Jesus wasn't born refugee

Which is a fancier cover?
On the Christmas Eve this year, the telly had an ecumenical service where the Big Teapot Cover of one of our churches spoke nicely about how Jesus "was born to a poor refugee family".

Actually Jesus was not born to a poor family of refugees. According to Bible, he was born to family of Joseph, an entrepreneurial or self-employed constructor, who was forced by the tax-collecting Roman Empire to travel to Bethlehem, "city of David", because that happened to be the assigned place where his records would be taken to the census administered by the governor Quirinius [1].

The tax collector did not care whether it was reasonable that Joseph and his bride Mary, who was pregnant, had to travel to the site of census, at a time when the accommodation capacity in the place was absolutely fully booked. The tax collector just cared about getting everyone in their books so that they could squeeze every penny that belonged to the Emperor.

So Jesus was born to an entrepreneur family harassed by tax collection, not a refugee family.

Then, after Bethlehem, Jesus's family actually became persecuted for personal reasons. The client king Herod received information from the three Magi which he misinterpreted to mean that he was about to be challenged by a Messiah, and therefore decided to take preventive action. He had male infants of Bethlehem region murdered in order to get rid of the potential leader of this insurgency [2]. Joseph, on the other hand, had been warned of this in a divine dream, and his family sought asylum in Egypt for a couple of years. When Herod had died, they moved to Nazareth [3]. However, they were not particularly poor - Joseph was a constructor known in his home town, a man of means who took care of his family. He was able to travel to Jerusalem to visit the temple [4], etc. Later the family would e.g. visit an affluent wedding where hundreds of litres of wine would be served. [5]

It is fashionable to talk about refugees. It's not fashionable to talk about the oppressive effects of taxation and how the state collects information about people and their financials.

[1] Luke 2:4
[2] Matthew 2:16-18
[3] Matthew 2:13-14,19-20
[4] Luke 2:41
[5] John 2:1-10

(The historical timeline does not quite match the Biblical references. According to sources, Herod died in 4 BC, and Quirinius became the governor only at 6 AD; for the description in Gospel of Luke to be accurate, these events should be the other way round.)


Dramatic shift to nearly 95% electricity from clean energy... from nearly 150%

The Guardian is well known for a progressive attitude that makes rather funny "news". This time:

Uruguay makes dramatic shift to nearly 95% electricity from clean energy

This is presented as "progress". Well, yes, it is sort of dramatic. Looking at IEA statistics, Uruguay made a dramatic shift from 144 % clean energy to near 80 % clean energy. In just 23 years.

According to IEA, in 1990, Uruguay produced 7009 GWh in hydroelectric and 59 GWh in biofuels, and exported 2589 GWh.

In 2013 - year of latest IEA statistics - it produced 8206 GWh in hydroelectric, 1082 GWh in biofuels, 144 GWh in wind, and had dramatically ramped up production based on oil, to 2229 GWh.

Thus, in 1990 Uruguay's renewable electricity production was 144 % of its domestic consumption. 23 years of progress in renewable energy has changed the ratio to 80 % (so if the jump were to 95% in one year from 2013 to 2014, that would be remarkable, but unfortunately it is too remarkable to be believable).

Well, we knew it: for The Guardian, it's more important to be activist and to change the world, than to report the world as it actually is, and tell the truth. The purpose apparently is to encourage subsidies and guaranteed fixed prices for producers - and international investors - at taxpayer expense. Media keeps misleading its readers for profit, and unfortunately this is just one small example.


September 15, 1942

73 years ago, on September 15, 1942, the commanding officer of 8K/3Pr closed my father's service record:

Killed in action on 15.9.1942 in Krivi. Luutn. A. Kekkonen.

But this note was premature. My father, Armas Taipale, was almost, but not quite entirely dead. He was wounded badly, but he survived. After a hospital tour, he reported back to his unit and fought in the great battle of summer 1944, and was wounded again, but lived another 50 years after that September day. I was born almost a quarter of century later. Here's the story.
Hospital pajamas, 1943


Stalin's Soviet Union attacked Finland on 30.11.1939 in what was supposed to be a brief action to liberate the oppressed workers of Finland. It turned out to the humiliating episode for the Soviets in what is known as the Winter War. Soviet and post-1999 Russian history books don't really touch the subject. It demonstrated the vulnerability of Soviet Red Army, both to the Germans (who were contemplating an attack) and Stalin (who realised his fear of coup d'etat and decision to eliminate senior military commanders had been a bad mistake).

The Soviets were fighting to liberate  a nation that definitely did not want to be liberated. At this time, my father was in the Defense Corps (Suojeluskunta). This was a militia performing home defense duties. My uncle, older than my father, was in his two years conscript service in the regular army.

Diagram of the Karelian Isthmus battle illustrates the positions of the Soviet and Finnish troops. The Red Army penetrated dozens of kilometers into Finnish territory, but stopped at the Mannerheim Line.
Finland struggled for 105 days against Soviet Union. USSR bombed Helsinki. In the League of Nations, Molotov claimed that Soviet planes were just dropping bread to starving Finnish children. Finns therefore called cluster bombs "Molotov's breadbaskets". Also Molotov's cocktail, a Spanish innovation, received its well-known name. USSR was expelled from LN.

The Western great powers, Britain and France, considered sending troops to help Finland against the Soviets who were in a pact with their closer enemies the Nazis. However, the Western allies were too powerless to actually commit themselves. Had they actually sent soldiers to fight the Soviet-Nazi pact, world history might have turned out very differently.

