitler the light sentence because he agreed with what Hitler was saying with regards to German nationalism. Hitler should have gotten death penalty (and we all avoid World War II)… but by an unfortunate coincidence, he instead got a judge who was sympathetic to his cause. What would have happened had Hitler not gotten that judge?

Nice work, idiot judge.

4. Hitler could have been killed when he tried to overthrow the gov’t but his bodyguard took six bullets, he just hurt his shoulder

Hitler’s goal during the Beer Hall Putsch was to kidnap some of the existing politicians, overthrow the government of Bavaria, and then use that momentum to march on Berlin.

It wasn’t well-organized. Hitler started the revolt in the evening but had to attend to business elsewhere. Upon morning, the revolt had fizzed and so he decided to take matters into his own hands and lead a revolution. However, by that time, the city of Munich had regrouped and called in numerous police officers from other regions.

The two groups came to a head, and legend has it that Hitler fired the first shot and although this was used for propaganda purposes later on, it’s unlikely to be true. In any event, the two groups exchanged fire, four police officers and 16 Nazis died in the exchange while Hitler suffered a dislocated shoulder when he fell to the ground.

That sounds like he got off easy, and he did.

That’s because his bodyguard took six bullets wrapping himself around Hitler to protect him from the firefight, and the pair falling to the ground with his now-dead bodyguard on top of him is when Hitler hurt his shoulder. Those six bullets were meant for him.

Yet another unfortunate coincidence when World War II could have been avoided.

“Good” work, Mr. Bodyguard.

3. Hitler should have been killed when a guy in 1939 put a bomb in a beer hall

Did you ever hear the story of George Elser?

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No?

That’s okay, I’ll tell it to you. It was clear during the rule of the Nazi party that Hitler was leading the country towards war and probably another world war. Not all of the German population was in favor of this, and that includes George Elser.

Hitler was known for giving rousing speeches in beer halls in Munich, and in 1939 it was no different. Elser knew this, so he scoped out the place well in advance and knew that Hitler would be giving a speech there (not the Hofbrauhaus, this is a different beer hall).

Elser taught himself to make bombs and the night Hitler was scheduled to give a speech, Elser entered the beer hall a few hours in advance and planted a bomb. It was timed to go off later that night when Hitler was giving his speech, thus killing him and preventing a war.

It would have gone according to plan except for one thing – Hitler decided to cut his speech short because he had to fly back to Berlin because the war had started (and it was foggy). The bomb did go off later that night and killed several people, but Hitler was not among them. He would have been, had he stayed to give his entire speech.

Elser did not stick around to see whether or not his plan succeeded. Instead, that night he was caught trying to trying to cross into Switzerland. Normally the borders were not patrolled, but they do during times of war. The border guards questioned him and figured out (or at least strongly suspected) that he was culprit and held him in custody. The idea was to execute him publically to set an example.

The right time never came and Elser spent six years in custody. He didn’t get away though, he was executed 3 weeks before the end of the war.

Were it not for some fog and a declaration of war, Elser could have single-handedly stopped the war.


2. Hitler was a decent artist but couldn’t get into art school; not because he had no talent, because he had no artistic vision

I knew that Hitler was a wandering artist who, before and after the war, couldn’t get into art school in Vienna. I assumed that this was a passing phase, and that he wasn’t a good artist.

But it turns out he wasn’t that bad. If I were to look at the below without knowing the artist, I’d think “Hey, that’s not bad. Better than I could do.”

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I wouldn’t say he was the best artist, but he certainly wasn’t the worst – at least not in terms of his drawing ability.

So why couldn’t he get into art school?

Because his art style wasn’t current enough, and it lacked emotion. By the early 20th century, the art world had moved onto expressionism which is less interested in realistic paintings and more interested on artistic expression, particularly with emotion and what the artist is feeling. It had moved away from realistic art since the middle of the 1800’s:

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As you can see, the realistic style of Hitler is no where close to alignment with what the art world was looking for at the time, and as a result, they refused his admission.

Hitler did not come from a high-class aristocratic background so it isn’t surprising that he wasn’t familiar with then-contemporary art trends, just like for most of my life (and even still today) I don’t fully get abstract art.

Hitler never forgot this and he banned art and architecture movements that were contemporary at the time, such as Bauhaus architecture. Decades later, in direct opposition to those actions, Munich would open up a museum dedicated specifically to modern art.

1. When people had to cross by a certain part of Munich, they had to give the “Heil Hitler” sign. But some people walked around to avoid saying it.

Not everyone was a Nazi in Munich. Indeed, a lot of them weren’t.

After the Nazi party came to power, whenever everyone walked by the Feldherhalle in Munich, people had to give the heil salute (this was the site climax of the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923).

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But the people who weren’t on board with the Nazi Party decided to openly – or covertly – mock the salute by walking around the square, going down the street behind the hall called Viscardegasse. The Nazis were aware that they were being mocked so they nicknamed the little sidestreet as Dodger’s Alley (Drückebergergasse).

The city of Munich recently put a line of gold bricks down as a memorial to the people who put up this resistance because they were risked repercussions from authorities if they were caught doing this.

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So, it’s great to know that even though many parts of the country supported his rise to power, there were also large parts of the country that opposed the rule of the Nazi party, and were willing to risk their lives to do it.

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