Science fiction writers make everything worse

Russian schlock science fiction writers predicted the War on Ukraine:

A pro-Western, NATO-backed Ukrainian government faces a stubborn insurgency in the pro-Russian East. Fighting rages around Donetsk, with civilians dying in artillery fire and airstrikes, while Russian troops mass on the Ukrainian border. The latest headlines? No, a two-novel series by Russian-Ukrainian science-fiction writer Fedor Berezin: War 2010: The Ukrainian Front and War 2011: Against NATO.

It’s the deliberate hollowing out of the economy, stupid

“Why Don’t the Unemployed Get Off Their Couches?” and Eight Other Critical Questions for Americans:

But aren’t there small-scale versions of economic “rebirths” occurring all over America?

Travel through some of the old Rust Belt towns of this country and you’ll quickly notice that “economic rebirth” seems to mean repurposing buildings that once housed factories and shipping depots as bars and boutiques. Abandoned warehouses are now trendy restaurants; a former radiator factory is an artisanal coffee shop. In other words, in a place where a manufacturing plant once employed hundreds of skilled workers at union wages, a handful of part-timers are now serving tapas at minimum wage plus tips.

Of course the thing about looking at any individual unemployed person is that you can always find something they can do to get a job, even more so when you don’t care what job they get. However, doing so for all of them is impossible in a situation where there are more unemployed than there are job offers.

A rising tide lifts all boats — not!

John Emerson on why Thomas Piketty “strikes at the heart of liberal Democrats’ first principle of political economy”:

Piketty’s “r>g” formula denies specifically this point. And not only did he disprove the liberal economists’ fundamental principle, he did it using the tools of liberal economics. For forty years or so American workers’ incomes have been stagnant or declining, and as the years have gone by this tendency has intensified. But there has been no theoretical explanation for these very evident facts, and without a theoretical explanation liberal economists felt that their hands were tied; these were things that everybody knew, but no one knew it in a proper scientific way.

IDF looting

So when the IDF went searching the West Bank for the three Israeli teenages it already knew were dead, it managed to steal at least $3 million from the homes and businesses it searched:

Ramallah- During the course of Israel’s three-week campaign of mass arrests in the West Bank, ostensibly to search for the killers of three settlers, the Israeli military and police conducted an average of 18 raids per day into Palestinian homes, charities and businesses, stealing cash and property worth an estimated $3 million, documents a new report from the Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights.

The full report (PDF).

“Why the world hate Israel?” the soldier whispered.

An Israeli soldier asks Paul Mason why the world hates Israel.

It was the second conversation of the day along the same lines: the guy who issued my press pass made the same points to me as the soldier: that “we don’t target civilians” and that Hamas’ infrastructure hides within civilian homes, hospitals etc.

To anybody who’s been anywhere near a military staff college, or an international law course, there is an obvious missing point in these justifications: soldiers, and their commanders, also have a duty to take precautions against killing civilians.

Not taking those precautions can be just as criminal as getting a rocket and firing it indiscriminately towards civilian areas as Hamas is doing.

In previous conflicts, even during Operation Cast Lead only six years ago, Israel was largely able to control the media picture of their warwaging, with arguments like those cited above. Even with bloggers and other new media channels hostile to their intepretation, the public still had to seek out those. Now though, with Twitter and less so, Facebook, the real facts of the war get shoved in your face and Israeli propaganda can’t compete with pictures of children killed by IDF strikes and can no longer control what’s being told about the war:

Reporting goes through an editing process; things that don’t conform to editorial policy can be weeded out; facts have to be cross-checked with other facts and claims. The reporting team itself – producer, reporter, camera crew, translator for TV – form an initial filter. But in Gaza, there is no filter; plus you are now getting camera crews and off-screen TV journalists tweeting. On newspapers, several different reporters will be tweeting, rather than it all going into the editorial machine and coming out as one thing.

But what I wonder how much it does matter that so many more ordinary people get to know something of the truth of Israel’s warcrimes when our own elites and the media are still reflexivily pro-Israel. We’ve seen what happened with the War on Iraq, where the public was opposed but they were in favour of the war.

Sweden’s School Choice Disaster

So it turns out that the good results of the Swedish school voucher system of “free” school choice, long the benchmark for all sorts of rightwing busybodies wanting to disrupt public schooling were created by, well, cheating:

It’s the darker side of competition that Milton Friedman and his free-market disciples tend to downplay: If parents value high test scores, you can compete for voucher dollars by hiring better teachers and providing a better education—or by going easy in grading national tests. Competition was also meant to discipline government schools by forcing them to up their game to maintain their enrollments, but it may have instead led to a race to the bottom as they too started grading generously to keep their students.

Hands up anybody who didn’t see this coming? Thought so.

Absolutely disgusting

Not content with destroying the economy and the social safety nets, the ConDem coalition is also threatening those who are exposing the effects of their policies:

The chair of the Trussell Trust has said that the charity made a decision to tone down its criticisms of the benefit system after someone in power warned them that they could get shut down.

Chris Mould, chair of the Trussell Trust, was giving evidence to the Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector yesterday when he said that the charity, which aims to tackle poverty, had been criticised by the government for raising awareness of the need for food banks.

