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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Brexit: The Morning After



                                        Supporters of Brexit in London on Friday.


Well, that was pretty awesome – and I mean that in the worst way. A number of people deserve vast condemnation here, from David Cameron, who may go down in history as the man who risked wrecking Europe and his own nation for the sake of a momentary political advantage, to the seriously evil editors of Britain’s tabloids, who fed the public a steady diet of lies.
That said, I’m finding myself less horrified by Brexit than one might have expected – in fact, less than I myself expected. The economic consequences will be bad, but not, I’d argue, as bad as many are claiming. The political consequences might be much more dire; but many of the bad things I fear would probably have happened even if Remain had won.
Start with the economics.

Yes, Brexit will make Britain poorer. It’s hard to put a number on the trade effects of leaving the EU, but it will be substantial. True, normal WTO tariffs (the tariffs members of the World Trade Organization, like Britain, the US, and the EU levy on each others’ exports) are low and other traditional restraints on trade relatively mild. But everything we’ve seen in both Europe and North America suggests that the assurance of market access has a big effect in encouraging long-term investments aimed at selling across borders; revoking that assurance will, over time, erode trade even if there isn’t any kind of trade war. And Britain will become less productive as a result.

But right now all the talk is about financial repercussions – plunging markets, recession in Britain and maybe around the world, and so on. I still don’t see it.
It’s true that the pound has fallen by a lot compared with normal daily fluctuations. But for those of us who cut our teeth on emerging-market crises, the fall isn’t that big – in fact, it’s not that big compared with British historical episodes. The pound fell by a third during the 70s crisis; it fell by a quarter during Britain’s exit from the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992; it’s down about 8 percent as I write this.

Here, from Bloomberg, is the pound-euro rate over the past 5 years. This is not a world-class shock:

Furthermore, Britain is a nation that borrows in its own currency, not subject to a classic balance-sheet crisis due to currency devaluation – that is, it’s not like Argentina, where the fall in the peso wreaked havoc with firms and consumers who had borrowed in dollars. If you were worried that fears about Brexit would cause capital flight and drive up interest rates, well, no sign of that – if anything the opposite. Here, again from Bloomberg, is the interest rate on British 10-year bonds over the past five years:



Now, it’s true that world stock markets are down; so are interest rates around the world, presumably reflecting fears of economic weakness that will force central banks to keep monetary policy very loose. Why these fears?

One answer is that uncertainty might depress investment. We don’t know how the process of Brexit plays out, and I could see CEOs choosing to delay spending until matter clarify.
A bigger issue might be fears of very bad political consequences, both in Europe and within the UK. Which brings me to the politics.

It seems clear that the European project – the whole effort to promote peace and growing political union through economic integration – is in deep, deep trouble. Brexit is probably just the beginning, as populist/separatist/xenophobic movements gain influence across the continent. Add to this the underlying weakness of the European economy, which is a prime candidate for “secular stagnation” – persistent low-grade depression driven by things like demographic decline that deters investment. Lots of people are now very pessimistic about Europe’s future, and I share their worries.

But those worries wouldn’t have gone away even if Remain had won. The big mistakes were the adoption of the euro without careful thought about how a single currency would work without a unified government; the disastrous framing of the euro crisis as a morality play brought on by irresponsible southerners; the establishment of free labor mobility among culturally diverse countries with very different income levels, without careful thought about how that would work. Brexit is mainly a symptom of those problems, and the loss of official credibility that came with them. (That credibility loss is why the euro disaster played a role in Brexit even though Britain itself had the good sense to stay out.)

At the European level, in other words, I would argue that Brexit just brings to a head an abscess that would have burst fairly soon in any case.

Where I think there has been real additional damage done, damage that wouldn’t have happened but for Cameron’s policy malfeasance, is within the UK itself. I am of course not an expert here, but it looks all too likely that the vote will both empower the worst elements in British political life and lead to the breakup of the UK itself. Prime Minister Boris looks a lot more likely than President Donald; but he may find himself Prime Minister of England – full stop.


So calm down about the short-run macroeconomics; grieve for Europe, but you should have been doing that already; worry about Britain.
Paul Krugman

Not weighing up evidence on sentencing


Micheal Gove spoke for many, when, at the height of the Brexit campaign, he declared: “People have had enough of experts.” What, after all, do experts know? Aren’t the issues on which they are allegedly expert really quite simple when you get down to it. Gove was referencing experts in the dismal science of economics, but in an age of populism, experts of all hue are being called into question if they dispute popular opinion.

There was an echo of Gove’s sentiment on The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk this week. Kenny was interviewing Clare Hamilton, a criminologist from Maynooth University, who was talking about sentencing in the criminal courts. Hamilton was referencing research that suggested the use of mandatory minimum sentences did nothing to reduce crime.

