On “The Conversation,” my friend and colleague Donald Beaudette and I discuss the lessons that the United States can learn from the process of reforming the police in Northern Ireland.
Read it here.
And they’re not green, white, and orange.
In an obscene tweet yesterday, Gemma cited a murder in South Africa and then claimed that “multiculturalism” is the problem.
In many of Gemma’s racist tweets proclaiming that “Ireland belongs to the Irish,” she has been able to at least nominally pretend that she is concerned with upholding the legacy of Patrick Pearse, who declared the right of the Irish people to the ownership of Ireland in the Proclamation of Poblacht na hÉireann in 1916. Most people identified those statements as racist, anti-immigrant screed, but there was at least a veil of patriotism with the invocation of Irish history.
She cannot make the same claim for the tweet above. Her rhetoric directly accuses African people of being egregiously violent, as if all black people are out committing murders and rapes–and, moreover, that no white people commit murders and rapes. [Side note: I have written extensively on sexual assault in Ireland, and I will testify: almost all of the sex crimes committed in Ireland have been by white men who were citizens of Ireland.]
She condemns “multiculturalism” as being the cause of these murders, and warns that if Ireland continues to embrace diversity, all of these “scary” African people will come to Ireland and rape and murder Irish people. This fear mongering invokes an old racist trope that Americans will recognize: the idiotic idea that black men are all looking to rape (and possibly murder) white women; it is trying to make you afraid of people of color.
This particular tweet is especially disgusting, though, because it blames crime in South Africa on African people. It suggests that people of color are the source of “60 murders and 100 rapes” per day in South Africa, and that they are therefore the source of crime in Ireland. In blaming “multiculturalism,” however, she conveniently forgets that she is violating her own principles: if “Ireland belongs to the ‘Irish'” (and she has a narrow, blood-and-soil definition of who qualifies as Irish), then shouldn’t South Africa belong to the “native” South Africans? All of those white people running around South Africa are the descendants of European imperialists. The white people are the purveyors of “multiculturalism” in South Africa; the white people are the immigrants or descendants of immigrants (better known as colonizers).
Gemma is stupid but she’s not that stupid. She full well knows that the white people in South Africa are the descendants of imperialists, which is why her tweet lays bare her racism. There is no argument that can suggest that black people are the purveyors of “multiculturalism” in South Africa. All Gemma is really saying here is that she hates people of color and doesn’t want them in Ireland.
Gemma O’Doherty has always been a racist. She has apparently lost her desire to veil her bigotry in a cloak of patriotism.
The Irish Times is reporting this morning that the Dáil is in session to pass the Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill in order to give the government authority to take drastic steps to contain the virus and save the lives of Irish people.
According to the paper, the legislation will “include income supports for people who are diagnosed with the coronavirus or self-isolating, and give the State powers to direct people to stay in their homes and detain those believed to have the virus who refuse to self-isolate. It would also allow for events or gatherings which pose a clear risk to public health to be prohibited, or to order entire regions into lockdown.”
I’ve seen on Twitter that many people are calling for the measures to have a sunset clause–that is, a provision that puts a time limit on how long the government has to exercise these extreme measures. I’d say that’s a good idea, but that any such provision should also include the option to renew the powers, because we just don’t know how long this crisis is going to last, and we can’t predict the course of the epidemic.
Giving the government extraordinary powers like the authority to order an entire region (say, all of Cork city) into lockdown, or to arrest and detain people who aren’t following these orders, is scary and does have a tinge of authoritarianism. Certainly, I would be frightened if Donald Trump wanted to exercise such powers because I would be afraid that he would use them against his political enemies. I have more faith in the Dáil and in Leo Varadkar than I have in Trump (but hell, I have more faith in the intellectual capacity of a gazelle than I have in Trump).
Is there another option, though? Can we just leave the people to their own devices and hope that they keep their arses inside and act collectively to protect themselves, their families, their neighbors, and, yes, people they will never meet?
I wish the answer to that question were a resounding “YES!”
But it’s not. People on Twitter and on television have shown themselves impervious to facts, science, and the heartfelt pleas of their fellow citizens. Gemma O’Doherty, unsurprisingly, is pumping out disinformation about COVID-19 that will endanger the lives of the people who believe her bullshit. And if they weren’t endangering anyone’s lives but their own, I would say, “Have at it, ye gobshites, yer only hurting yourselves, and I’m frankly fine with that.”
