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Le Gach Dea-Ghuí don Athbhliain December 31, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

…little did any of us know what 2020 would bring. So here’s to 2021!

Thanks as always to everyone who comments, lurks, reads, helps or writes for the site.

Many thanks – you know who you are and it’s always appreciated. 

Thanks to to all the sites mentioned and linked to here for once again offering good sense in strange times.

Thanks as always to Tomboktu, Irish Election Literature, YourCousin, Aonrud of the Left Archive and other contributors and moderators on the site – and those who send suggestions for pieces to write about.

Anyone interested in writing a piece for the site email in and we’ll be more than happy to take a look. In the meantime keep left, safe and well.

The Beatles… December 31, 2020

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Mentioned it before, I’m firmly in The Beatles camp when it comes to them or the Stones. With the Velvet Underground, is that even a fair comparison, I like them both, and yeah, I’ve mentioned in recent years beginning to really like the Doors, particularly their pop side. So this looks pretty great, Peter Jackson’s documentary using a lot of never-shown footage, and a lot more fun than the last Beatles documentary, Eight Days A Week, which was good but perhaps a little worthy.

The old questions? December 31, 2020

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The IT continued its curious relationship with Covid-19 with a piece late last night/early this morning querying the current increase in restrictions. Paul Cullen wrote:

Almost a year since we started fighting the disease, lockdown remains the fallback response of politicians when they can no longer ignore the warnings delivered by public health officials. With the decision to delay the reopening of schools in the Republic, the final plank in the Government’s strategy for tackling Covid-19 has been swept away.

Perhaps that is because the strategy was flawed from the beginning, built on the premise that the virus was controlled and controllable in ways that it clearly wasn’t. Indeed at every point where restrictions have been lifted the virus as surged once more and now we are in a position where the situation appears to be as bad or worse than it was in April. Curiously, though, Cullen appears much more exercised by the near technicalities than the realty of the virus and how it spreads when unchecked. For example:

As a nation we are now shutting our schools and depriving our students of a proper education, while at the same time leaving off-licences open. This even though alcohol has repeatedly been identified as a driver of unsafe socialisation and although the biggest rises in case numbers are occurring in 18- to 34-year-olds, traditionally the biggest consumers of alcohol.

Isn’t that an irrelevancy? The Government hasn’t exactly brought heavy pressure to bear in regard of restrictions, the idea it would police people’s homes is an absurdity. So off-licenses will remain open while schools close. And there’s a further point – the idea is to cut social and other interactions in the population, so closing schools, even for a short period, makes a greater impact than closing off-licenses. This is basic stuff.

Then there’s this curious assertion:

And while Johnson’s government may have made a hames of responding to the crisis for much of this year, the UK appears to be leading the way in terms of vaccine approval and genetic research into the virus.

That too is something of an irrelevancy as regards genetic research. A state with a population many multiples of our own and with an industrial and scientific research base to mass is always going too be better positioned in regard of that. But in terms of approval Cullen well knows that the European Medicines Agency has taken a more cautious approach than the UK government (Cullen calls it ‘relaxed’ which seems inappropriate). That may be sensible. Yet he persists in this line…

At this stage it is unclear whether the new UK and South African variants of the virus are as much a threat as they have been made out to be, but if this does prove the case we will be indebted to the work of scientists in London and Porton Down, not Brussels.

Then he asks:

This new lockdown will work to a point. The Christmas effect will wear off; most people will hole themselves up for January. Things will get worse for a while, then improve But then what? The old questions remain; what do you do then? Do you lift restrictions at the end of January, just as we did at the start of this month? Or do you continue the lockdown into the spring, with all that entails?

The answer is blindingly obvious – if the situation is as bad then as it is now then unfortunately lockdown will continue. Because the old answer comes into play as noted above – health services, society, cannot bear the weight of unrestricted transmission of the virus. It’s genuinely strange that at this point, having seen how this plays out, there’s any real issue about it. Even he has to admit that ‘the only game in town from now on is the vaccine’. But as we know the vaccine is only a single part of a larger suite of responses to the virus, that in and of itself the vaccine will not be sufficient.

