Notes and Comment Blog

The psychological burden on the men had to be taken into account

Mar 20th, 2016 3:42 pm | By

That day in the forest was traumatic for Reserve Police Battalion 101. They didn’t like shooting people in the head all day. A few of them asked for and got transfers.

Christopher Browning continues:

The problem that faced Trapp and his superiors in Lublin, 
therefore, was not the ethically and politically grounded oppo- 
sition of a few but the broad demoralization shared both by those 
who shot to the end and those who had not been able to 
continue. It was above all a reaction to the sheer horror of the 
killing process itself. If Reserve Police Battalion 101 was to 
continue to provide vital manpower for the implementation of 
the Final Solution in the Lublin district, the psychological 
burden on the men had to be taken into account and alleviated.
In subsequent actions two vital changes were introduced and 
henceforth — with some notable exceptions — adhered to. First, 
most of the future operations of Reserve Police Battalion 101 
involved ghetto clearing and deportation, not outright massacre 
on the spot. The policemen were thus relieved of the immediate 
horror of the killing process, which (for deportees from the 
northern Lublin district) was carried out in the extermination 
camp at Treblinka. Second, while deportation was a horrifying 
procedure characterized by the terrible coercive violence 
needed to drive people onto the death trains as well as the 
systematic killing of those who could not be marched to the 
trains, these actions were generally undertaken jointly by units 
of Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Trawnikis, SS-trained 
auxiliaries from Soviet territories, recruited from the POW 
camps and usually assigned the very worst parts of the ghetto 
clearing and deportation. 

Problem solved. The police had to round up the Jews for transport, but they didn’t have to do (all) the killing. They had help with the rounding up.

In fact they still had to do a lot of killing, because anyone who couldn’t march to the train station was shot immediately. But apparently it was enough less to make the difference.

In short, the psychological alleviation 
necessary to integrate Reserve Police Battalion 101 into the 
killing process was to be achieved through a twofold division of 
labor. The bulk of the killing was to be removed to the 
extermination camp, and the worst of the on-the-spot "dirty 
work" was to be assigned to the Trawnikis. This change would 
prove sufficient to allow the men of Reserve Police Battalion 101 
to become accustomed to their participation in the Final Solu- 
tion. When the time came to kill again, the policemen did not 
"go crazy." Instead they became increasingly efficient and 
calloused executioners. 

Which is pretty horrifying when you think about it. It means if the horrors are at a distance, we don’t care about them. Even if we know all about them, we don’t care about them unless the blood is actually spattering into our faces.

Lifton writes that the doctors in the extermination camps were concerned about one thing: how to dispose of the corpses. There was a huge consignment from Hungary at one point and the crematoria were completely overwhelmed, so the corpses had to be incinerated in trenches outside. How do you do that? It’s a technical problem. That’s what the doctors talked about. They criticized each other for coming up with bad solutions.

The group-therapy session starts up

Mar 20th, 2016 2:26 pm | By

From 2005, a visit to the Zendik commune:

Lunch at Zendik is, like much else at the commune, more than it appears to be. Long before the farmers finish scraping their bowls, the group-therapy session starts up. A thin, blond woman in her mid-20s garners attention with an “Ahem, everybody” and tells the table that Helen has something to share. Helen’s a short, stout woman who “realized everything was bullshit,” dropped out of Harvard, and moved to Zendik. (She has since left the commune.)

Helen shares that she has “a date” with a guy at the table named Talon. She plans to get pregnant. Talon drops his fork, then goes back to eating lunch.

Helen’s declaration of intent to get knocked up leads to a drawn-out group analysis of her personality. Is she using pregnancy as an excuse to act out her natural desire to hump random men, which has been repressed by her strict Catholic upbringing? Does she want a child because she’s ready to be a mother, or because she has other emotional needs to fill, such as a feeling that she is not accepted by the group or that she hasn’t found someone to love? After a bowlful of tears, she decides that it’s not time to get pregnant, though the random sex will continue. Talon looks relieved, and the group moves on to the next farmer.

Another session on another day:

“I don’t know,” said a guy near the center of the table. “I think it’s his attitude. His attitude’s just got to change. He brings me down, man.”

I found an empty chair against the wall and pulled it in toward the table, where a friendly-looking Laotian-American guy, Vong, slid over to make room.

I eventually gathered that they were in the middle of the all-too-familiar scene that ends many reality-show episodes. The group was discussing dumping one of its members. The bad vibes didn’t last for long, though; someone demanded a change of subject.

Are you twitching yet? Or is that just me? I have a terrible attitude.

A new woman started to join the commune, one with a long-term girlfriend.

The gentlemen on the farm, when her arrival was discussed, tended to focus on her sexuality. They doubted that she was a “real” lesbian and were convinced they could overcome what they saw as a minor barrier.

She told me how excited she was to be in a place where she could focus on her art. I had been there long enough by then to know that she was in for a rude awakening. Very few of the members do any actual art—there’s no time; everyone’s working—unless you count work as art. The Zendik philosophy, as articulated on its Web site, refers to “Life Artistry,” which “takes the rigors of Art—the workmanship, the daring, the objectivity and intensity of focus—and applies them directly to the problems of Life itself, providing a framework of critique and self-awareness that is woefully absent from our common day-to-day reality.…In this way, Life itself becomes the Art, an object of endless fascination, where there are no limits on the potential of imagination and creativity.”

Three months after my first visit to the farm, I got a call from Welsh in Milwaukee. “They kept telling me that I was only a lesbian because of the influence of the Death Culture, and now that I was in a loving family I should embrace my hetero side,” she said. The line didn’t work.

Though she was disturbed by the incessant advances, she said, the real reason she left had more to do with the lack of revolutionary zeal on the farm. “They advertise themselves as revolutionaries, but they’re nothing but a bunch of dropouts…who couldn’t hack it in the real world. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that, and I wish them the best, but they shouldn’t try to recruit people who are actually interested in making the world a better place.”

And they probably shouldn’t try to push lesbians to turn straight, either.



Mar 19th, 2016 4:42 pm | By

Phil Plait reports on yet another spike in global warming.

February 2016 was the hottest February on the planet on record, a staggering 1.35° C hotter than the average. The previous hottest Februaries were 1998 (0.88° above average) and 2015 (0.87°). That’s a huge jump.

