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Episode 10 of the Podcast August 12, 2020

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This episode covers The Cannabis Legalisation Party who ran two candidates in The 1997 General Election and The Justice Party of Ubi Dwyer who ran in two of the elections in the early 80’s. Theres an obituary of Ubi Dwyer here which gives a great insight into his time in the UK especially.
You’ll find the rss feed and links to other providers here

Economic confidence and the pandemic? August 12, 2020

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Another day, another crisis. And so the IT sends in its crack team of epidemiological experts to assess the problem. Here’s Eoin Burke Kennedy on the response in New Zealand to four new cases after months of none within the state:

If we take New Zealand’s example and meet these mini-outbreaks with the sledgehammer of lockdown, we will turn the incoming recession into a depression, one that involves a prolonged period of high unemployment and business closures, which will come with a health warning of its own.

And:

Living with the virus or managing it is likely to involve a prolonged period of social distancing, mask wearing and perhaps permanent changes to the way we interact in shops, at work, or in schools. To presume otherwise is foolhardy.

Even severe containment measures won’t eliminate the virus. New Zealand has just proved that. 

But does it? For a start he overstates the lockdown in NZ, which is both geographically and time limited. Secondly he ignores the reason why it went into lockdown, because cases occurred where they should not have. This is a novel coronavirus. It makes sense at this point given how little is known about it to act quickly and comprehensively and that is what is taking place. Indeed already there is a theory emerging:

Investigations were zeroing in on the potential the virus was imported by freight. Dr Bloomfield said surface testing was underway at an Auckland cool store where a man from the infected family worked.

“We know the virus can survive within refrigerated environments for quite some time,” he said during a televised media conference.

This may be the reason, perhaps another will be found. But the point is that given the nature of the pandemic the ‘nothing to see here, learn to live with it’ line is Panglossian, and the reality of matters will require considerable effort and energy and yes, inconvenience. Wishing that away is delusional.

Speaking of which…

The IT was trailing an article a week or two ago about how:

The Government’s chief scientific adviser privately warned a slow easing of coronavirus restrictions would cause “terrible” economic damage, and instead proposed a massive programme of random testing be introduced.

The country should test 7 per cent of the population for coronavirus every day, which would allow the entire economy to reopen quickly, chief scientific adviser Mark Ferguson told senior Ministers in emails sent in late April.

And:

Prof Ferguson, who is also the director of funding body Science Foundation Ireland, encouraged the Government to follow an approach set out by American Nobel prize winning economist Paul Romer.

This included a proposal to test the entire population every two weeks, amounting to 7 per cent a day, which would represent an unprecedented scaling up of testing.

Under the strategy people would be allowed to book into restaurants or other services only if they could show they had a recent negative Covid-19 test. This would allow people testing negative to return to normal life and, as a result, boost confidence in the economy.

It’s an interesting approach and yet I can’t help but feel as early April it was perhaps far too premature as a potential basis for reopening matters. There are other aspects as well. A Covid-19 test may come up negative if taken too early in the infection, so it’s not an absolute guarantee of safety (this for example is why testing at airports is not quite the forensic solution to the issue of air travel). That said continuous testing would likely mitigate that aspect if adhered to.

It’s also worth noting that Ferguson spoke of “potential economic damage of a slow return is terrible”. That ‘potential’ is quite an important caveat. Of course there was going to be serious economic damage, but in some respects the very nature of the problem was going to have that baked in from the off.

Naturally mitigation of that was and remains important but perhaps there’s a stronger argument that the sort of regimen he recommended might have been more effective a month or so later with a robust testing regime constructed on the back of a solid lock-down. That seems to me to make good solid sense.

And one thought about the virus. As noted last week, the WHO itself has noted that:

…discussions [about waves and surges and second waves] are not a helpful way to understand the spread of the disease.

“People are still thinking about seasons. What we all need to get our heads around is this is a new virus and this one is behaving differently,” Harris told a virtual briefing in Geneva, urging vigilance in applying measures to slow transmission that appears to be accelerated by mass gatherings.

It really does require great caution in regard to policy proscriptions here on out.

