datbeardyman

Less about the world, more about me.

Month: October 2016

Weekly Links #14

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To my great surprise I managed to avoid any articles on the car crash that is Trump this week. Though I did read a bit about Brexit, which is a car crash of the same economically marginalised, post-factual and nativist stripe. It is depressing to be already one of those nostalgic types who mourns for a time when things were less stupid.

But there are vampires so at least I’m topical.

As ever, feel free to subscribe to my blog and perhaps take a look at some of my fiction over on Amazon.

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“Britain did not become a different country on 24 June. It did not overnight get taken over by xenophobes and racists and the ignorant. Rather people, and views, that many liberals, and many within the elite, were able previously to ignore, they no longer could.” i want my country back

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“Labour and the Conservatives have always positioned themselves in accordance with the country’s social divisions: Labour for the workers, Tories for the businesspeople. The EU referendum confirmed that this logic no longer applies. Labour has largely split in two: an urban left-wing liberal middle class that voted against Brexit on the one hand and an independent worker class that was in favor of leaving the EU on the other. The Tories, meanwhile, is made up of nationally patriotic EU opponents as well as business-oriented globalists.” Searching for the True Britain

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“Experts had never seen a glacier move like Kolka before. It seemed like the icy equivalent of a pyroclastic flow of hot gas and rock that gushed out of Vesuvius and flattened Pompeii. Most incredibly of all, Kolka had achieved high speeds on a surface that was inclined an average of only six degrees above the horizontal.” When Glaciers Transform Into Deadly 150-mph Avalanches

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“Today, cooking helps us make meat easier to eat and digest, but Lieberman thinks our ancestors started eating meat long before they learned how to roast it. There’s evidence that our early ancestors—upright apes called hominins—were regularly eating meat as far back as 2.5 million years ago, but cooking doesn’t seem to become common until 500,000 years ago” How sliced meat drove human evolution

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“They found that when people were dishonest, activity in a part of the brain called the amygdala—the hub of emotional processing and arousal—changed. With each scenario, the more dishonestly the participant advised his partner, the less activated the amygdala was on the fMRI. That may be because lying triggers emotional arousal and activates the amygdala, but with each additional lie, the arousal and conflict of telling an untruth diminishes, making it easier to lie.” The Fascinating Reason Why Liars Keep On Lying

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“Discreetly nestled away on the first floor of Colchester hospital is a bedroom with a full-width forest mural on the wall, a double-bed with purple floral duvet and a rocking chair in the corner. It is a room where parents spend time with their dead baby.” The bereavement midwife: Is this the saddest job in England?

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“I have bitten my nails for as long as I remember. My fingertips are a state. These stubs won’t score frenzied red tracks down your back. They can barely feel anymore. I think I’ve eaten the very nerves, like vermin cutting through encased wire.” SKINPICKER

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“And yet, as is often the case when it comes to the web, reality is not quite that black and white. As a female football fan myself, I feel lucky that my own encounters with overt sexism online have been few and far between. What I have seen plenty of, however, are deeply knowledgeable, funny and passionate football fans — who also just happen to be women.” How the web is helping women to find their voice in football

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A New Big Bad: There have been a lot of big, bad threats in all corners of the globe on Game of Thrones for the past six seasons, but the show is now winding down, we assume, to a single major conflict. This means that while all the heroes are likely amassing and readying themselves for battle on one side (see above), the threats will likely be winnowed down to one. And, sorry to say, there’s no way a scheming Lannister is the true big boss of Game of Thrones.Rumor has it there’s a big battle coming, and Cersei will probably be on the wrong side of it. What does that mean for Jaime? We can only guess.” The Game of Thrones Endgame Is Nearer than We Thought

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“Working with the conservative estimate that vampires only need to feed once a month, Efthimiou and Gandhi looked at population stats and concluded that vampires would eliminate humans within three years. Put simply, they said, “vampires cannot exist, since their existence contradicts the existence of human beings.” (They also threw in a bit of sass: “Apparently, whomever devised the vampire legend had failed his college algebra and philosophy courses.”)” Here’s How Long it Would Take for Vampires to Annihilate Humanity

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Column: The knives are out for our heroes

As published in The Kerryman 19-10-16

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The old maxim ‘never meet your heroes’ is very difficult to adhere to these days. Media, old and new, has greatly reduced the distance between us and those we once admired from afar. An image could be carefully crafted and protected. Today, once someone has raised their head above the common crowd, the knives will be immediately out. Any and all skeletons will be found and shouted from the rooftops. This tearing down of heroes doesn’t serve any function beyond making money for the broadcasters and catering to our base desire for gossip and scandal.