Those numbers are from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, one of the premier centers for keeping tabs on our ever-warming globe. They are from temperature measurements over land and ocean going back to 1880. They representtemperature anomalies, that is, deviations from an average. In this case, the average is taken over the range of 1951–1980. That makes comparing temperatures easier, and shows that February 2016 was the hottest recorded February for 136 years.

It’s not just El Niño, either, he says; not even close.

And another article (scroll down), this one by Eric Holthaus, elaborates.

Our planet’s preliminary February temperature data are in, and it’s now abundantly clear: Global warming is going into overdrive.

There are dozens of global temperature datasets, and usually I (and my climate journalist colleagues) wait until the official ones are released about the middle of the following month to announce a record-warm month at the global level. But this month’s data is so extraordinary that there’s no need to wait: February obliterated the all-time global temperature record set just last month.

With an update later:

As of Thursday morning, it appears that average temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere have breached the 2 degrees Celsius above “normal” mark for the first time in recorded history, and likely the first time since human civilization began thousands of years ago.* That mark has long been held (somewhat arbitrarily) as the point above which climate change may begin to become “dangerous” to humanity. It’s now arrived—though very briefly—much more quickly than anticipated. This is a milestone moment for our species. Climate change deserves our greatest possible attention.



Rumors of discord

Mar 19th, 2016 3:56 pm | By

Kimberly Winston at Religion News Service reports on the debut of a new atheism plus social justice network, The Orbit. You may have heard about it a couple of months ago when there was a leak.

The Orbit,” a collection of 20-plus new and existing blogs,  took off Tuesday (March 15) and will focus on social justice and activism through an atheist lens.

“This group is founded from the beginning as a group dedicated to atheist social justice voices,” said Greta Christina, author of an eponymous blog on The Orbit. “We were also focusing on a diversity of voices when we were building this network from day one.”

Look at all the good they do.

“Our site is feminist and progressive,” The Orbit’s site says. “We know black lives matter and that no one is illegal, we know trans women are women and that sex work is work, and we support a socially conscious atheist movement. As atheists, we believe criticism of religion must fall within this framework.”

Is that progressive or libertarian? A lot of people I know consider it libertarian.

Many Orbit bloggers migrated from other atheist platforms at Skepchick and Patheos, but the bulk came from Freethought Blogs. Rumors of discord at these platforms spread throughout 2015, but writers say they are focused on the future.

Discord??? Surely not!

I probably shouldn’t laugh, but I do.

The husky merely stood motionless, staring at Finger Lake

Mar 19th, 2016 3:40 pm | By

From the Onion, a first-timer messes up the Iditarod.

After running directly into the grandstands during the Iditarod’s ceremonial start and veering 55 miles off course late Tuesday to chase a marmot, Siberian husky and rookie sled dog Melvin apologized to his musher and fellow canines Wednesday for making a complete fool of himself in the early stages of the annual 1,150-mile race.

“First Iditarod jitters, I guess,” the visibly contrite Melvin told reporters Wednesday at the Rainy Pass checkpoint. “I feel like such a moron. Here I am in the last great race on earth and I’m blowing it. I mean, 100 times out of 100, when my musher yells, ‘Gee,’ I turn right. But yesterday I go left down an icy slope into a bunch of evergreens and nearly break everyone’s neck.”

That sounds like Cooper. Last Saturday we were walking down a trail from some bluffs to a beach, and he thought it would be a good idea for him to leave the trail and try to walk down the very steep muddy wet slope. I explained to him that it wouldn’t.

Melvin has gotten his squad into several embarrassing scrapes thus far, one of which occurred at Willow Lake when, in an effort to find a place to nap, he twirled around three times while still in full harness, fouling his lines and entangling his team in multiple snarls. In addition, as the team was on route to Skwentna, a child spectator threw an imaginary stick over the team, and Melvin chased it 300 miles back to the first checkpoint at Yentna Station.

That’s the part where I lost it, and I’m in the library. I’ll be so happy when my connection hardware is fixed.

“I’m too ‘in my head’ right now, you know? I have to remember my training from when I was a pup and just be natural,” said the dog, adding that despite his most recent failures, he believes he was born for this. “No more stopping in the middle of a run to find a private place to go to the bathroom. Why would I even do that? I know I’m running in the Iditarod, for crying out loud. And I’m certainly not going to sprint into my teammates ever again, because that means I’m destroying our neck and tug lines, and I’m going completely the wrong way.”

“I need to stay focused,” Melvin continued. “Also, I think I’m going to go chase that big moose over there.”


H/t Barbara

From Cinderella to Spiderman

Mar 19th, 2016 3:04 pm | By

So many of my friends shared this piece by Jemima Lewis in the Telegraph. (Yes, the Telegraph. Why do you think I mentioned the many friends?)

A primary school in Hartfield, East Sussex, held a “transgender day” recently, to encourage the tots to explore issues of gender-fluidity.

But was it to encourage them to explore? Or to teach them the formulas they’re expected to repeat. The current version of transgender dogma doesn’t welcome exploration, as Lewis points out.

I want my children to be open-minded about gender and sexuality. I want them to have the run of the dressing up box, from Cinderella to Spiderman, for as long as they feel drawn to sparkly nylon. I want the boys to feel able to cry, and their sister to punch them in the head. As far as is possible in a world full of stereotypes, I want them to steer clear of pigeonholes. And right now, gender politics seems to me nothing but floor-to-ceiling pigeonholes.

You can be agender, bi-gender, cisgender, demigender, graygender, intergender, genderless, genderqueer or third gender – but by God, you will accept a label. Go gingerly when applying it in public, though, especially if you are unpractised and over-40: this new language is as orthodox and closely-policed as any medieval catechism.

That doesn’t put it strongly enough. All those labels are for people under-40 (or better yet under-30 or can we say under-25?) who are the first people ever to have realized that men can like skirts and women can like driving fast. Except of course that they’re not, but they think they are, so their views on the subject are not as enlightened or enlightening as they think they are.

