datbeardyman

Less about the world, more about me.

Month: September 2016

Column: Balanced debate shouldn’t be a clock-watching excercise

As published in The Kerryman 21-09-16

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While I was an enthusiastic supporter of the Marriage Equality referendum, the campaign left an unfortunate legacy, namely, balance. Or more precisely, how our media in general and RTE in particular, has chosen to interpret balance.

When something controversial is now discussed, on TV or on the radio, the quality and veracity of a contribution matters less than ensuring each side gets equal speaking time. This has made debate a thing of heat and fury, fun even, but informative it is not.

There’s no longer room for the complicated and nuanced. Debate is now gladiatorial and performative. One uses one’s allotted time to shovel as many soundbites onto the airwaves as possible before the other side shovels theirs. That these soundbites may be entirely inaccurate, perhaps even dishonest, doesn’t matter. All that matters is balance.

It has gotten to the point that the only subject where one is allowed to truly examine anything in detail, is sport.

When I want a particular Kerry performance analysed I have dozens of sources that will offer all kinds of perspectives on a single game. But they will also look at the history, current trends, make medium to long term predictions and generally make sure every aspect is covered. Also there will be a clear distinction between facts and opinions. This is what makes sports analysis so interesting and informative. And it is why we don’t look for analysis by watching a Kerry supporter and a Cork supporter arguing about who is better. That might be an enjoyable argument to have in the pub, but enlightening it will not be.

So what? Why does this matter? It’s important because there are subjects that require our particular attention. Issues that are complicated and controversial. They are issues so contentious, many of us switch off though our lives might very well depend on the conclusions of those debates.

Three issues spring immediately to mind: man-made climate change, abortion and vaccinations. All immensely controversial and all have life and death implications. Apple paying or not paying €13 billion in taxes is the much sexier topic of today, but it’s not all that complicated. The choices are quite easy to define. We either insist Apple pay what it owes us and risk them going elsewhere or we insist Apple doesn’t pay its taxes so they will continue creating jobs in Ireland and risk penalties from Europe.

OK, maybe it isn’t all that clear cut, but it isn’t life and death. Though perhaps a €13 billion injection into our creaking health system could save lives? So four issues spring immediately to mind.

When debated on TV we know exactly how the ‘show’ will go. And a show it will be. One side speaks for a minute. Then the other side. Followed by a back and forth until they are speaking over each other. Eventually the presenter calls a halt once he or she is satisfied both sides have had an equal amount of time to shovel their soundbites onto the airwaves. A show.

It’s 2016, we should be able to do better. Facts can be checked in the speed it takes to type a sentence. Debate should be about what must be done because of these facts. Debate cannot continue to be a clock watching exercise. Balance should not be about each side having their own ‘facts’.

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Weekly Links #9

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Another week, another list of links. Not as many as usual this week as I’ve been immersed in a good book, ‘The Rise And Fall of the Third Reich‘ and trying to write my column for The Kerryman. Usually the column takes a minimal amount of time, but this one got a little frustrating as I kept going off on tangents. In a 560 word column, tangents are not your friend.

I included a link about Robust Moral Realism. I like to read pieces on philosophy. I rarely understand what I’ve read but I can usually get enough to grasp the broad outlines. This is one of those cases. I still found it fascinating.

There’s also link to a series of posts by Liam Daly, an artist from Dublin. It’s about a cycling tour, he did, of America. I love his paintings and you can find examples of his work here. I regularly buy greeting card versions of his work. They are just beautiful.

I also got to include, for the first time, something by Ta-Nehisi Coates. When I grow up I want to be able to write as well as he does.

Enjoy the articles and do please consider subscribing to this blog.

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“Two things are worth noting about this triptych of beliefs. The first is that the commitment to non-naturalism comes with a significant cost. Killoren calls it the ‘non-naturalist’s handicap’. If non-naturalism is true, then it means that ‘moral facts do not play a contributory role in the best explanation of any natural facts’.” Is Robust Moral Realism a kind of Religious Belief?

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“In 1996 I flew to America with my bike, and then proceeded to cycle across it. First though, I had to negotiate my way past Immigration Controls in Boston. This is an excerpt from the first entry in the journal of my cycle across America. Part 01 continues the story, and so on until the end.” Cycling Across America — Part 00: Introduction*

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“Of course, we then have to figure out what to do not only with ourselves but with one another. Just as a lottery cheque does not free the winner from the shackles of the human condition, all-purpose machine intelligence will not magically allow us all to get along.” A world without work is coming – it could be utopia or it could be hell

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“Successful adults are usually strong-willed and stubborn and have an unwavering sense of purpose from which they refuse to be sidetracked, and yet, all too often, these are the characteristics that our teachers and our families and our communities will attempt to control when we are young because it makes their lives easier.” Pretence as an art form results in women accepting ill-treatment by others