It makes emotionally investing in other people and attempting to emulate virtual strangers, almost impossible. We commit and then they are found out. Earlier this year we experienced the profound disappointment of discovering Paul Kelly, the founder of Console, was something very different from his public persona.

Recently this country celebrated the canonisation of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Irish people have a particular affection for this woman. She may have been Albanian, but she joined an Irish order of nuns and she did visit here.

World famous, Nobel winning and unprecedentedly sainted a mere 20 years after her death. She died with a reputation untainted by scandal or controversy. Her dedication to the poorest of the poor made her a household name all over this planet.

Well maybe not entirely free of controversy. There were some questions about her work. It is claimed that she found more merit in suffering than in relieving that suffering. It is has been said sanitation in some of her homes was poor: soiled blankets and dishes were washed in the sinks and hypodermic needles were reused. Her critics point out that she spoke against divorce in Ireland and then expressed happiness when her friend Princess Diana got a divorce.

She accepted money from the vicious Duvalier family, dictators of Haiti. When she was sick, she received the best private healthcare America could offer. And finally one of the miracles attributed to her should be attributed to modern medicine.

But she is a saint and she is loved. She is regarded as an inspiration. She is a hero. Do the facts of her work and life actually matter?

One of the people who was prominent in highlighting the less attractive aspects of Mother Teresa was Christopher Hitchens. A British journalist, polemicist, darling of the left and avowed atheist.

He died last year of throat cancer and resisted to the end the questionable comforts of religion. He lambasted Saint Teresa in word and on film, detailing what he saw as her hypocrisies and strange beliefs. He was a hero to those of us who adored his fearless erudition and his slaying of the sacred cows of our age.

Did he remain a hero? No. He supported the US led invasion of Iraq in 2003 with an enthusiasm that bordered on the bloodthirsty. For all his brilliance and supposed rationality, he did not foresee just how ruinous the invasion would be for the Iraqi people and the entire region.

How then do we have heroes when facts keep getting in the way of the legend? Must we decide to either close our eyes to the truth or give up on the notion of heroes altogether? Or maybe we see the humans who inspire as just that, human, with all this entails.

 

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Weekly Links #13

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I know ‘thirteen’ is just another number but I cannot entirely escape 42 years of socialisation. So it manages to get two sentences that it so doesn’t deserve. Anyway, another week, another collection of articles that have caught my attention. Articles that have made the slightest of slight dents in the mountain of my ignorance.

The first two pieces I read today and coincidentally (there’s no such thing as luck, honestly)  cover similar territory. Difficult territory for this white, straight, able bodied man who fancies himself to be a writer. I made an effort this year to read as many books written by women as by men. The reading part isn’t actually an effort, it’s the remembering to choose female writers. Fortunately, as I prefer fantasy and science fiction, I have several quality women writers to choose from. As for people of colour and members of the LGBTQ community I have just begun that search..

As usual there is a slew of Trump stuff. Thank Gandalf we are in the final straight of that clown show. And there is a mix of science and philosophy that I don’t always understand but still feel better for having read them.

Feel free to subscribe and if you’d like to read some of my fiction please find me on Amazon.

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“Stefanie Preissner, the show’s writer, has created something that is raw and relevant and laugh-out-loud hilarious. However when I was scrolling through my Twitter feed, it became clear to me that not everyone agreed and all too often, the criticism levelled at the programme seemed to be gendered.” Do men just instinctively dislike movies and TV shows that star women?

