British poetess Judi Sutherland about blogging


Judi Sutherland

By Judi Sutherland in Britain:

Poetry that commits to the struggle

Thursday 23rd April 2015

The Stare’s Nest poetry portal has put paid to cynics like Jeremy Paxman and their disparaging views of poets. Judi Sutherland has the story

Poets know that creative ideas sometimes emerge from a collision of disparate events. This was the case with my poetry blog/zine, The Stare’s Nest.

It had two unlikely muses: Jeremy Paxman and Nigel Farage.

The European elections of May 2014 plunged me into despair. I watched the rise of Ukip, aided by Farage’s constant appearances on TV and in print. After the results were announced, the news programmes reported that 31 million people had not bothered to vote. Presumably they didn’t think it mattered.

I was reminded of the variously-attributed aphorism that “all that it takes for evil to triumph in the world is for good men to do nothing.” And the British electorate did nothing, in droves.

A few days later, during the annual hoopla of the Forward Prizes for Poetry, Jeremy Paxman — the profoundly underqualified chair of the judges — declared that poetry has “connived with its own irrelevance,” because, according to Paxo, poets have stopped talking to the public and are only addressing each other.

I wanted to create a space for poetry that is relevant to that apparently oblivious public. Poetry that deals with social and political issues in a clear and direct way.

I remembered Andrew Motion, who taught our MA class at Royal Holloway, exhorting us to “write about the big stuff,” and that’s what I wanted to draw out from poets.

I set up a website and called it The Stare’s Nest, after a poem by WB Yeats, “stare” being an Irish term for “starling.”

Yeats, writing in 1922 about the civil war in Ireland, wrote: “We had fed our hearts on fantasies / The heart’s gone brutal from the fare / More substance in our enmities / Than in our love; O honey bees / Come build in the empty house of the Stare.”

I recognised the syndrome. In Britain today, enmities have been whipped up towards religious believers, immigrant groups, the poor, the disabled, the unemployed. The way our media operates is based on engendering hatred and setting people against each other (see Benefits Street for example), to cause the kind of sensation that sells papers and raises TV ratings.

We are encouraged to feed our hearts on fantasies and they grow brutal on this diet of fear and suspicion.

So I asked for poems about righteous anger, poems which rail against bigotry and political guile, also asked for poems which illustrate the things that really matter: the relationships and encounters, the little celebrations of what we have in common.

Tell us how it is, I asked the poets, but also tell us how it could be.

The poems started flowing in and mostly they have been of incredibly high quality. We have had contributions from Brazil to Bengal, from Tunisia to Shetland. Some well-known poets have been kind enough to contribute — I won’t list them, but you can find them in our tag cloud — and to all of them I am deeply grateful.

We have also featured new poets, sometimes giving space to their very first published work.

Some poems are polished and beautiful, while others are less sophisticated, but were included because of the passion behind the lines or because of the poet’s unique life experience.

Through all of those, I feel able to trace a still, small voice speaking of hope in the face of the many counsels of despair that we are subjected to.

These poems build our understanding of what we share: our common humanity. You can find them at www.thestaresnest.com.

I promised to publish a new poem every day from the site’s inception last July to the general election. So far we have published about 270.

We have over a hundred hits every day, plus 679 followers who have the daily poem delivered to their inbox and a respectable presence on Twitter (@thestaresnest).

After the election, I’m not sure. It’s a lot of work, at the moment I also have a full-time job and my own writing is falling by the wayside. I’m wondering whether there should be a little book — The Best of the Nest, maybe — to sell in aid of a charity that shares the site’s ethos.

If that happens, I will do my best to get a relevant copy to Jeremy Paxman.

Auschwitz SS nazi on trial


This video says about itself:

The Liberation of Auschwitz (includes 1945 original Red Army footage)

23 January 2015

Warning – This historical documentary contains some explicit scenes that are of a violent nature and may be disturbing to some viewers!

This film contains footage taken by Soviet cameramen after the liberation of the Auschwitz camp in January 27, 1945.

Among other things, it depicts the camp area immediately after entry by the First Ukrainian Front of the Red Army.

Documentary pictures are interspersed with an interview with Alexander Vorontzov, the cameraman who accompanied the Red Army soldiers and did most of the filming. The whole is accompanied by commentary describing, among others, the selection and extermination process, medical experiments and everyday life in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

The film was previously released in 1985, for the 40th anniversary of the liberation of the camp. The commentary accompanying the current edition of the film reflects the latest findings by researchers studying the KL Auschwitz.

The Auschwitz Camp is a world symbol of the Holocaust, genocide and terror. Never before in the history of mankind were so many people murdered in a planned and industrial manner in such a small area.

