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Independent Left: The Battle of Cable Street and lessons for challenging the far right today September 27, 2020

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Independent Left are holding an online public meeting on Sunday 4 October 8-9pm Dublin time to celebrate the anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, 1936 and to discuss the lessons from this event for challenging the far-right today.

Please register in advance at this eventbrite link.


Sunday and other Media Stupid Statements from this week… September 27, 2020

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.

Mr McMenamin [organiser of an anti-lockdown rally in Donegal] added that it was up to the Irish people to challenge regulations saying Irish schools were now like prison camps.

News to me.

Regardless, we need to stop scaring the nation; be honest with the nation and consider how to better facilitate personal choice.

Stop scaring the nation? A laudable aim. B<a href="http://“>ut perhaps a man arguing for the spread of the virus isn’t best placed to making that case.

In fairness to Roisin Ingle she doesn’t use the term ‘enjoyable’ in a piece on Dublin Lockdown II – but the subhead of the article she writes does say:

‘Lockdown, The Sequel’ is just nowhere near as enjoyable as the original

What she does write is in a way not a whole lot better, ignoring the fact people, y’know, died and continue to do so.

The original Lockdown, while surreal and scary, was full of resolve and solidarity and the notion that we would prevail and flatten the curve or smash the virus. It was a time of Zoom quizzes and online locktail-making classes, which seem quaint and faintly mortifying now.

Then there’s this:

Swedish epidemiologist Dr Johan Giesecke will address the committee and will be asked about Sweden’s policy which had been to allow the virus to spread among the under-60s. This raised the question of should the vulnerable be shielded while the remainder of the population was allowed to move out and about, said [chair of the Oireachtas Covid-19 Committee, Independent TD Michael] Mr McNamara. Many people over the age of 70 would not be prepared to do that, he said, so was it down to a matter of personal choice.

Mr McNamara pointed out that the Aids strategy in the US had been to encourage people to modify their behaviour. The Covid-19 message to young people could be not to congregate, but if they did, not to visit their grandparents afterwards.

For how long? Personal choice? How could any of that go wrong? Because it went wrong that same day when Dr. Giesecke retreated from his argument arguing that:

“I’m not prescribing anything for Ireland,” [Dr Johan Giesecke] told Drivetime on RTÉ Radio One. “You have to make your own decisions. That’s not up to me.

“What you just told me, I’m unaware of this. I’m objecting to you saying I’m telling Ireland what to do. I’m not.

“What you’re telling me is a lot of things I don’t know. I was asked to join this committee. I didn’t volunteer for it. With all this knowledge of the Irish situation, and the way your country works, I can’t tell you that this would be better for Ireland.”

Super duper! September 26, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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I quite like Fred Kaplan’s posts on Slate.com. This one on the uselessness of the address to the UN General Assembly during the week is an entertaining deconstruction of a President, who as Kaplan says, can’t even be pushed to pretend he cares (and he didn’t even have to appear in person, it was all pre-recorded).

This though got me searching:

Trump has boosted U.S. defense spending, but his talk of unheard-of advanced weapons—probably the hypersonic glider, which he recently called a “hydrasonic” missile and nicknamed the “superduper”—is exaggeration. The weapon doesn’t exist as yet, its mission is unclear, and existing nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles travel at hypersonic speed.

As Kaplan notes, it’s all pretty nebulous. A long long way from completion.

Ron Cobb: 1937-2020 September 26, 2020

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Sorry to hear of the death of Ron Cobb, radical political cartoonist, illustrator and production designer, at 83, this week. He was a remarkable production designer whose work informed much of the aesthetic of the 1980s and after through films such as Dark Star, Star Wars, CE3K, Alien and so on. This piece in the Guardian gives a sense of the finished output.

But to me this piece here sums up just how impressive his work was. And it’s not just in the rollcall of work he did:

Star Wars (he designed the aliens in the famous cantina scene), Alien (he was solely responsible for the design of the entire human environment of the film – losing the spotlight to H.R. Giger’s design of the creature and the alien environment), Conan the Barbarian (he designed all the weapons and armor) his magnum-opus The Last Starfighter (he designed pretty much everything there) and perhaps above all Back to the Future (yes, the De Lorean time machine is his baby). One thing that stands out in both Cobb’s cinematic and non-cinematic body of work (he also did some visualization for NASA projects, designed the flag of the Ecological Movement, among other things) is his ability to infuse his designs with a sense of amused irony – he never takes himself completely seriously, often making a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it visual gag within an otherwise serious project. So unsurprisingly, in addition to his more familiar works, he also had a short but significant career as a cartoonist.

But look at the image that accompanies it,
This was from his work on Alien, and it shows his fluid and expansive approach. As noted previously I remember acquiring the Book of Alien in 1979 or so and being blown away by his, and Giger and Chris Foss’s work on the film.
Perhaps as, if not more, impressive was his work on the symbol of the Ecological movement in the US which he designed in 1969 – that being the elision of the E and O to create a shape like the Greek theta symbol.