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“In any referendum over separation, the “independence” side appeals to the patriotic heart. The thinking of the Leave side is magical. It plucks at a dimly remembered but glorified past (that was never as good as nostalgia makes it), and offers a future that is imaginary. TheBrexiteers are the dog that caught the bus: they hadn’t thought what to do next.” A Brexit post-mortem: 17 takeaways for a fallen David Cameron

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“I would fantasize constantly about my own death, like it was a movie I couldn’t wait to see. Would my family honor a request for a religion-free funeral? Probably not.” This is how I stopped myself from committing suicide

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“One way of reporting on Clinton’s statement is to weigh its political cost, ask what it means for her campaign, or attempt to predict how it might affect her performance among certain groups. This path is in line with the current imperatives of political reporting and, at least for the moment, seems to be the direction of coverage. But there is another line of reporting that could be pursued—Was Hillary Clinton being truthful or not?” Hillary Clinton Was Politically Incorrect, but She Wasn’t Wrong About Trump’s Supporters

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“What’s often forgotten, however, is that Nirvana and Pearl Jam were feminist through and through. As the years go by, their very public attacks against sexism in the early 90s look even more remarkable than they did at the time.” When Nirvana and Pearl Jam Stood Up for Feminism

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“It is said that all too often we don’t think enough, or even at all. In the modern world, so the story goes, we are akin to Descartes’s brutes. Does writing really kill deep and original thinking?” Writing Thoughtfully In Unthinking Times

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Column: Burkini ban is an insult to freedom

As published in The Kerryman 14-09-16

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A photograph of a woman on a French beach being forced to undress has provoked some controversy. It’s in broad daylight. The woman’s daughters are there, as are dozens of other sunbathers. The men forcing her to undress are armed. No one intervenes to protect the woman from this assault, in fact some cheer. Imagine the horror of such a violation. Imagine it happening on a beach in Kerry. Imagine it happening to your mother, your daughter, your sister, to you.

Yet this wasn’t an illegal act. The armed men were policemen enforcing a dress code that prevents Muslim women from wearing clothes that are not revealing enough. It’s hard to believe something like that could happen in France. The French are usually quite laisse faire regarding beachwear. Yet several towns recently banned the wearing of burkinis.

The burkini is an item of clothing that looks very much like a wetsuit. It covers the entire body but isn’t figure hugging. It was invented by an Australian Muslim woman who wanted Muslim girls to be able to participate in sports while maintaining the modesty requirements imposed by their religion.

It is an effective compromise. It meant an Egyptian team could compete in the Beach Volleyball event at the recent Rio Olympics. On one side a team of women in costumes that amounted to little more than scanty underwear. On the other side, costumes that only exposed the face, hands and feet.

But the burkini is controversial. While for many Muslim women the burkini is a welcome innovation, others regard is as oppressive. And there are the men who think it not oppressive enough. Some westerners regard the burkini as horrific while others think it none of our business.

France prides itself on being a secular republic. They even have a name for it, laïcité. Several politicians, in the immediate aftermath of terrorist attacks, used this concept to label the burkini as offensive to French values. A popular decision among certain sections of French society. Fortunately, these bans were struck out by the courts but not before a woman was forced to undress by armed men.

One can empathise with those who support this ban. The terrorist attacks the French suffered were so vicious and arbitrary, an over-reaction was almost inevitable. And then one remembers a woman was forced to undress in front of her children by armed men. Too many people appear to have forgotten that in Europe, we don’t tell women what to wear and use armed men to enforce this diktat. Well, not until now that is.

The burkini may be considered provocative by the some, the burka a source of disgust and the hijab an appalling imposition. In a free society if people wish to argue these points then they should argue. Heated, frustrating and even offensive arguments are the bedrock of social progress. But free speech encompasses more than words. What someone wears is as important expression of free speech as one’s freedom to question what is worn.

But we should also remember that Muslims are a vulnerable minority in Europe. When we argue we must remember that some of those doing the arguing simply hate Muslims being in Europe. Nothing is worth sacrificing free speech for, but it can be tempered so that we do not find ourselves on the side of the bigots. We do not want to be cheering when a woman is forced to undress by armed men.

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When A Column Is Not A Column

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As you may know, I am back writing a column for The Kerryman. I originally gave it up because it was getting in the way of writing fiction. But I found that I missed it so here I am, again, trying to write approximately 570 Kerry-centric words a week about stuff that interests me. And already a large portion of my brain is taken up with viewing everything as a possible column.

Recently two different articles about the environment caught my attention so I began to do a bit research. The research led me to abandon my original idea and instead write about the research. I was very proud of what I’d produced. So I gave it to my first-reader who said I hadn’t written a column more I’d just shown my work. I of course argued with her. There is no one as thin skinned and over-protective as writer is about his writing.