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“The problem is predominantly two-fold: lack of diverse representation in fictional characters and lack of diverse representation amongst successful (and by this I mean traditionally published or writers/directors/etc of film and TV) content creators. In this way, the silencing of diverse voices is happening at both ends. It is a dangerous cycle of oppression.” Ingrained prejudice: How do we change our defaults?

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“Some believe that many of those who support Donald Trump do so because of ignorance — basically they are under-informed or misinformed about the issues at hand. When Trump tells them that crime is skyrocketing in the United States, or that the economy is the worst it’s ever been, they simply take his word for it.” The Psychology Behind Donald Trump’s Unwavering Support

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“Earned media typically dwarfs paid media in a campaign. The big difference between Mr. Trump and other candidates is that he is far better than any other candidate — maybe than any candidate ever — at earning media.” $2 Billion Worth of Free Media for Donald Trump

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“Clinton’s successful execution of this strategy has been, fittingly, the product of traits that she’s often criticized for: her caution, her overpreparation, her blandness. And her particular ability to goad Trump and blunt the effectiveness of his political style has been inextricable from her gender. The result has been a political achievement of awesome dimensions, but one that Clinton gets scarce credit for because it looks like something Trump is doing, rather than something she is doing — which is, of course, the point.” Hillary Clinton’s 3 debate performances left the Trump campaign in ruins

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“Politicians are too afraid to speak out against the EU referendum result because they’re scared they’ll be accused of undermining democracy. And sensible journalists are also mostly too afraid to speak out, lest they’re accused of being in a middle-class, out-of-touch establishment bubble – which most of them obviously are anyway.” The Brexit vote wasn’t democracy in action. It was populist ignorance on a grand scale.

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“These findings directly refute the argument that women are particularly conflicted about having abortions — an assumption that has led to the proliferation of GOP-sponsored laws requiring ultrasounds, additional counseling visits, and extended waiting periods intended to help women make a difficult decision.” Science says women are quite certain about having an abortion

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“Some women cannot travel and are forced to carry a fetus to term. In one of the most shocking and high profile cases in Ireland, a refugee known only as Miss Y arrived in the country to claim asylum in March 2014. A week later, she found out that she was pregnant and requested that she travel overseas for an abortion. She stated that the baby was conceived due to rape and became suicidal. She was refused. In August, after a protracted hunger strike in a maternity hospital, a baby boy was delivered prematurely through cesarean section.” ‘How Do You Bring a Body Home?’: The Woman Forced to Carry an Unviable Pregnancy

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“For Smith, natural liberty was not an axiom. He made exceptions to it and acknowledged that he was doing so. Still, it is his main principle, and the burden of proof is on those who would contravene it.” The Origin of ‘Liberalism’

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“After a lengthy phone conversation with her headteacher last year, we were given the choice to take her out of the Bible sessions and sit her in a classroom where she could colour in or play with any other kids who had been removed. Knowing our daughter would be utterly mortified to be excluded in such a way, and would see it as a punishment, we opted to let her stay with the rest of her class and see where it took her.” Motherhood: Striving for a broader church

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“Consequentialism is the moral theory that we are obligated to do whatever would have the best consequences. If that entails great sacrifice, then great sacrifice is what consequentialism demands we undertake. Since Schindler could have done more, he should have.” Being moral means you can never do enough

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“The capuchins make the fragments unintentionally while bashing rocks into dust, the researchers find. Some scientists say that the results call into question whether some stone tools have been incorrectly attributed to hominins — including 3.3-million-year-old artefacts from Kenya that are the oldest on record.” Monkey ‘tools’ raise questions over human archaeological record

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Column: Who will tell our story when Earth becomes a wasteland?

As published in The Kerryman 28-09-16

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Have you ever wondered about what distinguishes our species from all the other animals? The late author Terry Pratchett insisted we are not Homo sapiens (wise man) but Pan narrans (the story telling chimpanzees). We describe the world, our place in the world and what that means to us, through story. These stories range from fantastical tales of dragons and aliens, to the more prosaic language of scientists naming stuff.

Not that scientists naming everything isn’t as important as caring about who should be allowed buy a particular field. For example, did you know we’re living in the Holocene Epoch. This literally means, ‘entirely recent’. Not very imaginative I’ll grant you but accurate. It began about 9,700 BCE and encompasses the entire span of human civilisation.

