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They know their base: FG and the new SBP poll March 25, 2023

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

A new SBP poll out this evening (thanks to Tomboktu for the heads up). And the results?

Sinn Féin 31% NC

Fine Gael 22% +1

Fianna Fáil 17% -2

Ind/Others 12%-1

Social Democrats 6%+2

Labour 4% NC

GP 3%-1


Aontú 2% NC

Other Party 2% +1

Okay, it’s all well with the margin of error, even that SD gain of 2%. But still. Wouldn’t you know FG would see a slight increase. In a way though isn’t the telling aspect of this that even despite the way in which the eviction ban has filled the political discourse the actual changes reflected above are so minimal. Consider how so many NC’s there are.

On the other hand, the eviction ban is going to run and run. The SBP in the article accompanying the poll argues that ‘Leinster House insiders’ still expect autumn of next year to be the time of an election. And that’s surely what the government will aim at, in order to get past issues like the lifting of the ban.

Gaming March 25, 2023

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This looks interesting. Visually, at least. and this – well I ‘played’ if that’s the right word, Kerbel Space Program for some years but always found it hard going. The visuals of this next iteration look great.

Behold the firmament…or not. Probably not. March 25, 2023

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Came across a reference to a refinement, if that’s the correct term, of the Flat Earth theory. Now I’ve got to be honest, of all pseudo-scientific views I always thought that one one of the least compelling given it’s not difficult simply using ones powers of observation to see that the Earth is indeed curved. Add to that flights, any conversation with a pilot, and the evidence is so overwhelming, so pervasive, that pushing back against it is pointless. But we live in a time when any belief, literally near enough any belief, however absurd is reified by social media and amplified by those who engage with it. I often wonder how sincerely held are ‘beliefs’ in this, though that’s another matter. I’ve a glum feeling that quite a lot is the answer. Or people fool themselves into thinking they believe it. And it’s not that I don’t get the allure of counter-factual beliefs. After all I’ve had a lifelong fascination with this area – not born of a sense of superiority (ie ‘I know the truth and those who hold the beliefs are idiots’) but more in the sheer entertainment, the sort of ‘what if’ with regard to UFOs or what have you, and the capacity of humans as imaginative and imagining creatures to build these constructs of belief. Their power intrigues me. We talk a lot about nationalism on this site and I’d always point to Benedict Anderson as someone who provided a solid analysis of something that is both so immaterial and so powerful. And while a little different it’s reasonable to posit that pseudo-scientific beliefs have something not entirely dissimilar. And with the intersection with political activity and lamentably far-right and reactionary politics (not a novel development by the by, as any examination of how pseudo-science was effectively championed by fascism and Nazism in particular) there’s an unfortunate increasing similarity with regard to belief and how belief functions.

But back to the Flat Earth. Or across it I suppose.

Users on social media are saying people on Earth are living under a dome, also called a “firmament,” without providing evidence to support the claim. Experts told Reuters that the idea, which originates with proponents of the Flat Earth theory, is false and that there is ample evidence of rockets reaching space without hitting a dome.

One Instagram user shared a video that claims to offer “absolute proof that we do live under the dome or the firmament”, including footage of a rocket supposedly hitting a dome. The video also asserts that Admiral Richard Byrd, the American explorer who undertook multiple missions to the South Pole, found the edge of the dome in Antarctica, and that is the reason no one is allowed to visit that continent (here).

But the video’s examples offer no proof of humans living under a dome or firmament, while there is ample evidence that no dome exists.

The word firmament generally refers to the arc of the sky but is regarded in biblical cosmology as the dome created by God separating the earthly realm from the heavens (here).

It’s almost astounding that the rocket video is regarded as ‘proof’. The line being that aircraft fly at lower altitudes and presumably that spacecraft are fakes. But then the video argues as noted above that Antarctica is off limits to visitors. That level of lack knowledge of the area is something else. 

Good piece here on Scientific American with Michael Marsh of Merseyside Skeptics which covers some of the myriad beliefs of Flat Earthers. 