The flag is still used today.

Cobb worked a political cartoonist on the radical Los Angeles Free Press during that period.

Now that’s a life…

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Twisted Sister September 26, 2020

Posted by irishelectionliterature in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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I was reading recently how Dee Snider had spoken out against anti mask protests using the Twisted Sister song “We’re Not Gonna Take It” as part of their protests. He was quoted as saying ….

“No…these selfish a—holes do not have my permission or blessing to use my song for their moronic cause. #cuttheshit,” 

I looked up the song and it brought me back to an era of Music Videos I suppose aimed at teenage boys. Yet they’re excellently done. There is a whole genre of these type of videos.

Management… September 25, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Always entertaining when one is faced by those who appear to believe Donald Trump is a great manager – cast a sceptical eye over his track record with staff and public appointees of one sort or another and contemplate whether in a commercial enterprise the sheer churn would lead to anything other than chaos.

Indeed the idea that Trump is some sort of mastermind disintegrates under little or no scrutiny. In a way he seems to me to epitomise a spirit of the age, that being people who have little or no experience of an area thinking that certain attitudes expressed openly indicate masterful knowledge. In other words he is the person who has no understanding of managements idea of the great manager. And similarly he is the person who has no real understanding of politics idea of the great politician.

And what’s remarkable is how robust this belief in his abilities is even when presented with evidence to the contrary. A President who has gone through Secretaries of State, of Chief of Staffs, at the rate he has should by any rational standard be asked questions of. He – after all – is the person who ultimately is responsible for selecting them. If he is unable to hold on to them then the failing is primarily his, not theirs.

And it’s not as if these are low impact decisions he has made. Institutional and reputational capital are hard won and easily lost. Lose weeks, or months, with no appointees made or constant change in the heads of an organisation and chaos ensues.

Signs of Hope – A continuing series September 25, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Gewerkschaftler suggested this recently:

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?

Can this be the same Cabinet? September 25, 2020

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From the Independent last week:

A senior Cabinet member defended the delay in reacting to the advice [to impose restrictions] by noting that the rise in cases has yet to lead to a significant increase in hospitalisations or deaths.

“Yes, there is an increase but bear in mind during an average flu season there are hundreds of deaths and we don’t get into lockdown,” the source said.

Now in the Examiner though…

“It is looking very doubtful Dublin will emerge. It would take a miracle when you look where the numbers are and, more alarmingly, where they are going,” said one senior minister.

“At this point, it’s hard to see it happening,” one source said about the easing of restrictions in Dublin.

“You could need a week or two longer to really get the number down,” said another.


Government sources also say they are worried by the rise in figures in Cork, which has thus far managed to avoid a second wave. Shutting down the two largest cities at once would be “a dire situation”, they say.

Many would say it already is a ‘dire situation’.

Covid-19 and the young… September 25, 2020

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One of the most interesting tropes to emerge recently is the idea that the young are immune from the effects of Covid-19. The Atlantic notes how this has gained momentum in recent days since the Trump White House has gained an advisor who is pushing that line very hard.

“It doesn’t matter if younger, healthier people get infected,” Atlas said in a July interview with San Diego’s KUSI news station. “I don’t know how often that has to be said. They have nearly zero risk of a problem from this … When younger, healthier people get infected, that’s a good thing.”

In the IT today Mark Paul talks about the impact on youth employment arguing that the young are blamed for spreading the virus but the responses on a medical front impact overly harshly on them. There’s a truth in the fact that younger workers are impacted badly, that said most workers are throughout the economy – I know personally a number of people young, middle-aged and older who have lost their jobs this last fortnight and others whose employment seems shaky. But tellingly not once does he stop to consider what the health impacts on young people are. He takes it as read that’s not an issue at all to be concerned about.

Meanwhile earlier in the week the IT offered a column from from Dr Martin Feeley in the IT who the paper notes “stepped down from his post as clinical director of Dublin Midlands Hospital Group on September 15th” and who also offers some eye-watering opinions on the virus.

Dr. Feeley takes a panglossian view of events, arguing that deaths from Covid-19 are ‘slightly above flu deaths’ in Europe three years ago – implicitly arguing that the virus is no worse than the flu which is flat out wrong, bigging up co-morbidity for those who have died, arguing there have been ‘few’ deaths for those under 65 and so on. He’s also fixated on obesity as a indicator of severe illness and mortality, though given how that cuts across generations and how difficult and how long a time it takes to change that state it is not clear what is meant to be done with those in that situation (he himself notes a good 25% or so of the population are categorised as obese by some standards). Should that 23% or so of the population shelter too?

