Tag Archives: nkw

Scumbag studies: Generalkommissar Wilhelm Kube

It’s high time for another of these, for there are so very many scumbags yet to review. This one you might not have heard about. Wilhelm Kube was from Glogau in Silesia, and was an early adopter of Nazi philosophy. (Interesting bit: he attended college in Berlin on a Moses Mendelssohn Scholarship.) In 1933 he joined the SS as an Oberführer (senior colonel), and soon received promotion to Gruppenführer (major general).

An active Christian–what to make of his devotion, in light of his conduct, is up to the reader–Kube was also a corrupt intriguer. By 1935 he was a Gauleiter (regional Nazi party boss), and managed to get himself investigated by no less than Martin Bormann’s father-in-law on suspicion of adultery and corruption. Based upon his general character, it seems credible that he was guilty as all hell. Guilty or not, he was a bit dense. He retaliated for the resulting reprimand by sending an anonymous letter accusing Bormann of being part Jewish. Oops. The Gestapo discovered that Kube was the author, and he was canned from all positions. He also managed to get crosswise with Reinhard Heydrich, one of the most dangerous Nazi leaders. That got him booted from the SS.

By 1941, Kube was back to work in the Nazi machinery. Hitler planned to make him Nazi boss in Moscow, but the Soviet military did not cooperate. Instead he received  an appointment as Generalkommissar for Belarus (then referred to as Weissruthenien). Here he becomes very difficult to figure; he behaved as if he had a personality disorder. Weird as it sounds given his demonstrated anti-Semitism, he spoke out against massacres of Jews and non-Jews by the Einsatzgruppen (essentially, death battalions). He was loud enough to trigger an in-person ass-chewing from his old pal Heydrich, who flew out to Minsk for the task. And yet he participated in massacres, including one in which SS thugs threw a number of children into a sandy pit to die.

One theory, suggested by Christopher Ailsby, is that Kube was trying to take it easy on the populace with one hand while being mean enough with his other to make the Nazi leadership stay off his back, and that the goal here was to increase his own gain. I consider it possible. Kube does seem to have always been above all about Kube.

After Heydrich said whatever he said–and we may safely assume there were dire threats involved–Kube straightened up and flew wrong. By mid-July 1942, he was directing the atrocities that would earn him the title “Butcher of Belarus.” The Nazi occupation committed numerous well-documented atrocities on his watch, and for them he was therefore responsible. Despite his moments of semi-decency, he deserves his place in scumbag studies. Had he survived the war, it is impossible to imagine him ending any way but at the end of a rope.

Thankfully for history and decency, if he would not restrain himself the Soviet partisan movement was prepared to restrain Kube. A Belarusian woman, Yelena Mazanik, got a job as his maid. On September 21, 1943, Mazanik emplaced a time bomb under Kube’s bed. It detonated early in the morning of September 22, killing Kube and triggering a wave of reprisal murders. Also thankfully, Mazanik managed to escape and continue the war as a partisan. I drafted this during Women’s History Month, making it perfect time to honor her and her closest accomplices. Their names were Nadyezhda Troyan and Maria Osipova, and all three earned the highest honor the Soviet Union could bestow: the title of Heroine of the Soviet Union (in Russian, Geroniya Sovietskovo Soyuza). Mazanik passed away in 1996, Troyan in 2011, and Osipova in 1999.

Pre-suffering

As my youth catches up with me, invoicing me for my poor decisions, I encounter the tendency to start dreading this or that now rather than wait.

While I might perhaps be avoiding long lines, I have to fight that. It would not do myself any favors.

I think some of us are more keenly affected by surprise than others. At the dentist, I ask her to let me know when we are a quarter of the way through, halfway, three-quarters, and nearly done. (I have a marvelously compassionate dentist.) If I’m having a medical exam, I must rassle my mind away from predicting all the possible batches of very bad news. Telling me my A1C needs to come down thus seems bearable, given that I was preparing to hear they were concerned about some mass in my abdomen.

Earlier this month my wife and I celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of her acceptance of my marriage proposal. We might be the only couple out there who celebrate such a day, but that’s all right with us. The fact that we’re having one, and that the only thing that will prevent a twenty-sixth is if one of us has something sudden happen to him or her, speaks for itself. Celebrate a day, again and again for a quarter century, and one communicates that one remains grateful for it.