Of course she was entirely correct. I didn’t submit it. But I really liked it, so I’m posting it on my blog instead. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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Sometimes I sit down to write a column and it flows from my fingers. This happened, these are my thoughts, you don’t have to agree with me, but I’d like you to at least think about it. On those days, beginning to end, could take less an hour. Then there are the columns that take days to write. But my favourite columns are when I sit down to write about one thing and end up writing about something else. This is one of those columns. I intended to write about the environment and ended up with a history lesson.

I’d read about a debate going on in certain scientific circles. Please don’t leave. There’s a movement to name this era of our planet’s existence the Anthropocene Age. The ‘anthropo’ parts means man and the ‘cene’ means new. They want the name of this age to reflect humanity’s impact on the planet. We are responsible for the Sixth Mass Extinction Event (Sixth?), we’ve changed the atmosphere and polluted the oceans. Since the 1990s we’ve destroyed one tenth of Earth’s wilderness or just over 680 times the area of Kerry, gone.

But you already know this. One would have to be deliberately ignorant not to know we’re destroying the only home we have. What I found fascinating is that I had never thought about how an age is defined and who does the defining. It’s mostly geologists by the way.

And that I was using the wrong term, it isn’t an age. The scientists are talking about an epoch; they want this to be the Anthropocene Epoch. An epoch is made up of ages. The epoch we are presently in is the Holocene. This literally means, ‘entirely recent’. Very imaginative. It began about 9,700 BCE and encompasses the entire period of human civilisation.

The Holocene is the most recent epoch of the Quaternary Period. Quaternary, means fourth. There was a Tertiary Period but apparently it no longer exists. Geologists can do that. This period begins approximately 2.6 million years ago and encompasses all the human species that have existed. That’s a phrase that isn’t used enough, all the human species.

But there’s more. The Quaternary Period is but one part of the Cenozoic Era. My computer doesn’t even recognise that word. Cenozoic means ‘new life’ and begins about 66 million years ago. This era is also called the Age of Mammals and Age of Birds because that’s when we got our big chance to flourish. We got this chance because of the previous Mass Extinction Event that took out the dinosaurs. That asteroid ended the Mesozoic Era.

The Cenozoic Era is part of the Phanerozoic Eon This began about 541 million years ago. Phanerozoic means ‘visible life’. This, as the name suggests, is when we first get animals, insects and plants that, you know, looked like animals, insects and plants.

The time before this is called the Precambrian Supereon and begins about 4.6 billion years ago when the Earth was formed. It’s the longest period of time in our planet’s existence but obviously it’s the part we know least about.

Now that is a history lesson on the largest scale, with a lot of Greek thrown in for good measure too. But what occurred to me as I was writing this is that regardless of what we call today, the next species will certainly call it the Anthropocene Epoch.

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Weekly Links #8

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Hello and welcome to my eighth weekly list of links that have grabbed my attention. This week I am including three pieces about the same topic, cultural appropriation. The author Lionel Shriver gave a speech about the right of fiction writers to write whatever and whoever they wish. This caused consternation. Her entire speech is included. And I’ve included an article that attacks this assertion and one that agrees with it. I’m not sure where I stand on this. I write fiction and regard myself as ‘entitled’ to write without constraint. Yet I am aware that my entitlement is tied up with my privilege.

I’ve also included an article that analyses a game between Man United and Man City. I love when a football game is broken down into its constituent parts. A good game merits such attention and increasingly there are people who are willing to do it. And do it well.

And of course I couldn’t allow the 50th anniversary of Star Trek go unmentioned.

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“But what does this have to do with writing fiction? The moral of the sombrero scandals is clear: you’re not supposed to try on other people’s hats. Yet that’s what we’re paid to do, isn’t it? Step into other people’s shoes, and try on their hats.” Lionel Shriver’s full speech: ‘I hope the concept of cultural appropriation is a passing fad’

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“So what did happen? What did Shriver say in her keynote that could drive a woman who has heard every slur under the sun to discard social convention and make such an obviously political exit?” As Lionel Shriver made light of identity, I had no choice but to walk out on her

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“The issues that Shriver raised are a matter of debate and contention. What is striking about much of the criticism, though, is the sense not that Shriver is mistaken in her beliefs, but that she should not have said what she said, and that what she said was in some way a personal attack on all minoprity or non-Western writers.” who is appropriating what?

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“He continued with a midfield duo of Marouane Fellaini and Paul Pogba, a combination that was repeatedly exposed throughout the first half. Pogba, in particular, gave an incredibly indisciplined midfield display, positioning himself as if he were playing in a midfield trio, the system he is accustomed to. He was often caught ahead of the ball at turnovers, which left Fellaini isolated in front of the defence.” Pep Guardiola wins tactical battle with José Mourinho in Manchester derby

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“Welcome back to the new school year, maybe a new class and a new set of parents. As a parent, I want to get on with all the school staff. I value the school as a community that helps me to educate and raise my children.” 8 tips to be a better school principal… from a parent

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“Writing in plain English allows your message to reach as many people as possible. Clear writing can also avoid misunderstandings, that may have serious consequences. This is particularly important when the information communicated is about legal rights and responsibilities.”  What Is Plain English And Why Is It Important For Human Rights?