Kenny read out a text questioning her approach. “Why is it that intellectuals like your guest use research rather than common sense to deal with these problems? Sometimes, on-the-ground common sense works.” There you have it. Experts who carry inconvenient truths can be easily dismissed because everybody knows convenient untruths are the way to go these days. Just ask Donald Trump.
While the dominance of emotion over reason is spreading at a rate of knots, there is one area where it has always been thus. Crime, and particularly the workings of the criminal justice system, have long been dogged by the notion that everybody knows what’s best — irrespective of the evidence.
This is particularly the case in relation to mandatory minimum sentences (MMS). For nigh-on 20 years, the latest outrage in crime has been met with the response that the only answer is applying mandatory minimum sentences for the particular offence. This, popular opinion would have it, will force the criminal to think twice before going about his business. The criminal will pause and reflect that if he is caught, he won’t get a soft sentence from a stupid or compliant judge. He will no longer have his own way; and consequently, crime will be reduced.

On a human level, the instinct to lash out in retribution in the wake of a violent outrage is entirely understandable. Particularly when somebody is brutally assaulted or murdered in the course of a crime, a sense of rage and impotence compels many to seek a quick solution.

But policy is supposed to be made on the basis of research and evidence which points towards a better way of doing things. Among many politicians — and many elements of the media — research in this area is to be avoided in case it unearths inconvenient truths.
Mandatory minimum sentences were first introduced here in 1999 for drugs offences. Anybody guilty of possession of drugs valued above €13,000 received a mandatory 10-year sentence, with the caveat that a judge could reduce it in special circumstances. In reality, this rendered the sentence “presumptive” rather than “mandatory”, but presumptive does not have a tough ring to it so nobody in politics or the media described it in those terms.

Judges didn’t get with the spirit of the programme. For some, it may have been a matter of ego. Others, however, refused to comply with the spirit of the law simply because it was contrary to natural justice, failing to take into account the circumstances of a particular crime.
Over the years, convictions coming under the MMS legislation attracted the 10-year sentence in less than a quarter of all cases. What did happen is that sentences in general in the drugs area were increased as a result of MMS being there.
For instance, if the circumstances of a crime might ordinarily have determined that it attracted a three-year sentence, judges who declined to impose the mandatory 10 would probably hand down a sentence of around six years.

So sentences increased, prisons filled up, but there was zero impact on the incidence of drug crime.
What the hell, though — it sounded good and that was all that mattered. The popularity of MMS during the Celtic Tiger went through the roof. Gun crime, knife crime, rural crime, property crime — the response to all was to slap on mandatory sentences for offenders.
The mood was best summed up by a headline in the Sunday Independent at the time. “Mandatory minimum sentences are battle cry that will win crime war.” Except it was all rubbish. There is not one scintilla of evidence that MMS reduces crime anywhere. In the US, where the concept was first introduced in the 1980s, many states have been repealing or rowing back on these sentences for 10 years. The reality is that the only outcome from MMS is to fill up prisons with, more often than not, relatively minor offenders. This increase in the prison population numbers had no impact on the incidence of crime. Contrary to popular opinion, the criminal does not factor in the prospect of a mandatory sentence if he is caught.

The Law Reform Commission — a collection of dreaded “experts” — reported on this in 2013, recommending the mandatory sentencing regime “that applies to certain drugs and firearms offences should be repealed and should not be extended to any other offences”. Far from being an effective tool against crime, the regime had merely led to an “increase in the prison system comprising low-level drugs offenders”.
That should have been the end of the argument. But the MMS brand is so potent for some politicians that they couldn’t help themselves.

In the recent election, Fianna Fáil was back beating the drum, promising “legislation for mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of burglary offences”. Renua, God bless their cotton socks, went one better with a “mandatory three-strike sentencing and life would mean life for criminals”. This is based on the Californian model of a sentence of life without parole for anybody convicted of three offences, irrespective of how minor. Somebody forgot to tell the people in Renua that California is repealing that law because it has been such a disaster.
The Programme for Government has also made provision for MMS, this time for robbery with violence in the home.

Anybody pointing out that these policies have nothing to do with tackling crime or its causes is accused of being soft. In such a milieu, research is regarded as the enemy. It is notable that through the years of screaming that mandatory sentences were the answer, not one party did any proper research on the issue.
Instead, emotion was the compass. If it feels right, do it. If the choice is to satisfy entirely understandable emotion rather than formulate policy to tackle crime, then go with the former. In a world where inconvenient truths are a hassle, then opt immediately for convenient untruths.

So it goes with politics and the criminal justice system. So it’s going with much else in politics these days.  
Michael Clifford

Brexit fantasy is about to come crashing down


Did you ever see a slightly drunk man trying that trick with the tablecloth? He thinks he can whip the cloth off the table with a fast, clean snap, but leave all the crockery perfectly intact. He gives a sharp tug and stands back with a triumphant flourish as the plates and glasses come flying to the ground and shatter all around him.