What you want to say – 12 August 2020 August 12, 2020

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

What is unionism? August 11, 2020

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That, surely, is the question at the heart of Alex Kane’s thoughtful piece recently in the IT on the nature of unionism at this point in history. Of course, as he notes:

A unionist is, first and foremost, someone who supports the union between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. For some the support is unconditional, but for others (as we have seen with EU membership) it is conditional. Unionism is also spread across a number of platforms: political parties, the loyal orders, Protestantism, loyalism, civic unionism, paramilitary groupings and a growing civic/secular unionism. It’s important, too, to distinguish between unionists (who would mostly support traditional political/electoral unionism) and those who prefer the description pro-union (and seem happy to vote for middle ground parties like Alliance and Green).

But…

What is missing in all of this is a broad, coherent, commonly agreed understanding of unionist/pro-union identity and what, precisely, defines a unionist. Without that, unionism cannot talk with anyone else about the future, because some sections of unionism don’t even know what is acceptable to other sections of unionism.

It is fascinating to see how unionism does indeed overlap a large number of groups and how it is riven by different approaches. Granted this is true of nationalism (and republicanism) too. But as Kane notes:

The future of Northern Ireland depends on sustaining a majority for the union. No unionist can take that majority for granted anymore. This isn’t 1921 or 1974 or 1985 or even 1998. Brexit presented a problem. Irish sea borders present a problem. The United Kingdom crashing out of the EU without a deal (still possible) would be an even bigger problem. And the biggest problem of all comes if the moment arrives when increasing numbers of those from a pro-union background believe they are on the losing side and think a deal should be reached in advance of “inevitable” unity.

That sense of inevitability is an intriguing dynamic in and of itself. How does it shape matters and perceptions? After all, one could make a strong case that it is engineered into the heart of the GFA/BA dispensation itself. If Northern Ireland seeks to merge with the Republic there is no path back from that. But I think there’s an even more intriguing question. Assume for a moment a ‘deal’ was accepted. How would that encompass unionism in the future? What would unionism become in that context? What accommodations would be necessary in the context of a new Ireland? I ask that question because even if politically some arrangement was arrived at it seems implausible to the point of impossibility that the weight of sentiment and history and culture would see ‘unionist’ attachments simply dissolve. So what form could they possibly take?

CIA man August 11, 2020

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Always fascinated by the fact that Stewart Copeland’s father, Miles Axe Copeland Jr, was a CIA agent in the late forties and early 1950s in the Middle East. During that period he became very close to Nassar. Nassar was another fascinating character – complex, difficult, in a way visionary.

Anyhow, Stewart Copeland has a podcast on his father. It sounds amazing. Sad point this:

Before he goes, Stewart says he hopes that [Kim] Philby’s children will see this interview and get back in touch. Having been childhood friends in Beirut until their father’s defection to the USSR in 1963, he’s a little hurt that one of them ghosted him a few years ago.

Inexpert opinion August 11, 2020

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Thought this letter in the IT worth consideration. There was an article last week about how research had indicated cholesterol lowering drugs were ineffective. I thought the piece odd because it didn’t bother to name any such drugs. Indeed details were thin on the ground in the report.

Then I read the critique, in the letter, and it struck me that this is part of a wider problem in the IT, where there seems – and this is particularly evident in relation to coronavirus, to be a tendency for ill-informed commentary on various matters scientific and medical without any effort to engage expert opinion. Perhaps the most egregious example was this from early on in the pandemic. But as noted here there’s been plenty more. Is this a function of class, that the much vaunted liberalism of the IT and similar buckles under any constraints and restrictions on travel, commerce and so on imposed for the common good? Surely not!

Inspiration August 10, 2020

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Heard this podcast last year from the Guardian during Black History Month on the 1963 Bristol Bus Boycott and an interview with Marvin Rees, the mayor of Bristol and notably, and arguably shockingly given it is now 2020, the first black mayor of a British city.
It’s a story of workers and working class people and how racist discrimination as this piece last week in the Guardian, which interviews Roy Hackett who originally from Jamaica was one of those who organised the Boycott, notes was entwined in unions as much as employers and the broader society:

At the time, the Bristol Omnibus Company was notorious for racial discrimination in recruitment. Hackett says labourers from the colonies and former colonies were allowed to “wash the buses at night”, but barred from the better-paid work on the bus crews. This segregation was not only upheld by the bus company, but also vigorously defended by the local branch of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, which did not want its members to lose jobs to immigrants.