On March 11th 1940, two days  before the end of war, Finnish frontlines were nearing collapse. My uncle was taken prisoner of war by Soviets in Uuras, near Viipuri. In captivity, he toured the Arkhangelsk Oblast where catering services of prisoners left something to hope for. He returned after a POW exchange months later, in summer 1940, so thin that his mother would not recognize him due to weight loss. He was starved, but alive. Finland was likewise made thinner. She would cede over the Karelian Isthmus, as well as areas north of Lagoda, hand over naval base in Hanko, and re-settle 400 000 refugees to make lebensraum for Soviet citizens. The most important facilities to hand over were actually cellulose factories in Karelia, useful for gunpowder production.
Drawing shows that the Finns ceded a small part of the Petsamo Kalastajansaarento, part of Salla in the Finnish Lapland, part of Karelia, islands of the Gulf of Finland and lease Hanko peninsula.
Ceded territories (Wikipedia/J. Niemenmaa)
The great conflict of Second World War rolled on, and in summer 1941, the Soviet-Nazi pact was sour. Enraged Finns needed little persuasion by Nazi Germany to join in Operation Barbarossa, the attack against Soviet Union, to regain the lost territory and generally get even -- with interest paid. What had in 1939 been a peaceful -- in comparison to neighbours, almost pacifist -- Anglophilic republic had become a militant co-belligerent with the Nazis.

My father entered regular service right after Winter War, in April 1940, so he was in the army to begin the Continuation War. My uncle was mobilized in June 1941 along with almost half a million reservists. He packed his things, among them a rifle cartridge, showing it to his parents and then putting into his shirt pocket: "I'll save this for myself. I won't be a prisoner a second time." His bitterness was deep.

Finns were out to get payback. The payback carried some punch, and the Soviets were mostly busy further in the south. My father participated in the reconquest of Finnish proper in Karelian Isthmus, pushing the frontline to Rajajoki, the pre-1939 border. Finns would stop the attack here, outside the suburbs of Leningrad.

North of Lake Lagoda, Finns attacked across the new border, then across the pre-1939 border, and pushed on to Lake Onega, conquering Petrozhavodsk, and continued further east to the Olonets Isthmus. The attack was halted along the river Svir which runs from Onega to Ladoga, between these two largest lakes of Europe.

Yet further up North, on the Maselga Isthmus between lakes Onega and Segozero (Seesjärvi), Finns advanced until late 1941, establishing positions along waterways. And here they stopped, because the blitzkrieg that was supposed to be quickly over was not so blitz. The Germans did not quite reach Moscow, and Finns cautiously took defensive positions on the three isthmuses: Karelia, Olonets and Maselga. Finnish army commander Marshall Mannerheim ordered the army to dig in. He declined to actively participate in the Siege of Leningrad, not even closing the winter-season service road, "Road of Life" to the city - this may be explained by sentiments because St. Petersburg was actually his old own home town when he served the Tsar Nicholas II.

East Karelia is very different from the affluent St. Petersburg region. North of Segozero, in White Karelia (Viena), the terrain is hopelessly swampy and practically impossible for military operations beyond some lightly equipped patrols. Any heavy equipment is tied to the few roads and easily surrounded and destroyed by mobile light troops, whether trying to go East or West. In Lapland the Germans were involved in a futile attempt to get to Murmansk and cut off the railway of Lend-Lease supply lines, but the land area between Germans and Segozero was mostly unoccupied and just patrolled occasionally. Therefore, the strip of land with miserable swamps and puny villages at Maselga was the very northern end of the mighty Eastern Front which extended all the way from Black Sea.

By January 1942, Finns were in Karhumäki (Medvezhegorsk) at the northern tip of Lake Onega, and beyond, somewhat across Sandarmokh which is now known to be the burial site of thousands of victims of the Greate Purge. Soviets made a counter-offensive in a puny village called Krivi in January 1942; this was repelled, but the defensive positions north of Karhumäki were not considered good. Finnish high command wanted to straighten out the frontline in Maselga. A combined arms unit, 3rd Brigade, was formed -- it contained four infantry battalions, heavy and light artillery, signal and engineer troops, anti-tank and anti-aircraft companies, and logistics units. It was commanded by Lt. Col. Kai Savonjousi, a competent professional soldier. His mission was to take Krivi.

My father was a lance-corporal, and transferred to this new brigade, which was somewhat an elite unit, consisting of experienced conscripts and young reservists. He was moved to 8K (Eighth Company) which was the machine-gun company of II P (Second Battalion) -- each infantry battalion had three rifle companies and the fourth company was a machine gun company. The platoons of this company were typically attached to support the rifle companies. Companies were numbered from 1 to 16, with 1K-4K belonging to I P, 5K-8K belonging to II P, and so on.

Carnage of 7 Feb, 1942, Krivi (SA-kuva)
On February 6, the brigade attacked Krivi. The temperature was very cold, -30°C, and the Russians did not imagine Finns would operate in this weather. They were surprised completely, and the outcome was a decisive Finnish victory. Finns overran the front line and accommodation areas of the Russian division. The division had been assembled in Chelyabinsk and consisted of three infantry regiments - it should have been weather-proof. But the Soviet soldiers were trapped in their warm huts and dug-outs, which were blown up or burned, and the whole division was wiped out.

In the battle of February 6-12, Finns suffered losses of 121 men killed in action, 547 wounded, and 41 with such frostbites that count as casualty.

The Russian death toll was 2417 men killed in action in pockets that were completely destroyed, and 62 were taken prisoners. An estimated 800 Soviet soldiers were killed at the new front-line when repelling counter-attacks, but the exact number could not be confirmed. This ratio of about 30 Soviet soldiers killed per one Finnish man was definitely in the high side but not unprecedented in the early part of Continuation War where Finnish troops were well motivated and trained and knew how to utilize the terrain, while the Soviets where tenacious, would not surrender, and threw living force into battle with not much regard for losses - the men had to choose between bullets from the front and bullets from the back. Hundreds were killed in their dug-outs and huts in each surrounded pocket.