That’s what Brexit is like. Those who have driven it have successfully pulled the cloth off the table – the underlying fabric of modern Britain has been whipped away with a shocking suddenness.
They stand in triumph, sure that they have pulled off the trick of removing a whole layer of political reality without disturbing all the family tableware. They have yet to notice that so much that was on the table is now at their feet, broken, perhaps irreparably.
Brexit has achieved the breathtaking feat of causing deep cracks in four different polities at a single stroke.

One of them, most obviously, is the European Union. For the first time in its history, the EU’s engine has gone decisively into reverse. At the simplest level, it has been a process of relentless expansion – no large entity in modern history has grown so rapidly since the United States in the 19th century.

And now the steady advance has become a full-blown retreat. The whole psychology of the European project has been turned on its head – instead of ever-widening frontiers, the EU now has to think about how to prevent a retreat from becoming a rout.
The rout that must be feared is a disorderly overthrow of liberal European values. When Nigel Farage speaks, as he did in his moment of triumph early yesterday, of victory for “the real people, the decent people”, the undertone is that nearly half of the UK’s voters are neither real nor decent.
England has not had the time, nor made the effort, to develop an inclusive, civic, progressive nationalism. It is left with a nationalism that is scarcely articulated in positive terms at all and that thus plugs into the darker energies of resentment and xenophobia.
But this is not just an English disease. Brexit is a huge boost to the European far right.

Racism and chauvinism
The questions that flow from it are not just about whether the Netherlands or France or Denmark might follow where England has led. It is about whether the blowback from failed austerity, the hubris of the euro project and the relentless rise of inequality will provide a fair wind for racism and chauvinism.
The EU already has two member states – Poland and Hungary – that have moved towards authoritarian nationalism and away from liberal democracy. The success of the English nationalist revolution (and that is what Brexit is) will further energise those forces throughout the union.

This will please some of the Brexiters, of course – at least until the more moderate of them realise that they are, after all, Europeans and that the fate of Europe is their fate, too. But they surely cannot be so complacent about the other three polities they have managed to crack.
One of them is the UK. A second Scottish independence referendum is inevitable – and this time the pro-independence side will have the enormous advantage of putting forward a conservative proposition that has overwhelming popular support: keep Scotland in the EU.

The utter refusal of the pro-Brexit campaigners, almost of all of whom would claim to venerate the union, to take the break-up of the UK seriously suggests that deep down, they really don’t care that much about it.
English self-assertion has trumped UK preservation. The consequences will play out over the next decade: the chances are that by the 10th anniversary of what the victors are hailing as Independence Day, it will be English independence that is explicitly celebrated.

And this has deeply unsettling implications for the third cracked polity, Northern Ireland. A few pro-Remain voices, such as Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady, tried in the referendum debates to make a gentle plea to voters to think about Ireland and the Belfast Agreement. They went unheard.
English nationalists, it turns out, wouldn’t give the froth off a pint of real ale for the Irish peace process. They have recklessly imposed an EU land border between Newry and Dundalk, between Letterkenny and Derry.
What grounds are there to believe that when they come to power in their own little England, they will care about (or pay for) a province they clearly regard as a closer, wetter Gibraltar, an irrelevant appendage of the motherland.
It beggars belief that the Democratic Unionist Party made common cause with a movement whose logical outcome is the end of the union.

The last piece of the tableware that must now be badly fissured is the least expected: England itself. The English seem to have been utterly unprepared for how deeply divided they are, how bitter and angry the Brexit debate would be, how political assassination would return to the streets of England.
David Cameron, in one of British history’s greatest miscalculations, thought of the referendum as the lancing of a boil. The bubble of nastiness that had built up in the Tory party over decades would be burst once and for all by the cold prick of economic realities. Instead though, the referendum merely revealed how deeply the English body politic is infected with rancour and distrust.

Distrust
That distrust extends far beyond the dominant political class – to church and trade union and business leaders and to the whole idea of objective expertise. Every time a Remain campaigner said the word “experts”, another Leave voter was born.
And this raises a huge question: where is the source of authority in the brave new England? Many of the most prominent Leave campaigners are naked chancers. They made stuff up with gay abandon, but when they come to power in the autumn, they will be the establishment they have told everybody not to believe.
Prime minister-in-waiting Boris Johnson is merely the winner of a Winston Churchill impersonation contest.