Hacket…

Alongside four other men – Owen Henry, Audley Evans, Prince Brown and Paul Stephenson – … marshalled the 3,000-strong Caribbean community into a boycott. The idea was partly inspired by the 1955 Montgomery action, in which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Henry made the connection with African Americans having to sit at the “back of the bus”, which in the UK was where conductors stood.

But the struggle worked. With support from a range of people and groups – Tony Benn, students at the UofB, anti-racist groups and so on the energy and determination of the Boycott organisers paid off.

It took months of disruption, but, finally, on 28 August – the day Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC – the union and the company caved to the boycotters’ demands: the colour bar at the bus company was lifted.

And there’s talk that perhaps a statue to replace that of Colston might not be inappropriate. I like his response in the article. But I like this even more… Seeing the Black Lives Matter protests gave him hope, he says, because he “wants the younger people to fight it. We fought for what we have now. Let’s push it further.”

I’d love to use that on the masthead of the site sometime. Because it sums up all our shared struggles. What do others think?

2021 Census time capsule message – what to write? August 9, 2020

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This is fascinating, in regard to a report on RTÉ in relation to the 2021 Census (how is it going to be conducted? Perhaps it will be grand):

For the first time, the census will also include a new voluntary “time capsule”, a feature that will enable people to write a confidential message of their choice that will be stored securely for 100 years.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Senior Statistician at the CSO Cormac Halpin said: “We thought it would be a good idea for people to get the opportunity to add some handwritten content themselves to the back of the Census form that will be stored for 100 years in a confidential, secure warehouse.

“We think it gives people the opportunity to add something to their Census form that they mightn’t have the opportunity to do elsewhere.”

This is great, but what to write? Any suggestions?

Statements in the media… good, bad and indifferent… August 9, 2020

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Who said this?

To those who know the [tourism and hospitality] sector best, the State’s overall approach to the sector is weighed down by an overabundance of caution and a tin ear for expertise that doesn’t come wearing a stethoscope and white coat. Policymakers who wearily claim to be just “following the science” would do well to remember that economics is a science too and we should not ignore it when dealing with an industry in mortal danger, like tourism and hospitality.

Why none other than this character, and that’s close to a contender for one of the most egregious statements of the year. He’s changed his tune from lofty disdain of any state help to practically imploring for it. That said there’s a question at the heart of the broader issue that perhaps someone will return to on the site this week.

Meanwhile thanks to the person who sent this from today’s Sunday Independent which has a two page spread on that paper’s role in respect of Hume/Adams. Eilis O’Hanlon argues that ‘what alarmed critics was not that HUme was talking to Adams. The British government was also talking to Adams. It was that Hume was simultaneously, and in secret, working on a joint strategy wih the political representative of a terrorist organisation that continued to carry out atrocities. No one knew what they were formulating – at least not members of Hume’s own party, or other democratic parties, or the Irish government, thought the IRA Army Council had a full role in those discussions throughout.’

Even taking that on its own terms, and really, one has to wonder how else other than talking with and attempting to formulate ways forward with an active PIRA and SF would progress be made (or even to indulge the hyperbole on a ‘joint strategy’ – what sort of strategy would that be and how would Hume possibly sell anything that wasn’t as inclusive as possible to all other actors, the ROI, unionism, the UK government, even nationalism itself? To ask the question is to see how absurd it all is). But the timeline seems hazy. THe news of Major’s administration’s talks with the IRA only came out in November 1993. Attacks on Hume were as Liam Collins on the same page notes across ‘late summer and autumn’ of 1993. But then step back and look at the political analyses that were on offer and quoted by Collins on the same page. Dunphy talking of ‘Hume [stating] with commendable clarity for him which is unuausl, that if Britain and the Unionists don’t do business with him they will have to deal with the IRA, with physical rather than political force’. Interestingly and again quoted by Collins later Jason O’Toole interviewed Aengus Fanning in Hot Press who argued ‘I’m not saying it was wrong – it was the way 9Dunphy) chose to do it. He felt very strongly about it at the time … we were all concerned about entering into negotiations with the IRA and also the idea that we must have peace at any price’. Again to phrase it in those terms is to see the absurdity. With the reality of unionism and the UK and ROI governments there would never be peace at ‘any price’.