More state papers December 31, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

This one is entertaining – an account of how the Major government…

…was “reluctant” to talk to then taoiseach John Bruton on the phone because their private conversations were always leaked, according to newly declassified files. Senior British diplomats warned Bruton’s highest-ranking civil servant a number of times of Major’s “irritation” over the content of their confidential calls making its way into the newspapers.

And the thorny issue of regrets, remembrance and commemoration reared its head again albeit in a novel enough way…

Northern Ireland Office (NIO) civil servants believed a magazine article by their new secretary Mo Mowlam on the 150th anniversary of the Famine could detract from the widespread praise garnered by Tony Blair’s statement of regret in June 1997. One senior civil servant feared Mowlam would produce something “likely to be shredded by the professional historians”, according to files released in Belfast today.

I missed this the other day…

In April 1990, as part of a tour of European capitals in advance of a summit in Dublin, Taoiseach Charles Haughey called on her in Downing Street When he mentioned the question of “political union”, he was treated to a lengthy diatribe from the prime minister.

She then went on to dismiss many of the other member states. “Germany has [only] been in existence for some 40 years. Belgium is simply the Walloons and the Flemings. The Dutch were part of the Hapsburg Empire. Italy was never one nation, Portugal is struggling and needs help. Recently Spain received a warning from the IMF”. Perhaps wisely, she did not make any reference to Irish history.

Indeed (and by the by didn’t the UK itself run into some trouble with the IMF a little over a decade earlier?).

Slamming on the brakes December 30, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

There’s talk this evening that schools may not return for another week due to ‘exponential’ rises in Covid-19 cases in the state. If so that seems like a sensible precaution given those rises. Certainly the last week and a half has seen a growing level of constraints imposed. But the question remains, why were restrictions loosened so much prior to the holiday and why was a situation allowed to develop where numbers would increase. The IT has the following:

Minsters said they expected numbers to continue to grow sharply over the coming days reflecting increased social contacts at Christmas. “This is perhaps the most dangerous moment for the country since Covid-19 began,” said one Minister, speaking on the basis of anonymity.

Given that even in the most benign context numbers would rise due to Christmas social contacts one has to wonder how we got to this. And as EWI notes in comments today, the question as to why NPHETs advice, across weeks and months, was not taken in full remains.

BTW. without diminishing in any sense the grim nature of what is going on, is there a political ramification to all this further down the line?

Strange days December 30, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

As may have been noticed this site has tended to keep away from the more absurd stuff uttered by a certain occupant of the Oval Office this last four years. That’s for a lot of reasons – one being that it was so dispiriting to comb through that stuff, another that it seemed fairly pointless – surely there were better ways on a political level to deal with the problems that were raised by the phenomenon that is/was Trump, even here – perhaps particularly here on this island, where engagement with the issues immediately within our grasp seemed a better approach. Perhaps now as the dust settles it is possible to see some of this in a different light. Perhaps.

Still, I read something linked to this Slate.com piece which actually had me laughing out loud. That was this, some thoughts about ‘Western liberalism’ and school bussing… It’s not really funny, but it kind of is. Though in a way it’s not. Yet, it is. But…

What you want to say – 30 December 2020 December 30, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
As always, following on Dr. X’s suggestion, it’s all yours, “announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose”, feel free.

Red Who? December 30, 2020

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A remarkable post here on the Fantasies of Possiblity site which deals with classic Science Fiction on television, in film and books. The post looks at Malcolm Hulke, a writer who worker on a range of projects in the 1950s through to the 1970s – many of them science fiction related. He also happened to be a member of the CPGB well into the mid to late 1960s and the author of the FoP site (who is associated with the Working Class Movement Library) examines Hulke’s life also drawing upon Hulke’s MI5 file.

The author notes this was:

…released into the National Archives in October 2014. The file included intercepted letters, reports from undercover agents and bugged telephone call etc.