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“Some 50,000 asylum seekers and migrants remain stuck in Greece amid a recent spike in arrivals on the Greek islands since the failed military coup in Turkey in July. But the EU commission remains intent on getting Greece to start accepting returns from other member states before the end of the year.” One year after launch, EU fails on relocation

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“True, there aren’t many efforts to pretend that Donald Trump is a paragon of honesty. But it’s hard to escape the impression that he’s being graded on a curve. If he manages to read from a TelePrompter without going off script, he’s being presidential.” Hillary Clinton Gets Gored

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“Traditionalist revivalism tends to evoke three types of responses. One is fascination. Michel Foucault’s embarrassing embrace of Iran’s Islamic revolution is a prime example. Another, typical of revolutionary Marxists and scientistic atheists, is militant rejection of religion as such. A third is more nuanced, advocating neither reckless romanticism nor blanket rejection but critical engagement.” Confronting Religious Revivalism

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“In a world and society where religion seems to be more divisive than uniting lately, Koffman is diligently trying to turn that tide. Her personal interpretation of Judaism is about inclusion, advocacy, and speaking out against injustice, not about shame or imposed limitations, which seems pretty hard to argue with.” This Feminist Rabbi Is Dismantling The Abortion Vs. Religion Debate

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“Star Trek was born out of the era of John F Kennedy, the space race, a well-educated middle class and a sense in America that anything was possible.” Star Trek’s 50-year mission: to shine a light on the best of humankind

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Column: In Danny we trust…and never mind that talk of climate change

As published in The Kerryman 07-09-16

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As one might expect, there was a lot of chatter online concerning the recent comments by Danny Healy-Rae TD about man-made climate change. There were more than a few Kerry man jokes made. I was even offered sympathy by people from outside Kerry. They felt sorry for how embarrassed I must’ve felt at a fellow Kerry man saying such things.

Their sympathy was unnecessary. I’ve never been nor will I ever be embarrassed by anything Deputy Healy-Rae says. Not only am I not embarrassed, I am proud to be from the same constituency as Deputy Healy-Rae. He is an enthusiastic champion of two things I hold most dear, democracy and free speech.

He and his brother, between them, garnered 30,000 votes at the last election. That’s almost 40% of those who bothered to vote. Two out of every five people in Kerry, who voted, voted for a Healy Rae. When they speak, their accents are not the only thing Kerry about them. They reflect the considered opinion of the Kerry population. They did not garner such a massive mandate by saying things Kerry people might find disagreeable or controversial.

Kerry people, by and large, have decided that climate change is not something we need concern ourselves with. The cosy Dublin consensus on climate change can content itself with that area contained within the M50.

The smart alecs of the internet can go mind their own business. We’re not having any of that Climate Change down here. Sure it never stops raining anyway, so unless Dublin builds us a roof, we’ll mind our own weather and they can look after theirs.

Deputy Healy-Rae represents the will of Kerry people. To that end he has taken on the hated Dublin doom-merchants. Dublin may claim that 97% of the scientists who study our planet’s climate say man-made climate change is real, but science is a petty thing compared to the opinion of 40% of Kerry people. What need have we of science when we have our opinions? What need have we for science when a man as brave as Deputy Healy-Rae can claim he knows more than 97% of scientists?

I only wish there was an election tomorrow so that the 60% of us who missed out on the opportunity to vote for a Healy-Rae the last time out, can reward his brave resistance to Dublin, scientists and the views expressed by the Pope on the subject of climate.

People, non-Kerry people that is, may mock the apparent hubris of a man who without any scientific background can gainsay the established opinion of so many learned scientists. These non-Kerry people may roll their eyes at a politician telling his voters only what they want to hear. These outsiders may sigh in despair that we people of Kerry are only interested in the facts that allow us to continue living as we’ve always lived. But I say to them that this is democracy, this is free speech.

If scientists offer us uncomfortable truths, then we will fashion our own truths. We will create for ourselves a story that soothes and panders to our preferred vision of reality. And we will find a man ready, willing and able to represent this alternative reality. In Danny Healy Rae TD, we have given living form to our preferred reality and in Danny Healy Rae TD we now trust.

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Repealers Doing It Wrong

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There are times when I read something that is so wrong I just shrug my shoulders and fling it from my mind. Sometimes it’s so bad I draw attention to it so other people can share in my disdain. Then there are pieces of writing that are so woeful I feel the need to dive in and swim in the noxiousness of it, so I can fully understand it. This is one of those times.

Donal Lynch has written something I can’t turn away from. It’s just too egregious. He describes himself as supporting the repeal of the eighth amendment and in favour of a woman’s right to choose, but thinks every other pro-choicer is doing it wrong.

This is a link to the original article, from which I will be liberally quoting.