Now some scientists want to see a new epoch recognised. They insist that it be dated either from the period of the Industrial Revolution or from the beginning of the Atomic age. They want this epoch to be called the Anthropocene. What story are scientists trying to tell us with this single Greek word, Anthropocene? The ‘anthropo’ parts means man and ‘cene’ means new. They want to name this epoch after us. Sounds a bit arrogant doesn’t it? Except the story is a bit scarier than that.

Our particular human species has been around about 250,000 years. We only began to get down to agriculture and urbanisation, or civilisation for short, about 10,000 years ago. That’s when we really got into telling stories. However, it wasn’t until the 1700s that we began to change the planet.

Every year since then our species has ramped up the amount of damage it’s done to this, our only home. About a dozen species are pushed into extinction every day, due to pollution, habitat destruction and poaching. It is estimated that by the middle of this century, up to a half of the species on this planet will be facing extinction. In the last twenty years alone, we’ve destroyed one tenth of the Earth’s wilderness. Just over 680 times the area of Kerry, gone.

Much of the natural world, it animals and fauna, including us, got our big break about 66 million ago when an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs. This is described as the Fifth Mass Extinction Event in our planet’s history. Now there is a talk of a Sixth Mass Extinction. And it isn’t being caused by anything natural and unavoidable. It’s us and our continued destruction of the environment.

The damage is reaching a point where we might make Earth as uninhabitable for our species as we are already making it uninhabitable for a lot of other animals and plants.

Our species is not an asteroid but we are managing to do an asteroid’s work. Asteroids are unthinking destroyers of worlds. We are the storytelling chimpanzees. But all our stories up to now have taught us that we own this planet and can do with it as we please. Our stories have made us entitled and ignorant.

Will calling this the Anthropocene be enough to make us wise? Will story telling finally make us think? The dinosaurs reigned for millions of years, the only story they left behind is whatever we can decipher from their fossilised bones and what genes they left behind.

I wonder who or what will tell our story if we don’t manage to write a new ending.

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Weekly Links #12

 

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It’s Saturday and the sun is shining down here in Kerry. Hard to feel bad on a beautiful day like this. Then I remember this is the world of Brexit and Trump. Yep, another week of trying to deal with a planet that appears to have lost its mind.

I’ve decided to concentrate on the aspect of Brexit that matters most, sport. OK, maybe doesn’t matter most but these two articles on one aspect of one particular sport is very interesting. I can only imagine the innumerable other issues that Brexit will throw up.

The Trump article is by another Christian publication that slams him as unsuitable for high office. I know it’s looking increasingly unlikely that he’ll win but we should never forget the disgusting forces he unleashed will be used by a future politician who will be able to sell himself better.

I hope you enjoy the links and as ever, consider subscribing and/or heading over to Amazon to check out some of my fiction.

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“But not all evangelical Christians—in fact, alas, most evangelical Christians, judging by the polls—have shown the same critical judgment when it comes to the Republican nominee. True, when given a choice, primary voters who claimed evangelical faith largely chose other candidates. But since his nomination, Donald Trump has been able to count on “the evangelicals” (in his words) for a great deal of support.” Speak Truth to Trump

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“Moderator: I mean should a woman be able to get an abortion after viability, say at 28 weeks or even up to their due date?” “Do you support abortion on demand?” How Hillary Clinton should answer this question

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“The Premier League’s top academies are preparing for life after Brexit. England’s big clubs currently benefit from the European Union’s exception to Fifa’s Article 19, which allows them to sign 16 year olds from Europe, instead of having to wait until the player turns 18. But after the news that the government will be pursuing a ‘hard Brexit’ from the European Union, clubs fear that these days are numbered.” Premier League academies fear losing out on future Hector Bellerins after Brexit vote raises transfer fears

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“Basically, a player who cost €50 million in June would have cost an English club £38.4m. On Tuesday, that same €50m guy would have set a Premier League club back £45.9m.” Premier League shouldn’t be too affected by falling exchange rates