MM: yeah, it depends on who you talk. So it’s not just that there’s the disk version and the infinite plane version. There’s actually lots of, there’s a myriad of different versions of the, the flat earth and the universe beyond it. So some will believe that we’re flat. But the universe around it is pretty much as is, that’s quite a niche belief in the flat earth world. Um, some believe that, uh, many believe the sun isn’t very far away, so it’s very hard to, to uh, justify the solar system as conventional science would have it with a flat earth belief, especially a flat earth belief that may be rooted in creationism and therefore has this kind of earth as the center of everything kind of way.

And you know, the sun was created on, on one of the days after the earth, it was already created. And so some of that belief that instead of the sun being millions and millions of miles away, it’s actually quite nearby and much smaller. And that’s how they account for time differences across, uh, across the world. How you account for seasons, it’s just that you’re further away from the sun at that point. Um, others believe that the world is a disk, but it’s under a dome. Um, which again goes back to the biblical idea of the firmament from and being the roof on top of the world. Um, one of the, one of the, the, uh, piece of evidence I’ve heard brought, uh, for that, uh, firmament idea for that domed theory. A idea was from Mark Sargent who said, uh, if you look at the gravestone of Werner Von Braun, so Von Braun, obviously the, uh, the, the Nazi scientist smuggled out of Germany after the second world war by operation paperclip installed towards the head of the U S space program. Um, his V2 rocket technology is partly responsible for, for America getting into it, getting to the moon first. Um, but if you look on his gravestone, it references Psalms 19 one. And if you look up Psalms 19 one, it reads, the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth his handiwork. So it says Mark Sargent, why would the father of space exploration have on his gravestone a reference to the biblical roof on top of the world, if not a post deathbed confessional? Here’s what of saying, there is a firmament and the only way to get me out of Germany was to go along with their hoax.

Now I would argue the reference is much more about the first bit of the heavens declare the glory of God for a man who saw his technology has been the key to the heavens. It was the, the way that men put mankind, unlocked the sky. Um, but if you’re a flat earther or you see that gravestone, and this is proof then that there is a roof on top of the world and if you believe there’s a roof on top of the world, then it starts to ask questions about what is space beyond it. 

Thought that piece notes a typical dynamic, where although belief in Flat Earth might be ‘harmless’ it is but a skip and a jump to anti-semitism, anti-vaccination sentiment and suchlike. Marsh has noted elsewhere how: “it is striking how many people who doubt the global model of the Earth also subscribe to all manner of other beliefs, from Biblical literalism to occultist paranoia, from anti-vaccination to quack cancer cures, from antisemitism to Aryanism. But it is also just as striking how many people whose journey into believing the Earth is flat included traumatic events or personal crises.”

And that’s a phenomenon that has been seen before during and after times of economic, social and other dislocation.

That said in the contemporary context Flat Earth ‘theories’ and similar feed into what on the Scientific American piece is termed an ‘ecosphere of conspiracy theory.’ 


This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Melts March 25, 2023

Posted by irishelectionliterature in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Coming up to Christmas tickets for Pillow Queens in Collins Barracks for The Saint Patrick’s festival came up. I hadn’t put two and two together that this was going to be an outdoor gig in Dublin at night in March. ………

Watched the rugby and then off we went, hats, scarves, the big coat and into Collins Barracks. It was bitterly cold but Thank God it wasn’t raining. Cant remember who was on the main stage when we got there but soon I found a tent and in it playing were Melts.It wasn’t exactly a sweatbox but at least it was slightly warmer than outside. I quite enjoyed them , they were very good….. needless to say Pillow Queens were brilliant as ever, despite the cold………………. Will think again about outdoor gigs in March!

Caught in a bind March 24, 2023

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The reports about the DUP and its apparent contradiction in ‘warning against its own trade deal demand’ as the Irish Times puts it today – via a report from the Financial Times, is hardly surprising. In some ways what has been most characteristic of the DUP response to the Windsor Framework has been its incoherence. What precisely is the problem they have? Difficult to tell because it seems to shift back and forth across a range of areas. This latest instance?