Something sudden is the problem. If not restrained, my mind is sort of like a cat. Now and then it will wander off into someplace that doesn’t help anyone, and this would become paranoia if not handled in a sane fashion. For me, that means refraining from pre-suffering. It’s one thing to grieve ahead of time for a friend lost to pancreatic cancer–something I recently did–because it’s not paranoid to imagine that the friend will not survive it. Few do. It’s another thing to take that ball, run with it, and start thinking about a day in the future when one or one’s spouse might be given news of such a deadly affliction. And then to start processing grief on some level.

That’s pre-suffering, and it helps no one. It also carries with it a terrible pessimism, and this also must be battled. Imagine I were to find myself a sudden widower. If I’d worried myself half to death about that possibility for two decades, would the pre-suffering and all the time it had ruined do one bit of good to help me once the real thing was present and undeniable? I don’t think so. We have no idea how we will react to close loss, regardless of what we imagine. If I were eighty-five and received a diagnosis of dementia, would I grieve less if I’d screwed around for the last twenty-five years fearing dementia? Bet most people would not.

In essence, pre-suffering is an investment in an emotional stock that looks on the surface to be a huge bargain but in fact is going to zero. It is the Thornburg Mortgage of mental attitudes. (Let’s not talk about why that analogy rings so true for me.)

Standing on a drum

That’s the best description I can give of the experience of watching Korpiklaani.

I went with a good friend and fellow Nordic metal enthusiast, Debbie (not Deb my wife; she’s in DC setting Uncle Sugar straight).  Our first surprise: just because the gates opened at 6 PM didn’t mean Korp was on at that time.  Nope, had to wait out a couple of crappy local metal bands, though we had some good conversations with other people waiting around.  We weren’t the oldest people present, but we were in the 95% percentile.  First observation:  if you are not a youth, yet you like this sort of sound, you should not feel shy because you are a) old enough to be the kids’ parent; b) lack a bunch of metal embedded in your face; c) unwilling to go full freak.  We really enjoyed the people we chatted with, and no one hinted that we were interlopers.  It’s a case where you get what you expect, I think, as in so many life situations.

This venue did take security seriously.  Debbie didn’t get patted down, but I did.  That said, though, they were polite.  They did sniff her smokes for pot.  Some other people got searched rather more thoroughly than we did.

Evidently one of the warmup acts got booed off while Debbie was on a smoke break, so we had to hustle into the music area as Korp started early.  They all have serious hair, well down to the armpits.  Jonne, the main vocalist, was good at working the crowd as was the guitarist next to him.  I had brought earplugs in case, but while it was loud, it wasn’t painfully so.  I was there for partly anthropological reasons anyway (and partly just to have a good time with a friend from college).  Impressions:

  • Watching them live you trade some of the actual music nuances of CD for the visual spectacle.  I couldn’t recognize most of the songs they played.  The bagpiper was my favorite instrumentalist; the big dark-haired dude on guitar was really into the crowd.
  • The place vibrated, literally.  It felt exactly like standing on a drum while some giant is playing it.  I’d give it a 4.8 on the Richter scale.  I was surprised the whole place didn’t come crashing down.  Those floors must be made of 6″ thick maple timbers.
  • I’m not sure all metal bands with long hair do the hair swirl, but quite frequently the band would play guitar while leaning over and sort of swirling their heads to make the hair whirl in kind of a figure 8 pattern.  Kind of a neat trick, when you consider they were still playing their instruments while doing it.
  • Lots of people did a hook-em-horns Texas football gesture, evidently a symbol of metal fan solidarity and approval.  I didn’t do it, but you can get caught up in situations like this.  I confess I was tempted.
  • During the first number, what looked like rugby broke out in front of the stage.  I learned that this is called moshing.  It got pretty rowdy, and at a couple points I decided I’d better kind of stand in front of Debbie in case it got out of hand.  We stood back far enough that we didn’t end up playing rugby, though ironically enough, she used to play rugby for real.

It wasn’t a very long show, a little more than an hour.  From an entertainment standpoint, it didn’t come close to Weird Al Yankovic, but I’m glad I did it, even though it required a hell of a lot of driving.