And notes the following:

Suspected Communist Party members or sympathisers in the civil service, government dockyards, ordnance factories, and elsewhere were liable to experience close monitoring by the security services.

According to Dr Jennifer Luff,  who has researched this topic: “The scale of the surveillance programme undertaken by the British government was truly remarkable. At one point, MI5 were checking over 25,000 names a month and yet the British public knew nothing about this. Workers were monitored and blacklisted from government employment without the opportunity to see or challenge the evidence presented against them.” This  policy was kept secret by the government and repeatedly denied by Cabinet officials and senior politicians. The records show that workers were monitored for the smallest of reasons and that the surveillance often went on for decades before concluding that  the targets were “innocent”. (Dr Jennifer Luff, “British government  history of secret anti-Communist surveillance”, June 2017)

There’s a lot more about a genuinely intriguing life (and about how the BBC vetted Communists), and a great and very readable post.

Sea the world… December 29, 2020

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This is a communication from a vanished world. From February earlier this year a piece outlining how one can travel around the world by cargo ship. It’s not exactly cheap – $100-150 a day. Nor does it have strict arrival times. Though that might be a bonus. Age limit? 70-77. Okay, a bit of time there. And destinations? The world is out there…

But perhaps the hardest part of booking your cargo ship voyage is deciding where to go. Will it be to South America and around Cape Horn? How about a 55-day round trip from California to Australia and New Zealand via Tahiti and Mexico? Mr. Jamieson offers a few more ideas and favorite voyages based upon years of experience. “For me the ultimate voyage is from Auckland, in New Zealand, to Singapore. It takes 40-45 days to sail what you can fly in just under 12 hours but it visits nearly every island in the Pacific on the way and it stops for 2-3 days. The second choice for me would be from Singapore through to Houston in Texas. It goes up through Thailand, Vietnam, half a dozen ports in China, into Japan, then straight across the Pacific and through the Panama Canal.” With enough time and money at your disposal, there are few places in the world a cargo ship can’t reach. Voyage destinations on cargo ships can change, so the many options available will often surprise you. You just need to be adventurous enough to do your research (see resources below) and then get on board.

Has anyone ever done that, or know of anyone who did?

Perhaps all this will restart in the coming year?

A wartime President? December 29, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

This from William Saletan on Slate.com reviewing a piece in the Washington Post that lays bare the deficits and worse of the Trump administration with regard to dealing with the pandemic offers a view into a government that had placed political necessity over all else. For example:

…voters [in swing states] favored the idea of Trump “issuing an executive order mandating the use of masks in public places.” The Post says that based on these findings, Fabrizio, Jared Kushner, and then–Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale “urged Trump to model good behavior by wearing a mask, and to encourage his supporters to do so.” But Trump refused. A campaign adviser says Trump listened, but “the argument just didn’t move him.”

And then…

The Post says Trump was “following the advice of Stephen Miller, Johnny McEntee, Derek Lyons and other trusted aides to think of masks as a cultural wedge issue.” This implies that Miller and others overrode life-saving public health recommendations for the sake of what they thought would be political advantage.

And then there’s this:

A few months into the crisis, Trump stopped showing up at press briefings on the virus. An administration official says Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, made this decision on the grounds that politically, talking about COVID “was a loser message.” 

A comment BTL makes a point that is entirely correct.

“An administration official says Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, made this decision on the grounds that politically, talking about COVID “was a loser message.”” 

Well then, Mark Meadows is insanely stupid. COVID was the easiest path to reelection any president has ever been given if even the tiniest bit of leadership was provided. Even Trump realized this when he claimed to be a “war time president.” If he had simply responded as a person without deep-seated mental health issues and slightly below average intelligence he would have cruised to reelection.

“Mask up. Social distance. Avoid indoor spaces outside your home. We may have to close some businesses temporarily, but I will force Mitch to get you relief as we fight through this and stay safe and save American lives.” How does that message, coming from a Republican, lose?

How could it? Why wasn’t it used? What has happened exactly that it wouldn’t be? Is it an aggressive anti-science attitude, an indifference to human life – even that of supporters, an aversion to… well… what?

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