A house at Krivi. (Album)
So, now the frontline was better, and Finns were in possession of this humble village which had a few picturesque Karelian houses - those that were not burned - and not much else.

The attack had carried the frontline a bit too far away, to an unfavourable tactical defense position in low ground, but the contemporary doctrine was not to give back any territorial achievements, so trench lines were established there.

Finns dug in at Krivi, as they did in all of the front lines when 1941 turned to 1942.

Trench and a distance-measurement periscope at Krivi.

Constructing a log road in swamp, Apr 1942.
Defensive positions were prepared. Dug-outs were constructed to house soldiers. When snow thawed, roads were built behind the front lines, often effectively as bridges over swamplands. The usual scourges of trench warfare followed: there were night patrols, surprise raids, artillery bombardments, snipers, flak gun barrages.

Krivi was one of the most dangerous front-line segments, as the commanders on Russian side tended to be rather active. This was because a connecting railway ran from here to the Murmansk railway, which in turn was the lifeline of Soviets because a large part of their equipment and materials came as American and British aid through Murmansk. Here the railway was most vulnerable, and the defeat in February was not received well by Soviet commanders. Hence the activity.

Food was scarce; Finland had lost much of the crops of 1941 and there was little to provide to soldiers. If they got to kill or capture a Russian patrolman, the first thing to do was to prowl his pockets for any bread. Human blood was removed with a knife, otherwise any bread would be eaten promptly. In POW camps, the rations were not enough because prisoners did not have the freedom to forage for food.

3rd Brigade had its reserve troops constantly trained behind the lines, to avoid complacency. The training was hard; it used live ammo and involved things like cleaning trenches or performing assaults; even fatalities would occur occasionally due to intensity of infantry weapon fire used in training.

3rd Brigade was stationed at and near Krivi village; to its north-west towards Segozero at Maselga railway station there was JR5, and to its south-east towards Stalin's Canal there was Er.P.22 which was a large-scale "Dirty Dozen" operation: an entire battalion comprised of prisoners serving sentences for violent crime. Its commander was Nikke Pärmi, himself a professional soldier who had done prison time for manslaughter.

A Maxim gun at Krivi.
The machine-gun squads were equipped with Maxim M09/21 heavy machine guns, or the later Lahti-Saloranta variant. This was a water-cooled weapon that could sustain rapid fire for a long time, unlike submachine guns or later assault rifles. The problem of the heavy machine gun was that it was heavy: the weight made it an impractical weapon for assault operations. For defense in trenches, it was invaluable.

My father was the gun operator, which was the most dangerous job -- obviously, the enemy would particularly want to take him out, and the position was often exposed. He had an assistant to help feeding ammunition. Their personal weapons were 9 mm pistols, if the army happened to have any to give. The rest of the squad were equipped with ordinary rifles, with tasks assigned to supply ammunition and carry various parts of the heavy machine gun when in mobile operations. In stationary warfare, this was the easy part.

Half-platoon of IJ/8K/3Pr in Spring 1942.
My father is 4th in 2nd row from back. (Album)

Despite training,  complacency did creep in. There were losses to snipers. The night raids forced troops to keep a strong guard in the night, so the day shift was quite thinly manned. In the morning of September 15, 1942, the Red Army struck. The attack came in the morning, at a time when the day shift had just been switched and night shift had went to sleep. The regiment-sized attacking force (Russian IR1046) came at my father's II P, while another regiment (IR1048) with a  reinforcement battalion attacked I P to its east, in the exposed forward position.

The surprise artillery barrage, using howitzers and Katyusha rocket launchers whose warheads had a oxygen-sucking property that was new to Finns, started at 7:55. Then an assault with overwhelming manpower - the first wave of which had crept across no-mans land in the dark - took the Soviet attackers to Finnish trenches and beyond. Some accommodation dug-outs and the command post of my father's company were overrun and the company's war diary was lost. However, the Finnish artillery had had good time to prepare shooting patterns to hit the no-mans-land area forward of positions, and firing commanding systems where extremely efficient, so a concentrated artillery strike was in place in 5 minutes and caused devastating losses to the second wave of attacking Russians. The Finnish reserve company was ordered to counter-attack. My father was there, now assigned to trench work.

The taking and re-taking of a trench is brutal business: get into the corridor, keep your head down, throw a hand grenade behind a corner, let it explode, step forward, shoot blindly a burst from your submachine gun, kill anything that wiggles on the ground, proceed to the next corner. Hand-to-hand combat would ensue, and it would be done with bayonets, knives and spades.

Suomi submachine gun M31 1 (1).jpgMy father met a hand grenade in this combat. He heard the Russians coming, took cover laying low, but unluckily the grenade exploded right next to his right leg, breaking bones, tearing flesh and severing arteries. But he was saved from the Russian wielding his PPSh-41 by a Finnish comrade who was quicker with his Suomi KP/-31. The battle raged on.

At noon, after four hours of fighting, II P had re-taken its position. It lost 19 men as killed, the Russian losses were about 150 killed. My father was in a bad way, and was taken to the first aid station.

In the neighbouring section of I P, the counter-attack was not going so well. Wounded men were pouring in. The process of sorting the wounded at war was similar to what it has been in wars since Napoleonic times, and what it still is in natural disasters. The process is called triage. Details vary slightly, but in Finland the process is to sort the wounded to categories:
My father had lost so much blood that he was considered "lost": it was unfeasible to try to save him. The company commanding officer, Lt. Aito Kekkonen, was informed. At the end of the day, he signed off my father's service record card as "killed in action", and started to write the letter to my grandmother.

At the first aid station, the "cannot wait" wounded were loaded into a lorry that would ride the crude log road across swamps and eventually reach Karhumäki (Medvezhyegorsk) at the northern tip of Onega where Finns had a military hospital. The lorry was almost full but there was room for one more. "Hey, take this lad", the medic said, and my father got a ride.