The rules of gender-fluidity have been laid down incredibly fast, and have already calcified into a set of unchallengeable truths. You are how you feel. Gender identity is a self-realisable truth. I have no doubt that there are some children – a tiny minority – who suffer from gender dysmorphia right from the off, and will never feel comfortable in the body they were born into. But most children, left to their own devices, can change identities a hundred times a day and move up and down the gender spectrum without ever requiring a change of label.

Trans activists, like old-school misogynists, are forever patrolling the perimeters of male and female behaviour, making sure we all adhere to some kind of type.

And how funny that is, because it’s exactly what feminism was meant to free us all from.

By “funny” of course I mean tragic and disgusting.

Well at least he didn’t say she should be spayed

Mar 19th, 2016 12:47 pm | By

The “industry” that like to gamble with other people’s money and make us pay for it when the gamble doesn’t go their way – that industry doesn’t like Elizabeth Warren because she thinks it should be sensibly regulated in order to avoid global financial meltdown like the one in 2008. Since this highly useful and public spirited industry doesn’t like Warren, Republicans also don’t like Warren.

A Republican congressman on the House Committee on Financial Services thinks Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), one of the most vocal advocates for Wall Street reform, needs to be “neutered.”

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) made the comments during a panel discussion at an American Bankers Association conference Wednesday. According to Politico, Luetkemeyer said people needed to “find a way to neuter” Warren, whom he called the “Darth Vader of the financial services world.”

And the financial services world, of course, is pure Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker, right? Pocketing huge profits while taxpayers pick up the pieces at the same time as they lose all their savings.

Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet, an advocacy group working to expand women’s rights, said the comments showed how GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s rhetoric had seeped into political discourse.

“Luetkemeyer should immediately apologize to Senator Warren for his offensive language,” she said. “There is plenty of room for disagreement in Washington, but resorting to sexist name-calling should have no place in our political discourse.”

Oh come on, where would we be without sexist name-calling? The sluts and bitches would run everything, am I right?

Guest post: Half of my potential pool of applicants simply wasn’t there

Mar 19th, 2016 12:13 pm | By

Guest post by James Garnett.

Much has been written and discussed about how expectations of adherence to traditional gender roles adversely affect us, and particularly how they disproportionately affect women. The list is long and familiar and I couldn’t describe it fully even if I knew every vocational and social aspect. What I can describe is lesser known, namely how these gender expectations affecting women have a rebound effect upon men, because it has had an impact upon me personally.

I earned a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering (EE) and graduate degrees in Computer Science (CS) and in 2004, with a patent application for my graduate research under review, I decided to start a company to offer a specific kind of Internet security service based upon that original research. My alma mater had a “Technology Transfer” office that was designed to facilitate exactly this kind of academic-to-industry effort, and through them I was able to incorporate, form an initial board of directors, and very quickly start soliciting investment. Even as far back as twelve years ago, people were beginning to become very concerned about the issues that I intended to address, but there were no solutions yet available. So I had logistical resources at my disposal that were going to allow me to jumpstart my company immediately, and a new, potentially lucrative market that resulted in a great deal of investment interest. All I needed was an engineering team composed of people who had the appropriately rarified education and training to comprehend immediately what I wanted to do, and the skills to implement it.

Building the core engineering team is where I ran into trouble. I had potential funding contingent upon being able to produce a proof of concept so I began soliciting applicants through every avenue available. It quickly became apparent that there were very few people who had the minimum necessary skill-set and training–and moreover that the only people who were even applying were men. Thinking back on my academic career I recalled that my graduating EE class was composed of several hundred men and exactly one woman, and that the composition of my graduating CS class–although better–was still mostly men. I realized then that half of my potential pool of applicants simply wasn’t there, and that that was a direct result of our society’s discouragement of women in “traditionally male” occupations. After a fruitless summer of trying, I gave up. I had debts, I needed income, and it was obvious that my hiring efforts were not going to amount to anything, so I asked to be hired as a full time employee at the firm where I had been doing occasional consulting.

Since that time, I have watched the nascent industry that I wanted to help create, growing by leaps and bounds. Cloudflare, a company now offering services roughly equivalent in many ways to the sort of thing I was intent on developing (at least in terms of functionality), raised USD$2.1 million in 2009, followed by USD$20 million in 2011, USD$50 million in 2012, and recently a Series D round of funding worth USD$110 million in 2015. That is just one of many successful startups in the industry. I’ve stayed in the job that I took upon giving up on my own startup ambitions and I’ve been professionally and financially successful, so I don’t regret anything–but sometimes I do wonder what things or what good I could have achieved with financial backing of that kind.

To quote President Obama: “Imagine you have a team, and you don’t let half the team play–that’s stupid. That makes no sense. And the evidence shows that communities that give their daughters the same opportunities as their sons, they are more peaceful, they are more prosperous, they develop faster, they are more likely to succeed.”

Becoming a woman means giving things up

Mar 18th, 2016 1:52 pm | By

My internet connection will be fixed Monday (it’s an actual physical problem with the physical infrastructure, not my technical incompetence), so posting will probably still be light until then.

Meanwhile here’s something to read by the excellent Sarah Ditum.

Boys grow up by getting bigger, stronger, louder. The things that a male child is encouraged to be good at are, by and large, things esteemed in the male adolescent too. But for girls, adolescence is a time of loss. Becoming a woman means giving things up, explains Deborah Cameron in The Myth of Mars and Venus, and taking up new and feminine occupations: “In particular, [girls] abandon physical play: instead of using their bodies to do things, they start to focus on adorning them.” Somewhere in the passage between being a child and becoming a grown-up, girls learn that our bodies are not ourselves, but a portable property that we must cultivate, display, and trade for the best bargain we can make.

I stopped climbing trees. I learned to shave my legs. The grazes on my knees faded. The scabs on my shins bloomed where my clumsy razor peeled away ribbons of skin. I was embarrassed to sweat. There were no lunchtime games of netball for girls at my school – just the option to walk circuits of the field, talking, looking, always wary of a rogue shot from the boys’ football game. I decided I was not a physical person. It would be undignified to run – and so began a long career of dodging PE, which got even easier once I was at secondary school and could claim period pains. I was not a physical person, I was just rendered physically incapable of taking part by my female physiology.