He has a streak of Churchill’s brilliant opportunism and reckless charm, but he does not have behind him the national consensus that an existential struggle created behind Churchill and he is, in everything but girth, a lightweight.
It is not even clear that the Brexit coalition can itself hold together in any meaningful way. It is, after all, a weird conjunction. Brexit is not so much a peasants’ revolt as a deeply strange peasants’ – and – landlords’ revolt.
It is a Downton Abbey fantasy of toffs and servants all mucking in together. But when the toffs, as the slogan goes, “take back control”, the underlings will quickly discover that a fantasy is exactly what it is.

The disaffected working- class voter in Sunderland, rightly angry about being economically marginalised and politically disenfranchised, will wait in vain for the magical billions that are supposedly going to be repatriated from Brussels to drop from the clear blue skies of a free England.
There is, of course, a tried and trusted way to hold this kind of rickety social coalition together. It is to turn up the volume on nationalism and xenophobia, to deflect the inevitable disappointment anger on to Them.

The English nationalists have just lost their favourite scapegoat, the EU. When their dream turns sour, where will they find another?  
Fintan O Toole

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest- you decide

Nathan Bedford Forest 
(1821-1877)
Years of Military service
1861–1865
American Civil War
Rank: Lieutenant General
3rd Tennessee Cavalry
Forrest's Cavalry Brigade



He is remembered as a self-educated, brutal, and innovative cavalry leader during the American civil War and as a leading Southern advocate in the postwar years. Although less educated than many of his fellow officers, before the war, Forrest had already amassed a fortune as a planter, real estate investor, and slave trader. He was one of the few officers in either army to enlist as a private and be promoted to general officer and corps commander during the war. Although Forrest lacked formal military education, he had a gift for leadership, strategy and tactics. He created and established new doctrines for mobile forces, earning the nickname The Wizard of the Saddle.


Forrest was accused of war crimes at the Battle of Fort Pillow for allowing forces under his command to massacre hundreds of black Union Army and white Southern prisoners. Union Major General William T Sherman  investigated the allegations and did not charge Forrest with any improprieties.

The facts, as little that can be found, suggest otherwise. In many ways he was more racist than George Wallace and as hypocritical, and cloaked himself with a veneer of legality that covered up many of his war crimes and murder itself. He was also the first Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Clan before resigning completely from this organisation. 

That said, he was ahead of his time militarily and perhaps showed, rather than George Wallace 107 years later, a more benevolent and understanding world view of the post war confederacy. I suspect that his speech below was meant from the heart for he had little to gain by making it, and because of it, alienated many within and outside the former confederacy at that time and for all time. You decide yourself.

Barry Clifford


Speaks to Black Southerners (July 1875)

“Ladies and Gentlemen I accept the flowers as a memento of reconciliation between the white and colored races of the southern states. I accept it more particularly as it comes from a colored lady, for if there is any one on God's earth who loves the ladies I believe it is myself (Immense applause and laughter). This day is a day that is proud to me, having occupied the position that I did for the past twelve years, and been misunderstood by your race. This is the first opportunity I have had during that time to say that I am your friend. I am here a representative of the southern people, one more slandered and maligned than any man in the nation.

I will say to you and to the colored race that men who bore arms and followed the flag of the Confederacy are, with very few exceptions, your friends. I have an opportunity of saying what I have always felt – that I am your friend, for my interests are your interests, and your interests are my interests. We were born on the same soil, breathe the same air, and live in the same land. Why, then, can we not live as brothers? I will say that when the war broke out I felt it my duty to stand by my people. When the time came I did the best I could, and I don't believe I flickered. I came here with the jeers of some white people, who think that I am doing wrong. I believe that I can exert some influence, and do much to assist the people in strengthening fraternal relations, and shall do all in my power to bring about peace. It has always been my motto to elevate every man- to depress none (Applause). I want to elevate you to take positions in law offices, in stores, on farms, and wherever you are capable of going.

I have not said anything about politics today. I don't propose to say anything about politics. You have a right to elect whom you please; vote for the man you think best, and I think, when that is done, that you and I are freemen. Do as you consider right and honest in electing men for office. I did not come here to make you a long speech, although invited to do so by you. I am not much of a speaker, and my business prevented me from preparing myself. I came to meet you as friends, and welcome you to the white people. I want you to come nearer to us. When I can serve you I will do so. We have but one flag, one country; let us stand together. We may differ in color, but not in sentiment. Use your best judgement in selecting men for office and vote as you think right.

Many things have been said about me which are wrong, and which white and black persons here, who stood by me through the war, can contradict. I have been in the heat of battle when colored men, asked me to protect them. I have placed myself between them and the bullets of my men, and told them they should be kept unharmed. Go to work, be industrious, live honestly and act truly, and when you are oppressed I'll come to your relief. I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for this opportunity you have afforded me to be with you, and to assure you that I am with you in heart and in hand." (Prolonged applause)   
Nathan Bedford Forest  

In response to that Pole-Bearers speech, the Cavalry Association of Augusta, the first Conferderate organization formed after the war, called a meeting in which Captain F. Edgeworth Eve gave a speech expressing unmitigated disapproval of Forrest's remarks promoting inter-ethnic harmony, by ridiculing his faculties and judgement and berating the woman who gifted Forrest flowers as "a mulatto wench". 