Edit:  okay, this is how dumb I am.  Come to find out later that what we saw wasn’t actually Korpiklaani, but Arkona, a Russian band.  How pissed the real Korp would be to find out we mistook Russians for Finns!  Instant death.  I guess that explains why I didn’t recognize hardly any of the music.  I was mightily tempted to just delete this whole post, but when you mess up, you have to own up.  I was wondering about the discrepancies and timing issues, but I assumed that such haphazardness was just the way shows worked.  So a total of ten hours with me driving, and three with Debbie driving, and we didn’t actually see the band we came to see.  Ouch!

Why do sportswriters give free pimpage to bowl sponsors?

I don’t see how ESPN gets paid for doing this, but they do it.  Right here, we have Ted Miller calling every bowl game by its full sponsor name.  Miller is in general a very capable reporter, and I’m a regular reader, but this baffles me.

Some would say that the game should be called by its full name (whatever it is this year) on principle.  Why is that a principle? If you are going to watch the Rose Bowl (which is not being played properly this year, very sadly), you presumably do not care whether it’s sponsored by Coors, Berkshire Hathaway or Joe’s Quikki-Mart.  You care who wins, or if it’s an entertaining game.  Surely ESPN is not getting money to make its writers do it, which would mean that the worst that could happen would be that Rotten.com (or whoever is the sponsor) writes them a nastygram, and ESPN answers, “Pay up if you want advertising.  You bought the bowl, not the media reporting.”  Instead, Miller continues to do this, as he has done in years past.

I do not get it. Unless it’s a friend, or they pay me, I don’t advertise for anyone if I can help it.  Buying a new car? Won’t drive it off the lot with the dealer’s license plate frame in place.  Wear an Old Navy shirt? You’re kidding, I hope.  Old Navy should pay me to wear their shirts, not charge me for advertising.

Maybe Miller is ordered by the brass to do this.  Maybe he just adores our precious major corporations.  Either way, to me, it detracts from his journalism.  Because as far as I’m concerned, UW is playing Baylor in the Alamo Bowl.  I don’t even want to know who sponsors it.  I don’t care.

LSSU Banned Words List is out!

At least, I think the 2011 list is this year’s.  If it’s not, they’re Doing It Wrong:

Lake Superior State University’s 2011 Banned Words List

I agree on ‘viral,’ although I think that the unintended connotation of a loathsome pestilence makes the word inherently self-honest.

Sorry, but we need ‘fail.’  It is such an economical way to describe that which faileth.  I’ll yield on ‘epic’, though, as we really don’t need another watered-down superlative.

‘BFF’ must indeed go.  Sometimes when I see it, I invent shocking substitute meanings for the letters.  Feel free to drop yours into the comments!

There is nothing wrong with saying ‘woman up.’  Therefore, there is nothing wrong with saying ‘man up.’  I suppose if someone’s transgender, you would have a dilemma.  Rather than blow a fuse, you could just tell that person ‘be strong’.

‘I’m just sayin” indeed has to be staked before it can rise from the grave and propagate progeny that will also feed on the living.

Interested in your own takes on the list.

A confused neighbor

One of our neighbors (the only one I can’t stand) puts up a comically garish, theme-free, obnoxious Christmas light display.  I’ll call him Cletus.  Evidently, it is very important for Cletus to let us know the true spiritual meaning of this jolly holiday.  In addition to the reindeer and Santa on the roof, and the odd mixture of colored lights strung about the place, Cletus puts up a 12′ high cross edged with lights.

Cletus seems to have forgotten the birth part and moved straight to the torture and execution part.  Good lord, Cletus, can’t you stand the idea of letting the kid live a while before he gets nailed up and tortured to death? What part of this is unclear?

I have no problem with lights, displays of faith, or people having holiday fun.  I do think it’s pretty funny when someone doesn’t think it through.  Cletus, You’re Doing It Wrong.

My grandfather’s comedy

My grandfather (maternal; I never knew my father’s father) has been passed away some years now.  He was no more a perfect man than I am, but he was a wise man, and at times a very funny one.  He always found humor in the absurd.