He said that he had seen several examples of how “people in power do pretty inappropriate things at times to try and curb and curtail independence of a voluntary organisation when it proves to be inconvenient to them”.

Mould, who made it clear that the charity was not a campaigning organisation, told the panel that most of these examples had arisen in private conversations with those in power.

“Nice charity you have there. Shame if something happened to it.”

“The Fanciest Genderqueer You’ll Ever Meet”

H. Kapp-Klote writes about their coming out as genderqueer to themself and talks about the hostility to genderqueer in LGBT circles and some of its potential causes:

This is part of a narrative of queerness as linked exclusively to oppression. The popular narrative of both sexual and gender nonconformity is based on norms of rigid, compulsive sacrifice: “born this way,” “I can’t change,” or “trapped in the closet.” Even as we celebrate gender and sexual diversity, we demand proof that deviation is compulsive, uncontrollable, and that one has suffered innumerable tribulations as consequence. The monolith of gay culture creates an understanding of gender identity as linked to personal pain. You can’t use weird pronouns unless you’ve shown how you’ve suffered for them (our Puritan roots are showing.) Without that conditional of coercive queerness, genderqueer people don’t have a right to take up space.

Nothing to see here. Move along

A week later she got back to me and said do you really want all of these deaths? I said I do. She told me I would be charged for each record. Then she asked me did I realize the enormity of the numbers of deaths there?”

The registrar came back with a list of 796 children. “I could not believe it. I was dumbfounded and deeply upset,” says Corless. “There and then I said this isn’t right. There’s nothing on the ground there to mark the grave, there’s nothing to say it’s a massive children’s graveyard. It’s laid abandoned like that since it was closed in 1961.”

It had long been known children had died in the Mother and Baby home for “fallen women” in Tuam Galway, but it was not until local historian Catherine Corless started investigating that it became clear that between 1925 and 1961, 800 children were buried in a mass grave on the site, possibly inside a septic tank.

The Mother and Baby homes, mostly as here run by Catholic organisations, were infamous and feared, intended more to punish women who had babies born out of wedlock, as well as their children, than support them, as is clear in the story of one Irish woman at another such institute, whose baby died shortly after being born and who wasn’t allowed to even attend his burial:

It was through two nuns squabbling that Mary had learned that a dirty needle had been used on her during her labour at Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork.

It took another 31 years and a visit to Bessborough however before the Sacred Heart nuns admitted to Mary that her baby boy had died of septicaemia.

As Conall Ó Fátharta lays out in The Irish Examiner none of this is news, but neither the church nor the state wants to know about it:

The fact is that infants are buried on the grounds of mother-and-baby homes all around the country. Adopted people and natural parents gather for dignified memorial services at ‘angel plots’ in places such as Bessborough in Cork, Castlepollard in Westmeath, and Sean Ross Abbey in Tipperary every year.

Nobody cared in government then.

Nobody in Government cared when 219 unmarked graves of children from the Bethany Homes in Mount Jerome were found.

Mother-and-baby homes were excluded from the Redress Scheme in 2005 as there was “no evidence of systematic or widespread abuse of children in those institutions”.

This is not a new attitude. When in 1946 Boys Town founder Father Edward Flanagan (who you may know from the Spencer Tracey movie about his life) toured Ireland, found out and spoke out against these abuses, he was attacked for it:

Speaking to a large audience at a public lecture in Cork’s Savoy Cinema he said, “You are the people who permit your children and the children of your communities to go into these institutions of punishment. You can do something about it.” He called Ireland’s penal institutions “a disgrace to the nation,” and later said “I do not believe that a child can be reformed by lock and key and bars, or that fear can ever develop a child’s character.”

However, his words fell on stony ground. He wasn’t simply ignored. He was taken to pieces by the Irish establishment. The then-Minister for Justice Gerald Boland said in the Dáil that he was “not disposed to take any notice of what Monsignor Flanagan said while he was in this country, because his statements were so exaggerated that I did not think people would attach any importance to them.”

For an extensive historical overview of the Tuam children’s home, librarian and historian Liam Hogan has put together a timeline with historical documents.

In an initial reaction the Irish police, gardaí, has said that the Tuam burials are just remains of the Famine, nothing sinister.

Meanwhile Amnesty International has called for a full and urgent investigation:

“The Irish Government must not view this and other cases as merely historic and beyond its human rights obligations,” said John Dalhuisen.

The international human rights framework of law emerged during the period in which these children lived and died. If the home closed in 1961, it is possible that some of the deaths occurred at a time when the European Convention on Human Rights was in force. Even before then, Ireland was aware of the internationally agreed norms expected of it in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As Emer O’Toole’s editorial in the Guardian and the comments on it show, there’s a lot of anger and disbelief at these revelations, as well as a desire to know the truth:

Do not say Catholic prayers over these dead children. Don’t insult those who were in life despised and abused by you. Instead, tell us where the rest of the bodies are. There were homes throughout Ireland, outrageous child mortality rates in each. Were the Tuam Bon Secours sisters an anomalous, rebellious sect? Or were church practices much the same the country over? If so, how many died in each of these homes? What are their names? Where are their graves? We don’t need more platitudinous damage control, but the truth about our history.