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“The study, which took place over the course of about 6 years, focused on behavioral changes in baby monkeys when they were given vaccines. The study’s findings appeared in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and to the surprise of no one (except science-denying loons), there was no link between vaccines and autism.” Anti-vaxxer group furious after study they funded debunks vaccine-autism link

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“The HPV vaccine saves lives, but as with all vaccination there’s sadly plenty of scaremongering and misinformation – and this can cost lives. In this video, I try to explain why HPV vaccination matters, and why the misconceptions and fears aroud it simply don’t stack up.” The HPV vaccine – untangling the sound and fury

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“I have no doubt that you are tough, and I bet your immune system is something to be very proud of. But the fact is, an estimated 5 percent to 20 percent of the United States population gets the flu each year, Dr. Bresee said. The fact that you’ve never gotten the flu is no indication that you won’t get it in the future. You’re essentially rolling the dice anew each year, and there’s a decent chance you’re eventually gonna get a bad roll.” Let’s Talk a Millennial Into Getting a Flu Shot

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“This sort of total solution promises to assemble the pieces of the jigsaw at one stroke. It is therefore perennially attractive to the type of intelligence that is always looking for ever-more complex ways to stop thinking. This is immediately discernible from the testimonies of ex-believers of one sort or another. The discovery of a complete ideology provides “an answer to every question”, as Arthur Koestler put it when describing the “light which poured in all directions” when he embraced communism.” Islamic State’s absolutism has antecedents in 20th Century communism and fascism

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“A galaxy can be thought of as a factory that produces stars from cold gas, with some galaxies being more productive than others. Therefore, what roughly defines the evolutionary parameters of a galaxy is the rate of star formation, stellar mass, and gas content.” Using oxygen as a tracer of galactic evolution

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“In water alone, when cooling sets in, the long chains snap back into their helix structure so rapidly that there’s no time for the matching process with the shorter chains. That snapping shut, which happens in both RNA and DNA, is called “strand inhibition,” and in living cells, enzymes solve the problem of keeping the long chains apart while gene strands duplicate.” Was the secret spice in primal gene soup a thickener?

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“The question of what Lewis thought he was doing is not quite the same question as “What prompted him to write?” On this, there are various theories. Some biographers, including A N Wilson in his brilliant and contentious study of 1990, have made much of the fact that Lewis began work on The Lion at a time in his life when multiple stresses, personal and intellectual, were driving him back towards a long-lost world of childhood imagination where matters did not have to be settled by constant conflict.” Why did C S Lewis write the Chronicles of Narnia?

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Weekly Links #11

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To my chagrin I still find myself reading a lot about the Trumpnado across the water. I keep telling myself to ignore it but he stubbornly remains in the race. This is the world we now live in, a place where someone has truly awful as Trump can be a contender for most powerful person on the planet. I don’t think I can write dystopia anymore. We’re already there. Though perhaps his rise to prominence may inspire a burst of utopian literature. Reality has never been so important to re-imagine and/or escape.

There are also a couple of articles on cultural appropriation. One day I’ll have to write something myself on the topic. Of course as a straight white man who likes to write about elves, maybe I don’t need to write about it. But then again my favourite food is Britishified Indian food and my favourite music is the blues, as practiced by the original black artists and as interpreted by Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac.

I hope you enjoy some of the articles and do please consider subscribing to future posts. And finally, as an indie-author (which sounds way cooler than it is) I’m supposed to make regular references to my published works. This is a collection of science-fiction and fantasy  stories I wrote last year. As the name suggests, Death and Duty, the overarching theme is death and duty.

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“The Trump campaign has tapped into this disaffection, and portrayed its candidate as the ‘anti-political’ solution to the failings of liberal democracy. In the first Presidential debate, Trump disparaged politicians no less than ten times and repeatedly held ‘Secretary Clinton and other politicians’ responsible for all of the nation’s problems.” Donald Trump’s White House bid raises major questions about the future of democracy

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“This is the point. Donald Trump lies. All the time. He doesn’t just stretch the truth in the way most politicians do: selectively citing facts that make them look good, deliberately omitting ones that make them look bad, overstating or understating the probable impact of the campaign promises they make.” Donald Trump lies. All the time.