“…that I felt the pro-choice movement consistently fails to deal with the central argument of the other side – that abortion ends a life.” The pro-choice side ceaselessly deals with the fact that an abortion ends a life. Unfortunately, the complexity of this issue does not lend itself to soundbites. Nor does our media allow for uncontested examinations of an issue so steeped in philosophical, ethical and moral ambiguity. And in a campaign where our opponents are allowed to fill their 50% of allotted time with lies, an in-depth discussion of this issue is impossible. How does one, in sixty seconds or less, explain that yes an abortion ends a life but what exactly is that life? What value do we put on that life and how exactly does that that value alter over time?

Yet we, as a movement, are successfully encompassing so many different groups and women who have varying experiences of, and attitudes to, abortion. There are women that mourn the loss of their babies (aborted due to fatal foetal abnormalities). Women who had abortions to protect their own health, women who had abortions because the time wasn’t right for them to be mothers or never want to be mothers and others who have never had an abortion and would never have one, but feel it important for women to have the right. The continued existence of this incredibly broad coalition speaks to an understanding that abortion ends a life but that the meaning of this is ambiguous. Why not use your 1500 words in a national newspaper to tease this issue out rather than harangue campaigners who get abused for their efforts?

“I get the argument that “demand” makes it sound like a consumerist whim, but doesn’t the phrase “on request” sound like a timid plea by comparison?” Pro-choicers do want abortion on demand. Many others within the coalition want abortion to be limited to certain circumstances. Either way, the phrase has been poisoned by anti-choicers. As a soundbite it is used as a stick to beat women who experience crisis pregnancies. Perhaps one day the phrase will be reclaimed by pro-chociers, but someone who writes for a national newspaper should know, that at this point in time, ‘on-demand’ has been shaped to evoke images of wanton women who want abortions instead of keeping their knees together.

“For the shrill Repeal sisterhood, it’s not enough to want the same thing, we have to want it for the right reasons.” In my experience, people who generalise about women using epitaphs like ‘shrill’ tend to be tiny brained and tiny dicked man-children. But I don’t have the peer reviewed studies to back up what is essentially anecdotal evidence, so I must just leave this as an opinion.

“the least successful abortion-rights movement in Europe is finally getting its act together.” This is a statement that rings true as long as one doesn’t actually, you know, look at the facts. In 1983, Ireland was a fundamentally different place than it is today, and even then, the eighth amendment passed with just 35.9% of the electorate. Since then, there have been four referendums related to abortion, and the anti-choicers lost them all.

This current phase of campaigning is relatively new and despite the overwhelming conservatism of our politicians, some progress has been made. Why Ireland is one of the few nations in Europe to so oppress women is worthy of sociological, demographic and cultural study. All wonderfully rich topics someone with access to a national newspaper could delve into. Though not as easy as tossing insults at people who brave abuse as they campaign for abortion rights.

“nobody is silencing women” Are you fucking kidding me? Is your head entirely up your arse? Did it occur to you to ask any of the women who spoke about their abortions about the abuse they’ve experiences from anti-choicers?

“They have always won.” No they haven’t. Remember the 12th, 13th, 14th and 25th amendments? Remember the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. Do your bloody research.

“The most basic question of all is, of course, the actual death of the foetus. Just as the pro-life brigade never fully engage with the experience of the woman, so pro-choice activists ignore the idea of the unborn child.” I refer you to my response to your first quote with an addendum. More people in Ireland want increased access to abortion than realise that to get increased access we need to repeal the eighth amendment. And if the eight amendment was repealed tomorrow, access to abortion in this country wouldn’t change. Have you noticed yet how complicated this is? Engaging with the pricks with the placards is less important than explaining to as many people as possible that nothing can change before the eight is repealed and when it is repealed a whole new campaign must begin.

“So how does the average person reconcile this vista and the knowledge that, hairsplitting aside, something with a heartbeat and a face must be a living thing, with support for abortions for those who want them? The answer might be in the last place the Repealers would think to look: in the idea of redemption and atonement.” Do you really want the 95% of women who have an abortion and don’t regret it, to begin to feel guilty just so you can be taken seriously by the shrill sisterhood? Are you that needy? And again I refer you to the first quote.

“And as for God – whose presence and attitude she frequently considered during this time – she was convinced that if he really did exist, that he must have the compassion to understand.” Here you quote from a story to make a point about guilt. NO! STOP IT! The shrill sisterhood is done with religious guilt. That day has passed. It’s up to you to adjust to that, not for them to get back on their knees.

“And perhaps like a lot of Irish people, we simply yearn for a proper language for the moral struggle around abortion.” Why oh why is it important for you that women feel guilty or just plain bad for having an abortion? Why must they experience emotional pain just so you can feel better about them having an abortion? Have you any idea how sick and creepy that is? Cop the fuck on.

“There is a spiritual vacuum at the heart of Irish life. We have rejected the old Church – for good reasons – but in doing so, we have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.” Really? You thought this phrase was a good idea?