I occasionally try to remember when I stopped climbing trees. I was stopped by age almost-fifteen because we moved back to town and the place we moved to had no big climbable trees. It’s possible that I was still climbing them until that move; I can’t remember. I hope so.

Guest post: If you want evidence of the contempt of Conservative punditry

Mar 18th, 2016 1:42 pm | By

Guest post by Lady Mondegreen.

If you want evidence of the contempt of Conservative punditry for the working-class whites who vote for them, look no further than the National Review:

Nothing happened to them. There wasn’t some awful disaster. There wasn’t a war or a famine or a plague or a foreign occupation. Even the economic changes of the past few decades do very little to explain the dysfunction and negligence — and the incomprehensible malice — of poor white America…

The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs. Forget your goddamned gypsum, and, if he has a problem with that, forget Ed Burke, too. The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul.”

The Right needs little excuse to lecture poor people on how it’s all their own fault, but I’m pretty sure that David French and Kevin Williamson are going on about “Personal responsibility” here in order to disavow any personal moral responsibility on the part of movement Conservatism for the rise of Citizen Trump.

Where I apparently agree with Kevin Williamson (the original piece is behind a paywall, so I’m going by this “defense,”) is, we both think Trump’s supporters have a sense of aggrieved entitlement.

We disagree about the nature and causes of that imagined entitlement. Williamson seems to think the poor whites attracted to Trump are morally dysfunctional (and uppity re their betters at National Review) because that damned Welfare State has conditioned them to expect that the government won’t let them and their children starve. I think that they’re morally culpable for buying into the racism and xenophobia that the Right has been exploiting for decades, that lets them blame their economic problems on black and brown people, and foreigners.

But those economic problems are real. They cannot be handwaved aside with that handy conservative mantra “Personal Responsibility.”

When the first salvo was heard from the woods

Mar 18th, 2016 1:16 pm | By

Strangely enough, the full text of Ordinary Men is available online, in more than one place. Here’s one. I wonder if it’s some sort of public interest thing.

Here’s a bit from where it started getting really hard to continue (but it all was, and it’s cumulative):

When the first truckload of thirty-five to forty Jews arrived, an 
equal number of policemen came forward and, face to face, were 
paired off with their victims. Led by Kammer, the policemen 
and Jews marched down the forest path. They turned off into the 
woods at a point indicated by Captain Wohlauf, who busied 
himself throughout the day selecting the execution sites. Kam- 
mer then ordered the Jews to lie down in a row. The policemen 
stepped up behind them, placed their bayonets on the backbone 
above the shoulder blades as earlier instructed, and on Kam- 
mer 's orders fired in unison. 

In the meantime more policemen of First Company had 
arrived at the edge of the forest to fill out a second firing squad. 
As the first firing squad marched out of the woods to the 
unloading point, the second group took their victims along the 
same path into the woods. Wohlauf chose a site a few yards 
farther on so that the next batch of victims would not see the 
corpses from the earlier execution. These Jews were again forced 
to lie face down in a row, and the shooting procedure was 

Thereafter, the "pendulum traffic" of the two firing squads in 
and out of the woods continued throughout the day. Except for 
a midday break, the shooting proceeded without interruption 
until nightfall. At some point in the afternoon, someone "orga- 
nized" a supply of alcohol for the shooters. By the end of a day 
of nearly continuous shooting, the men had completely lost track 
of how many Jews they had each killed. In the words of one 
policeman, it was in any case "a great number." 32 

When Trapp first made his offer early in the morning, the real 
nature of the action had just been announced and time to think 
and react had been very short. Only a dozen men had instinc- 
tively seized the moment to step out, turn in their rifles, and 
thus excuse themselves from the subsequent killing. For many 
the reality of what they were about to do, and particularly that 
they themselves might be chosen for the firing squad, had
probably not sunk in. But when the men of First Company were 
summoned to the marketplace, instructed in giving a "neck 
shot," and sent to the woods to kill Jews, some of them tried to 
make up for the opportunity they had missed earlier. One 
policeman approached First Sergeant Kammer, whom he knew 
well. He confessed that the task was "repugnant" to him and 
asked for a different assignment. Kammer obliged, assigning him 
to guard duty on the edge of the forest, where he remained 
throughout the day. 33 Several other policemen who knew Kam- 
mer well were given guard duty along the truck route. 34 After 
shooting for some time, another group of policemen approached 
Kammer and said they could not continue. He released them 
from the firing squad and reassigned them to accompany the 
trucks. 35 Two policemen made the mistake of approaching 
Captain (and SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer) Wohlauf instead of Kam- 
mer, They pleaded that they too were fathers with children and 
could not continue. Wohlauf curtly refused them, indicating that 
they could lie down alongside the victims. At the midday pause, 
however, Kammer relieved not only these two men but a 
number of other older men as well. They were sent back to the 
marketplace, accompanied by a noncommissioned officer who 
reported to Trapp. Trapp dismissed them from further duty and 
permitted them to return early to the barracks in Biigoraj. 36 

Some policemen who did not request to be released from the 
firing squads sought other ways to evade. Noncommissioned 
officers armed with submachine guns had to be assigned to give 
so-called mercy shots "because both from excitement as well as 
intentionally [italics mine]" individual policemen "shot past" 
their victims. 37 Others had taken evasive action earlier. During 
the clearing operation some men of First Company hid in the 
Catholic priest's garden until they grew afraid that their absence 
would be noticed. Returning to the marketplace, they jumped 
aboard a truck that was going to pick up Jews from a nearby 
village, in order to have an excuse for their absence. 38 Others 
hung around the marketplace because they did not want to 
round up Jews during the search. 39 Still others spent as much 
time as possible searching the houses so as not to be present at 
the marketplace, where they feared being assigned to a firing 
squad. 40 A driver assigned to take Jews to the forest made only 
one trip before he asked to be relieved. "Presumably his nerves 
were not strong enough to drive more Jews to the shooting site," 
commented the man who took over his truck and his duties of 
chauffeuring Jews to their death. 41 

After the men of First Company departed for the woods, 
Second Company was left to complete the roundup and load 
Jews onto the trucks. When the first salvo was heard from the 
woods, a terrible cry swept the marketplace as the collected Jews 
realized their fate. 42 Thereafter, however, a quiet composure — 
indeed, in the words of German witnesses, an "unbelievable" 
and "astonishing" composure — settled over the Jews. 43 


But then it gets much worse.