The association voted unanimously to amend its constitution to expressly forbid publicly advocating for or hinting at any association of white women and girls as being in the same classes as "females of the negro race”. The Macon Weekly newspaper also condemned Forrest for his speech, describing the event as "the recent disgusting exhibition of himself at the negro jamboree," and quoting part of a Charlotte, North Carolina article which read "We have infinitely more respect for Longstreet who fraternizes with negro men on public occasions, with the pay for the treason to his race in his pocket, than with Forrest and Pillow, who equalize with the negro women, with only 'futures' in payment."




Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Waste not: four days without binning food


It’s the bank holiday. I’m only starting. These wrinkly apples don’t really count. I rehearse all these reasons to no one in particular as I drop the apples into the compost. It’s something I do typically without a second thought, but not this week.
For four days I want to see what it takes to live without binning any food. So I think some second thoughts: how the bees pollinated the flowers on the apple trees, the sun ripened them, how people picked and sorted them; how much energy it took to keep the apples fresh for months, to ship them to the stall where I bought them. All that insect, plant and human effort finishes with the dead end that is me, the consumer who bins the hard-won food.

Guilt on a plate. I fish the apples out, rinse them, slice them into chunks and cook them with maple syrup and cinnamon. Goodbye food waste. Hello stewed apple for breakfast.
We could argue that food waste is freedom from scarcity. Frugality is a throwback to harder times when food was kept in small pantries and the next mouthful wasn’t always a given. Most of us have happily left behind the hard graft of growing and guarding our own food. It has freed humans, many of us women, to do more satisfying things.

Most of us have better things to worry about than a couple of wrinkly apples. We take the abundance for granted. How else could we stomach throwing out a third of the food we buy, the average amount of food waste per household?
But abundance comes with a high price. Three years ago the UN estimated that our wasteful global food system is the third-highest source of greenhouse gas emissions after the US and China. The 1.6 billion tonnes of food wasted every year soaks up enough water to fill lake Geneva three times over. Our diets are also suffering. In our house we don’t bin the Haribo or the Pringles. We are binning the fresh foods we should be eating more of. So how hard is it to stop?

Day One This meal is a show-stopper. After a swim in Seapoint we head to Bullock Harbour and buy a live lobster. “It’s not called Mr Pinchy. It’s called dinner,” I warn a sentimental child. On the way home we buy crab, carrots with tops and a large head of savoy cabbage.
My husband makes a vat of coleslaw with home-made mayonnaise and enough crab salad to feed a much larger family. The byproduct of the mayonnaise are three egg whites in the fridge that need using.
The day ends with the smell of cooking as lobster shell simmers on the hob with the carrot tops and an assortment of vintage vegetables. We’ve kept the carrot peelings in a bowl. I feel certain there’s a deep green corner of the internet that will suggest a use for them.

Day Two The porridge quantities are gauged with much more care and the pot is scraped near-clean. A trip to IKEA  does not end with meatballs because I know there is food in the fridge that needs eating. It turns out that one whole egg is all you need to turn three egg whites into pale but passable scrambled eggs.
There is some leftover pasta and sausages fried on a pan and served alongside the anaemic eggs. Not all of it is eaten. I accept defeat.
When the reheated leftovers are leftover it’s time to throw in the towel. My lunch is pale scrambled egg and coleslaw. I’ve had worse. Dinner is butternut squash risotto made with the lobster stock. The carrot peelings are drying out in their bowl on the counter. Recipe website thekitchn.com suggests making crisps, with the promise that I will wish I had a time machine to go back and retrieve all my vegetable peelings to turn them into crisps.
Night falls for a second day with the smell of cooking as the carrot peelings slowly turn crunchy in the oven. They’re fine. But I’ll pass on that time machine.

Day Three A large part of not wasting food is keeping track of what you have, with regular fridge audits, but things get forgotten. That crab salad got pushed to the back and is saved just in time and decanted into a box for lunch. With coleslaw. It is, mercifully, the last of the coleslaw. I’ve found a packet of smoked bacon I’d forgotten about. Spaghetti carbonara for dinner.
Then some timber-hard wholemeal pitta breads are fished out of the bottom of the bread bin. Breadcrumbs are an option but the pittas are so hard I fear for our blender. So instead I snap them into shards, soak them in sweet eggy milk with a half leftover bagel for around an hour then sprinkle it all in sugar and dot the top with butter.
The boys eat it but not with any great enthusiasm. Two half-eaten bowls end up in the fridge.