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“I thought I would come home with my blood boiling, ready to fight tyranny. But I didn’t. I came home tired. I’ve spent every day since on the verge of sleepwalking. For awhile I thought it was physical exhaustion, but it wasn’t. It was moral exhaustion. And it hasn’t let up.” HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER VACATION

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“While “Star Trek” hasn’t always been overtly political, it’s a franchise that was built on a philosophy of humanism, inclusiveness, equality, and an idealistic vision for a peaceful future.” 70 members of Star Trek’s cast and crew just wrote an epic anti-Trump letter.

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“Obviously people who don’t support and won’t vote for Clinton cite a variety of objections, some better than others. But some people clearly view Clinton’s persistent polling lead—Trump’s inability to overtake her in polling averages—as a kind of liberation.” There Is Only One Message for Voters to Send in This Election

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“Compelling data for sure, but Presidents often have to deal with Congress and the Supreme Court … which is why President George W. Bush’s tenure is so informative. Under Bush, Republicans controlled the House and Senate, and 2/3 of the Supreme Court. Bush had sky-high public approval following 9-11, and he and Congressional Republicans owed their 2004 re-election to the overwhelming support from church-going evangelicals and Catholics. And what did Republicans do to overturn Roe or in any meaningful way limit abortion? Nothing.” Hillary Clinton Is the Best Choice for Voters Against Abortion

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“She offered a grotesque misrepresentation of what Shriver had said. But on one point Abdel-Magied was accurate. Shriver thinks writers should write what they want. Abdel-Magied thinks they shouldn’t. Unless you are a black African woman, you should not write about black African women unless you grant them copy approval.” The Dead End Of Identity Politics

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“When Hendrix died in 1970, one prominent obituary pointedly described him as “a black man in the alien world of rock,” and throughout Hendrix’s tragically brief stardom the guitarist’s race had been an incessant topic of fascination among fans of the music that had once been known as rock and roll. ” How Rock and Roll Became White
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“We’re told the veil is “our culture”; that we must “respect it”! I am sorry, but many of us will not respect the erasure of the female body no matter how it is packaged and dressed.” The Disappeared: The veil and the erasure of the female body
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“He agreed the pledges made at Paris were not enough to keep global warming well below 2C – the target agreed at the summit.” Landmark Paris climate change treaty to come into force amid alarm over ‘signals from the natural world’
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“Gopnik made the comparison with sex. Imagine that no one of us had sex until we were quite mature adults. We’d be reading manuals, too, bent as we would be on making sure that our first sexual experiences were perfect!” Can Science Teach Us How To Be Good Parents?
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“Not that everyone is impressed, mind you, and there is a current of thought that says that in Milan they failed to really go for Real Madrid when they were on the ropes. It is an accusation that appears to be levelled at them more than at other clubs that defend and protect, seeking the break. Like their opponents in the Milan final itself, for instance. There’s something a little sneering about the way that people often talk about Atlético, all parked busses and dirty cynicism.” Atletico Madrid prove, again, they’re so much more than a great defence

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Another Day, Another Lecture

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Another day another incident of ‘friendly fire’ from erstwhile allies. The presumption to lecture the pro-choice movement on how to pro-choice better has become more than tiresome. How can people who are paid to write columns continually demonstrate a complete ignorance of what the pro-choice movement is? Why do I never see ARC mentioned in the ‘helpful tips for pro-choicers’ moan de jure? And where does this expectation of politeness being thrust upon pro-choicers come from?

What is the pro-choice movement? It is an amalgam of dozens of organisations and thousands of individuals. At the moment almost all these disparate parts can be found under the banner of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth. And disparate they are. It encompasses groups from all points on the political spectrum and groups that choose to be neutral. It has organisations that view abortion as part of their human rights, feminist and equality activities and others whose sole focus is abortion. It has regional, professional and sectoral groups. It is the largest civil society alliance in the history of the State. And this Coalition is also its individuals. Thousands and thousands, be they part of one or more of the various groups or who use their access to various media to support the cause in their own way. In its size and scope, it represents the opinions of the vast majority of the Irish people who want increased access to abortion in this country.