The thing is…it’s so horrifyingly easy to get people to kill other people. We know that; we see it every day; but it’s still horrifying.

Doing a job

Mar 18th, 2016 1:00 pm | By

I’ve been reading Robert Jay Lifton’s The Nazi Doctors, and as an offshoot from that this morning I read some of chapter 7 of Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men. I would have read more but I had to stop because I couldn’t take it. I’d forgotten how horrible it is reading it.

It’s about a police battalion, made up of middle-aged men because all the younger men were in the military, who were assigned to kill all the Jews except the able-bodied men (who were sent to a work camp) in a Polish village by walking them into the woods, making them lie down, and shooting them.

It’s horrific, and at the same time it’s instructive. I plan to continue once I get my strength back.


Guest post: Slice away a tiny bit at a time

Mar 17th, 2016 11:33 am | By

Originally a comment by Steamshovelmama on The NHS may not survive as we know it.

As someone with a 20 year background of working for the NHS I agree almost completely.

Ignore the four hour waiting thing – it’s a red herring, a target that was centrally imposed by a government wanting something tangible they could use to “measure” performance. It is not appropriate for every patient to be shunted to a ward bed within four hours of admission to A&E – sometimes better care will be had in A&E from appropriately specialised doctors and nurses who are actually on the spot. Stabilisation of an emergency condition does not always follow a nice consistent pathway. Sometimes weird shit happens and the process of making the patient safe takes longer than four hours.

The junior doctors problem, on the other hand, is a real issue. Jeremy Hunt (who has taken over in the UK from the irritating but generally harmless James Blunt as “the only man alive who is his own rhyming slang,”*) has decided that hospitals should offer a full seven day service as opposed to a full five day service and emergency cover at weekends. That’s fine. I actually agree. So he’s increasing NHS funding to cover the costs?

Well, no.

The things is, employing more junior doctors is expensive, but it doesn’t stop there. You also have to increase the numbers of the 9-5 plus on-call services – radiographers and X Ray techs, phlebotamists, Scientific Officers to staff the labs and process samples, Endoscopists, Transplant Coordinators, Dieticians, physiotherapists, occupational therapists – the list goes on and on.

It doesn’t include the nurses. We’ve been providing a full 24/7 service since forever. We’re the only group that does so.

For those of us who do or have worked in the NHS it is very, very clear that the service is under political attack. Funding is being cut, services are being whittled down. In the words of the great “Yes, Minister”, “salami tactics” are being employed. Slice away a tiny bit at a time, a bit so small, so insignificant that no reasonable person could really object. Then slice again and again. Argue that private companies run things more efficiently (I’ve worked in the private and public sectors in the UK and my response to this is a stunned, “Buh? Wha?”) so bring in private companies to manage sections of the NHS. Amazingly enough, these sections rapidly run into problems when a style of management is installed that is more used to measuring performance by profit.

Study after study has shown that clinically the NHS is actually extremely efficient. That’s been the case since the late 1970s when an efficiency rating of over 90% was calculated. Money has been wasted by being diverted to a plethora of “management consultants” and senior managers sucking down what is, by NHS standards, huge amounts of money. Of course, they aren’t actually good managers – if they were they’d be earning at least twice the amount in industry.

We spend less per capita on health care than any other western European nation. The big problem we have is that we have just lost the last generation to remember what things were like before nationalised health care, where if you were ill you just got on with stuff (and got iller and iller and sometimes died) because medicine and hospital care was for the privileged classes. People now have quite literally no idea how much their birth control, antibiotics, insulin and surgery will cost them in insurance if we move towards (god help us) a US style (lack of a) health care system.

The politicians don’t care (except for Corbyn) because they are all rich boys with Daddy’s money to fall back on. In their eyes the NHS is just a drain on the national purse. Think of all the handouts they could give to their cronies with that cash!

The depressing thing is that the media folks, being generally from a privileged background themselves, are uninclined to question this too deeply. No one is looking at what the dissolution of the NHS would mean for ordinary people. There is a sad lack of incisive investigative journalism.

So, yes, those of us who recognise this covert attack on the NHS are deeply worried.

*yes, I know, but it’s a common UK joke.

Hello from the brothers’ side

Mar 16th, 2016 5:00 pm | By

Metro UK on yet another incident of gender segregation connected with a university:

An Islamic society at a top university has come under fire after segregating men and women at a gala dinner by using a large screen running through the middle of the group.

The Muslim society at the London School of Economics sat guests on either male-only or female-only tables at the dinner on Sunday night with a 7ft screen between the two groups.

In case the women all got pregnant from seeing the men.

They also had to use different phone lines to order tickets. Because…what? I have no idea. It can’t be something Mo said, since there were no damn phones then.

he sold out event, organised by the society which claims to have hundreds of members, was held at Grand Connaught Rooms, in Holborn.

It was greeted with a mixed reaction with some Muslims saying they felt ‘intimidated’, while the head of LSE’s student union, who attended the meal, telling the MailOnline she ‘had no problem’.

Nona Buckley-Irvine, the head of LSE’s SU,  said the atmosphere was ‘comfortable and relaxed’.

Not very thoughtful then, is she. She should have a problem. I hope she would have a problem if Muslims were segregated from everyone else.

‘I had a lovely time at the dinner and barely noticed the separation between men and women,’ she told MailOnline.

No doubt the patrons at whites-only lunch counters said the same thing 50-odd years ago. It’s easy to barely notice bad things done to other people.

She added: ‘Where groups would like to organise themselves in a way that fits with their religious, cultural and personal beliefs, both genders consent, and there is no issue I have no problem.

‘It is not for me to decide what is right or wrong with our Islamic society and they are one of the most inclusive societies I have ever worked with.’

Sigh. Yes it is. I know it’s awkward, but yes it is.

Pictures posted online by the society after the event only showed the men’s side with one guest taking a light hearted approach to the segregation.


Ew!!! Her face is actually blurred out! That’s what they do in Saudi Arabia! London is not in Saudi Arabia. Fucking hell.

Halima at Tales of Courage is disgusted.