A torniquet was applied. In Karhumäki, my father got a blood transfusion of O- type blood - he was O- like I am: the one who can donate blood to anyone but who cannot accept a transfusion of any type except his own. Miraculously there was enough of this "generic donor" blood available. The severed arteries were sewn to not bleed any more - the biggest blood vessels had been saved. The wounds were sealed.

My father in the middle of two comrades, Spring 1943.
It was not over yet, but my father would also withstand the wound infection. He was transferred to a military hospital in Siilinjärvi; the infected wounds would be burned with a bunsen lamp to contain the infection - there was no penicillin, of course. It is difficult to imagine how painful this was. Eventually he was again transferred, this time to military hospital in Vierumäki, where he recovered with other men wounded in the legs - he learned to walk again after he got a walking stick. Marshall Mannerheim would tour hospitals and give walking sticks to men wounded in the legs; I suspect, however, that my father's stick was not handed personally as it is not the famous "Marskin keppi" design.

My father recovered well enough to go to a home vacation and meet his parents and sisters; then he reported back to service in his unit in October 1943.

While my father was being cared for in first aid in the days of September 1942, his neighbouring battalion had been fighting for three days, until September 18th, and eventually decided not to try to take back all the lost positions but take up a new defensive line at a more favourable location, a few hundred meters back on a one-kilometer stretch of front line. The toll of battle was calculated. The Finnish brigade lost 63 men as killed in action and 262 as wounded; 23 men went missing in action, presumably captured. The Russian losses were estimated at 1571 in the actual battlefield, with unknown losses due to artillery fire behind the frontline. Number of men killed was not really possible to calculate accurately, because so many bodies were blasted to smitherens by artillery fire and there were probably many wounded who would die later behind lines.

After the battle, the XO of the brigade would note, based on what he saw as well as interviews of prisoners taken: "The Russians have changed completely. They have practised the attack; they have selected the best men and equipment, and they are no longer throwing living force to battle without regard for human life." This was his notion, despite the huge numbers of enemy who were killed - again, almost 30 Soviet soldiers died per one Finnish loss.

Later, while my father was in his hospital tour, 3.Pr was moved to Salla in Northern Finland, where it served in the front-line in 1943 and in early 1944 was in reserve, behind German troops which were carrying the front line responsibility, while Finland conducted secret peace negotiations with Soviet Union. These talks of winter 1944 would fail. Russians were convinced that they need not negotiate much and can demand complete surrender. They thought a bombing campaign had leveled Helsinki and the Finns were already breaking. In reality, the Russian spies who sent reports over radio had been captured by Finnish counter-espionage and they sent wildly exaggerated reports about the impact of Russian aerial bombing. Finnish flak and deceptive fires had sent Russian planes to bomb the hell out of Vuosaari, which was a practically uninhabited island to the east of Helsinki, with a decoy town built to attract night bombers.

But the tide of war had turned and Germany was losing. Leningrad Siege was broken. The Russians prepared the great strategic offensive against Finland, again intending to push through the Karelian Isthmus.

This attack came on June 9, 1944, coordinated with the D-Day in Normandy. USSR sent 400 000 troops against the 75 000 that Finns had on the narrow isthmus, with large number of tanks, artillery and air support. This ratio of men was not new to Finns, but the amount of material was. The Finnish front lines were quickly overwhelmed and counter-attacks were not successful. Reserve troops were urgently called from the North.

Thus my father and his comrades started the two-day train trip, and at the end they came almost straight out of carriages to combat on June 12th.

In less than a week, the unit was exhausted. By June 18th, the company was in Summa, an old, poorly prepared defensive position where Finns had already been fighting in Winter War. The company had gone three days without food supplies, because the enemy had superior airpower and logistics was limited to supplying ammunition.

Soviet tanks would run rampant in front of the position, firing at will, but could not get through because the infantry dared not come too close, and without infantry, the tanks were one by one destroyed by using satchel charges. 7.5 cm anti-tank guns were useless against a Klim Voroshilov tank, but a determined man who sneaked close with 10 or 20 kg of TNT could still blow them up.

My father was wounded again on the 18th, receiving shell fragments to his right arm. He was sent back to be tended for, but the company still held their positions against overwhelming odds. Three days later, on June 21st, the company commander Aito Kekkonen was killed in action when he was leading a counter-attack against enemy who had broke in to his flank. The company lost all its officers and was led by a sergeant but kept fighting, and was eventually moved back to continue near Viipuri. The company battle diary of 18.6. tells of desperation:

18.6. 03:30 Company entered village of Summa, where we took positions. I Platoon with 6K and III Platoon with 5K. II Platoon behind in reserve. After 3 days of no food supplies, we received dry rations and some soup.  In the afternoon, the enemy started an attack using  ground attack aircraft, tanks, and direct fire cannons. Retreated at about 20:30, which went better than expected, despite the open ground. Meal, after which we marched through Huumola towards Viipuri.
Losses: KIA: Cpl Haanpää, L. Cpl Hiiva, V. Pvt Vallinoja K. Pvt Pirsto, V. Wounded: L.Cpl Ristola E, Pvt Toivonen, V. L.Cpl Taipale, A. Pvt Alajääskö, T.
Weather: Half cloudy.

My father was not away for long, as the arm wound was not very bad and the army needed all men fit for fighting. He returned in a week.

