What’s really wrong about Dom’s lockdown trip

Fintan O’Toole nails it:

So why does his odyssey during lockdown produce a whole different kind of emotion? Because it reaches into the innermost experiences of millions of people. It cuts right through to the pain of a loved one dying alone, of grandchildren growing distant, of precious human bonds being forcibly severed. It grabs hold of that torment and it squeezes the meaning out of it.

We endure these things individually because we understand ourselves to be also enduring them collectively. Cummings’ actions – and, even more, Johnson’s valorisation of them – strip away the second part. The big, communal and institutional structure that gives a value to the millions of individual sacrifices has been kicked away – in Johnson’s defence of Cummings, the only value is the individual “instinct” of the members of the ruling caste. To use the Blitz analogy that England apparently cannot escape, it’s fine to leave your lights on during the blackout if you’re an important person with documents to read.


It’s Working

Forty days into the national epidemic and the word from Prof Nolan, who chairs the large group of mathematicians modelling the course of the disease, is mixed.

Yes, the impact of the very disruptive restrictions embraced by the public has been profound, but no, we are not there yet – the rate the virus is spreading has been cut by three-quarters, but it needs to be driven down even further.

For that, Prof Nolan of Maynooth University said, very strong social distancing measures were going to be needed for a very long period of time.

According to the mathematicians, Ireland was originally headed for a peak of 100,000 Covid-19 infections per day.

Now thanks to the actions of citizens, confirmed infections are running at just 500 per day and an enormous amount of sickness and death has so far been prevented.


“100,000 per day”, that’s one scary model.

Brexit: At last the 2016 Show.

After three and a bit years of watching the UK take a nation-sized gap year finding yourself experience, finally, some sort of conclusion to Brexit. Or at least, a definitive that can be pointed at. Obviously, there’s the negotiations to start on the ‘future relationship’ as it’s being termed. And no country is an island, metaphorically speaking, even if it is an actual island.

At 11pm on 31st January (almost two hours ago as I write), the UK officially left the EU. Which means we finally have an answer about why they got into Europe in the first place. To get out again. Or maybe they were never in, and the last 47 years were just a very long drawn out argument about it. Like when you go somewhere and bring your mates, only to realise one of them hates the place and the other two just want a quiet life and keep dropping hints about getting home early because they can’t stand the moaning, so eventually you decide to leave, which is a relief because at least everyone might shut up about it.

But they won’t, will they? There’s no real escape from Brexit, it’s going to rumble on, affecting our lives, travel, trade, jobs, futures. I don’t even live there, just nearby. Close enough to feel the consequences though, and that’s the real reason I can’t just switch it off.

Gloriously alone at last, they say in parts of the UK. If only. No, we’re not going to hear the end of this one for a while yet I’m afraid.

Breakfast Brexit

Made in Ireland, eaten in England.

The butter dish caused me to consider Brexit over my ‘full English’ in Blackpool. Given Lakeland Dairies location in Cavan, it almost definitely contains milk from both sides of the border, so this butter probably travelled more than I did to get to this table. All made easier by the EU. What’s going to happen next? Nobody knows, but it doesn’t look good to me:

The state can no longer undertake the radical planning and intervention that might make Brexit work. That would require not only an expert state, but one closely aligned with business. The preparations would by now be very visible at both technical and political levels. But we have none of that. Instead we have the suggestion that nothing much will happen on no deal, that mini-deals will appear. The real hope of the Brexiters is surely that the EU will cave and carry on trading with the UK as if nothing had changed. Brexit is a promise without a plan. But in the real world Brexit does mean Brexit, and no deal means no deal.


How will that butter get to that table in the future of Brexited Britain? Maybe it’ll just take longer, and cost more. Maybe it won’t appear at all, instead travelling to French tables, or German. Worse could happen, the dairy could go out of business. Farmers could lose livelihoods, nobody really knows yet.

Anyway, that’s the future. At the moment, there’s still butter for breakfast.

Catholic Adoption

In the news, more adoption issues in a case that further illustrates the attitudes and social mores of catholic Ireland as detailed in The God Squad. The fudged adoption papers, un-vetted placement, obfuscation and misdirection of the supposed Sisters of Charity is sadly unsurprising yet still awful to read:

His client became pregnant shortly before her 21st birthday. It was then arranged for her to travel to Ireland, for work experience and she ended up at a house in Clontarf in Dublin through the St Patrick’s Guild, which was run by the Sisters of Charity Nuns.

Counsel said she gave birth to a boy on 13 March 1961 at the Marie Clinic in Clontarf.

She was “sternly warned”, not to touch the newborn as it would be “bad for the child”, who was to be put up for adoption.

However she defied this warning, counsel said, and baptised him with holy water she had in the home in the hope that someday she would find him.

Shortly afterwards she was taken away and signed various forms consenting to the adoption. Counsel said the form was “false”.

Counsel said the documents she signed were legal nullities and had none of the normal safeguards required.

In addition, counsel said the contents of the form about the mother’s details were fudged and lacking in detail.

Counsel said that over the years his client, following her marriage and the birth of her other children, made visits to Ireland in attempts to get information about her son without much success.

She was brushed off by the nuns she dealt with at the Guild, it was said, and a person who worked at the place where she gave birth to her son suggested the boy was among those infants who went to the USA.


The Chain of Destruction

I’ve just finished the excellent documentary “The House I Live In” (thanks to D for recommending). It’s a fascinating look at the consequences of the so-called ‘War on Drugs’, which is really just a proxy war against an entire class of humanity with no end in sight. It’s created a criminal problem from a public health issue and applied policing solutions to it, the wrong answer to the wrong question.