In the years 1940-1945, German Nazis brought here over a million Jews, nearly 150 thousand Poles, 23 thousand Roma, 15 thousand Soviet prisoners of war and over ten thousand prisoners from other nations.

A vast majority of them perished in the camp.

This film is dedicated to their memory.

Runtime: 52 minutes, Production year: 1985, Director: Irmgard von zur Muehlen.

By Elisabeth Zimmermann in Germany:

Trial of former SS soldier begins in Germany

22 April 2015

The trial of 93-year-old former SS sergeant Oskar Gröning began yesterday at the fourth criminal grand chamber of the Luneburg district court. He is charged with assisting murder in 300,000 cases. From September 1942 to October 1944, Gröning was an SS guard and administrator at Auschwitz concentration camp in occupied Poland.

More than 70 years after the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army on January 27, 1945, it is certain to be one of the last trials of living perpetrators of the indescribably hideous crimes committed by the Nazis at this and other concentration camps.

The name of the Nazis’ Auschwitz concentration camp has come to symbolise the worst crimes and horrors of the twentieth century, and is a byword for the barbarism of capitalism in its most extreme form. More than 1.1 million people were brutally killed there. Hundreds of thousands were exterminated in the gas chambers immediately after their arrival, while others died from hunger, physical exhaustion or hideous experiments by sadistic doctors like Josef Mengele, nicknamed the angel of death by the prisoners.

Some 90 percent of those killed in the camp were Jews. In addition, 150,000 non-Jewish Poles, including political prisoners, 23,000 Sinti and Roma, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, other national minorities, as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals were murdered.

In addition to Gröning, two other former SS soldiers currently face thousands of charges of assisted murder. An investigation by the state prosecutor in Schwerin is underway into 94-year-old Hubert Z from Mecklenburg Pomerania, and another against 94-year-old Reinhold Z from North Rhine-Westphalia led by the Dortmund state prosecutor.

The SS soldiers currently being charged allegedly were not directly involved in the murders, but through their service in Auschwitz, they contributed to the functioning of the Nazi murder machine. Gröning himself described his role at Auschwitz as a “cog in the wheel.”

Oskar Gröning volunteered for the Waffen SS at aged 21 as a committed National Socialist, and was ordered by the SS business and administration head office on September 25, 1942, to be sent to administer the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Since he had previously worked in a savings bank, he was placed in the administration of prisoners’ money. His task was to stand guard as the victims were delivered to the camp in cattle wagons, and collect their possessions and valuables. The stolen money obtained during this process was then sent by him to the SS headquarters in Berlin.

The list of charges from the state prosecutor in Hannover, responsible for pursuing Nazi crimes in Lower Saxony, limits itself to the so-called Hungarian action of May 16 to July 11, 1944. In this two-month time frame, the SS deported some 425,000 Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz. Around 300,000 were sent directly to their deaths in gas chambers on their arrival.

Within this period, 137 trainloads arrived at the Nazis’ death factory. Gröning’s task was to collect the belongings left by those sent to the gas chamber from the train platform and camp entrance. “In so doing, the traces of the mass murder would be eliminated for subsequent prisoners,” states the 85-page charge sheet. His activities had supported the Nazis’ systematic mass murder.

The trial has met with great interest abroad and more than 60 survivors from Hungary, the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, and Israel wish to testify to the court as joint plaintiffs. Accordingly, the trial was moved from the Luneburg court to a larger building.

As with other trials on the subject of crimes during the Nazi period, the question is raised: Why has the trial taken so long?

The answer is largely that within the German political and judiciary systems, many former Nazis were utilised by the state and their careers continued unhindered after the war. A systematic legal investigation into the crimes of the National Socialists was consistently blocked.

Of the many thousands of Nazi criminals, relatively few were brought before the courts. Since the end of the war, the German judiciary has investigated 100,000 cases, but only 6,500 were convicted. They received relatively mild sentences considering the horrendous nature of their crimes. Generally, the perpetrators took the defence that they were just following orders, which the courts recognised as legitimate.

Of the 6,500 SS personnel who carried out their murderous work in Auschwitz and survived the war, only 29 were convicted in the Federal Republic, according to a report in Der Spiegel. In the GDR (East Germany) the figure was 20.

The Frankfurt state prosecutor had already investigated Gröning in 19y7, but broke off proceedings in 1985. Lawyer Thomas Walther, who is now representing around 30 joint plaintiffs, victims of the Nazi regime and their relatives, commented on this to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, “They did not abandon the case, but buried it. In the 1970s and 1980s there were still ‘thousands of Grönings,’ so the investigators decided it was preferable to leave it alone.”