The latest entry into the tragic chronology of gender segregation at British universities is the unsettling incident at London School of Economics (LSE). The LSESU Islamic Society decided to hold a segregated event (with cleverly personalised invites to “brothers” and “sisters”) for their members and unsurprisingly some LSESU officers happily joined in this sordid affair. The General Secretary of the LSESU Nona Buckley-Irvine was very pleased about the event and declared that as a feminist she saw no problem with this gender segregation. I mean, I guess if brown Muslim women want to have their rights reduced, why should she care? As a privileged white feminist she clearly has no concern in this matter – for her it was a simply colourful cultural exchange where cute Muslims sit separately in case some lustful event takes place between the opposite genders. Inequality against brown women is not a concern.

Inequality tourism without even leaving London; how exotic.

She was an Islamist herself when she was a teenager.

When I was a young impressionable 15 year old, my exposure to the world of universities was through my HT sister who took me to ISOC & HT events held at university lecture halls. Obviously they were gender segregated as well. Mostly the “sisters” would sit at the back, and if you’re lucky, on the left side. I found it odd, but also I thought something like “oh wow look they are accommodating us and my, my, one day the glorious Khilafah will be here and we can be like this everywhere!” It was fascinating for me to see the marriage of young aspirational Muslim students being all political and engaging on this platform in an “Islamic” way. But I also remember it made me feel uncomfortable in that why was being a woman so lustful? I felt ashamed of my body and thought this was God’s way of reminding me of my potential fitnah.

And that’s one compelling reason the whole idea is so hideously wrong.

At home I was intent on making this go as Islamically as possible too. Never mind it was undermining my rights – but hey we do what God askes of us slaves. At my sister’s wedding that year I created a big fuss at home over gender segregation at her wedding. My sister and I went to lengths to hire a hall which would accommodate our gender segregation aims. On the wedding day we managed to upset most of our uncles (with whom we had grown up with and known since childhood) because we didn’t let them enter into the “sisters” area to see the bride. Our uncles (non-mahram kind) were cultural Muslims and found our new fundamentalism astonishing and disrespectful. They were so upset they decided to boycott the wedding!

Well done them! But she just thought they were rude, at the time.

Now though? She’s fought free.

Thankfully I grew up and wanted full equality as a woman. Today, I stand firmly against gender segregation because it is discriminatory. While I once participated in it and enforced it, my personal journey has led me to now reject it. I was a child when I did such things. When I left Islam, this was one of the associated beliefs that I also happily let go of. The UCL debate between Laurence Krauss and Hamza Tzortzis was the first time since I left Islam that I gone to a debate at a university and I was faced with enforced gender segregated seating. That day my feelings were so mixed. Here I was 12 years later and I didn’t want to sit in the “sisters” area. I didn’t want to be discriminated against for being a female. I wanted to sit with my partner and friends. The events of that day will be etched in my mind forever. I remember I wanted to get up and move to the men’s area, in Rosa Park’s style, but I felt crippled and afraid. I was afraid of the stigma attached to this act. At that point it was so vividly clear to me that all those years ago when I went to HT talks at universities perhaps there were woman there like me today, who didn’t want to be discriminated but felt ashamed to speak up against it on the day.

Times have now changed and I will speak up. I will speak up against it at home, in public and most definitely to the non-Muslim women and men at British universities who make it their business to support gender segregation. To them I say: You are not part of this community, you have no understanding, so please mind your business. Either help us reform our communities and spaces or refrain from making it worse. It is not islamophobic to criticise human rights violations promoted by the Islamist ideology. It is not an attack on Muslims. You either help us or quit being part of the problem.

Help or get out of the road.

The NHS may not survive as we know it

Mar 16th, 2016 4:33 pm | By

This Facebook post by Robert Galloway is being widely shared, at his request, so I’m sharing it too.

Dear Journalists and Editors of the BBC, Sky, Times, The Sun, Telegraph etc.

As someone who cares deeply about the NHS, I am so depressed and disappointed at your level of coverage at what is happening to our NHS.

Today was a crucial news day for what is happening to the NHS and yet the silence from your outlets was deafening. It is falling apart and you are quite happy to either not mention it or repeat the lies and deceit coming from the government.

Where was the coverage of the release of data showing the worst ever NHS perfomance? Only 83% of A&E patients are getting seen and sorted within 4 hours. In January alone 50,000 people waited over 4 hours on a trolley for a ward bed after it was decide they needed admission by the inpatient team. This is a quadrupling from January 2011.

The scene in the image is taken from a hospital in the north of England and from an article in the Daily Mirror. But it could be taken from any A&E hospital in the country. The problems of the NHS are showing up in the corridors of A&E departments up and down the country and yet you are not reporting on it to the level it needs.

Meanwhile, waits for test are going up, targets for cancer treatments are being missed and ambulance response times are getting slower. Patients are suffering and care is deteriorating and yet you are just repeating government spin and mistruths.

And where was the coverage of the junior doctors strike? The government have ignored all expert advice, lied about junior doctors work commitment and ethics and ploughed ahead to forcibly impose a new contract which will drive thousands away from the NHS and so risk patient safety. And yet you say little, or attack the integrity of doctors who make a stand against what is happening.

Where is the critical analysis of Hunt and Cameron’s arrogance and belligerence in forcing an unnecessary industrial dispute for their own political ideology?

And most importantly where was the coverage today of the planned second reading of the NHS reinststment bill in the House of Commons? A bill which proposes to invest in the NHS and stop the privatisation and destruction of our NHS.

But the bill wasn’t even allowed to be debated in the House of Commons as Tory MPs deliberately over ran the previous debate to deny parliament the opportunity to discuss it. (I noticed they didn’t let the debate run onto a Saturday though). Yet few of you said anything.

Of course there are many examples of very good journalism on the NHS – both on a national and local level and on print, on line, TV and radio. But on the whole, many outlets place a lack of importance on this and there seems to be a general bias against NHS staff and the ethos of the NHS.

What is happening to our NHS is scandalous and yet many of you are being complicit in it. Why don’t you try and be more impartial for a change? For example how about having doctors and nurses debating against politicans on question time, instead of being the voice of the government? (if you are looking for someone to debate the politicians, I and 54,000 doctors would quite happily oblige)

The NHS was born in a time of great austerity and yet is being destroyed in the name of austerity. You as journalists, need to start listening to your viewers and readers and holding the government to account. Because if you don’t, they will carry on this ideological destruction, and the NHS may not survive as we know it. Our kids may never forgive us.


