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Just business… January 31, 2022

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Telling to see Joe Rogan beaten back by the pushback against him, first from Neil Young, then Joni Mitchell and then a roster of artists on Spotify none too happy with Rogan’s schtick about the pandemic. And rightly so many would argue.

It was entertaining, though informative, to see how initially Spotify played safe. After all Rogan was a serious hire for them in terms of profile and popularity.

Earlier on Sunday, the chief executive of Spotify, Daniel Ek, released an official statement setting out the streaming platform’s plan to tackle misinformation, as more users publicly unsubscribed from the service, more musicians withdrew their music and the company lost billions of dollars in market value.

But then as the Young et al snowball gathered speed and more members a penny dropped somewhere. Perhaps aided by the news that Spotify’s value had just taken a hit. And this with just a few artists pulling their music. As Variety noted:

Spotify’s market capitalization fell about $2.1 billion over a three-day span this week, coming after folk rocker Neil Young yanked his songs from the audio-streaming giant to protest Joe Rogan’s misinformation-spreading podcast.

Shares of Spotify fell 6% from Jan. 26-28. Over the same time period, the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index rose 1.7% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 1.1%. For the sake of comparison, Netflix’s stock recovered a bit, up 4.9% over the last three days, after getting hammered following its Jan. 20 earnings report.

Spotify stock closed Thursday (Jan. 27) at a 19-month low of $171.32/share.

 

And suddenly there’s chats and statements and explanations and so on…

Pandemic polling and politics… January 31, 2022

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I was looking at the latest SBP poll, released at the weekend and showing little or no change, as has been the case over the past year and more. As the SBP noted:

Fianna Fáil is unchanged on 15 per cent, and Fine Gael will be alarmed at a disappointing start to the political year with its support down by one point to 21 per cent. If this trend continues, then Fine Gael will be heading for the opposition benches after a record three consecutive terms in power.

Sinn Féin remains unchanged on 33 per cent, a result that will further convince members of Mary Lou McDonald’s party that the tide of change is flowing in their favour and against what it likes to call the “political establishment”.

For other parties and groups, Independents are NC at 11%, Social Democrats NC at 5%, Labour NC at 4%, Green Party +1% at 6%, SOL-PBP NC at 2% and Aontú NC at 2%.

The broad brush strokes of this poll are in alignment with other polls during the period since the election of 2020 with Fine Gael losing support, Fianna Fáil seeming to increase support but from a low enough base and Sinn Féin increasing support considerably. There’s an excellent graphic here on wiki which points to this.

Also of note is the slow rise and quite sharp decline of the LP, from a low base too, the SDs decreasing in support, in fact everyone (bar the GP, remarkably) losing momentum, though strikingly the Independents have levelled off in recent times. So what is going on? Is the GP getting some FG support, a couple of per cent here and there? It would seem some of the support of the smaller left and left adjacent parties is going to SF. Some support is coming back to FF though not in earth-shaking numbers. Looking back over the period, FF hasn’t hit 25% once, though again it is gaining some support. Is this a Martin effect finally? A bit late in the day. And that decline for FG is interesting too. Will their regaining the Taoiseach role see that change?

Has the past 18 months and more seen politics essentially in a pandemic freeze of sorts? And will the resumption of something closer to normal mean that this changes, that there is a shift in terms of political activity and the dynamics of support which polls, however accurately or not, reflect?

And, of course, beyond that is the question as to who will benefit in all this?

 

 

Returning to the workplace… January 31, 2022

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Some eye catching framing of the latest guidance for workplaces published this morning by the government. RTÉ has a fairly undetailed report, in fairness there’s not much in the original. The Irish Times stresses the idea:

The Government is urging employers to adopt a cautious approach to the return to workplaces, stressing a gradual process, consultation with worker representatives, permanent hybrid working arrangements where appropriate and supports for employees nervous about the return to the office.

New advice issued on Monday said employers may wish to keep some Covid rules in place for now.

There’s a lot of recommendations in the guidance but precious few backed up by any sanction. Much will fall on individual employers…. 

So, for example:

Outside of the above regulated settings, it is still good practice to continue to use face masks/coverings particularly in crowded areas.