“Paradoxically, this has caused retrenchment to a rigid morality that has made us the odd man out in Europe for abortion rights.” Malta? Poland? Northern Ireland?

“Abortion is a complex issue that affects at least three living beings in every case – the mother, the father and the foetus. It is about pain and death – this needs to acknowledged – and there needs to be a language of grief and respect around it.” Wow, you really can’t let go of the idea that women need to suffer for you to allow them have abortions. You can’t get your head around the idea that for every one hundred women who have an abortion there are one hundred different experiences. They range from relief all the way to regret with a multitude of other emotions mixed in. However, for the vast majority, the experience is a positive one.

“But acknowledging these issues not only shows respect for the terrible responsibility of the woman (her ‘choice’), it takes on the pro-life lobby on their own spiritual turf. It beats them with their own crucifix.” I can only guess here that you mean anti-choicers will stop hating women who have abortions if they say how horrible having an abortion was and how bad they will feel for the rest of their lives? Perhaps if every woman who has ever had an abortion came out tomorrow saying it was the worst thing they could have ever done, we will have abortion on demand the day after?

“It’s often presumed that if the Eighth Amendment were removed that we would eventually get what they have in England – where there are roughly 200,000 abortions a year and the procedure is basically used like a contraceptive (over one-third of UK abortions are for women who have previously had one).” And 66% of women who have abortions in the UK were using contraception at the time and over half of women who had abortions were already mothers. I hope they all felt bad about it too.

“Women, and sometimes men, come to stand before these mystical monuments to express their grief, sadness, confusions and hopes of forgiveness.” Your guilt fetish is beginning to scare me now.

“They will never acknowledge that, at the heart of abortion, is the fact that it is one life for another, an impossible decision – different for every woman – that must somehow be made.” Impossible decision? But these guilt free Irish harlots are having over 4000 abortions a year? It’s not impossible, it’s not even improbable. It’s basic health care.

There are occasions when it is an event of great tragedy, as in the case of fatal foetal abnormality. Or when the pregnancy is the result of a rape. But tragedy does not equal guilt. Women in these circumstances require support and compassion, not an expectation that they feel guilty or a requirement that they prostrate themselves at some shrine for having committed the great sin of making the best choice for them.

“This is a terrible shame. Facing up to these issues might go some way toward bringing along the ‘mushy middle’ of Irish society, who have long accepted we must change our constitution (just look at all the polls), but still can’t quite bring themselves to flag-wave for abortion.” Irish people will only repeal the eighth if women pretend they were traumatised by their abortions?

“And maybe one day, in the not-too-distant future, we principled, determined Repealers can take our own spirituality, candles and rosary beads (I have a beautiful set from my grandmother), and join the likes of Youth Defence in grieving for the dead.” You fucking clown.

Reading this I am left with the impression that Donal Lynch might actually support a woman’s right to choose but can’t get his head around the fact that women are not broken by the experience. It’s not an entirely uncommon fallacy. It’s that or he thinks women should feel broken by the experience. That’s also not an uncommon attitude. The first can, eventually, be countered by stats and women revealing more of their medical history than they should ever have to. The second, however, is a profoundly unsettling attitude that appears to animate much of the hate that emanates from the anti-choice side. That sexually active women are not penalised for being sexually active enrages anti-choice bigots beyond reason or restraint.

So swimming in this bullshit has had some benefit for me. I now understand better some of our ‘allies’ and equally I understand better some of our enemies. All we need now is for women to pretend to feel guilty and see if it helps the cause.

 

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Weekly Links #7

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Another week of things that the twitterverse pushed me to read that I’m glad I read. This week I’ve read articles that cover Trump and his nonsense, the struggle of abortion providers in the US and Deep Space Nine. I’ve also been reading a lot about Mother Teresa who was canonised this week. There are few figures as divisive as Mother Teresa and I say that in a paragraph that includes Donald trump. But the highlight is that DS9 article about Garak. Now that’s a man I’d vote for president and sainthood. Mostly because he’d know if I didn’t.

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“Donald Trump is a prominent subject among white nationalists on Twitter. According to the study, white nationalist users are “heavily invested” in the Republican’s candidacy. Tweets mentioned Mr Trump more than other popular topics among the groups.” White nationalist movement growing much faster than Isis on Twitter, study finds

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“If we could engineer things just right, only allowing in those who have skills that are lacking in the U.S. workforce or who seek to fill the professions for which we have shortages, we could add immigrants and make the country richer, and no American would have to lose a job or get a cut in pay.” THE TRUMP IMMIGRATION IDEA THAT ALMOST MAKES SENSE

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“There are, however, two groups of people who really do commit crime, especially violent crime, at wildly different rates: Men and women.” A modest proposal: Trump has it all wrong — to prevent crime, we need to do some “extreme vetting” of men