That it has so many groups under the one umbrella is wonderful. Few people now doubt that the Eighth Amendment is under serious threat. But as to what comes after that repeal, this cannot be the responsibility of the Coalition to decide.

I personally don’t care what legislation is promised to convince people to repeal the Eighth. Whatever it is, however conservative, it would be impossible to be as restrictive as the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. All that matters is that abortion is taken out of the Constitution. But if you’re interested here’s an example of proposed legislation.

What must be remembered is that whatever happens, post repeal a woman’s right to abortion will be left in the uncertain care of representative democracy. Chilling, I know, that the extent of a woman’s physical autonomy will be in the hands of politicians whose primary concern is being re-elected rather than vindicating the rights of over half the population. But short of a Constitutional Amendment that guarantees a woman’s right to choose, we are left with that den of mediocrity that is our Dáil. This unimpressive bunch will have to grasp the nettle and make the decision as to how much freedom women will have. They will have to decide that if a dozen women going to the UK every day for an abortion is too many, is ten ok, or five or two. However, no matter how badly they mess up, legislation can be replaced by legislation.

And this is where ARC must get a mention. They are the Abortion Rights Campaign. They organised the March for Choice that got anywhere between 30,000 and eleventy billion people to march in the rain during a bus strike. They formed in 2012 and currently have 17 regional groups working all across the country for abortion rights. They do all this yet never get name checked when advice is being proffered. It’s almost as if these allies in the media have never heard of them.

What does the Abortion Rights Campaign want? They want the number of women who have to travel to the UK for an abortion to be zero. They want abortions to be free, safe and legal. Post repeal that is what they will be campaigning for. And they won’t be wasting their time or resources battling the anti-choicers. They will be taking on many of their coalition partners who genuinely believe less than a dozen is good but zero is unachievable and/or unacceptable. In that struggle I hope a degree of respectful disagreement can be maintained.

But for now, in the realm of pro-choicers versus anti-choicers, there can be no respectful debate. Yes, when there are appearances in the media, affecting a calm demeanour is tactically important. Outside of that environment, it’s altogether too fundamental. It can be no other way. When women are routinely called murderers, Nazis, evil and whores, then you know, fuck that noise. Yet those who are targeted, more often than not, manage to maintain a dignity and poise that astounds me. If I was in their shoes, I’d have gone postal by now. But despite the distress and harm they’ve experienced, for sharing their stories, they persevere. And please stop with the Marriage Equality comparisons. Behind the positivity and success, real damage was done to members of the LGBTQ+ community. Asking for equality means someone gets media time to say no and explain why you don’t deserve that equality.

Yet women do continue to put their heads above parapet to a chorus of abuse, while keeping their cool. Abuse from randomers on Twitter, official spokespeople, clerics and politicians. And I think I know why pro-choice women are expected to be polite when asking for their rights, rather than being shrill and uppity. It’s not entirely down to sexism. It’s not entirely down to the hypocrisy of our establishment. It’s because these women have begun to successfully reframe the debate in a way that is more humane and respectful of women. But abortion is still seen by many, as at best, a necessary evil. Too many people manage to see past the misogyny and bile of the anti-choicers and sympathise with their horror of a ‘baby being killed.’ It is this perception that allows such a small group (though with a lot of American money, a supine media and a still all pervasive Church) to wield such moral weight.

The thing is, their horror at abortion is the same horror I feel when a woman is forced to continue with a pregnancy against her will. That is a violation I find monstrous, even though it is something I will never directly experience. Yet this dread is supposed to be expressed with politeness and detailed legislation that decides which women get to experience that horror and which don’t.

Perhaps not everyone on the pro-choice side feels this depth of disgust. And that’s ok. But tone-policing those who do experience this as a fundamental violation is far from ok. Insisting on niceness from women who are abused daily is perverse. Insisting on a uniformity of purpose and strategy from a coalition that is united on one issue alone, repealing the Eighth, is frankly ridiculous. Demanding volunteer organisations produce legislation is as lazy as it is insulting.