Probably not Eoin Burke-Kennedy’s fault, who wrote the accompanying article, but what to make of this headline in the IT during the week? https://www.irishtimes.com/business/economy/sacrificing-pubs-for-schools-ireland-s-latest-covid-trade-off-1.4322043

Sacrificing pubs for schools: Ireland’s latest Covid trade-off

But no mistake in the editorial:

The Irish Times view on the decision to delay pub openings
In effect, the Government has sacrificed pubs in order to reopen schools

Meanwhile Finn Redmond in the same paper on much the same topic writes that:

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has cited “international evidence” as good cause to keep the pubs closed. Yet looking across the Irish Sea could perhaps offer some clarity. Pubs have been open in the UK for weeks now – with strict social-distancing measures. These are, at worst, minor impositions that limit the risk of contagion while also allowing people to spend money and (no less important) begin to enjoy a social life once again.

This would be the same UK which only five days before saw the following headline in the Guardian on foot of advice from UK government modelling expert Graham Medley.

Pubs in England may have to close to control coronavirus, says Sage adviser

Perhaps Medley, like some of us, doesn’t believe that ‘a social life’ depends upon access to pubs alone (and even more strangely, if you, I or Redmond really want a pint there’s many of them open where for the minor imposition of having to buy some food we can enjoy quite a few).

Then she offers this gem:

Rising infection figures in the UK and Ireland may be worrying but they are inevitable, and as much a product of increased localised testing and contained outbreaks as they are a function of the R-rate spiralling out of control.

Another IT journalist downplays what is happening:

Despite the precariousness of the current situation, there is no going back to the full lockdown of last March. We know now what works to stop the virus: distance, hand hygiene, masks. We know where the risky environments are: crowded indoor spaces, meat plants, shared accommodation.

We need now to continue to protect the vulnerable, and to develop targeted strategies that “build a wall” around the current outbreaks.

However, there is as yet no reason not to keep moving towards the restoration of a low-risk society where people can try to restore their economic fortunes while staying healthy.

Really? A very strong partial lock-down in three counties and he can say that? It would be useful to see the evidence underlying that contention. And what of other states in Europe where it seems plausible that other full lockdowns are on the way. And for that correspondents predictive track record consider this.

Meanwhile the Taoiseach gets it. Sort of.

He defends the decision to keep pubs closed and to restrict attendances at outdoor events to 200, and recognises the huge disappointment it caused.
His defence is “a significant spike in numbers” in the past week, with the danger of community spillover. He agrees the approach is conservative in some areas but argues that a balance has to be struck between protection and reopening.

“The idea that one can govern the virus, with certainty, is a misplaced idea. The virus will come back to bite us,” he says.

But then there’s this comment BTL of that interview:

Why Micheál Martin is continuing to push this conspiracy theory of a killer virus is beyond me.
The scientific evidence from experts worldwide is undisputable at this stage.
This killer virus conspiracy theory has a survival rate in the region of 99.9% but our current taoiseach and previous one also I might add believe that a killer virus that kills no more people than a seasonal flu justifies shutting down and killing the economy, bankrupting thousands of small and medium sized businesses, putting people under house arrest, denying children the right to an education, and now mandating that people wear muzzles in public places from Monday.
The list is endless…
All this because of a sniffle.

Seasonal flu mortality rate 2018/2019: Thirtyfour deaths in influenza cases have been notified to HPSC in the 2018/2019 season.
Numbers of dead due to Covid-19 as of Friday: 1,768

That supposed ‘survival rate of 99.9%’.

Speaking to the US Congress in March, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said he estimated the overall death at somewhere around 1%. This is inclusive of all those who have had the virus, including those who have not been tested. This would make Covid-19 ten times more lethal than the seasonal flu, which has a fatality rate of about 0.1%. By way of another comparison, the 2009 swine flu pandemic was estimated to be fatal in around 0.02% of cases.

And yet the IT hadn’t removed that comment late on Friday afternoon/evening.

Space station book August 8, 2020

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This is a lovely Kickstarter project – a book on the ISS, by photographer Roland Miller… as he says:

I recently completed a collaboration with Italian astronaut, Paolo Nespoli, to document and interpret the interior of the International Space Station. Paolo and I have produced a book of images from this collaboration, Interior Space: A Visual Exploration of the International Space Station. The book is being published by Damiani Editore in Bologna, Italy, in time for the 20th anniversary of continuous human habitation of the ISS on November 2, 2020.

Granted you have to pay $55 to get a copy of the book, but some would count that money well worth spent. But…

Due to shipping restrictions during the current pandemic, this reward is only available in the United States.

A pity that.

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