But people who don’t take this threat seriously and insist upon going out in public, hosting large gatherings, denouncing efforts by the government to contain the spread of the virus as fascist and Nazi tactics, as these AltShite morons have been doing, are also endangering the lives of citizens who do want to follow the guidelines, and who do want to save people’s lives.
Humanity isn’t perfect. We need better science education in order to dampen the spread of quackery. We need better humanities education in order to help people to understand the history of pandemics and the philosophies behind humanitarian action. Indeed, we just need better education in general.
Luckily, one of the silver linings of this madness seems to be that parents are gaining an appreciation for how difficult it is to be a teacher. Maybe teachers will come out of this as a more respected profession–and then maybe teachers will be given salaries commensurate with the difficulty and importance of their jobs.
I love using baseball metaphors when discussing politics in countries that have no interest in baseball.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar smashed it out of the park last night with his St. Patrick’s Day address to the nation. He spoke about the COVID-19 pandemic in a fashion that was direct, honest, and compassionate. His speech was sobering, yet oddly comforting. His plan for “cocooning” senior citizens and people who are immuno-compromised is a good one, and I hope the United States takes up that plan as well.
In times of uncertainty and, yes, panic, we can all find comfort in a strong, confident leader who can articulate clear plans to help us. The Taoiseach’s stated plans prioritize saving lives, not saving the stock market or saving the fortunes of billionaires. I live in the United States, so I can tell you that this speech was phenomenal in the context of the utter black hole of leadership that we have experienced here.
Watch the Taoiseach’s speech:
Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone! Sláinte!
I have compiled a list of ways that we can all celebrate St. Patrick’s Day without the traditional venues of pubs and parades. Please feel free to add to this list in the comments.
The New York Times reported today that the morons in charge of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Staten Island are continuing to ban LGBTQ+ groups from marching in the parade and celebrating their identity as queer and Irish-American (or just Irish). Or queer and Catholic.
According to the Times, Larry Cummings, the bigoted president of the Staten Island St. Patrick’s Day parade committee, stated, “Our parade is for Irish heritage and culture. It is not a political or sexual identification parade.” He later said, “Here’s the deal, it’s a nonsexual identification parade and that’s that. No, they are not marching. Don’t try to keep asking a million friggin’ questions, OK?”
Cummings’s statements are total bullshit, though, because by banning displays of LGBTQ+ identity, he IS politicizing the event, and he IS making it a sexual display–heterosexual only. His remarks are naive at best, and pathetically disingenuous at worst. Fuck this guy.
Some Catholic officials have distanced themselves from the event, claiming that the the parade doesn’t represent the Catholic church. Good for them for not being overt bigots. But the official policy of the Catholic church continues to be to refuse to perform or recognize same-sex marriages. So, therefore, zero points given to Pope Francis for his “Who am I to judge?” remark. In fact, no points will be given until Pope Francis stands up in public–I’d prefer it to happen on Easter Sunday–and declare that God loves gays (why else would He keep making them?).
To imply, as the organizers of this parade are doing, that it is celebrating Irish culture WHILE refusing to recognize LGBTQ+ individuals AS SUCH shows a disgusting disregard for the heritage these idiots claim to be celebrating. Ireland in 2020 is not the Ireland of Archbishop John Charles McQuaid and Éamon de Valera. To the contrary, Ireland legalized same-sex marriage through a referendum in 2015. It’s out-going taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, is an openly gay Irish man. As a whole, Ireland welcomes the queer community–policies of the dumbass Catholic church aside.
This kind of attitude, as perpetuated by Larry Cummings, is the same attitude that keeps religious animosity endemic in certain elements of Irish and Irish-American society. “Irish” and “Catholic” are not synonymous. There are Irish Protestants and Irish Jews and Irish Muslims. You can be queer and be Irish; you can be hetero and be Irish. In my considerable experience living in Belfast and Dublin, as well as earning a PhD in Irish history, I can testify that Ireland has changed a lot–it is a society that values liberal individualism, and it is open to all kinds of people.
This representation of “Irish” heritage that we will see on Staten Island is an archaic manifestation of de Valera’s “comely maidens” bullshit. In fact, I would argue that de Valera’s narrow-minded idealistic view of Ireland never did exist. Statistics on sexual activity and pregnancy outside of marriage bear this out, among many other trends.
Staten Island’s Paddy’s Day parade, and Larry Cummings in particular, need to cop the fuck on. Let the LGBTQ+ community represent their Irish heritage AND their queerness in the parade.
The report of the Working Group on Access to Contraception was released today. The report follows the commitment made by Minister for Health Simon Harris to make contraception free for everyone–men, women, nonbinary–by 2021. According to the report’s estimates this will cost €80-€100 million per year. While that amount might seem like a lot of money, the funds will be well spent.