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“If she wins on 8 November, Clinton will be the most disliked president-elect ever. And that is a small ‘if’, thanks to the epic anti-popularity of Trump (he scores a whopping 44 per cent on the unfavourableometer) and the self-destructing beast that is the Republican party in 2016.”  The power of Hillary hate

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“Curious, I inquired how many were history majors. Of the 24 honors students in the seminar, there were none. English? Philosophy? Fine arts? Only one. How was this possible? I asked. Almost in unison, half a dozen replied: “Our parents wouldn’t let us.” Meet the parents who won’t let their children study literature

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“Since 1996, the prices of food and housing have increased by close to 60 percent, faster than the pace of inflation. Costs of health care and child care have more than doubled. The prices of textbooks and higher education nearly tripled.” The things we really need are getting more expensive. Other stuff is getting cheaper. Why?

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“Both the Teamsters and the UFCW have organized dozens of marijuana-related businesses in several states, with contracts that guarantee everything from pension plans to tuition reimbursement for employees and their offspring.” High times: How will budtenders and trimmigrants fare if pot is legalized?

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“Mid-20th century phenomena, such as carbon dioxide emissions, rising sea levels, the global mass extinction of species and deforestation, have ended the Holocene epoch, the scientists said. The Anthropocene would be defined geologically by the effects of nuclear bomb tests, plastic pollution, concrete and more, according to scientists.” Scientists Say a New Geological Epoch Called the Anthropocene Is Here

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“She sees patients who are uninsured, and when they can’t afford the medicines she wants to prescribe, she figures out another treatment plan. What she doesn’t do at the hospital is perform abortions. Only two clinics in Utah have found their way through the maze of restrictive laws that govern abortion care in the state—and so, to do that part of her work, Torres spends a Saturday each month at one of them, helping people end their pregnancies.” What Is It Like to Be an Abortion Provider in an Anti-Choice State?

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“The proceedings took significant steps toward restoring the radical pacifist message of the Gospels that had been largely abandoned when the Emperor Constantine, in the fourth century, adopted Christianity as the official doctrine of the Roman empire — turning the church of the persecuted into the church of the persecutors, as historian of Christianity Hans Küng described the transformation.” Burkini Bans, New Atheism and State Worship: Noam Chomsky on Religion in Politics

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“There is simply no excuse for an institution run by the Catholic church to lack basic hygiene and to be reusing syringes, or for a hospital for the dying run by an arm of a very wealthy organisation to fail to provide pain relief, and for this state of affairs to be carrying on for years.”  Not exactly Mother Teresa

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“At the time of her death, Mother Teresa had opened 517 missions welcoming the poor and sick in more than 100 countries. The missions have been described as “homes for the dying” by doctors visiting several of these establishments in Calcutta. Two-thirds of the people coming to these missions hoped to a find a doctor to treat them, while the other third lay dying without receiving appropriate care.” Mother Teresa: Anything but a saint…

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“To say that little hearts were now appearing in my eyes would be something of an understatement. You need to imagine roughly a million hearts and about a thousand arrows fired by a whole company of Cupids. You have to imagine orchestral swell. I’d met Garak.” All True, Especially the Lies—Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Cardassia

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Column: Information super-highway puts us on a fast lane to the ‘post truth era’

As published in The Kerryman 31-08-16

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There is a lot to be said for this technological era. Many parents in Kerry can now speak ‘face-to-face’ with their children half a planet away. Not so long ago, emigration to the US or Australia meant an almost complete loss of contact between family members. Technology not only helps us maintain relationships, it helps forge new relationships, regardless of geography.

This technological wonder also makes an unimaginable amount of information available to all and sundry. The problem is knowing how to wade through all this information, deciphering truth from fact, expert analysis from propaganda and data from opinion.

There is so much rubbish being paraded as fact that it would make one almost nostalgic for the old days when we trusted people in authority. A time when we didn’t think it necessary to second-guess. When we didn’t automatically look for independent confirmation. Or always have to wonder who was paying this so-called expert.

This scientific wonder of mass communication has freed us from the experts, it has made facts, democratic and elevated feelings to the same level as knowing. This gift of science has in fact made us less scientific than ever before. All that freely accessible information and the result has been we are now in what is called the ‘post-truth’ era.

In the UK they had a referendum to decide if they should leave the EU, the Brexit Referendum. I, like most people, didn’t take much notice because leaving the EU was obviously a nonsensical idea. The referendum was nothing more than an expression of tensions within the Tory party. It would be crushed and we would carry on as if it had never happened.

Oh how wrong I was. In 2016 it is now permissible to make things up and not have to worry about being called to account for it. The ‘Leave’ side promised an extra 350 million pound would be saved if the UK voted to leave. Money that would go to their NHS. Experts pointed out that this wasn’t true. They showed the numbers, explained the facts and sat back thinking that would be enough.

