Annals of the Horrible

Thought I’d share some (late) lunch joy by cleaning out a couple of browser tabs I’ve been meaning to share with the Jackaltariat.

First up in the catalogue of awful…

Nothing says more about a society than how it treats its most vulnerable.  Which is why this, from Pennsylvania coal country last month, says all you need to know about a certain kind of Republican* values:

Wyoming Valley West School District, one of the poorest districts in the state as measured by per-pupil spending, is located in a former coal mining community in Northeastern Pennsylvania, known affectionately by locals as “The Valley.”

When officials there noticed that families owed the district around $22,000 in breakfast and lunch debt…

…school council president Joseph Mazur thought that this would be a good next move:

…the now-infamous letter to about 40 families deemed to be the worst offenders in having overdue cafeteria bills — those were children with meal debt of $10 or more.

“Your child has been sent to school every day without money and without a breakfast and/or lunch,” said the letter signed by Joseph Muth, director of federal programs for the Wyoming Valley West School District. “This is a failure to provide your child with proper nutrition and you can be sent to Dependency Court for neglecting your child’s right to food. If you are taken to Dependency court, the result may be your child being removed from your home and placed in foster care.”

That this was about performative cruelty, and not fiscal prudence can be shown with two facts. The $22,ooo in arrears comes to about 1/4 of one percent of the district budget; you gotta know that if this was about keeping the school doors open, proposing a (surely) expensive round of child theft would not be the first move the financial folks would make.


Just to drive the point home, the guy behind the move, school council president Mazur went on to refuse an offer from a guy in Philadelphia who wanted to pay off the whole debt.  Mazur was eventually forced to reverse course.

Next up, an even more grotesque example of cruelty for cruelty’s sake from July.  I believe some commenters pointed out this incident, and I’ve been meaning to vent rage about it ever since, but here it is:

At a Border Patrol holding facility in El Paso, Texas, an agent told a Honduran family that one parent would be sent to Mexico while the other parent and their three children could stay in the United States, according to the family. The agent turned to the couple’s youngest daughter — 3-year-old Sofia, whom they call Sofi — and asked her to make a choice.

“The agent asked her who she wanted to go with, mom or dad,” her mother, Tania, told NPR through an interpreter. “And the girl, because she is more attached to me, she said mom. But when they started to take [my husband] away, the girl started to cry. The officer said, ‘You said [you want to go] with mom.’ “

 

I rate that child abuse, and those who did the crime should be in prison, as far as I am concerned. Een if the family separation followed the letter of the law, putting the kid in that position was gratuitous immiseration, and will deliver lasting trauma, doled out, it seems, for the agent’s amusement.

 

There is a word to describe such behavior and such people:  evil.  This was evil.  I say this as one with more memory of than current participation in organized religion, but it seems to me that those who welcome evil into our republic commit a grievous sin.

 

Happy lunch!  Open thread.

*Luzerne County, in which the relevant school district operates, went 58-39% for Trump in 2016.

 

Image: Pieter Breughel the Elder, The Massacre of the Innocentsc. 1565-7








Taking Heed of What Ben Ferencz, the Last Surviving Nuremberg Prosecutor, Wants Us To Know

Yesterday marked the 77th anniversary of the beginning of the NAZI’s clearing of the Warsaw Ghetto known as the Great Deportation. This summer is also the 100th anniversary of the Red Summer of 1919 that saw over 200 African Americans killed in what are still incorrectly referred to as race riots instead of targeted acts of terrorism by white Americans against African Americans. The Great Deportation lasted all summer. Between July 22 and September 21, 1942 more than 250,000 Jews were removed from the Warsaw Ghetto, sent to Treblinka, and exterminated.