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) privately warned the UK government that a “dual regulation” environment in Northern Ireland would not work for crucial industry groups, despite the idea now being one of its demands to restore the region’s devolved government.

Worse the DUP has not been, according to the UK government, able to give examples of where ‘the requirement to follow EU rules has impeded NI companies from trading with the UK’. That’s a fairly striking omission on the DUP’s part, isn’t it?

What is frustrating is how isolated the DUP now is – the weight of the vote in London this week points to the halcyon days where it held an effective balance of power now being long gone, and yet it persists in acting as if matters were otherwise. But how long can that go on?

Signs of Hope – A continuing series March 24, 2023

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Gewerkschaftler suggested this a while back and it’s as good an idea now as it was then. Whatever else those of us on the left need some hope, need some tangible achievements to hold on to, something that gives a sense of how things can be made better:

“I suggest this blog should have a regular (weekly) slot where people can post happenings at the personal or political level that gives them hope that we’re perhaps not going to hell in a handbasket as quickly as we thought. Or as the phlegmatic Germans put it “hope dies last”.”

Any contributions this week?

Even when it’s not about Sinn Féin, it’s about Sinn Féin… March 24, 2023

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Anne Harris has another piece in the IT. It starts with a sort of kind of defence of Leo Varadkar’s of the cuff comment about interns in the US this last weekend. She tries to make a case about speaking truth to power, and not hiding inconvenient truths and so on and so forth. But in truth this is a bit half-hearted on Harris’s part because, well, y’know, she had to admit it’s wasn’t the place. 

His problem, the perennial one, was timing. Not his delivery timing – the line certainly “landed”. Nor even because he spoke just hours after sharing a panel with Hillary Clinton. But rather because we have entered the ante-chamber of the Belfast Agreement commemorations. There is the strong sense in which this St Patrick’s season was a dress rehearsal for that commemoration.

But guess what the column immediately pivots to?

First up the spectre of febrile nationalism stalks the land. Oh yeah. That’s right. An agreement that was arrived at on the island where there was no end of compromise is reduced in Harris’s mind to one where:

Like 25 years ago, a febrile nationalism is the order of the day and the modus operandi is hyper-sensitivity to any jarring note. And that apparently means imposing a collective amnesia around the failings and foibles of the main participants (no such hyper-sensitivity, apparently, applies to Bertie Ahern, whose money misdemeanours were excavated and covered in contumely in recent weeks).

Really? It was a more formal occasion, and in truth, and this is no defence of the man, Ahern received a standing ovation for his troubles when he was protested at at a… well… formal occasion. 

Then we’re into a dissection of Clinton, which however deserved again sort of misses the point given he’s faced that time and again since and during his Presidency (and one could argue that the US political process did sanction him at the time, however insufficiently). 

The other point is that it’s quite some stretch to paint an off the cuff comment, meant humorously (one imagines) as speaking truth to power and making some grand point. Frame it another way. Suppose Leo Varadkar, of all people on this planet, sought for whatever reason to cut through the supposed collective amnesia about the ‘failings and foibles’ of one of the main participants – though why just pick one escapes me. Is he best placed to do so? What point is the Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland meant to make in an off the cuff comment that adds to the political process that delved into that issue in the US capital, however flawed in so many ways that process was at the time? Harris’s framing makes it sound hazily plausible until a seconds analysis is brought to bear. 

But again, there’s the subject of the column and then the real subject of the column…

St Patrick’s week in Washington seems to bring about a collective regression, a green metamorphosis, where every morning is “top of the morning” and a comfortable southern-Irish bourgeoisie sentimentalises the suffering of emigrants. The panoply of the upcoming Belfast Agreement commemoration clothed the week, but also exposed a gaping hole. The faces of unionists Jeffrey Donaldson and Doug Beattie sometimes seemed the loneliest in the crowd.