Preparing to kill a tank
in Ihantala
Then came the decisive battle of Tali-Ihantala from June 25 to July 9. 150 000 Soviet troops assaulted a Finnish defending force of 50 000 soldiers. Finns got help from Germany as President Ryti took a personal commitment to not sue peace with USSR. Germans sent Detachment Kuhlmey, which provided Stukas and a fighter force that partially denied air superiority for Russians. Finns also got some new "miracle weapons", particularly Panzerfausts. This was a small, portable bazooka with a shaped charge warhead that could kill any contemporary tank. They were rushed to the front lines and there was no time to study them. So the training given to soldiers was often along the lines "Here's this thing, I don't know how it works but there is an instruction leaflet. Yes, you don't read German but there are some pictures. It looks like you shouldn't be behind the weapon when it fires. Now go and take out that tank 50 meters away before it kills us. Please hurry."

The Panzerfausts were easy to use and very effective.

A KV heavy assault tank - a big target for Panzerfaust
The lines held, and the Russian great offensive was stopped. Soviet leadership had to decide: commit more troops, or accept that this is the only strategic offensive that did not reach its targets. But which target was most important? There was Berlin. If they kept attacking Finland, the Americans might get to Berlin first.

So the storm was over. Soviet attacking troops were withdrawn and war became again stationary. North of Lake Lagoda, battle raged yet in August, but also there the attacking Soviet formations were surrounded and became pockets in Ilomantsi.

In the Karelian isthmus, fighting ceased. 3.Pr was in reserve, behind lines. Men started to help in agricultural work, trying to salvage the crops of the summer because everyone remembered what lost crops of 1941 had meant for the hunger winter of 1942. After mid-August, there was not much happening in war. In the political scene, Risto Ryti had resigned as president, effectively sacrificing himself so that the country could reach peace with Mannerheim as president. The war diary of 8K/3Pr has not much to note, and suddenly it has a laconic record:

1.9. Nothing to report in military activities. Weather: Clear.
2.9. Nothing to report in military activities. Weather: Clear. NCO course students came back.
3.9. Nothing to report in military activities. Weather: Rainy.
4.9. At 8:00, hostilities were ended. Armistice! It's peaceful, nothing to report. Weather: Rainy.

Finland agreed to cede over all the land it had already ceded after Winter War, resettle the refugees once again -- the 400 000 people of Karelia had gone back to their homes after the reconquest, and those who had not yet lef tdue to fighting, now had to leave again -- and pay war reparations to USSR, drive out Germans from Lapland, and hand over to Soviets a military base in Porkkala near Helsinki. But independence was saved.

The field army was discharged, except for youngest classes who had to go at Germans in Lapland, the last of whom would leave Kilpisjärvi in April 1945. My father was discharged in Helsinki on November 1st, 1944. I was to be born 22 years later.

Also my uncle survived the war. He did not need the bullet he had saved for himself. But he would never sleep well; he had an ear for unusual noises, and if something alerted him, he'd jump out of his bed, looking for his rifle, and frightening his wife who would never understand.

My father slept well, as far as I know, and got married in 1952. He worked the farm and forests, fished, was involved in local politics, had children and saw five of his grandchildren before he died in 1992.



1. Taistelukertomus Krivin 1. taistelusta 6.-12.2.1942 (Battle report, National Archives)
2. Taistelukertomus Krivin 2. taistelusta 15.-18.9.1942 (Battle report, National Archives)
3. 3.Pr, sotapäiväkirja 26.7.1942-22.1.1943 (War diary, National Archives)
4. 8K/3.Pr sotapäiväkirja, 1.1.1944-23.8.1944 (War diary, National Archives)
5. 8K/3.Pr sotapäiväkirja, 23.8.1944-28.11.1944 (War diary, National Archives)
6. Sininen Prikaati. (Saarentaus et al, Helsinki 1967)

The pictures in this post are from
1. Facsimiles of service record of Armas Taipale
2. Personal album of Armas Taipale
3. SA-Kuva (where indicated; the pictures are of 3.Pr or of locations mentioned)
4. Facsimiles of drawings in [6]


The horrible old men of the village council

Pic by Lee Pratt in Facebook Hoax
What space remains in my Facebook feed between pictures of drowned children has been filled up by outrage over a village council that ordered two girls to be raped. For instance, Amnesty collects clicks (and money) with this campaign.

People are angry in the comments: "dirty men of village council" order such inhuman punishments, we must stop them! Click to stop it! News outlets pour out more and more indignant comments over this "sentence decided and delivered by an all-male, unofficial council known as a khap panchayat"

This prejudiced comment about dirty old men made me try to inquire whether the council really did order such a rape.

And what I found out is:
Of course, this doesn't guarantee that the girls would be safe; there is plenty of sexual violence in India and the position of dalit people is poor particularly when clans from different castes are in conflict. There might actually be an order to rape someone, but more likely from an furious inebriated guy than a council. Such an order should be met by the fury of the official justice system. Overall, I think that the Western outrage is largely misguided, perhaps intentionally. I can think of a motive: collecting donations.

The one problem that I think is genuine is the slowness and inefficiency of the Indian official justice system. Cases drag on for years and years. That is an issue that would be fair game for a sane social justice warrior. But it's more simple to chant "Click to stop it!" than to say "Let's find a solution for how to make the Indian courts of law work better".

So, it seems to be quite all right to denigrate dirty old men with lies, if the underlying motive is good, getting money for multinational organisations who make a business of this kind of hoaxes. They say they work for human rights, so it must be true? Amnesty "stands by its claims". Of course, because it can.

There is a silver lining to the cloud, though: old-fashioned journalism wins. Thousands of papers, magazines and on-line news outlets have repeated the dubious claim, but Reuters actually sent a journalist on site. A journalist who found out who the people are. Journalist who asked questions. And provided a report.

In my mind, that report gives an outcome 6-0 for Reuters against social justice warriors.


Why is there a refugee crises right now?

We have a migration crisis because Africa and Asia have become richer and more developed.

This sounds counter-intuitive. Most people seem to think that we have a migration crisis because Asia and Africa are becoming poorer and more violent and because there is so much war. But they are wrong.  I'll explain.