Day Four Bread pudding instead of toast for breakfast. Then a day away from home and I realise how much hands-on attention needs to be paid to this project. I’m coming back on the train thinking about the tub of rocket wilting in the veg drawer. I should blitz it to pesto with some olive oil and sunflower seeds. Too tired, I eat a bowl of muesli for dinner. Day Five Bread pudding is my new coleslaw. Food waste haters have to enjoy eating something more than once. Warmed with a splash of milk and the last of of the strawberries sliced on top, it feels like more of a treat for breakfast. We’ve ended the five days with a freezer drawer full of stock, an emptier veg drawer and a lighter bin. I’ve thrown out one 300g portion of pasta with sauce and a third of a tub of hummus that time forgot.

There hasn’t been an enormous amount of extra work and I reckon we saved around €30 by eating home-cooked lunches. Low waste week hasn’t made for bad eating (slightly repetitive maybe). Lunch is the rocket pesto over the last of the roasted butternut squash with cheese and kale. Keeping up a near-zero waste regime would be difficult but I’ve learned some new tricks.

“What’s for dinner?” is a daily question in our house. Let’s look in the fridge and figure it out, will be the answer from here on in. Now could someone ask Marie Kondo to write a sequel to her clothes-folding book? The Planet-Changing Magic of Eating Up, anyone?
Catherine Cleary

The notorious Nazi known as "Hitler's favorite commando”

Nazi SS storm trooper Otto "Scarface" Skorzeny and Adolf Hitler.

A notorious Nazi, known as "Hitler's favorite commando” and “the most dangerous man in Europe,” Otto Skorzeny lived a peaceful life in a mansion on a 160-acre farm in County Kildare 14 years after the end of World War 11.
Not an easy man to miss, Skorzeny stood 6 foot 4 inches tall and weighed 250lbs. And he was known as “Scarface” for a reason. He had a long, distinctive scar on his left cheek. Skorzeny achieved 'fame' during the war for rescuing deposed Italian leader Benito Mussolini from an Italian hilltop fortress.
Skorzeny was depicted in the Irish press as the Third Reich's 'Scarlet Pimpernel,' the tone in newspaper articles was one of admiration rather than repulsion.
"He seemed to be admired for his military prowess," according to the BBC report this week.

Skorzeny was an elite soldier and he traveled the world training military and opportunists in guerrilla warfare techniques after the war. He was a businessman and a one-time bodyguard to Eva Peron. In 1957 he was greeted as a celebrity in Ireland and became, for all intents and purposes, a gentleman farmer with a large estate in The Curragh in County Kildare.
According to the BBC report, the British authorities drew the line at Skorzeny entering the United Kingdom and the Irish leaders grew increasingly concerned that he was engaging in “anti-Semitic activities” in Ireland. He was unable to obtain a permanent Irish visa and moved back to Spain, which was still ruled by the fascist Francisco Franco. He lived there until he died from cancer in 1975, aged 67.

Born in Vienna in 1908, Skorzeny joined the Austrian Nazi party in the early 1930s. At the outbreak of the war he was involved in fighting on the Eastern Front, taking part in the German invasions of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union.
By April 1943 he had been made head of German special forces, in charge of a unit of elite SS commandos.

Skorzeny’s unbelievable story is made all the more shocking because the former Nazi SS storm trooper remained unapologetic and showed no remorse for his actions following the war. He was tried for war crimes in 1947 but was acquitted.
He was a pioneer of what is now known as special operations warfare and in the early 1950s he served as an adviser to the Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser, training his army in guerrilla tactics. During this period he also trained Palestinian refugees in these tactics and was the mastermind behind the early terrorist raids into the newly re-established state of Israel. Among his trainees was Yasser Arafat, who later became the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization and for much of the 1960s and 1970s was the world’s most prominent terrorist.

His exploits were followed by the media and Skorzeny and, on the back of this friendly publicity, Skorzeny traveled to Madrid, Spain, where he ran an import-export business. This was believed to be a front for shuttling escaped Nazi war criminals to Argentina.
For many years Skorzeny lived in Argentina and served as a bodyguard to Eva Peron, wife of the Argentine dictator Juan Peron. It is rumored that he had a romantic affair with her.
In July 1957 he traveled to Dublin where he was met with a gala reception by members of Parliament and celebrities. Following his warm welcome he purchased Martinstown House, the 160-acre farm estate in The Curragh, County Kildare.

Kim Bielenberg, a Dublin-based journalist whose own grandfather, Fritz von der Schulenburg, was captured and tortured by Skorzeny due to his involvement in plot to kill Hitler, reflected on his Dublin welcome. He told the BBC, "He was feted by the Dublin social glitterati, including a young politician, Charles Haughty, who was later to become Ireland's most controversial prime minister."
"According to the Evening Press account, 'the ballroom was packed with representatives of various societies, professional men and, of course, several TDs [parliamentary representatives]'.”