It seems he does, arguing that the ‘at-risk and vulnerable’ have to be protected while letting the young ‘live their lives’. How does this functions in a reality of multi-generation households? Feeley doesn’t begin to address that question. Mark Paul doesn’t appear to be believe it is a question Nor does he seem to question whether long term immunity exists – and he places his trust in ‘herd immunity’.

Given that without the former the latter is an impossibility all this comes across as aspirational. Sure, I wish that Covid-19 was as minor as he seems to think, I wish we could neatly demarcate society so that some normality could continue. But it’s not that easy.

As to his final thought:

Regardless, we need to stop scaring the nation; be honest with the nation and consider how to better facilitate personal choice.

“Scaring the nation” is bad but advocating the spread of the virus among large cohorts a large number of who can and will be impacted negatively is good? No mention of the tail of people suffering grievous after-effects (there’s also a fairly stunning misreading of stats in one of the figures he quotes, noted by a comment BTL, which is near inexplicable).

But what about the vulnerability of younger people to the virus? Returning to the Atlantic one will read:

COVID-19 presents an array of health challenges that are serious, if not imminently fatal. The disease occasionally sends people’s immune system into a frenzy, wreaking havoc on their internal organs. Several studies of asymptomatic patients revealed that more than half of them had lung abnormalities. A March study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that 7 to 20 percent of sick patients showed heart damage associated with COVID-19.

And for younger cohorts:

For men in their 30s, like me, about 1.2 percent of COVID-19 infections result in hospitalization, according to a July study published in Science. Once the disease has progressed to this point, the risk of chronic illness soars. Research from Italy found that roughly nine in 10 hospitalized patients said they still had symptoms after two months. A British study reported a similar risk of long-term illness.

And consider this:

You might be used to thinking of 30-somethings as safe and seniors as at risk in this pandemic. But if a man in his 30s and a man in his 60s both contract COVID-19, it is more likely that the 30-something will develop a months-long illness than that the 60-something will die, according to this research. (The calculation above doesn’t even include the countless long-haulers who never went to the hospital.)

And the author neatly demolishes herd immunity in this context since not merely do we not know how long if at all immunity may last, but also must buy into the idea that the disease doesn’t impact on those who don’t die from it and finally that one can work out who is high or low risk. But as the author notes, the US (and Ireland etc) is not ‘segregated by age’.

So no complacency there.

So why is it that others given a public platform simply wish all this stuff away, and why is it that the media itself seems all too willing to allow tropes to take hold? The IT would no doubt be horrified to see itself as a conveyer of the same sort of narratives as those put out by the Trump White House – even inadvertently on the part of those conveying them. It is unlikely they would do similar in respect of – say – incorrect or misleading tropes around climate change.

So what’s so different about an actual global pandemic?

Caution September 24, 2020

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John Crown of St. Vincent’s Hospital, and former Senator, had a piece in the SBP at the weekend. He makes some solid points in it too. Arguing that in relation to the pandemic:

Scientists and doctors need to be able to say, “sorry, we were wrong before, we’ve changed our position in response to new facts, and this is what we think now”. I’ve done this many times. It’s hard, but it’s essential.
The canonical positions that pre-symptomatic infectivity was uncommon and that masks had nearly no protective value have now been quietly abandoned. Yet while mask use is mandatory in shops and public transport, it is still, inexplicably, not universally required in healthcare campuses, save while performing direct patient care. This must change.

And this is thought-provoking…

Similarly, the inadequacy of the protection provided by standing two metres apart has been laid bare. The two-metre rule was based on speculative interpretations of old science, specifically the now discredited suggestion that Covid-19 is spread exclusively by “droplets” – tiny aggregations of infected moisture that, following exhalation from the mouth and nose, fall quickly with gravity onto surfaces.
It is now appreciated that the virus can also “aerosolise”, with a much longer airborne phase, and spread far beyond two metres.

He concludes by writing:

Hospital-acquired infection was important last time around, and needs to be controlled. Health workers need to redouble their efforts to stay infection-free, and should be routinely tested for Covid-19 carriage at regular intervals.
Our vulnerable cancer patients, chronically ill and senior citizens can’t depend on luck to protect them as we move into winter. To paraphrase Samuel Goldwyn, the film producer, the harder we all work at controlling this thing, the luckier we will get.

Noted before this week, but there’s something genuinely sickening about the manner in which pandemic denialists willfully ignore the experience of those like Crown who have been through a deeply harrowing half year and more facing the challenge of the virus. But his words underscore the need for something quite different to anxiety, but rather caution and concern, given the nature of the virus and its ability to burst into renewed activity from lowish levels. As to dealing with it in a serious fashion such that the society can reopen a real way. Well that needs more than five levels and empty rhetoric about ‘living with the virus’ and something concerted, island wide and encompassing a recognition that in some areas of economic activity matters will not resume ‘normality’ for possibly two to three years to come.

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