So true. So very true. The real victims in this ‘febrile nationalist’ commemoration of an Agreement that whatever else it did did bring calm to the North. And even the old reliables can’t be trusted not to become nationalist and…er… febrile. 

Even Mary Robinson, at the Georgetown University panel on women and the peace process, got sentimental about government displeasure at her visits to republican west Belfast and the stratagems involved in shaking Gerry Adams’s hand “in a corridor” away from the cameras. It was left to Liz O’Donnell to acknowledge that there was another party to the peace process, one who arguably took the greatest risk for peace, without whom there would have been no Belfast Agreement.

Which is sentimental in a different way and fairly risible at that. For mentioning Jeffrey Donaldson in almost the same breath is ahistoric since Harris seems to have forgotten he left the UUP over the GFA/BA. The UUP did take huge risks, or a section within it did, and great credit to them (though Trimble’s trajectory subsequently is one that suggests near enough immediate regret on his part at the path taken. But that does nothing to diminish his truly historic achievement). But to suggest that they took the ‘greatest risk for peace’ is absurd. Everyone in the process had something to lose. Some had more, some had less. Isn’t it enough to suggest that political Unionism in 1998 made the correct choice, as did Republicanism and Nationalism and leave it at that? 

A further thought. For all the talk about how the centre was hollowed out in the North and Sinn Féin and the DUP appropriated it pushing everyone to the supposed extremes, there’s remarkably little consideration on the path those like Foster and Donaldson took. Because while on one side SF supplanted the SDLP as the political voice of Nationalism and Republicanism on the other a layer within the UUP shifted to the DUP on foot of the GFA/BA. That’s a very different dynamic and yet few seem to analyse it in any great depth. 

Let’s consider this. Sinn Féin and the SDLP and their voters, clearly agreed with the GFA/BA and sought to work it. A good number of the UUP were somewhat willing to do so. By contrast both a political layer within the UUP and a tranche of UUP voters both shifted to a DUP who were emphatic that they did not agree with the GFA/BA and did not seek to work it. And one can look at the lamentable track record of the DUP in government subsequently to the cosmetic changes to the GFA/BA later and see that even with an agreement they could call their own they remained in effective opposition to working it. 

Yet here we have Anne Harris arguing as if Jeffrey Donaldson and the party he represents as somehow representative of Unionism in 1998, which simply isn’t true. And he certainly did not take any risks for peace whatsoever in that year. Nor did the DUP. 

So we are into a very contemporary framing – and again one that seems to confuse the UUP with the DUP, as if the two are one and the same. An odd lack of nuance there from someone so keen to write about matters to do with Northern Ireland. Harris writes about how Bertie Ahern had to ‘mind’ David Trimble. And so on to Varadkar.

Varadkar’s outstanding achievement in Washington was to keep his head when all around were losing theirs. Ignoring the chivvying of Senator Chuck Schumer, one of Washington’s most powerful speakers, he refused to put pressure on Donaldson to accept the Windsor Framework, insisting on the importance of “listening to the DUP. That we hear their concerns. They are the largest unionist party and that matters.” In Washington last week, that was not what many wanted to hear. But it’s what many needed to hear. 

But to what point, given the DUP has yet again said No? That’s not 1998. And it wasn’t even 1998 in 1998 with reference to the DUP and Donaldson. Not even close. So what particular lesson is being conveyed here? 

“Too harsh”? So what happens next? March 24, 2023

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Too harsh… 

As noted in comments by Tomboktu yesterday, there was quite a response on social media to the sanction imposed on Neasa Hourigan from GP councillors. That they are very close to the ground might point to why. 

Cork-based Green Party councillor Oliver Moran said he was “gravely disappointed at the decision” to sanction Ms Hourigan. He said the decision was “taken without due notice, while Neasa was chairing an Oireachtas committee and so (was) unable to be at the meeting”.

He also described the length and severity of the sanction as “gratuitous and self-defeating”.