Workers who use or share work vehicles may also consider using a face mask/covering. Individuals at high or very high risk should also follow public health advice in relation to mask wearing, including wearing a surgical or FFP2 mask when in crowded indoor settings (link). If face masks/coverings are worn, they should be clean and they should not be shared or handled by other colleagues. Employers should continue to support and facilitate the use of face masks by workers who may wish to continue to use them

Some employers will, already I’m sure many of us have seen places where they’re supposedly still mandatory (retail outlets, etc) where they are conspicuous by their absence.

Working from home?

A phased return to the workplace has been announced and as employers start to put this in place, they should engage and communicate with workers and their representatives. Some workers may be anxious about the physical return to the workplace and in such instances, the employer should discuss and engage with the individual concerned and endeavour to provide supports where available.

Where available? And what ‘supports’ would they be?

A few good aspects? Well, it notes that ventilation while important isn’t the panacea on its own that some have suggested.

While ventilation reduces the amount of virus in the air and the aerosol risk, it will have minimal impact on droplet transmission where people are within 2 metres of each other, or contact transmission (touching surfaces), which is why it is not a standalone measure and continued adherence to other public health advice is absolutely essential.”

But one has to wonder what the other measures are that it is a part of given so much seems to be being retreated from.

Going to be an interesting few months.

Left Archive: Bloody Sunday 1972 January 31, 2022

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Here are the documents in the Archive that address Bloody Sunday directly.

The include Ireland: Britain Out Now from the Revolutionary Marxist Group from 1972, What Happened in Derry from the International Socialists and written by Eamonn McCann from the same year and Socialist Worker Review No. 1 from the Socialist Workers Tendency in the Socialist Labour Party which looks at Bloody Sunday ‘Six years after’.

Left Archive: Ireland, Background to what is happening to-day, c1972, Official Sinn Féin January 31, 2022

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Please click here to go the Left Archive.

This document released by Official Sinn Féin in offers an overview of the position of the Republican Movement in the very early 1970s. Although not dated it appears to have been published sometime after the introduction of Direct Rule from London.

It is organised in four parts – Part I examines the period 1911-1923, Part 2 1923-1968, Part 3 The Civil Rights Movement 1968 and Part 4 Towards a Solution. There is also an index with descriptions of organisations and historical events.

Some intriguing aspects of the work indicate thinking during this period. For example reference is made to a British ‘federal deal’ to Ireland as a possible outcome of the situation. There’s the following assertion:

Many of the followers of the Civil Rights Movement would consider democracy within the Six Counties where loyalists held two thirds of the votes in any contest as an impossibility. A pamphlet written by Robert Heatley and issued by the Belfast Regional Council of the CRM shortly after the fall of Stormont argues forcefully and validly that only the sub-consciously sectarian could rule out the possibility of a democracy system in the existing conditions of the Six Counties. Yet this is precisely the option adopted by John Hume of the SDLP and the probability is that, because of fifty years experience of Orange rule, a majority of the minority would believe John Hume rather than Civil Rights on the issue.

The split in the Republican Movement into Official and Provisional camps is only dealt with obliquely, though the conclusion argues that: 

Those who argue with bomb and bullet for a united Ireland in the present conditions of the North risk a sectarian civil war which will postpone that day indefinitely. They also misunderstand completely the political position of the ruling FF party in the South. FF have become the local managers of British imperialism in the 26 Counties and their political prosperity depends as much on the link with Britain as does that of the Unionist party.

And it concludes:

FF’s main problem is that its pre-Imperialist leadership has a largely republican following. To date, however, it has been able to disguise that fact very effectively and its enemies and rivals in the Republican Movement have failed to create the mass political consciousness of their position. While this consciousness is being fostered in the 26 Counties the most realistic and revolutionary role for Republicans is to gain conditions of democracy in the North which will help eradicate the greatest enemy there – not the British Army, but sectarianism and the division of the working class. 

ILA Podcast #35: Bloody Sunday: Reactions in the Republic of Ireland, with Brian Hanley January 30, 2022

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In this episode, to mark the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, we’re joined by historian Dr. Brian Hanley to discuss the reaction in the Republic of Ireland to the events in Derry on 30th January 1972, when British soldiers opened fire on civil rights marchers, killing 14 and injuring several others. The reaction in the South saw walkouts and strikes, a national day of mourning, the burning of the British embassy in Dublin, and mass protests around the country.

Brian Hanley is the author of The impact of the Troubles on the Republic of Ireland, 1968–79: Boiling Volcano? (Manchester University Press, 2018) which details the effect of the Northern conflict on the South, responses to Bloody Sunday and other events, mobilisations of support, the experiences of refugees, and the debates in the public discourse throughout that period.