None of us are spared from the pictures of drowned children in Turkey and furious crowds of migrants at European train stations demanding that they are let to Germany. We've heard the reasons for the great migration of our times - war, repression, economic inequality. But one question is not really handled in the discussion: why did this crisis come up now; why has it only appeared in the recent years and reached a new summit this year, not in the decades before?

Why did no crowds from Biafra apply asylum in Europe at the end of 1960's, though the famine and persecution of Igbo people were killing millions? Why did we not have thousands and millions of people trying to reach Europe, when there was civil war in Lebanon and a huge famine in Ethiopia in 1980's? Why not when there was a bloody civil war in Yugoslavia, war in Iraq, and conflict in Chechnya, and mass murder by machete in Rwanda in the 1990's?

And why are so many of the migrants not just persecuted Christian families from war-torn Syria, but young men from Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Sierra Leone? The iconic pictures, of course, throw dead and suffering children at us, because such pictures  make good material for business. There's no business like show business. And they also make great Internet memes that allow people to play Pharisee and feel better than those who are not as enthusiastic about uncontrolled migration.

But most migrants are not families with children. They are young men who have been sent by their families to seek out opportunities for themselves and for the extended family. Wouldn't I do what they do if I were in their position? Of course I would. But does this make the current European policy good? No, it doesn't.

These young men now come from far away: Eritrea, Bangladesh, and the parts of Nigeria that 50 years ago would be Biafra. Out of 4121 asylum applicants until end of July this year in Finland, only 119 came from Syria, even though the horrible mess with Assad, Daesh and various ethnic parties is prominently displayed as a reason for migration. So why is it that these men who are trying to get to Germany and Britain?

The huge migration that we have today crossing Mediterranean is only possible because the source countries of this migration have developed so rapidly in recent years. 

This development is due to globalization, free market and improved, liberalized communication, and the waning of the long conflicts caused by colonization and the Cold War. Syria and other current wars are merely a small artifact in the great pattern of migration. In fact, wars and violence are on the decline. To some extent, the rise of migration from some previously very poor countries  is also due to development aid, training and education provided by rich countries. But mostly it is because these countries are now better able to access world markets. They are no longer tied down to two camps of the Cold War. They are connected to the world, via Internet, via global banking, via globally reachable phone network. And one part of that is that now they supply migrants, as people seek out improvement into their lives - improvement of which they previously did not know, or could only dream of, not actually try to implement.

The countries in Asia and Africa are now richer and they have better communications facilities than ever. World hunger is now lowest since the time UN started following up  (in proportion to population, and the number of starving people has also been shrinking in absolute numbers for quite some time now). Many diseases that ravaged poor countries have been eliminated: smallpox is extinct, except for laboratory retention, and polio is almost eradicated. Internet connectivity is no longer a luxury.

A blog post describes the tendencies of emigration very well: we have entered an era where more people than ever are aware of what life is like in rich countries. Even in poor countries, people have Internet, they have smartphones, they even have credit cards.

In most countries, the wealthier the people, the less likely they are going to migrate in search of a better life. In Africa and Asia, the opposite is true: the likelihood of plans to emigrate are positively correlated with wealth. So, as wealth and availability of information regarding "pull factors" in Europe increases, more and more people want to migrate.

This means that the current crises is only a beginning. Something would need to change to a much, much more unpleasant direction in Europe before this changes.

When Biafrans or Ethiopians were starving, the furthest they could get was where they had the strength to walk. That strength did not enable them to get very far, particularly with the famine. They did not come to change our lives in Europe in any way, except by allowing Bono to arrange concerts to make everyone feel they've been up to something good.

So, shouldn't we be happy that formerly poor countries have now entered the world stage, even if that shows up as a migration of people that we see as a problem?

Yes, we should, but we now also see the other major impact of this development, i.e. deterioration of European welfare states. You cannot have both open borders for migration - unrestricted right of residence - and a welfare state where right to social security and monetary transfers is based on residence. Since European nations seem to have no intention to enforce border controls and stop the misuse of asylum process, only one outcome is possible. That is that the welfare states will need to change to a model where the government-supplied welfare is much, much more basic than it is today. Income equality will need to rise tremendously to make it possible for migrants to be employed. This means also African-like levels of income for so-called "original" inhabitants in Europe.

For the well-to-do, this will mean opportunities. For the currently unemployed Europeans, times will be hard, as Louis C. K. so eloquently tells us.

But in the developing world, things are not that bad. They are actually getting a little better all the time. This is very well presented by this Hans Rosling TED talk.

Of course, there are alternative models considered.  Egyptian billionaire Naguid Sawiris offers to buy a Greek island for the refugees to settle.  Admirable, but shall Europe  accept this proxy nation? Hardly not. So the migration will continue.


PS. It seems that while I was writing this, some journalists came up with the same ideas, e.g. in Telegraph.


Greek crisis: it's a logical outcome

A coup, terrorism, an attack by Germany -- all sorts of wild accusations are now thrown about when discussing the Greek financial crisis. Erkki Tuomioja says the Finnish government line is "repulsive" -- although it is essentially the same as it was when he was a minister: "yes, we here in Finland want to be a nice co-operative partner in the European core, but we do feel the heat from our voters who are asking where their tax money is going to".

But the Greek government, particularly Tsipras and the now resigned Varoufakis, have been reaping what they sowed. Of course, they are also sowing what weeds previous governments in Greece were planting, but their handling of the situation has been particularly arrogant and foolish. There is too much national Greek pride, too much touting the Greek democracy -- at the expense of belittling the democracy and will of voters of other euro nations. The Telegraph cartoon about various life-saving attempts in Greece reflects the European mood very well.

Syriza finds out the hard way that working in government is a very different thing from making a big noise in the opposition and gaining votes with populism. Sadly, they seem to have done great hurt to their nation in this process.

