Don’t explain as incompetence what can be explained as disinterest

Philip Oltermann in the Grauniad talks about the failure of British diplomacy in Berlin:

The Netherlands, rather than Germany, should be the country for Britain to emulate in this respect. In Holland, as in the UK, eastern Europeans are usually not recruited directly by local employers, but often via rogue employment agencies who provide little security and support for workers when their contracts terminate. Since 2009, Dutch and Polish authorities have been cooperating closely to try to licence such agencies in order to stop Poles from getting stranded in unemployment.

In Berlin, I heard countless British diplomats moan about their government’s tendency to put all its eggs in one basket in order to win the big prize, while other countries were more willing to accept that EU diplomacy is a constant give and take. In fact, all Britain needs to do is to remind itself of a simple traditional British virtue: teamwork.

I’d say the UK’s problem of engagement with Europe is twofold. First, there’s still the inflated sense of self importance getting in the way. Unlike even France and Germany, Britain has never really had to had to deal with other countries as equal in Europe and so sucks at it. Second, and more importantly, there are the domestic political realities getting in the way of proper diplomacy. Even under Labour it was often politically inconvenient to genuinely engage with Europe, let alone under a coalition government at least half of which doesn’t believe in Europe.

The myth of rescuing sex workers

Molly Crabapple on how New York’s special prostitution courts still peddle the same tired myth of needing to “rescue” sex workers and hence put them more at risk:

Police are violent in general, and violent specifically to women they think are sex workers. According to a 2012 study by the Young Women’s Empowerment Project for young people who have sold sex, a third of all reported abuse came at the hands of the police. Sources told me officers had called women “sluts,” groped them during arrests, even made jerking-off motions with their batons in court. In the Brooklyn HTIC, RedUP saw a black woman who claimed to have been beaten so savagely by police that she landed in the hospital.


According to Kluger, the HTICs are decriminalizing prostitution in the court system, despite the arrests and incarcerations that underpin the courts. Her perception of sex workers comes from the women who have stood before her bench. To her, they seem “comatose,” emotionless, controlled by traffickers and pimps. To validate their emotions, Lee and Kluger both rely on long-discredited statistics that are mantras in the anti-trafficking world: “70 percent of trafficking is sex trafficking”; “the average age of entry into prostitution is 12 to 14 years old.”

And of course it’s mostly white middle class men and women who have the power to decide how to treat the largely black, latina, trans, working class women who the police pick up for their arrest quotas, their agency denied by those who seek to rescue them.

The police has always been a tool of repression

Sam Mitrani explains how the police from the start was created to control the working classes:

There was a never a time when the big city police neutrally enforced “the law,” or came anywhere close to that ideal (for that matter, the law itself has never been neutral). In the North, they mostly arrested people for the vaguely defined “crimes” of disorderly conduct and vagrancy throughout the nineteenth century. This meant that the police could arrest anyone they saw as a threat to “order.” In the post-bellum South, they enforced white supremacy and largely arrested black people on trumped-up charges in order to feed them into convict labor systems.

Poll Tax Riots

Ros Sare talks about the circumstances behind the famous photo of her arguing with a poll tax protestor:

A few years later, this image was used in a media textbook to illustrate how a picture can lie. I look like the typical conservative middle-England Tory voter (which I’m not), objecting to the protest. The truth is, I felt bloody angry that day.

The introduction fo the Poll Tax and the subsequent, largely police instigated riots against it was what finally brought down Margaret Thatcher. It also came at the end of a decade of increasingly violent state repression of protest in Britain: Miner Strike, Hillsborough, the cruise missile protests, etc. For some background on what became the Battle of Trafalgar, the following documentary is a good start:

Ferguson is not an incident

But something that happens on a twice weekly basis:

The statistics: White officers kill black suspects twice a week in the United States, or an average of 96 times a year.

Those are the findings of a USA Today analysis of seven years of FBI data, which claims around a quarter of the 400 annual deaths reported to federal authorities by local police departments were white-on-black shootings. What’s more, the analysis indicates that 18% of the black suspects were under the age of 21 when killed by the police, as opposed to just 8.7% of white suspects.