The acts of terrorism, as well as the acts of self defense by African Americans, during the Red Summer of 1919, didn’t all start on the same day or in the same place during the summer of 1919. For instance, the riots in Chicago started on July 29th and were precipitated by the raft of 17 year old, let me repeat that 17 YEAR OLD, Eugene Williams drifting past the color line separating the white from the African American areas of Lake Michigan and its shore. The raft drifted across the line because Eugene Williams had drowned. The violence in Chicago lasted for about a week leaving 38 people dead, 23 African Americans and 15 whites, and over 500 were injured and/or left homeless due to fires set to specifically drive African Americans out of their homes. Washington, DC’s Red Summer began about two weeks after the 4th of July celebrations. On July 18th two African American men were accused of bumping into a 19 year old white woman and trying to steal her umbrella as she walked home. Despite a quick arrest, the story was told and retold, embellished at every retelling, until DC also boiled over in racist violence. Similar incidents and similar responses occurred in other cities across the United States.

The geographically and temporally distinct events of The Great Deportation and the Red Summer, driven by different forms of racism, during the summers of 1919 and 1942, are just two examples of why it is important to pay attention when someone like Ben Ferencz has something to tell all of us. Ferencz, who is 99, is the last surviving Nuremberg prosecutor alive as he was also the youngest one. 60 Minutes interviewed him in June and he has some hard won wisdom he wishes to pass on to us.

Lesley Stahl: Did you meet a lot of people who perpetrated war crimes who would otherwise in your opinion have been just a normal, upstanding citizen?

Benjamin Ferencz: Of course, is my answer. These men would never have been murderers had it not been for the war. These were people who could quote Goethe, who loved Wagner, who were polite–

Lesley Stahl: What turns a man into a savage beast like that?

Benjamin Ferencz: He’s not a savage. He’s an intelligent, patriotic human being.

Lesley Stahl: He’s a savage when he does the murder though.

Benjamin Ferencz: No. He’s a patriotic human being acting in the interest of his country, in his mind.

Lesley Stahl: You don’t think they turn into savages even for the act?

Benjamin Ferencz: Do you think the man who dropped the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima was a savage? Now I will tell you something very profound, which I have learned after many years. War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars, and all decent people.

Lesley Stahl: Now, you’ve been at this for 50 years, if not more. We’ve had genocide since then.

Benjamin Ferencz: Yes.

Lesley Stahl: In Cambodia—

Benjamin Ferencz: Going on right this minute, yes.

Lesley Stahl: Going on right this minute in Sudan.

Benjamin Ferencz: Yes.

Lesley Stahl: We’ve had Rwanda, we’ve had Bosnia. You’re not getting very far.

Benjamin Ferencz: Well, don’t say that. People get discouraged. They should remember, from me, it takes courage not to be discouraged.

Lesley Stahl: Did anybody ever say that you’re naive?

Benjamin Ferencz: Of course. Some people say I’m crazy.

Lesley Stahl: Are you naive here?

Benjamin Ferencz: Well, if it’s naive to want peace instead of war, let ’em make sure they say I’m naive. Because I want peace instead of war. If they tell me they want war instead of peace, I don’t say they’re naive, I say they’re stupid. Stupid to an incredible degree to send young people out to kill other young people they don’t even know, who never did anybody any harm, never harmed them. That is the current system. I am naive? That’s insane.

Ferencz is legendary in the world of international law, and he’s still at it. He never stops pushing his message and he’s donating his life savings to a Genocide Prevention Initiative at the Holocaust Museum. He says he’s grateful for the life he’s lived in this country, and it’s his turn to give back.

Lesley Stahl: You are such an idealist.

Benjamin Ferencz: I don’t think I’m an idealist.  I’m a realist. And I see the progress.  The progress has been remarkable. Look at the emancipation of woman in my lifetime. You’re sitting here as a female. Look what’s happened to the same-sex marriages. To tell somebody a man can become a woman, a woman can become a man, and a man can marry a man, they would have said, “You’re crazy.” But it’s a reality today. So the world is changing. And you shouldn’t– you know– be despairing because it’s never happened before. Nothing new ever happened before.

Lesley Stahl: Ben—

Benjamin Ferencz: We’re on a roll.

Lesley Stahl: I can’t—

Benjamin Ferencz: We’re marching forward.