The funniest thing I can remember from my grandfather was one time when he was doing one of his favorite schticks:  the dumb hick.  While he spoke with the gentle drawl of rural Kansas, he was a strong demonstration of the fact that accents do not imply ignorance.  He was intelligent and thoughtful, both as a farmer and rancher, and later as a business executive.  So when he really laid the Cletus on thick, it was quite amusing to hear.  In this case, he was reading his junk mail, aloud, as if he believed every word of it.  It went something like this:

“Dorothy, the nahs folks at Publisher’s Clearin’ House have written to me.  They say, ‘Dear Mr. Johnson, the team at PCH is pleased to officially announce yore name as the second-place winner of the $7 million grand prize.’  They say that the total amount is $1 million.  Well, Ah’ll be!  They also say they will make all necessary arrangements for me to receive mah prize, and Ah know they’re serious because they enclose a cashier’s check to cover any fees they haven’t paid.  Mighty nice of them.  Ah must contact mah representative directly before Ah deposit the check, and for more information.  Sounds reasonable.  They give me a security code, so we best keep that someplace real safe.  And you know it’s on the up-and-up because they even assigned me mah own IRS agent, Mr. Henry Cohen.  Good, because Ah don’t want any trouble with the law.”

He could go on like that for a while, straight-faced, immune to my cackles, horselaughs and guffaws.  I only cracked my grandfather up once in return when he was doing that, but that time, I got the old man good.

Grandpa was reading aloud from a Harry & David sales pitch around Christmastime–he and Grandma were regular customers.  “Harry and David would like us to help them celebrate their fiftieth anniversary!” he began.

I broke in with my own Cletus put-on.  “Ah’ll be darned, Grandpa.  Ah never even knew they was married.”

My deeply, culturally, and politically conservative grandfather busted out in a gale of mirth.

It’s one of my favorite ways to remember him.

Pizza Hut dishonors coupons–really!

I was too amused to be annoyed.  Called up to order pizza from PH, current coupon in hand.  It included 10 hot wings and a large pizza, about as simple as it gets.  Slam dunk.

Phone guy, after talking to manager:  “Uh, we can’t do that, our wings come prepackaged and we can only do packages of eight.”

Me:  “Coupon says ten.”

PG:  “They changed everything around just yesterday, we only have packs of eight.”

Me:  “So you’re going to dishonor the coupon?”

PG (defensively):  “You can talk to the manager if you want.”

Me (quite calmly):  “No need.  It’s a simple question; ask whoever you need to ask.  Yes or no:  are you actually going to dishonor a current coupon?”

PG:  “We can’t do ten wings.  They changed everything.”

Me:  “Not my issue.  Yes or no:  going to honor or dishonor your coupon?”

PG:  “I guess the answer would be we’re going to dishonor it.”

Me:  “Okay, thanks, then no need to place the order.  Bye.”

It’s not that I am greatly bothered over a couple of chicken wings.  It’s not that the Pizza Hut (818 N Vineyard, Kennewick, WA) evidently isn’t very well run.  It’s that the guy couldn’t even think sensibly enough to ask his manager to do something intelligent.  The coupon came in one of those mailed coupon packs, so they have to know they’ll hear about this again; obviously a manager needs to devise some form of counter-offer if the coupon is somehow physically impossible to fulfill.  I’m receptive to almost anything except ‘tough beans’ as an answer; ‘tough beans’ basically says “we are dishonoring our advertising, and screw you if you don’t like it–we simply don’t care.”

So I called PH’s customer satisfaction hotline, carefully concealed on their webpage in hopes that no one would call.  The automated answering system did its all to convince me I couldn’t even talk to a person, but I’m persistent.  It put me on a protracted hold, then hung up on me after about five minutes.  Tried again, silent void.

WWHCD? He might get confused if you ask him to locate Libya on a map, but he knew a lot about how not to screw up selling pizza.

What better way to entertain myself while on protracted hold than by blogging the experience to share with the world?

Penn State

Well, that’s about as painful as it gets.  All of a sudden UW going 0-12 a few years back, and keeping Tyrone Willingham around purely out of Seattle racial guilt, doesn’t look quite as bad as it felt at the time.  I guess when they say ‘it could always be worse,’ this would be what they meant.