Bielenberg believes this warm reception prompted the Nazi war criminal to buy the Kildare estate.
He continued, “He could be seen driving across the Curragh in a white Mercedes and would visit the local post office for groceries.
"Reggie Darling, a local historian, told me he remembered coming across Skorzeny on the Curragh.
"He recalled him as a big man who stood out because of the scar across his face (which was the result of a dueling contest as a student), but that he wasn't particularly friendly and he didn't really mix with local people.”
Skorzeny was allowed temporary visas to stay in Ireland under the proviso that he not travel to Britain.

However, in post-World War II Europe the specter of Nazism and the fear they would once again rise to power caused concern.
Former Irish Minister for Health Noel Browne raised concerns over Skorzeny’s "anti-Semitic activities" in the Dail (Parliament) in 1959.

On another occasion he said, “It is generally understood that this man plays some part (in neo-Nazi activities) and, if so, he should not be allowed to use Ireland for that purpose."
When questioned about his affiliation Skorzeny denied any involvement in Nazi activity. However, upon his death his coffin was draped in the Nazi flag by his cohorts.
He was not the only high-profile Nazi to sojourn in Ireland. Albert Folens and Helmut Clissman also came to Ireland. The 2007 RTE documentary “In Hidden History: Ireland's Nazis” estimates that between 100 and 200 Nazis moved to Ireland. It’s believed that Ireland’s anti-British sentiment led to the war criminals receiving a warmer welcome than they ought to have.

Bielenberg added, "They must have felt reasonably welcome, and were probably left alone, or even feted, as Skorzeny was. I am not sure that the full horror of Nazi atrocities had sunk in in Ireland.


"There also may have been an attitude among certain nationalists that 'my enemy's enemy is my friend'. Irish attitudes to Nazis changed from the 1970s on, as issues such as the Holocaust entered public consciousness."

Cathy Hayes

Over half of victims were told not to tell of sex abuse


A review of children’s files at one of the country’s main sexual abuse assessment units shows that in more than half of all cases, the children had been told not to tell of the abuse.



The research also highlighted some other themes linked to the abuse, with the review showing parental domestic abuse was a factor in 35% of cases, that the alleged perpetrator of the abuse was aged under 20 in 41% of cases, and that the abuse began for children aged between five and 12 in more than half of all cases reviewed. In more than 17% of cases, the abuse began when the child was aged four or under.

The research will form the basis for a presentation by one of the authors at a major conference on disclosure and child sex abuse to be held on Friday in Sligo.
The review of 80 children’s files was conducted by Dr Rosaleen McElvaney and Aisling Costello of Dublin City University and Dr Rhonda Turner of Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children. It shows abuse by another family member was present in 62.5% of cases, while extrafamilial abuse was a feature in 35% of cases.

Almost three quarters of children still confined the secret to a small group even when the abuse was disclosed, with 65% saying they had difficulty in talking about it and 64% stating they felt shame, while 61% said they did not want to upset others. Some 55% said they were told not to tell, while 41% said they thought they might be in trouble if they spoke about it.
There was a huge amount of distress caused by the abuse, and in more than 71% of cases the victim had either tried to stop the abuse or had tried on a previous occasion to tell someone about it.

As for confiding, 41% told a parent and 38% used the support of a teacher or a counsellor.
Dr McElvaney, the programme chair of the doctorate in psychotherapy at the school of nursing and human sciences in DCU, is among the speakers at the conference. She said the data highlighted how more needs to be done to create an atmosphere and environment that encourages children to disclose if they have been abused.
“The State can raise awareness, of the extent of it, how common it is, and what are the behaviours associated with it,” she said.

“At school level and in community groups we need to make sure staff are comfortable and open to the possibility that abuse has occurred. Within families, we need to give children the opportunities to ask them and to create an atmosphere that they will tell if there is something wrong in their lives.”

The research, funded by BASPCAN, the Association for the Study and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, found three ‘typical’ themes were identified as influencing the disclosure process — feeling distressed, opportunity to tell, and fears for self.
Four ‘variant’ themes were identified — concerns for others, being believed, shame/guilt, and peer influence.

Friday’s conference, organised by the Independent Guardian Ad Litem Agency , is called Getting it Right — Responding to Children who Disclose Sexual Abuse and will be chaired by district judge Paul Kelly.
Noel Baker

Mother forced into desperate acts to get special needs assistant




Having a special needs assistant is a huge help to a child with autism spectrum disorder. Picture: Posed by models

A MOTHER describes the painful lengths she went to in order to ensure her eight-year-old boy, who has autism, was allocated a special needs assistant to help him cope with the school day:
“I am ashamed to say that before my son was diagnosed with ASD [autism spectrum disorder], I thought that when parents talked about having to fight for everything, they were exaggerating.