In Deutsche Welle, Walther explained, “in the Federal Republic, thousands of men and women would have to have been charged if current criteria had applied in the past.” But this was not desired, so the Nazi collaborators were not to be pursued. Oskar Gröning was never punished for his service in the death factory.

In 2011, the Munich district court sentenced the now-dead SS guard in Sobibor concentration camp John Demjanjuk to five years’ imprisonment for assisting in the murder of 28,000 Jews. Since then, there is no need to prove that a person being charged was directly involved in the murders. This is one of the reasons why trials are being conducted now against those SS soldiers who are still living.

In contrast to many previous defendants in these cases, Oskar Gröning has expressed his readiness to testify before the court on the events in Auschwitz. He had already spoken in interviews openly about his experiences and actions in Auschwitz, and written them down for his friends and family.

When an acquaintance sent him a book about “the Auschwitz lies,” he sent it back with a note saying that everything reported about Auschwitz was true: selections, gassing, burning—1.5 million Jews had been murdered in Auschwitz, and he had experienced it. Nonetheless, he did not feel guilty about the murders because he had not been directly active in the gas chambers.

The course of the current trial will reveal how much it contributes to the uncovering of one of the greatest crimes of the twentieth century. The survivors and relatives of the victims taking part in the trial as joint plaintiffs are hoping for something, even if only very, very delayed justice.

Why post-1865 Reconstruction failed for African Americans


1874 cartoon by Thomas Nast, about violence by organisations like the Ku Klux Klan and the White League against African Americans in the southern states of the USA

This is an October 1874 cartoon from Harper’s Weekly, by Thomas Nast, about violence by organisations like the Ku Klux Klan and the White League against African Americans in the southern states of the USA.

Translated from Leiden University in the Netherlands today:

US government offered little protection to black population

The federal government ignored the rights of the black population after the American Civil War. Historian Mark Leon de Vries discovered that the national government virtually did not help at all. Doctorate ceremony on 23 April.

Terror campaign by the Ku Klux Klan

After the American Civil War (1861-1865) the national government passed a number of laws that should provide far-reaching social and political equality for blacks in the southern United States. This did not happen: a group of conservative whites in the region, the Ku Klux Klan, vehemently protested against this policy and orchestrated a campaign of terror against blacks and whites who supported them.

Government did not maintain its own laws

But not only local opposition was a cause of the sorry state of black Americans. De Vries: “Politicians from the north did little to enforce their own laws in the south. That was because the topic did not really live in the north, where relatively few blacks lived. It did not help the government much electorally to deploy people and resources accordingly. In addition, after some time the recovery of the relationship with the southern states became increasingly important.”

Red River Valley: hotbed of violence

De Vries discovered this by the study of violence against blacks in the Red River Valley, Louisiana. “According to statistics, this was one of the regions where most violence occurred against black people. That was also because the federal court was far away: to get there you had to travel a few days, first on the Red River, then along the Mississippi. When the water was high enough, at least. Law enforcement was done mainly by local sheriffs and judges who disliked the ideas from the north.”

Washington knew of abuses

He believes that compliance with the laws certainly would have had effect on the position of black people. “First, because the violence in the area noticeably decreased in those places where local federal officials themselves took the initiative to enforce existing laws. Because there were abuses in the Red River Valley, Washington heard that too. After a few years, after federal enforcement was greatly reduced, violence flared up again. Second, if the legislation would have brought nothing, why did the southerners there resist it so much?” De Vries was the first historian who through the study of a particular subject area studied how the national government in the United States reacted to violence against blacks.

Echo of the past

De Vries explains on the basis of his research there is a link between the past and the present. “The racial terror and lawlessness of that period reverberates in the recent murders of black Americans.” Does he think that even now the national government should intervene more actively? “That’s a tough question. You can see that now more organs react to abuses. The policeman who recently shot and killed black man Walter Scott will be prosecuted, the police union does not support him. Let’s hope that change in culture will continue.”

In the Walter Scott case, it was extremely important that a bystander made an amateur video. If there would have been no video, then things might unfortunately have gone like in the case of the death of Michael Brown.

Also translated from Leiden University about this:

The prevailing view, often based on research into federal level politics, is that the failure of Reconstruction was a more or less inevitable consequence of the compromises that the Republican party had to make and of, as a consequence, the relatively conservative reforms that they endorsed.

This research suggests, in contrast, that the failure of Reconstruction was by no means inevitable.

It was due to the refusal of the federal government to maintain in practice its reforms, limited as they were. These reforms could have achieved much more if the federal government would have found an adequate response to the violent opposition among the white population. The outcome of Reconstruction was therefore not so much a “compromise of principles,” but overall a capitulation to terror.