We recommend the excellent Museum of Free Derry for anyone who wants to explore the history of the events of Bloody Sunday. The museum is run by the Bloody Sunday Trust, which includes victims’ families, and civil society and political representatives in Derry.

You can also hear Brian Hanley on these previous episodes of the podcast:


If you’re enjoying the podcast, please subscribe. If you use a podcast app, it should come up in most of them if you search for “Irish Left Archive Podcast”, or use one of the links below.

Sunday and other stupid media statements of this week… January 30, 2022

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Jody Corcoran in today’s Sunday Independent has a column which argues:

We are seeing political leaders take to the trenches in a phoney name-calling war between ‘populists’ and those who they perceive to be the ‘elite’

 

Meanwhile Eilis O’Hanlon in today’s Sunday Independent has a column which argues…er…

Elites are out of touch on the rising cost of living

 

Missed this last Sunday, so it just about squeaks in here, but how’s this for a glib take on British/Irish history and relations from a certain Fintan O’Toole.

Dan O’Brien in the SBP bangs a certain drum:

Mercifully, Ireland has had fewer deaths and less severe illness from the latest variant than many other countries, including some with similar rates of vaccination. Nor did the government over-react to the new health scare, as it has done on a number of occasions in the past.

The newfound willingness to live with the virus places Ireland much more in the mainstream of peer countries. Given that we appear to have come through the Omicron wave more rapidly than many other countries, the outlook for a return to normal appears comparatively good.

Fintan O’Toole started the week with this in the IT:

That experience, in turn, made possible the joint choreography of the 1990s, the carefully calibrated steps that produced the peace agreement of 1998. By 2011, when the Queen became the first British monarch in a century to visit southern Ireland, it really felt like this good neighbourliness had become a permanent condition, that British arrogance and Irish rage were exhibits in a museum of historical curiosities.

Irish rage?

 

From during the week in the Independent:

Having been bounced from Billy to Jack during lockdown, when rules seemed to ebb and flow at the whim of the politicians and public health officials, our heads have been left spinning. 

That’s right, he thinks all this is about the whims of public health officials.

From the same paper:

DURING World War II, the then Taoiseach Éamon de Valera was once asked by David Gray, the US envoy to Ireland at the time, what he would do if German paratroopers were dropped into Derry. Dev’s reply was “I don’t know”. In truth, Dev summed up the overall approach of independent Ireland to matters of defence then. Some 80-odd years later, it certainly sums up the Irish government’s approach to defence today.

In what world is this state going to be able to offer any serious answer to the contemporary version of that question?

And from Friday’s IT – Stephen Collins – quite a conspiracy theory, and moreover one that takes a swipe at social housing:

The scarcity of private housing will drive more and more middle-income people into dependence on social housing
This will ensure that the housing shortage – which has disillusioned young middle-class people with the mainstream parties – will continue indefinitely. That is an electoral bonus Sinn Féin is keen to harvest. The other side to this is that the scarcity of private housing will drive more and more middle-income people into dependence on social housing provided by the State and, ultimately, to dependence to Sinn Féin itself.

 

Statements on Bloody Sunday January 30, 2022

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Any links to statements very welcome. This following is from the CPI.

Bloody Sunday, 1972: Imperialism’s response to peaceful demands for democratic reforms

Statement by the Communist Party of Ireland

29 January 2022

Anniversaries are an opportunity to dwell upon and learn from past events and struggles, to identify past successes and failures. Fifty years ago the British state carried out an organised and sanctioned attack on the anti-internment civil rights march in Derry organised by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, in which the CPI played a central role, helping to establish and build that mass movement of working people.

Bloody Sunday was imperialism’s response to peaceful demands for minimum democratic reforms—inevitable given its undemocratic origins. This British assault on a peaceful demonstration resulted in the murder of thirteen people on the day of the march, and another one dying some weeks later from injuries received. This was a deliberate act of state-directed killings in order to break working-class people’s resistance.

The march had been called to demand basic civil rights and to oppose internment, which had been imposed in August 1971 by the Unionist regime, in collaboration with the British state. Hundreds of innocent people were arrested without any evidence and detained without charge in prisons as well as on the prison ship Maidstone and in number of British military camps around the Six Counties.