Rob Galloway – @drrobgalloway
(A&E Consultant)

p.s. please feel free to share (ideally on public profile) incase it gets noticed by the odd journalist or editor and then they might have a rethink about their coverage.

The former federal prosecutor kvelled

Mar 16th, 2016 3:59 pm | By

So who is Merrick Garland?

Let’s consult the Beltway establishment first, which is to say the Washington Post:

President Obama on Wednesday nominated Merrick Garland to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, calculating that choosing the highly regarded jurist who has served presidents from both parties will ultimately force Senate Republicans to drop plans to block his nomination.

Garland, the 63-year-old chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and a moderate, does not fit neatly into a category that is likely to mobilize Democratic voters in an election year. He is the son of Jewish immigrants from Russia, not a “first” in the way an Asian American or black female nominee would have been.

Not firsty, but not WASPy either. Then again this looking for First boxes to tick, in the form of various Identity Categories, is more than a little creepy…even though at the same time I’m always hoping for more of exactly that – more women, and if they’re also brown or otherwise outside the usual pattern, all the better. You know how that is? Thinking it would be a good thing while also thinking it’s tacky the way we keep noticing, and listing, and categorizing? Anyway…Jewish immigrants from Russia probably didn’t get here with a drawer-full of silver spoons jutting out of their mouths.

Anyway he’s collected compliments from all directions, and that will make it harder (but doubtless far from impossible) for Team Republican Assholes to refuse to confirm the nomination. The Post sagely suggests that Obama did this on purpose. Ya think?

And while Obama was composed, and even a bit defiant in his remarks, it was Garland’s visible emotion that seemed to raise the stakes for Republicans in what will surely be a protracted political fight his final year in office. The former federal prosecutor choked up as he thanked the president for giving him “greatest honor of my life,” aside from when his wife of nearly three decades agreed to marry him, and kvelled about how his mother was watching him that very moment on television, “crying her eyes out.” His father, he added with regret, was not alive to witness it.

Was she verklempt?

After the announcement, Senate Republican leaders reiterated that they did not intend to vote on the nomination because they believe the next president has the right to fill the vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death last month.

That’s so schewpid. There is no such “right.” I think I have the right to shout “fire!” and get everyone to leave this library while I sit here in peace. Except that I don’t think that.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), taking the Senate floor after the nomination was announced, vowed to continue blocking its consideration.

“It seems clear that President Obama made this nomination, not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed, but in order to politicize it for purposes of the election,” he said. “The American people are perfectly capable of having their say — their say — on this issue. So let’s give them a voice.”

Wtf? What sense does that make? How does that seem clear at all? It seems very occluded to me. And the American people already had their say, when they re-elected Obama in 2012. He’s still serving that term. There is no rule that says he can’t nominate a candidate now, and it is considered a bad idea to leave a Supreme Court vacancy open for a pointlessly long time.

Then the article goes on with a lot of inside-baseball political stuff. Horserace stuff. Yawn.

Guest post: Two great tastes of fascism, blending into a new and utterly terrifying whole

Mar 16th, 2016 3:42 pm | By

Originally a comment by Freemage on Reporter arrested at Trump rally for filming while brown.


March 14, 2016 at 1:53 pm

I’m watching this from far away, although, I must say, I’m more and more interested in the upcoming American election.

Recently I’ve gone so far as to read an article in our press titled “The most complicated electoral system in the world”, explaining the details of the American voting system. The experience was traumatic. I’m still shaking. And it is all *your fault*!

Anyway, I’m not particularly surprised that the police got nervous intervening during clashes in which some police officers were hurt. Yeah, I know – attacks against the journalists are always newsworthy, but still. When shit happens, people become nervous and the journalists – or, in general, those at the frontline – are particularly vulnerable. Do you think that the journalists became a special, selected target? If so, this would be a real worry indeed (justifying to some degree the accusations of fascism). But is it the case?

Well, this may be a case of chocolate and peanut butter–two great tastes of fascism, blending into a new and utterly terrifying whole.

You see, the Chicago PD have a long history of violence against PoCs, and they’ve resisted any effort at making them accountable. In particular, for years they used the state’s wiretapping law to justify prosecuting citizens who dared to record them while they were on the job. That finally got shut down by the state Supreme Court–and even then, prosecutions continued for several months while the cops feigned ignorance.

I also point you to the Laquan McDonald case, one of the many ugly incidents that has been behind the Black Lives Matter movement. A cop pretty much outright murdered a teen in front of five other officers, and the various institutions involved pretty much sat on the case in order to ensure it wouldn’t interfere with Emanuel’s re-election campaign.

So, the cops here are primed for just this sort of fascist thuggery.

I’ll note, too, that the official law enforcement folks have been involved in other instances at Trump rallies–in one, it was the Secret Service that pummeled a protestor; in another, the local sheriff’s officers decided to tackle the protester who got sucker-punched. I’m not suggesting active collusion, here–just the convergence of natural allies.

I haven’t stepped into another dimension

Mar 16th, 2016 3:34 pm | By

Sorry about lack of activity here, I’m having dire connection problems and may be some time.

But fortunately I live only 3 blocks from a library, so I can connect here except for Fridays. Then the question becomes how long I can bear to stay, what with diseased people coughing wetly one day and the next day twitchy teenagers thrashing and squirming opposite me while staring maniacally in my direction and writing with a pencil held by all the fingers, which is the oddest and clumsiest way of holding a pencil I’ve ever seen. At the moment however it’s very tranquil, with reasonable people sitting quietly typing or reading. So I should be able to accomplish as much as one post. Maybe even two.

Stand for the right of the worker, not that of the capitalist

Mar 14th, 2016 4:13 pm | By

At Fitnah, Maryam talks to Marieme Helie Lucas about gender segregation:

Maryam Namazie: Universities UK’s guidance first said (though it has now been withdrawn as a result of pressure) if women are not made to sit at the back of the room but are segregated alongside men, since none are disadvantaged, then there is no discrimination. Your views?