Fingal-based councillor Karen Power said: “Let’s not forget, a key selling point for entering Government was to be there, at the table, to proactively criticise from within, when Government policy differed from our own. Fast forward, criticise and suffer the the disproportionate consequences.”

Former TD Dan Boyle, now a Cork councillor, said he felt the suspension was too long and that Ms Hourigan should be allowed to retain her committee memberships.

“I hope a mechanism to appeal these elements exists,” he said on Twitter.

East Cork Green Party councillor Liam Quaide said “our parliamentary party has got its values tragically askew”.

Wicklow councillor Lourda Scott said it was a “desperately poor decision”, while former lord mayor Hazel Chu said on Twitter that it was a ”deeply disappointing and excessively harsh decision”.

Interesting to see Boyle’s point about a mechanism. I’m not familiar with the inner workings of the GP. Does any such mechanism exist and more to the point is there a will within the party as a whole to use it?

But as with the wider issue the thought strikes that there’s an odd level of detachment on the part of those who have voted through this measure. The mitigations such as they are hardly exist. In fact I find it puzzling that there’s no seeming effort to address the most immediate problem which is that facing those who are evicted from accommodation on foot of this. Two obvious questions. Why was that not addressed in advance of the lifting of the ban and why has it not been addressed now. The lofty recourse rhetorically to a market that is suffering massive dysfunction, and has for quite some time, seems to represent an aversion to facing up to the importance of those two questions and the lack of immediate solutions. 

As people have noted in comments the example of individuals and families in a dire predicament are coming through. For instance heard of one such in the general East Wall area. And similar examples are all over.

Genuinely this looks like the most egregious own-goal of this government to date. 

LIBERTY HALL, SATURDAY 6TH MAY 2023 March 23, 2023

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This looks great.

A festival of politics and culture celebrating the renowned author of The Ragged Trousered Philantropists

Mick Lynch is scheduled to address it.

“Every man who is not helping to bring about a better state of affairs for the future is helping to perpetuate the present misery, and is therefore the enemy of his own children. There is no such thing as being neutral: we must either help or hinder.” – Robert Tressell

Peter Taylor in Conversation with Susan McKay March 23, 2023

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Peter Taylor in Conversation with Susan McKay
         6.30pm, Wednesday March 29, Dublin Unitarian ChurchOn the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, Peter Taylor tells for the first time the gripping story of Operation Chiffon, MI5’s top secret intelligence operation that helped bring peace to Ireland.
 April 1998: the Good Friday Agreement is signed, ending decades of violence and bloodshed in Northern Ireland. The process of getting the IRA to end its so-called armed struggle’ was always the prerequisite of the search for peace. It was Operation Chiffon that finally helped make it possible.
 Operation Chiffon The Secret Story of MI5 and MI6 and the Road to Peace in Ireland takes us inside the top-secret intelligence operation whose roots go back to the bloodiest years of the conflict in the early 1970s, involving officers from MI6 and, later in the 1990s, MI5.
 The remarkable story, which has remained hidden for forty years, is now revealed by legendary BBC journalist Peter Taylor with unique access to the officers involved. Drawing on exclusive interviews and Taylor’s fifty years of covering the conflict, the book narrates in first-hand detail how those involved risked their careers – and their lives – to help secure the fragile peace that exists today.
 Taylor vividly brings this covert operation to life and in the process chronicles the history of Sinn Féin, rising from obscurity in the early days of the Troubles to becoming the largest political party in Ireland today. It is a story fraught with uncertainty and danger that, as Brexit risks destabilising what was achieved in the Good Friday Agreement twenty-five years ago, is more important than ever to remember.

Event details:
 The talk begins at 6.30pm on Wednesday, March 29 at the Dublin Unitarian Church, St Stephen’s Green, D02 YP23.

Doors open at 6.15 pm. Books will be on sale at the event and Peter Taylor will be signing books afterwards.

Book tickets by clicking here or through the buttons below:
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