“We are living in a first-world country, in the 21st century, I thought. There are ASD units in schools, there are occupational therapists, there are speech therapists, people are more understanding. Nearly three years after his diagnosis, I am still coming to grips with how stupid and uninformed I was.
“All these services exist, but in such a shockingly sporadic manner that in many cases, children get so few appointments, they are close to useless.
“Having a special needs assistant [SNA] is a huge help to a child with ASD trying to cope with the noise, activity, and organisational demands of a classroom, and during the boom, SNAs were reasonably plentiful in schools.

“In 2010, however, the numbers were capped and despite some increases last year and more promised again for this year, it can still be very difficult to get one.
“A few weeks ago, I kept my son up until 11pm one night, then woke him before 6am and literally dragged him, dazed, on a 4km walk. I fed him glass after glass of water. I put unfamiliar shoes on his feet and gave him the wrong lunch going to school.
“All because a SENO [special education needs officer] was coming to observe him in school that day, and I was terrified she would think he was too well able to manage to be granted access to an SNA.
“All those things might not upset a ‘normal’ child too much, but they have the potential to be very disconcerting to a child on the autistic spectrum.

“I am upset about what I did, but I believe it to be fully justified because I honestly believe my son will not be properly educated, or have a fair chance of becoming a reasonably independent, happy adult, without getting enough help in school.
“I’m far from alone in this. Many, many, parents do the same and more. At the very least, having to spend many hundreds of euro on private reports to secure a public service for a child is simply wrong; but when your child is foundering in school, you do it.

“That was my last-ditch effort to get him an SNA, having been turned down when he was diagnosed with ASD two years ago. I, and all the truly excellent staff who work with him at his mainstream school, believe this is necessary if he’s to fulfil his educational potential, but we were still left with a mountain to climb.
“Over the past year, putting together our application, I’ve spent many hundreds of euro on private occupational therapy and speech therapy reports. We were lucky that we could afford to do so — many parents don’t have the resources to gather this additional expert evidence of their child’s needs.
“The school also had our son assessed by a psychologist from NEPS, the National Educational Psychological Service, which is part of the Department of Education, who clearly stated in a written report that access to an SNA was needed.

“However, this isn’t good enough for another arm of the civil service, the National Council for Special Education [NCSE], who trot out their SENO to make the decision.
“SENOs, the NCSE say, come from a variety of backgrounds including nursing, teaching, and management, but they are employed as administrators. There appears to be no requirement that they have specialist, up-to-date expertise in the educational challenges associated with autism or disability in general.
“Yet he or she holds incredible power. If she says yes, my son gets help and has a decent chance of keeping up with the rest of his class. Refuse the SNA, and he falls further and further behind.
“This entirely ludicrous system allocates SNAs for ‘care needs’. These are obvious when a child is, for example, a wheelchair user who needs help moving around, going to the toilet and so on.
“But SNAs are not given for educational needs — though, as I feel like shouting, ‘it’s a school’, the purpose of which is to educate.

“The fact that a child with ASD usually takes far longer to process information, can’t keep up writing work from the blackboard, doesn’t have the social skills to interact well with classmates, can’t keep track of homework and books, and has many, many more difficulties don’t count.
“There are very few children with ASD who don’t need access to an SNA, so why not just give it to them and cut out this crazy, heart-breaking, terrifying process?

“It makes money for private professionals writing reports, downgrades the work of highly-trained psychologists employed by the Department of Education, and disregards the opinion of experienced, highly competent teachers and principals who are vastly better qualified to make these decisions.
“There’s a good ending here. My son is getting SNA access in September, and I am strongly hoping that it will make a big difference to him. He’ll have one-to- one help with organising his desk and books, for example; he’ll get assistance to do maths using counters and concrete materials because he simply can’t understand abstract concepts well enough, and he’ll hopefully be helped to socialise better with classmates.
“Others aren’t so lucky. It’s a lottery. Some schools are clued up on how to successfully apply for SNAs, and the provision varies dramatically around the country depending on how generous the local SENO is.
“They can just as easily be taken away, which is why I’m writing this article anonymously. I’m terrified of being identified, yet I am extremely angry and frustrated by this ridiculous system.

“I would say to the minister for education: Give SNA access to all children on the autistic spectrum. Give school principals a meaningful amount of discretion in the provision of resources. They are far better equipped to decide which children need help, and much more than a civil servant in an office. And respect the opinions of highly trained professionals such as psychologists.


“Meanwhile, I’m on to the next hurdle. Those occupational and speech therapists I mentioned at the beginning? With an average of one appointment a year in each of those areas from the HSE, I’ll make as many 120-mile round trips for private appointments as I can afford during the summer holidays, when being off school means my son is less tired and better able to cope with the journeys.”
Caroline O’Doherty