Internment was the repressive response by unionism and the British state to the growing challenge flowing from popular resistance to defend nationalist areas from assault by sectarian forces of the Orange state and from the rising civil rights movement demanding their rights against decades of repression, discrimination, and gerrymandering. The British and Orange state saw the resistance of the people and continued demands for civil rights as a direct challenge to the very existence of the British-imposed political settlement of 1922, which partitioned Ireland.

Repression has always been the default position of unionism since the British established the sectarian entity they call “Northern Ireland,” by means of which they have maintained their control through the widespread use of sectarianism, discrimination in employment and housing, the gerrymandering of elections, and the use of the most draconian legislation and one of the worst regimes of repression anywhere in the world.

Unionists and their street gangs regularly encouraged and carried out pogroms against nationalist working-class communities. The Protestant working class had largely been co-opted by imperialism through the use of political unionism and material advantages in work, housing, and other social, cultural and political aspects of Northern society.

The activities of the Parachute Regiment in Derry on 30 January 1972 followed the state-organised killing of at least nine people in Ballymurphy in Belfast between 9 and 11 August 1971, all part of Britain’s military strategy of “low-intensity conflict,” a strategy for quelling and subduing local working-class resistance to its political, economic and military strategies of control.

The British state and military applied their “low-intensity conflict” strategy from experience gained in fighting against anti-colonial forces in Kenya, Malaya, Oman, Cyprus and other countries where British colonial occupation had been challenged. Bloody Sunday proved to the world that the state founded on imperialist-inspired sectarian division cannot be reformed—just as imperialism itself cannot be reformed.

Under intense political pressure, both here in Ireland and globally, the British state carried out two inquiries into what happened on Bloody Sunday, 1972. Firstly they set up the Widgery Tribunal, which was a complete whitewash of the role of the British army on the day. Following public pressure, the Saville Inquiry was established.

Anti-imperialists should not be deceived or misled by these inquiries: British law and British justice have nothing to offer by way of solution to the social and political ills of imperialism.

The British-imposed political settlement of 1922 was designed to uphold the interests of imperialism in Ireland, north and south. It divided the democratic forces and the working class; it entrenched unionist hegemony in the North; it provided a state in the South in which nationalist capitalists and big business could advance their class interests; and it secured both parts of a divided Ireland for imperialism. It offered nothing to the working class, anti-imperialists, or democrats.

The present political structures, operating in the form of the Belfast Assembly and Executive, are only further entrenching sectarianism and have little to offer.

We need to move beyond the failed institutions that bolster partition, division, and sectarianism, which allow the pretence that Britain is a neutral observer, a non-partisan participant in finding a lasting solution, when in fact the continued British involvement in Ireland lies at the heart of the problem. It prevents the achievement of the national democratic demand for the establishment of an independent, sovereign all-Ireland state.

Unfortunately Bloody Sunday was but one of a long list of acts of violence and repression carried out by British imperialism against the people of Ireland, which will continue to take place so long as it remains an active political and military occupation force.

It was also the moment when the Southern ruling class and its political servants took fright at the mobilisation of Southern anti-imperialists, democrats and workers in solidarity with nationalists in the North. Thereafter the full weight of the propaganda and ideological apparatus of the Southern state was employed to discredit anyone who challenged or questioned events and struggles unfolding in the North, instead promoting and encouraging “voices of moderation,” such as the SDLP and the anti-republican “peace groups.” Instead of pursuing the formal national objective of ending partition, the Southern establishment increasingly bolstered British rule in the North, thereby protecting their own class interests in the South.

It is up to the people of Ireland to decide their future, not imperialism, whether British, US, or EU.

The best way to remember the victims of imperialism is to struggle to end imperialist control and domination, to take up the challenge and struggle bequeathed to us by James Connolly, to struggle for and build a Workers’ Republic, from Derry to Kerry.
Eugene McCartanGeneral SecretaryCommunist Party of Ireland
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/
https://socialistvoice.ie/

Meanwhile, a mere 4,000 light years away. January 29, 2022

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Fascinating to read this about a genuinely novel object discovered in space – though some of the more breathless reports about it being ‘close’ to the Solar System were more than a little inaccurate. We’ll get to that in a moment, but the objct itself was…

[was] first spotted by a university student working on his undergraduate thesis, releases a huge burst of radio energy three times every hour.