For those unfamiliar with the story, evidently a Penn State assistant football coach has been raping young boys at their facilities for a decade at least, and evidently the coaching staff and university knew to varying degrees that it was going on, and didn’t take steps to put a stop to it.  PSU’s head coach, Joe Paterno, was the longest-tenured and most admired coach in US college football, the symbol of Doing It Right.  So the idea of such an upstanding figure looking the other way, in a case like this, is something just about no one can feel neutral about.  The issue here:  while it happening is bad enough, people who know it happens–and allow it to continue–share at least some of the guilt.  In one especially bad aspect, an assistant (named, disastrously, McQueary) actually caught the rapist in the act at one point, and didn’t do anything about it so far as we’re aware.

Paterno, the AD, the boy-raping assistant, someone else in the athletic department and the president of the university have all been sacked, and several will face felony charges (not Paterno).  Look ahead to about ten years of litigation (probably longer than Paterno will live; he’s 84, had coached there since I was a toddler), profiting only lawyers.  The students are somewhat rioting in support of Paterno, and the country is taking sides.  You either want him and everyone involved hanging from a lamppost, or you think it’s a horrible disservice to the most visible symbol the school ever had.

My own take is that I don’t see either side doing a damn thing for the real victims, which are the boys who got raped.  I see all anger and recrimination, and I understand why, but I do not understand why no one can seem to spare some emotion for those who suffered most.  They certainly suffered more than a half dozen six- (in one case seven-) figure employees, though if a couple of those can’t buy their way into the nice jails, or out of jail altogether, those may get a taste of what the original victims experienced.  My dominant emotion here is not fury and punishment, but what can we do for the real innocents?

I wish I heard more of that, and less rioting and screaming and such.  We get so angry in these situations we forget to invest some energy in support for and kindness to the most damaged.

Behavior vs. character

Some people judge and react to you mainly by your behavior.  Others react primarily to your character.  Is it about doing, or being?

In the case of children at nearly all times, the primary reaction is to behavior.  (Not always.  We’ve all known children with character way beyond their years.)  In adults, behavior is usually the first evidence we have of who they are, so there it begins–but typically gives precedence to character in time.

This is why a child will try to rack up some good deeds to cancel out the bad deeds, or presume eternal forgiveness for all errors and misbehaviors; life is a ledger to them, gold stars and black marks, reward and penalty.  An adult–at least one who thinks like an adult–will seek to correct wrongdoing going forward as well as making amends or atonement.  After paying the bill, a child looks forward to getting by with the deed (or one like it) again.  Plenty of adults in relationships lapse into child thinking, or never actually grow out of it.  Entire segments of society have it as their foundation.  Most families would have no idea how to intrarelate without it, because family is most people’s refuge for bad character.  If you have people who will never reject you for lack of character, why bother to show them good character? For many, that really is what family boils down to.  Paradox:  that’s the low character response anyway.  In short, if one is of low character with family and high character with non-relatives, maybe it means one is of basic low character and just puts on a better front to the world.  Maybe it also means character can be situational, and that the entire subject is more nuanced and complex than I have thought through.  You tell me.  I don’t pretend to be an authority on this.  Dissect the fallacies in my thinking, and I will thank you.

Does behavior reflect character? Not always, but that’s really the fundamental question, is it not? If my wife says something cruel and unjustified to me, does that mean she’s of low character, or that she’s simply having a bad behavioral lapse? If she is of high character, such an utterance is out of her character, and doesn’t reflect who she is.  Of course, if she is of high character, it won’t be long before she’s pretty embarrassed by it, because it is not who she really is.  But while her words may have offended me, my fundamental reaction to her is to her character, not one action.  It would take more than one bad behavior to convince me her character had altered.  Hope she sees me the same way.  She must, because she has self-respect and she stays married to me.  Surely there’s something about my character she likes, because it certainly isn’t because of my mighty deeds (or mighty misdeeds never committed).

What got me thinking about this is a period of watching a child in an adult body, experiencing the world from one unsustainable pleasure or toy to the next, seemingly contrite over black marks and happy over gold stars, happy to do the minimum to get by.  The individual never fully grasped that it wasn’t about bookkeeping good and bad acts, but the development of personal character. And when it became clear that this person’s priority was not the same as my priority, there was nothing left to do but turn her/him loose to find it as s/he might.

Or might not.

Looking back at this, I am alarmed how much I sound like a mediocre Andy Rooney knockoff.  But I’m posting it anyway.  The disappointment hurt, and maybe talking about it will help.