Vandalized Michael Brown tree will be replaced in Ferguson, USA


This 20 April 2015 video from the USA is called Michael Brown memorial tree vandalized.

From Associated Press in the USA:

Ferguson officials: Sapling planted in Michael Brown’s memory destroyed

April 20, 2015 – 7:45 PM

FERGUSON, Mo. — Officials in Ferguson, Missouri, say they will replace two recently planted saplings this week, including one planted in memory of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that both trees were found damaged Sunday. They were planted in January in Wabash Park and had been donated by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.

One of the trees was dedicated to Brown, who was fatally shot by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson in August, setting off months of protests. The second sapling was dedicated by a Ferguson resident to a dead pet.

City officials say both trees were chopped off at the trunk. Concrete plaques placed at the bases of both trees were taken.

Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri say a memorial to Michael Brown, the 18-year-old unarmed African-American man killed by a local police officer last August, was vandalized over the weekend. The tribute has since been replaced: here.

A tree planted in Ferguson, Missouri, in memory of Michael Brown—the teenager fatally shot last year by a local police officer—was ripped in half last weekend the day after it was planted. The Black Caucus of ALA [American Library Association], which donated the tree, said it would not be deterred by vandalism: here.

A haunting video from last year has surfaced of a black man killed by St. Louis County police officers Friday night. On August 17, St. Louis Post-Dispatch photojournalist David Carson recorded 23-year-old Thaddeus McCarroll chanting with a group of young men and women during a protest near Ferguson, Missouri. It was eight days after Officer Darren Wilson had killed Michael Brown. The group is holding signs and chanting the phrase, “I got my hands on my head … please don’t shoot me dead.” Eight months later to the day, McCarroll was killed by police: here.

Michael Brown memorial tree cut down in Ferguson, USA


Michael Brown memorial tree in Ferguson, USA, before and after vandalism

From inquisitr.com in the USA:

Memorial Tree Planted In Michael Brown’s Name Is Cut Down In Ferguson

A memorial tree for Michael Brown Jr. was found cut in half less than 24 hours after it was planted. The memorial stone that was placed under the tree is also missing.

On Saturday morning the living tree memorial was planted in Michael Brown Jr.’s name at the January Wabash Memorial Park located in Ferguson. The tree was donated by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, reports WSMV TV.

“The tree dedication ceremony to honor Michael Brown, Junior, represents just one of several social justice issues that BCALA champions,” a representative for the group said on Saturday, reports Fox 10.

After photos of the tree before and after being vandalized were posted to KMOV TV‘s Facebook page, hundreds of followers left comments.

“I had a feeling this would happen, it is a shame MO people have to live through such hate. I am glad I was brought up knowing, we do not hate, we are all equal, and no violence, I think some people need to learn this,” Barb Carpenter O’Keefe wrote.

“Mike was someone’s son. None of us are perfect. Let his family grieve and have a memorial for him. You may not love him but his family and friends did. Really is sad to me that some ignorant person took time out to cut a tree!!” wrote JoAnn Moser.

“That’s horrible.. No matter what happened, whoever planted that tree did so for a reason. Leave it alone. That’s the whole problem no one wants to let this whole thing go…they are working hard to put things in place to help these issues out, let them have time to work,” posted Shelly Prince Jones.

Not all of the comments on the post were kind and many worry that this recent act of cruelty and vandalism could spark a new round of issues in Ferguson.

Michael Brown Jr. was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014. Brown was only 18-years-old when he was shot by Darren Wilson, 28, of the Ferguson Police Department. … The protests lasted more than a week and resulted in nightly curfews.

The shooting also sparked vigorous debates about law enforcements relationships with African Americans.

Police officials in Ferguson are currently looking into the vandalism at the park and have yet to make any statement other than an ‘investigation is ongoing.’

[Photo courtesy of KMOV 4’s Facebook Page]

‘We can’t even mourn': Michael Brown memorial tree cut down in suspected vandalism incident: here.

Michael Brown’s memorial tree ‘cut down’ after one night in Ferguson: here.

The city of Parma, Missouri, has seen mass resignations among the local police force after the city’s first black female mayor, Tyrus Byrd, was sworn in on Tuesday: here.

Florida, USA: Study Finds Tampa Police Gave 80 Percent of Bike Tickets to Blacks: here.

Eric Harris shooting: Sheriff offers apology to family of man killed by reserve deputy: here.

A new civil rights movement may emerge in US in the wake of police shootings. The protests over police shootings of unarmed black men may signify a new kind of civil rights movement based less on spectacle and more on social media and data: here.