The Leave side complained about the terrible burden that migrants were putting on the UK tax-payer. Only outside the EU could migration be halted. Again the experts pointed to the figures that showed migrants being net contributors to the UK exchequer. They also explained that outside the EU, the UK wouldn’t have access to the EU common market without free movement of people.

Facts and figures. In response, the leave side said there had been enough of experts.

In America, Donald Trump somehow managed to become the nominee for the Republican Party. How did this buffoon become so powerful in an era of so much information?

He railed against crime, gun-control, Muslims, women and the state of the economy. Again and again, the rubbish he spewed was checked and found to be almost always wrong. He just got more popular. His fans (and politicians shouldn’t really have fans) love him for his straight-talking.

I’m not nostalgic for the days when old men in suits decided what was fact, what was important, what would happen. If I’m honest I don’t know if there was ever time when facts ever mattered that much. I am however amazed that the more information has become available, the more we choose to use our feelings to make important decisions. And these are decisions are as profound as who to vote for, our attitude towards immigrants and whether or not to vaccinate our children.

It’s such a terrible waste of a revolution.

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Weekly Links #6

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Another week and I’m still reading about the burkini ban. I’ve managed to write a little something on it but I doubt I’ll ever fully resolve my own thoughts on the topic. And perhaps this white man should find something more important to concern himself with.  A valid observation, but I doubt I’ll manage that anytime soon.

I have also been trying to read a bit about what has motivated so many people to support Trump. I want to dismiss him as a contemptible fascist, a mere Brexiter on a larger scale, but he is immensely popular. What have I missed in the world that I can’t comprehend this terrifying phenomenon? It is a theme I will probably be returning to often.

I hope you find my choices this week interesting and please consider subscribing to my blog so I don’t have to beat you over the head on twitter about it.

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“We live in a materialistic society where people are very shallow and conscious about their appearance. I choose to dress this way because it gives me freedom. I don’t have to worry about strange men looking at my figure, desiring me in a sexual way or people commenting on the way I look and judging my looks or talking about my clothes.” Why we wear the burkini: five women on dressing modestly at the beach

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“If you can’t take me seriously because I drape a piece of cloth over my head then the problem is with you, not me. If you are surprised that I’m able to articulate myself well enough despite a cloth over my head, the problem is with you, not me.” I wear a headscarf and I don’t need to be saved from anything — except white feminism

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“For almost 40 years, globally-oriented white elites used their money, power and influence to encourage mass immigration of cheap labor, overseas outsourcing and also the construction of an expanding system of racial preferences in education and employment. Working and lower middle-class whites bore the brunt of these policies that pitted them against minorities.” Why are so many white men angry?

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“When the financial crash hit Ireland, decades of hard work appeared to be ready to unravel as unemployment soared. Subsequently, Ireland’s  government scrambled to secure the future of Irish banks and cut funding of social programs, including  unemployment and child benefits.” The next phase of Brexit: Will Ireland succumb next?

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“Dildos are a particularly apt implement for an anti–campus carry demonstration, and not just because they share space with guns as stand-ins for human penises. Texas lawmakers have long been more scared of dildos than they are of guns—the sale of sex toys was illegal in the state until 2008.” The Anti-Gun Dildo Campaign Has Finally Begun at the University of Texas

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“Almost no one seems to be aware that even if the U.S. were a perfect country today, it would be bizarre to expect African-American players to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Why? Because it literally celebrates the murder of African-Americans.” Colin Kaepernick Is Righter Than You Know: The National Anthem Is a Celebration of Slavery

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“In classical antiquity the Greek and Latin ancestors of the English word grammar were used in reference not only to the study of language but also to the study of literature. In the medieval period, Latin grammatica and its outcomes in other languages were extended to include learning in general.” The History of ‘Glamour’

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“Humans are the most voracious consumers planet Earth has ever seen. With our land-use, hunting and other exploitative activities, we are now directly impacting three-quarters of the Earth’s land surface.”  New map shows alarming growth of the human footprint

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“I definitely don’t want any woman to feel ashamed of having an abortion, but nor do I want anyone to feel pressured to do so – by their partner, their employer, their parents. All these things happen here, and in other countries. I can think of actual examples, but I can’t tell you about them.” Pro choice and pro life?

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“Conscientious objection is the refusal by a healthcare practitioner to provide a certain medical service, for example an abortion or medical assistance in dying, because it conflicts with the practitioner’s moral views. Aim of the workshop was to discuss the ethical and legal aspects of conscientious objection in healthcare, in view of proposing some guidelines for the regulation of conscientious objection in healthcare in the future.” CONSENSUS STATEMENT ON CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION IN HEALTHCARE

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“I looked up and held his eye for a moment, the smile lighting my face. “She probably stuck it the same place I would if two macho guys were on my trail.” Everyone turned to me and waited expectantly. I looked from face to face, and then back to Striker. “I’d put it in the place every girl knows a man would overlook—the bottom of her tampon box.” I spooned more stew into my mouth.” EDC Tampons: How to Save Your Character’s Life

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