Of course, opposition parties are mostly, well, in opposition. In Finland, particularly the Social Democrats  -- but also Greens and the Left -- are doing a good job in both having their cake and eating it. They criticize the Finns party for giving new money to Greece -- a panic reaction when SDP lost perhaps half of their working-class voting base to The Finns popular party, and they haven't recovered, and apparently never will. At the same time they criticize the government for a too tough line that makes ordinary Greeks  suffer.

Paavo Arhinmäki, head of the Left League, was very good chums with Tsipras -- until now. Now he realized that oh, "I never was a Syriza fan." Hey, you were. You walked like a fan, you talked like a fan. Now you just have noticed that even your voters are finding out it was a bad idea.

The Greeks are suffering

Yes, the Greeks are having a very bad time. And there is no end in sight to the suffering as long as they want to hang on to euro. No amount of bail-out loan packages is going to help, because the structures are broken in Greece and the country does not want to fix them -- or even if it did want to, it takes time and they don't have the money to live while doing it. Forgiving all Greek loans while remaining in euro is not going to help, because then Greece will continue to run things the way it has been running so far.

To me, the crisis and its current climax seem quite logical, given the way Greek politicians talk, and the way German (and Finnish, and other EU countries') citizens think. Lots of opinion writers claim that the German politicians (unelected by the Greek) are exercising power that they are not entitled to: they are sending a control commission to mandate policy in Athens. Dictatorship! Junta!

But the dictating of policy only happens because the Greek politicians have driven their country to immense debt. They wouldn't have to take advice and control from outside if they weren't asking for loans.

And it is inconceivable for a German taxpayer to give away his or her hard-earned tax euro which has been extracted from him or her by the German state, when it is completely unclear what he or she would be getting in return.

This is particularly difficult, when one considers that the Greeks claim their economy is grinding to a halt because of excessive taxation - but the taxes in Greece have been much lower than in many of the euro creditor nations. Proportion of tax revenue to GDP has been around 30 % and has now risen to 33 %. This is bad according to the Greeks. In Finland, tax revenue is 44 % of GDP. Does it not hurt the economy here? Surely it does. You can see it in the price level of Finland, as much of the revenue is collected in VAT and employment taxes.

Blaming Germany for past grievances does not help. Jailing bankers does not help.

It is completely irrelevant that Germany stole the gold reserves of Greece during Second World War. That is past and gone. The very point of the European Community project is to put that kind of things behind, and "make war not only unthinkable but materially impossible" through economic integration. German tourists are no longer even facing the "occupation - no, holiday!" question-answer at the border.

It is completely irrelevant that some of German debt was written down after the War. Also much of Greek debt has already been forgiven:  private debtors wrote down 107 billion euros in the 2012 haircut -- and it only postponed the eventual crisis.

It is completely irrelevant that "75 % of previous bailout money has gone to German and French banks", which is one of the things favourite slogans in the political left (along with the Iceland solution myth) . Hey, those of us who were critical of the first bailout deals told everyone this is going to happen. Risks of these investors were transferred to the EU taxpayers. That was done over 5 years ago, and it is done. The risks are now with the taxpayers, and us taxpayers are not happy to pour more good money after bad.

(The Iceland solution is a myth because Iceland's problems were entirely different from those of Greece: Iceland never had much of public sector deficit; it allowed investment banks to go bust because those banks had not much to do with the Icelandic economy. The problem in Greece is public sector deficit.).

It is also not very relevant for Greeks that Germany and France were also breaking the rules of the monetary union when it was established in early 2000's. Germany and France were able to sort their things out. Well, Germany was, and France is able to get away as with most things in EU; the last time it had a non-deficit budget was in 1974. But the market still trusts France. It is too big to fail. Greece is not.

What is relevant is that the one who needs money cannot dictate policy to others. This is why the Greek national pride bordering on impudence is so infuriating to others, and Germans in particular.

It should also be noted that the much touted idea that Varoufakis is a master of game theory did not really help Greece. To the contrary. Hearing about masters of game theories  is likely to make a frugal taxpayer in other countries wary: are these guys trying some new elaborate theories to fool me?

You cannot democratically vote away your debt

I have been flabbergasted by statements that Tsipras, Varoufakis and other Syriza leaders have made about democracy. They seem to have no idea that there are 19 other democracies in the eurozone besides Greece.

A democratic vote cannot repeal the law of gravity. A democratic vote can change laws in your country, but not in another country. A democratic vote cannot make debts disappear (without consequences and side effects).

A Finnish proverb says "debt is a brother when you take it, it is a nephew when you have to pay it back". This means that the money-lender is nice and polite when he comes your way at good times, but when the debtor comes to collect the debt, he may not be as close and friendly, and the debt may be substantially harder to bear when paying it back. Or just paying the interests.  And that is what Greece is finding out the hard way.

Debt is also something that you can get easily when you are trusted. When you have lost trust, it is much, much harder. The speed at which trust can be lost is remarkably fast. In 2007, Greek government bonds were as solid as any euro government bonds. In 2009, situation was totally different. And no amount of tantrums is going to make money-lenders donate
Insulting Germans and mocking Finns is not a particularly efficient way in convincing them that they should do more to help the Greek government.

Yes, the Greeks are really, really suffering

It's not that the Greeks don't suffer. It's not that ordinary Greeks haven't taken a hit. Or that there has been no change at all. But any change has only happened after extreme coercion. Greece actually reached a situation last year where it did not have a primary deficit - its tax revenues were enough to pay its public expenditure, and even a bit of the interests for its debt. but then came Syriza, with promises of end to austerity that makes everyone suffer. That was a moment when the collapse of trust started, and that is why banks remain closed in Greece and life is becoming more and more impossible.