Lesley Stahl: Ben? I’m sitting here listening to you. And you’re very wise. And you’re full of energy and passion.  And I can’t believe you’re 97 years old.

Benjamin Ferencz: Well, I’m still a young man.

Lesley Stahl: Clearly, clearly.

Benjamin Ferencz: And I’m still in there fighting.  And you know what keeps me going? I know I’m right.

It is important to pay attention to the men and women like Ben Ferencz while we still have them with us. As they pass away we lose our living memory of the NAZIs, as well as other fascists and authoritarians and their crimes against humanity. Those living memories, the recollections of the men and women like Ferencz who fought the NAZIs or the Italian fascists or the Spanish fascists or other authoritarians and totalitarians, as well as those who have worked diligently and tirelessly to hold them to account and get justice for their victims are societal and political antibodies. They help us fight off attempts to revive these noxious, dangerous, and illiberal ideologies and their deadly effects. Ben Ferencz and those like him, by their very existence as living testimonies and testaments to remind us of what happens when fascism in general and racist fascism like NAZIism in specific is allowed to grow and spread unchecked. It is important that we pay attention to what Ben Ferenzc is trying to still teach us so that we do not have to relearn the terrible lessons he is trying to impart to us the hard way.

Here are some videos of Ben Ferencz still trying to teach us the lessons that he and his colleagues had to learn the hard way during World War II.

Open thread!








Mike Pence, the GOP’s Emergency Backup Monster

There have been rumors that “Idiot-1” wants to replace Pence on the 2020 ticket with his favorite daughter — so maybe sending him down to Texas was an attempt to make him an expendable sacrifice to public outrage. Or maybe sending Moral Monstrosity Mike was a ‘gift’ to that not inconsiderable portion of the GOP base that wants to hurt people. Quite possibly both!


Read more








The 24th Anniversary of the Srebrenica Massacre

On July 11, 1995 Srebrenica fell to the Bosnian Serbs led by Ratko Mladic. In the days and weeks prior to the Serbs taking the city, approximately 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were systematically killed, including those trying to flee the city and into and through the woods and forests to reach safety from the Srebrenican Massacre. Muslims fleeing the city sought refuge with the UN Peacekeeping contingent from Holland. Rather than protect them, the Dutch turned them over to Mladic’s forces. The men and boys were separated and massacred, while the women and girls were distributed by Mladic’s forces throughout the region.

The Srebrinican Massacre was the worst mass killing in Europe since the end of World War II and the Holocaust. The remains of many, if not most of the victims of the massacre were never found, identified, and or returned. Over a thousand Bosnian Muslims are still considered missing. Today, on the 24th anniversary, they were able to return the remains of 33 newly identified sets of remains.

More remains are found every year.

Unfortunately, in 2019, many of the Bosnian Serb officials, especially those aligned with Russia, continue to deny the massacre and the larger genocide it was a part of. Instead they continue to push the same dangerous, racist, exclusionary, and eliminationist rhetoric that their predecessors used in the 1990s.

Although the mass killings were branded genocide by international courts, Serbian and Bosnia Serb officials refuse to use the term. They did not send official delegations to the commemoration on Thursday.

Nenad Popovic, an openly pro-Russian minister in Serbia’s government, said in a statement that “there was no genocide in Srebrenica and Serbs will never accept to be stamped as genocidal people.”

He said Serbia should rethink its goal of becoming a European Union member because of such claims.

Open thread.








If You Ever Wonder How Revolutionaries, Insurgents, and Terrorists Are Created, This Is One of the Ways

We will be paying the price for this maliciously, amoral, immoral, evil stupidity for years and years to come. Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, cousins, and the children themselves will seek vengeance for what we’re doing to them. And when they do, we’ll act surprised and plead that we’re the innocent victims of unhinged fanatics that hate us for our way of life. We’ll use their attempts to seek vengeance to justify more perpetual and forever war. And to whittle away whatever is left of our constitutional rights and liberties.

Open thread!