Marieme Helie Lucas: Whether at the back or on the side, the old argument is always that this is done to protect women – for their own good, of course, and by doing so to restrict their freedom of movement. By the same logic, some twenty years ago, Bangladesh suddenly restricted women from leaving the country as there was a lot of trafficking of women in the region. What appeared to be their solution was NOT to arrest pimps-protectors, but to prevent women from travelling without a wali (a male guardian from their family). Please note that Bangladesh does not even abide by the Maliki School, in which the institution of wali is legal.

What is discriminatory is to assign a place to somebody, whatever that place may be. It says: keep to your place; to women’s place!

In other words it enforces the gender binary…and in a world where that has always meant men dominant and women subordinate, men great and women not up to much, it’s pretty much impossible to enforce the gender binary without enforcing male dominance and female subordination.

Maryam Namazie: Separating men and women isn’t necessarily discriminatory and can reflect personal preferences, such as women-only gyms on women-only refuges.

Uh oh. That could get her in trouble.

The head of Universities UK which issued the guidance endorsing segregation of the sexes says: “It is possible for women to choose to be educated in an all-women environment. It’s not something which is so alien to our culture that it has to be regarded like race segregation, which is totally different and it’s unlawful and there’s no doubt about that whatsoever.” Are racial and gender segregation incomparable? Why is it that everyone can see the distinction between a black university and racial apartheid but when it comes to gender, it’s not as obvious?

Marieme Helie Lucas: This is a very crucial question that I have debated a lot, including more than twenty years ago with feminist friends in the USA. While sex segregation was rapidly expanding in Algeria under the heavy weight of the first fundamentalist preachers and religious groups, I was trying to warn them about the potential backlash of their gender segregation policy in the name of feminism.

Many of our feminist weapons have been turned against us along the years… and I have come to this very sad conclusion that we were not smart enough to think, as thinkers and philosophers should, about all the facets of the concepts we were grappling with. Just think of our feminist praise for diversity, whilst all along we knew that difference was used to legitimise the racist South African apartheid regime, or the segregationist states of the USA. This concept is now used to legitimise the imposition of differences on women that make them unequal in the name of religion, ethnicity or culture.

It’s a very difficult question. I’m not sure there is a problem-free answer – I think there are problems either way.

On the other hand it’s not terribly difficult to argue that the motivations of Islamists are different from the motivations of feminists.

Then they talk about cultural relativism, and Helie Lucas says:

There is a relativist culture of non commitment and neutrality that has been expanding – certainly in the West, under the influence of liberalism, of human rights organisations and of political correctness and the fear of appearing racist. Accordingly, everything is equal; everything has to be respected on par – the right of the capitalist and the right of the worker, the right of the one who holds the gun and the right of the one who runs for his life away from the gun… It is high time to admit that there are conflicting rights, antagonistic rights.

It seems to me that progressive people have forgotten the virtues of being partisan. I want to stand for the right of the worker, not that of the capitalist, for the right of the man who runs for his life, not for the right of the man who holds the gun, and for the right of women to live their lives without interference from extreme-Right religious people.

Maryam talks about the trick of portraying oppressive practices like gender segregation as a matter of “rights” and Helie Lucas tells a couple of stories along the same lines:

At the beginning of the 70’s in Algiers I had two similar experiences:

I was in a queue waiting to vote when the man before me handed eleven (11, you read well) ID cards for all the women in his family whom he was voting for to the voting booth authority. I objected that this was illegal; the staff at the voting booth, the very person who was supposed to guarantee the respect of law accused me of being against the right of women to vote. These women, he said, could not get out of the house, hence their only way of voting was by giving their IDs to the male in the family. And who was I, a woman, objecting to women’s rights as citizens; how dared I?

Also in the early seventies, when for the first time a non-indigenous form of veiling appeared in the streets of Algiers, in fact an early Iranian style of chador that women in Turkey still wear, a sort of long rain coat on trousers, with a tight head scarf, it was labelled ‘the students’ dress’. Most female students in Algiers, especially during the first decade after independence, usually wore western clothes and did not cover their heads. It was clearly an offensive from Muslim fundamentalist groups; they were doing a lot of social work and, together with other goods, would distribute to poor families the so-called students’ dress, in fact the early model of  what was to become ‘the Islamic dress’. Orhan Pamuk described the same thing in Turkey, saying that it was virtually impossible to refuse this ‘gift’ while accepting all the others indispensable ones.

When I raised the issue of veiling young women, I was told that I was preventing women access to universities; that I was denying women the right to study! Without this outfit, fundamentalists said, fathers would not allow girls to go to university (a blatant lie, as Algerian fathers after independence were most willing to send all their children to university, boys and girls alike; schooling was entirely free and lunch was provided), hence I was depriving girls of their right to education by questioning their alien outfit…

We get that here too – all the religious fundamentalists insisting on their “rights” and their “freedom” to harm other people because Mr God said they could.

Reporter arrested at Trump rally for filming while brown

Mar 13th, 2016 6:26 pm | By

Huffington Post reports:

CBS News reporter Sopan Deb was arrested Friday night while covering protests surrounding Donald Trump’s canceled rally in Chicago.

Deb, who has covered the Republican presidential front-runner‘s candidacy since last summer, was filming video of a man whose face was bloody and lying on the ground near police at the time of his arrest, according to a “CBS This Morning” report Saturday.

“Deb continued to roll as police kept watch,” the CBS report noted. “Without warning, Deb was grabbed from behind and thrown to the ground.”

A police officer placed his boot on Deb’s neck to keep him in place on the ground, according to the account he provided his network.

Illinois State Police charged Deb with resisting arrest though the network reported that neither his video, nor that of a nearby film crew, showed any sign of resistance. The reporter can also be seen on video identifying himself as a credentialed member of the media.

Remember when Trump was just a blowhard real estate developer? Now we get a living breathing fascist, scaring the fuck out of everyone and working up the crowds.

Last month, a Secret Service agent choke-slammed Time magazine photographer Chris Morris after he left the pen to cover a Black Lives Matter protest.

On Friday, Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields filed a police report related to Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski allegedly assaulting her after the candidate’s Tuesday night press conference.

Oh well, it’s only the free press.