The Greek politicians, most recently Syriza, have completely destroyed any trust that people had in them. Calling Germans Nazi is stupid. Bringing up the war debt question was stupid; that issue was settled at the latest in 1981 when Greece applied to join an economic community with Germany (like France, another aggrieved neighbour, had done earlier). Calling other people names is generally not a good approach to convince them that they should borrow you more money. Expressing lots of national pride is not a good idea when you are totally broke. Demanding solidarity is not how solidarity works.

The Greek referendum stunt on July 5 was a final straw on the camel's back that made sure that any credibility that Syriza might have had as a new political force was eroded for once and all. Greeks: you guys strongly make your voice heard and reject austerity, and a couple of days after that, your government solemnly promises to do even much more austerity than what you rejected? Nobody is going to believe that.

So what's ahead for Greece? I can see no end to the suffering unless Greece defaults and quits the euro. That will be a hit on the creditors, including taxpayers, but defaulting is the standard way to do this thing. It doesn't happen without consequences. Greece will be a pariah on the international credit market also after this, because lack of trust. But at least the government can print money and pay its bills nationally, and banks can open, and the economy overall can get rolling. Now the Greek government is just holding its population as hostage.

This will of course be a huge embarrassment to federasts who have been trying to convince that integration to a political, fiscal and transfer union within Europe is a historic necessity,  a one-way streets where no movement can be reversed.

From #grexit to #fixit?

The Finnish government is going hugely to debt just like Greece did. The level of debt is not alarming yet, but the speed of accumulating new debt really is. The public finances in Finland are in shambles. And it's not a cyclic recession: all our export markets are in reasonably good shape. The Finnish disease is, like Greek, a structural one.

There is no way ahead until Greece admits the it has to do #grexit . It may well be that Finland is not able to do an internal devaluation so that it could avoid a #fixit . If we don't really change the direction, we'll be talking to our debtors just like Greece is now.


Finally, it feels appropriate to add a newpaper clip from Keski-Suomi, July 13, 1895 who reports the issues of Greece, a member of the Latin Monetary Union. Not much has changed:

- Of the Greek monetary issues. The cabinet of Deligiannis appears to be seriously pursuing an agreement with the debtors of Greece. The Times at least reports that the Greek government, as soon as discussions of financial legal issues have been completed, will be sending special envoys to Paris, London and Berlin to commence negotiations with debtors about "a reasonable and satisfactory agreement".

(Courtesy of Digital National Library in Finland)


Pardoning, or rehabilitating?

The news has it that Britain is pardoning people who were convicted of sexual crimes that are no longer crimes.

But somehow, pardoning - or actually "rehabilitating"  - people who were convicted long ago, suffered any punishment given at the time, and are already long dead, is reminiscent of Soviet policies. It does not fit my idea of what Britain is, or should be.

Yes, they suffered an injustice, but retroactive changes to convictions are not that meaningful when the convicted is no longer around.

But perhaps I'm too romantic, and Britain is much closer to Ingsoc, the English Socialism of 1984, than I'd like to know.

Anyway, now comes the difficult work of deciding which transgressors to pardon (right now, homosexuality is no longer bad) and which ones to condemn even further (right now, pedophilia is now much worse crime than it used to be).

Would it not be simpler just to admit that our standards change, and any formal legal rehabilitation should be reserved for cases where there was a miscarriage of justice (an innocent man or woman was convicted), not when the law was wrong by our current standards?


Those horrible housing costs in Finland

I often see people complaining how housing is exceptionally expensive in Finland. And of course, everyone has that feeling. Therefore I was slightly surprised when I started to look at the European statistics regarding housing. A research briefing "HOUSING AFFORDABILITY IN THE EU" by European Social Housing Observatory  puts things into context.

Most Finnish public discourse about housing is about how expensive housing is. For instance:
However, when we look at the research briefing and consider housing costs as percentage of disposable income, Finland is in the lower end of the EU27: 

I find this actually remarkable, because we have rather extreme climate conditions, which means comparatively higher construction costs.

And when we look at the impact of housing costs on the poor, Finland is even more towards the left-end of the statistics:

This means that only in Malta and Portugal there are fewer households overburdened by housing costs (meaning that a household uses more than 40 % of disposable income on housing). So we not only have lower housing costs compared to purchasing power than most EU countries, we also have more transfers of money to the poor households than e.g. Italy, Austria or Luxembourg.

Perhaps we should understand the European reality in more depth before complaining that much.

Economic perceptions vs. reality: things are much better than we think!

European and particularly Finnish economic news is full of doom and gloom. It just occurred to me to actually check up how bad things are. And while a few things are really going badly, very many measurable numbers show that were are actually quite well off when compared to past.

Just look at OECD report at http://www.oecd.org/els/emp/howdoesyourcountrycompare-finland.htm.

What it tells us about Finland is that when we compare year 2000 to 2012, we see that:
  • unemployment has gone down (9.8 % -> 7.8 %)
  • youth unemployment has gone down (20.3 % -> 17.3 %)
  • long-term unemployment has gone down (29.0 % -> 21.7 % of the unemployed)
  • the employment rate of working-age people has gone up (67.5 % -> 69.5 %)
  • women's employment rate has increased (64.5 % -> 68.2 %)
  • employment rate of older workers (55-64) has increased (42.3 % -> 58.5 %)
  • the percentage of temporarily employed has gone down (16.5 % -> 15.7 %)
  • annual working hours have decreased (1751 h -> 1672 h)
  • average wages have gone up by about fifth (31 904 $ -> 39 125 $ in 2012 currency)

Almost everything is better than in 2000! The current growth figures are abysmal, so a good development cannot continue unless we fix that, but on the average, we are not doing badly at all.

Of course, some are more lucky than others, but even the income differences after taxes and transfers, including capital gains, remain rather similar to 2000 (Statistics Finland).

So perhaps we should complain a bit less!