The pulse comes “every 18.18 minutes, like clockwork,” said astrophysicist Natasha Hurley-Walker, who led the investigation after the student’s discovery, using a telescope in the Western Australian outback known as the Murchison Widefield Array.

While there are other objects in the universe that switch on and off – such as pulsars – Ms Hurley-Walker said 18.18 minutes is a frequency that has never been observed before.

Trawling back through years of data, they have been able to establish a few facts. The object is about 4,000 light-years from Earth, is incredibly bright and has an extremely strong magnetic field.

And;

“If you do all of the mathematics, you find that they shouldn’t have enough power to produce these kind of radio waves every 20 minutes,” Ms Hurley-Walker said.

“It just shouldn’t be possible.”

The object may be something researchers have theorised could exist but have never seen called an “ultra-long period magnetar”.

It could also be a white dwarf, a remnant of a collapsed star.

A key question raised, and answered:

On the question of whether the powerful, consistent radio signal from space could have been sent by some other life form, Ms Hurley-Walker conceded: “I was concerned that it was aliens.”

But the research team was able to observe the signal across a wide range of frequencies.

“That means it must be a natural process, this is not an artificial signal,” Hurley-Walker said.

 

Tattoos January 29, 2022

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This is an overview of tattoo stories gone wrong, from the Guardian. Sirin Kale outlines some of the disasters with body art as recounted by a practitioner in London.

“I had one lovely guy,” she says brightly. “He had a tattoo on his head. He was in his 60s, newly divorced. He came in and said: ‘It’s not me any more. I need to find a new wife.’” The tattoo said: “Made in London”. It disappeared in a single session.

Probably the worst tattoos Brierly has removed were the terrible jokes: “‘Tupac’ written across the stomach,” she says. “Or ‘Brexit’ on the bum. Or camel drawn on a toe.” As a tattoo remover, Brierly has a direct line into the shifting vagaries of the human psyche. “One guy did practically his whole body,” she says. “Everything was tattooed. He’d gotten divorced and was a Muslim.” As some Muslims believe tattoos are forbidden, she thinks they were his way of declaring he didn’t want to be a Muslim any more. There was just one problem: he rediscovered his faith. “All that was within six months.”

It’s no joke to get them removed. One person is on “a course of six treatments, at a cost of £600, and her tattoo is much faded, although still visible. (Most tattoos take a number of sessions to be removed.)”

And this is thought-provoking:

Tattoos like Smith’s, she explains, pose a challenge, because pink is especially tricky to remove. “The way tattoo removal works,” Cazzetta says, “is that the laser breaks down the ink into very small particles, and the blood that flows under the skin takes away the ink.” The laser works on all skin types with black ink, but it can cause pigmentation – a permanent change to the colour of the skin – with coloured tattoos on black skin.

Pink, yellow, and white are the most stubborn colours to remove; a practitioner may be able to fade them considerably, but a trace will remain. “They will go down in potency,” says Cazzatta, “and look like a bruise.”

Though as the piece notes some will replace tattoos with newer, fresher, ones.

Thing is – and this is also noted, many who get tattoos aren’t happy with the gulf between what the tattoos they originally wanted and the ones they get.

“I knew what I wanted,” says the hairdresser Roy Sword, furiously. “I drew it, and I knew exactly where I wanted it placed.” But his tattooist – Sword practically spits when he says his name – did not get it right. “I’m annoyed I didn’t go back to the woman who did my other tattoos,” says the 45-year-old, from south London. “I should have just stuck with her.” Today, he is getting two arrows, tattooed on his wrists, removed – they are too big. “I hated them the minute they were finished,” he says.

I’ve seen some mistakes myself.

Someone I know who is heavily tattooed had a woman’s face drawn which, unbeknownst to them, was that of a fairly famous celebrity. It wasn’t so close that you saw it immediately but, once told, you coudn’t unsee it.

Sleeve tattoos are, apparently, falling out of fashion.  And some tattoos don’t age terribly well. Then again, I’m sure most of us have seen spectacular ones, I certainly have – including sleeve tattoos, and every once in a while I think about getting a small tattoo, perhaps for a shoulder, but fixing on one image. That’s a bridge too far. A hammer and sickle? An Irish flag? Please. A barcode? (I’m kidding). But what? A name. Uh-uh. A letterform? Maybe, but why? And the thought of it being there permanently. Now if I was in a band. Though the band might break up… 

 

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