If allies want to actually help secure women the right to an abortion in this country maybe donate some money, or time or their columns to the Coalition or to any of its member groups. At least from the inside your contribution won’t be tone-policing, it’ll be tone-setting.

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Weekly Links #10

weekly-links-ten

My tenth weekly links and today I’m focusing a bit on the Trump debacle in the US. I’ve been trying to ignore it but every week I find myself reading more. I even stayed up to watch the road-crash that was the debate. I just can’t get my head around his continued success. I’ve read a few things about the white working-class feeling left behind but hoping for relief from a narcissistic billionaire must be a self harming mistake.

There is also a short piece about calling oneself a writer. I’ve always struggled with calling myself a writer. It is in my Twitter profile but every time I notice it I feel like a bit of an impostor. But other than white male it is the only label I feel comfortable with. Try squaring that circle. No doubt writing a critically acclaimed best seller would sort that out. Any day now.

I hope you enjoy and do consider subscribing to this blog. Also, have a look at my stories on Amazon.

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“It is time for others who are still undecided, and perhaps hoping for some dramatic change in our politics and governance, to take a hard look and see Mr. Trump for who he is. They have an obligation to scrutinize his supposed virtues as a refreshing counterpolitician.” Why Donald Trump Should Not Be President

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“Just six weeks after he dropped out – and more than a month before Cruz would dramatically snub the nominee at the Republican National Convention – the senator quietly began renting his vast donor email file to his former rival, pocketing at least tens of thousands of dollars, and more likely hundreds of thousands, that can be used to bankroll the Texan’s own political future.” Cruz profited off Trump well before endorsing him

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“If that was the plan, he didn’t have the self-control to pull it off; perhaps he didn’t even try. And in the end, the tens of millions of people who ultimately tuned in were given a stark view of Trump’s deep – many would say disqualifying – flaws.” Trump stumped in first debate with Clinton – will it cost him?

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“The Sharps’ story is a reminder that in the last great refugee crisis, in the 1930s and ’40s, the United States denied visas to most Jews. We feared the economic burden and worried that their ranks might include spies. It was the Nazis who committed genocide, but the U.S. and other countries also bear moral responsibility for refusing to help desperate people.” Would You Hide a Jew From the Nazis?

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“I am a softball player. That is an undeniable part of my identity. For a long time, it seemed like the only part. Yes, I have always loved reading and writing, but like many writers, I possessed the disinclination to call myself one—as though I had not yet earned the title.” Who Am I?

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“Security sources told the BBC’s Spotlight that by 1994 a majority of the seven-person IRA army council were effectively compromised because of their proximity to high-level agents. An even higher proportion of loyalist paramilitaries may have been agents of the security forces.” The dirty war behind the Good Friday agreement

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“The history of scientific publishing is long and noble, designed to uphold standards in the pursuit of truth, but this 200+-year-old tradition is woefully unfit for purpose in the 21st century. There are more journals than ever before, spawning at an alarming rate like so many academic tribbles.” Science is broken. Here’s how to fix it

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“All of the dogs showed a stronger neural activation for the reward stimuli compared to the stimulus that signaled no reward, and their responses covered a broad range. Four of the dogs showed a particularly strong activation for the stimulus that signaled praise from their owners. Nine of the dogs showed similar neural activation for both the praise stimulus and the food stimulus. And two of the dogs consistently showed more activation when shown the stimulus for food.” A dog’s dilemma: Do canine’s prefer praise or food?

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“Sometimes it doesn’t feel like your brain wants you to be happy. You may feel guilty or shameful. Why? Believe it or not, guilt and shame activate the brain’s reward center.” A neuroscience researcher reveals 4 rituals that will make you happier

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“But sometimes lionesses grow a mane and even behave a bit like males. However, until now, reports of such maned lionesses have been extremely rare and largely anecdotal. We knew they existed, but little about how they behave.” Five wild lionesses grow a mane and start acting like males

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“This is not a desire exclusive to the queer reader, but one felt deeply by all manner of marginalized audiences, from female to Black, Asian to Latinx, Muslim, disabled, gender nonbinary, and every intersection you can imagine.” Exclusive Interview: Greg Rucka on Queer Narrative and WONDER WOMAN

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