This Ruthless World

Adventures in absurdity

Archive for the category “human rights”

And Then The Murders Began

Lviv pogrom (June-July 1941)People tend to think of the Holocaust as an event, or a constant:  Hitler came to power, next stop Auschwitz.   This is far from historical fact, however. The Holocaust was a process, with a beginning, a middle and, if not an end, then at least a near-culmination. There was an arc that took European societies from accepting Jews as neighbors, fellow citizens and even prominent members of the community — if with a dogwhistle here and there, and occasional down-home Jew-hating talk — to wholesale slaughter, with a side serving of unbridled abuse, rape, torture and gleeful psychological sadism.  It didn’t happen overnight.

The proto-Nazis spent the 1920’s spreading vicious, (literally) cartoonish anti-Semitic propaganda.  Those were the Der Stürmer years. Relentlessly, the future “winners” of the German state called Jews animals, vermin, criminals, racial degenerates, ideological enemies of society.  The first race laws began to be enacted in 1933. Then, in 1935, Jews, Roma and other “undesirables” were stripped of their citizenship and civil rights.  Then came the pogroms. Then came the ghettos.  And then the murders began. Sporadic mass executions were followed by systematic, mechanized slaughter of human beings throughout Nazi-occupied Europe.

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Not A Real Criminal: An Elegy For Aaron Persky’s Judicial Career

"Timoclea Kills the Captain of  Alexander the Great" (Elisabetta Sirani, 1659)This week, the voters of Santa Clara County, California, recalled Judge Aaron Persky by a large margin.  Good riddance.

In 2016, Persky presided over  the trial of Brock Turner, a Stanford freshman convicted of rape assault with the intent to commit rape and “penetration of an intoxicated woman”. The case generated a tornado of media coverage, and featured a shattering victim impact statement, an  obnoxious dad and  sanctimonious victim-blaming.  Persky sentenced Turner to six months in jail (he ultimately only served three) and three years’ probation.  The sentence was widely condemned as shockingly lenient, considering the circumstances of the crime, and ultimately cost Persky his judgeship.

During the nasty, messy recall campaign Persky’s defenders have been both vocal and eloquent in their opposition. The argument of the anti-recall campaign boils down to the idea that Persky merely followed California’s sentencing guidelines, which enumerate factors relevant to considering leniency.* Another, frankly paradoxical, justification for Persky’s sentence is that the guidelines simultaneously give judges a lot of discretion in sentencing AND somehow tie judges’ hands.  If you care about this case, I urge you to read not only the victim’s impact statement, but also  Brock Turner’s statement and Judge Persky’s  sentencing decision.  Having read all those, here is where I believe Persky and his defenders went wrong:

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That United Airlines Passenger: The Saga Continues

United Boeing 767-300 at Chicago O'Haire

Oh, perfect.  First, a sixty-nine year-old man was told he was being booted off the flight he paid for, because reasons.  Then he was dragged away and battered by those valiant defenders of corporate profit, Chicago PD, who managed to re-accommodate his face into an armrest with enough force to draw blood.  That was yesterday.

 

Now comes the character assassination.

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Our New Normal

So this happened.  By now, you have probably seen the harrowing video of a United passenger being violently “re-accommodated” off an overbooked flight for refusing to voluntarily relinquish his paid-for seat to an airline employee.

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Uber Hate

800px-nyc_taxi_in_motionMy family came to the United States during the early 1990’s recession.  My father had been a railroad engineer back in Russia, mostly working the geriatric section of the network, the track between Moscow and (then) Leningrad.  In the States, he discovered to his chagrin that the railroads and the train industry were in the crapper, and so the only job he could find that matched his education and skills was for a custom air-conditioning company, which offered him $8.25 an hour with no benefits — provided he first worked for them for six months without pay, “as a volunteer”.  And so, like many youngish Soviet immigrants at that time, my father became a livery driver.

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On Fidel Castro’s Death; Or, When My Fellow Liberals Insist On Losing Credibility

Berlin, Fidel Castro an der Grenze

I was waiting to calm down and process the election before I wrote anything — and then Fidel Castro died.

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Myths and Illusions: The Myth of Warrior Wisdom

800px-0NevrevNV_Oprichniki_BISHI’ve been taking a hiatus from blogging to a large extent because I’m going through one of those times when I’m Disgusted With Everything. You know; it’s an election year.  And so, it is perhaps from that feeling of general disgust that I am going to kiss the third rail of modern American culture, the adulation of the military to the point of assigning its members superior experience in matters that have nothing to do with warfare.

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Steven Avery’s Prosecutor Fights Back, Proving He Was Portrayed Fairly

Quesnay_De_Beaurepaire_Vanity_Fair_4_February_1893

Not Ken Kratz

If you haven’t seen Netflix’s ten-part documentary, Making a Murderer, about a man who spent eighteen years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit, and was later very likely framed for another crime, go see it now.  Have plenty of liquor and cute bunny pictures on hand; you are going to need both.  It is one of the most affecting documentaries of all time and a wholly infuriating look at the American criminal justice system.

If you have seen it, then you probably won’t be surprised to learn that the prosecutor in Steven Avery’s and Brendan Dassey’s trials for the murder of Teresa Halbach, Ken Kratz, has come to know the wrath of the Internet (the usual: furious Yelp reviews, harassing e-mails, death threats, and so forth).  And so, The Kratz is fighting back.   Read more…

Fine, Let’s Play That Whole “It Might Have Been A Bomb” Game For a Second

Edouard Moyse, In case your blood pressure this morning isn’t quite high enough, or you need a good reason to drink a case of bourbon and decide the world sucks (again), I got your back: the cops in Irving, Texas arrested a fourteen year-old student for making a clock and bringing it to school.  It is, of course, a pure coincidence that the kid in question bears the name Ahmed Mohamed and an appropriately brown appearance to go with it; and it is also a pure coincidence — stop being so paranoid! — that, as Wonkette points out, Irving is a town whose mayor previously threw a hissy fit over a Muslim mediation service, and a neighboring town recently held a Mohammed cartoon contest.  The suspected terrorist was badgered by teachers and the principal (who threatened to expel the young criminal unless he wrote a confession that the clock was a bomb, even though it wasn’t), interrogated by cops and finally led away in handcuffs, because as the police spokesman put it, the kid didn’t provide “a broader explanation”. A broader explanation, that is, for the bewildering act of constructing a clock and showing it off to his teachers and classmates.  And wingnut America breathed a sigh of relief, knowing we are safe and free. Read more…

On Antonin Scalia’s (In)Famous Dissents

Sorry, I couldn't resist: I do think THIS is where Scalia would have been most at home.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist: I do think THIS is where Scalia would have been most at home.

What a great week last week was for America! I am talking about, of course, the Supreme Court decisions upholding the Affordable Care Act and the Fair Housing Act, as well as finding same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional. (I mean, yes, upholding the death penalty still sucked, but we take what we can.) Yet on some level, it was an irritating week too, due to primarily all the fawning over the world’s most overrated jurist, Antonin Scalia. Read more…

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