Near the end of the documentary, this particular piece caught my attention. I think it summarises well just how something like this can happen and continue to happen in a society. It also speaks to a wider issue – the marginalisation of certain out groups and how that identification process can lead down a dark road.

“My father was a war crimes investigator in Europe after World War Two, and we often talked about his experiences. I was reading the work of Raul Hillerg who wrote about the destruction of European Jews in the Holocaust. I realised that there was a chain of destruction, that what he was talking about could be expressed as links in a chain.

Around the world in more than one society, people do the same things, again and again, decade after decade, century after century.

Now this chain of destruction begins with the phase we can call Identification, in which a group of people is identified as a cause for the problems in society. People start to perceive their fellow citizens as bad, they’re evil. they used to be worthwhile people, but now all of a sudden for some reason their lives are worthless.

The second link in the chain of destruction is ostracism, by which we learn to how hate these people, how to take their jobs away, how to make it harder for them to survive. People lose their place to live, often they are forced into ghettos where they are physically isolated, separate from the rest of society.

The third link is confiscation. People lose their rights, civil liberties. The laws themselves change so it’s made easier for people to be stopped on the street, padded down and searched, and for their property to be confiscated. Now, once you start taking peoples property away, you can start taking the people themselves away.

And the fourth link is concentration. Concentrate them into facilities such as prisons camps. People lose their rights, they can’t vote anymore, or have children anymore. Often their labour is exploited in a very systematic form.

And the final link in the chain is annihilation. Now this might be indirect, by say withholding medical care, withholding food, preventing further birth. Or it might be direct, where death is inflicted or people are deliberately killed.

These steps tend to happen of their own momentum, without anybody forcing them to happen.

I think a lot of people would be disturbed and outraged by the thought that any part of this process could be going on in America. But it wasn’t until I began studying the drug war that I realised some of these same steps were happening.


It’s important to remember or realise, it isn’t that the war on drug users is the same as what happened in other societies, but that both are a wars on ordinary people, people who are just like us.”

— Richard Miller

These five links – Identification, Ostracism, Confiscation, Concentration and Annihilation – are important to recognise. Look around you. Who has been identified as an other? Any marginalised group that can be identified by some apparent or manufactured identity is on the first link of that chain. Once fear has been generated, people on the edges begin to scramble away from the target group lest they too be lumped in with the new ‘enemy’. The power is with the identifiers, not the identified. People tend to want a quiet life, most people have enough to do day to day without getting involved in political action, so they either undertake a form of ‘working towards the Fuhrer‘ as Ian Kershaw termed it, or at best simply keep their heads down lest they become one of ‘those people’ by association.

Nothing ever starts with the last link in the chain, and the time to stop it is at the first link.

Borders & Bad Old Days

Interesting article over on the New European ( “Don’t send Ireland back to division” ), exploring the implications for Ireland, particularly highlighting the impact it will have on the Good Friday agreement. The UK Government is giving all the appearances of wilfully ignoring the issues. There’s a lot of idealism amongst the ‘Brexiteers’, it seems to be politically incorrect to question Brexit inside the Government.

Sometimes we only realise the true value of normality when we lose it. We take for granted easy trade and everyday decisions about where to live or work. It is absolutely vital that every effort is made not to lose the precious normality that has grown up because of the Good Friday Agreement. The UK Government will not want to undermine or threaten the agreement but there is a real danger of complacency over its future. We will have to work very hard to preserve its enormous gains and not go back to a situation that puts barriers in place, increases insecurity and rewinds the clock on progress.

Yonatan Zunger – What things going wrong can look like

In Trumpistan, Yonatan Zunger had a guess at how things might play out (https://medium.com/@yonatanzunger/what-things-going-wrong-can-look-like-400f84a0cc3a#.yyni3tha1):

On a recent post I made about how President Trump marked Holocaust Remembrance Day, one of my readers asked a good, but hard, question: Why did this regime single out some particular groups (e.g., Muslims, Latinos, Black, and Trans people) as their main targets, and not others?
The post which sparked this.

I tried to answer his question, and while what I wrote is necessarily incomplete, I think it at least gives some directions. That led to adding some notes about how things are likely to develop over the next few years for each of the respective groups.

I decided to repost this here, but I want to give you fair warning right now: This is not going to be a pretty thing to read. It will not have any reassurances in it. If you’re looking for an argument that we’ve been exaggerating the threat and everything is going to be alright, or that Trumpism is really great after all, stop reading now: you are in the wrong place. Go look at some cute animals instead.

No, it’s not pretty, but provides some solid food for thought.

Actual Planning with Data

A sensible statement about health planning for once. Imagine using actual data to plan capacity:

Ireland needs to use demographic information for the provision of long-term health strategies in the same as the country plans for education, Minister for Health Simon Harris has said.

Mr Harris accepted he had to deal with day to day issues in the health service but said he believed it was important to take a more long-term view to tackle recurring problems.

“If you look at what we have done with education over the last few decades, we now know from a demographic point of view there will be this number of school children next year requiring a school place and we provide an adequate number of teachers, school places and school buildings.”

“I don’t honestly believe over the last decade or two, successive governments have done that same level of detailed demographic analysis – this year in Ireland there will be 34,000 more people – there will be 3,000 more people over the age of 85 and 20,000 to30,000 more people over the age of 65.”

“We know as we get older we are more likely to rely on our health service and we also know we are more likely to have multiple health issues. Yet that analysis has not been mapped out in terms of the delivery of health services.

Source: Use demographic data to plan health services, says Harris