The report notes:
“An economic rationale for a universal contraception programme has been advanced on the grounds that it has the potential to reduce the future burden of costs associated with unplanned or crisis pregnancies (including terminations).”
So, I hope that this reality will compel anti-choice zealots to support free contraception. Every reputable study of which I am aware–and I wrote my dissertation on rape, so I’m aware of many studies–demonstrates that the best way to prevent abortions is to increase access to contraception and information about how to use it. The most effective types of contraception are vasectomy, IUD, and implants, because they do not require people to remember to take a pill every day or put on a prophylactic in the heat of desire. Plus, I know that people complain that condoms reduce sensation. Awhile ago, Bill Gates funded a competition to design a “next generation” condom, and the last I read, this was the most viable candidate–it can last for up to 1,000 thrusts (and I’m pretty sure chafing would happen first).
Failure of anti-choice activists to support this bill will demonstrate only that they have no interest in preventing abortions; but, rather, their real interest is in controlling female sexuality, keeping women chained to the stove, and slut shaming. So, which is it going to be?
I also want to make note of two items in the report that the Irish Times pointed out:
“younger women aged 17-24…are more at risk of crisis pregnancy” AND “younger men hold a more negative attitude than older men towards women carrying condoms as a precautionary measure.”
Um, say what, now? Does anyone think that possibly these two facts are related? Clearly, the Irish Times doesn’t, because the paper of record did not relate them in the article, and noted them several paragraphs apart. But, these two findings seem to be linked, without question: if young women want to avoid being slut-shamed by potential sex partners for carrying condoms, they probably don’t carry condoms, and thus lack contraception when they have sex. Young men should be well ashamed for harboring such attitudes. –Hence, the need for more sex education in secondary school.
Finally, the report also vets the idea of changing the prescription requirements for oral contraceptives. This is an interesting idea, because it would reduce the burden involved in obtaining contraceptives. The report notes that in countries including the Netherlands and New Zealand, an initial prescription is required, but then women can access the pills over the counter (i.e., without a new prescription). In Ireland, as the law currently stands, oral contraceptives are a schedule S1B drug, meaning that women need to refill the prescription every six months. The six-month barrier can be significant, and I can see reasons why a lot of women would have difficulty meeting this requirement–going to see a doctor is a burden in terms of time, and cost, too, if one needs to take time off of work in order to see a doctor. Still, there are side effects to OCPs, and open access to prescription refills might not be a great idea, either, as a person’s health circumstances change over time.
If you don’t believe me, believe him:
Barrett’s language indicates anti-democratic, anti-pluralist tendencies:
Who is Barrett referring to when he says “ancestors”? Daniel O’Connell certainly fought for Ireland’s right to be counted in a representative democracy as he rallied the Irish people for Catholic emancipation. O’Connell fought for “civil rights, elections, a country run by peaceful parliamentary democracy rather than the gun.” Justin Barrett is attempting to shape the reality of history for his own ends. But O’Connell is a towering figure in Irish history, as he literally towers over the main thoroughfare on the north side of the Liffey.
Does O’Connell not count because he didn’t die for this cause? Are the only important Irish patriots the ones who employed violence? If so, this is a very telling aspect of Barrett’s outlook on politics. He is trying to impose his own version of reality on you.
Also problematic and anti-democratic is Barrett’s use of the pronoun “us.” He opposes democratic pluralism and immigration, so the “us” in his rhetoric refers to people he identifies as ethnically Irish, and who also support him. This is the volkish view of the nation. Excluding the majority of the people of Ireland from his definition of “us” is the type of radical populism that opposes traditional democratic politics that rely on political parties as their foundation. Indeed, for Barrett, parties do not matter–only his followers matter. For that reason, I refer to him as Ceannaire Barrett on Twitter.
And yet Barrett and the National Party, as well as O’Doherty’s Anti-Corruption Ireland and the Irish Freedom Party, are all contesting elections. Given his views on democracy, what does Barrett intend to do were his party to win an electoral majority? Given his fascist-type nationalism and his overt rebuke of democracy as a betrayal of the Irish Volk, as well as his opposition to traditional institutions such as political parties and a loyal opposition (you can hear that rhetoric in his speeches), we have a pretty darned good idea.
Mussolini also hated democracy. He thought democracy made states weak–which is part of why fascists fetishized the fit male body and national “virility.” In the words of Il Duce: “We have buried the putrid corpse of liberty!”
That is what the National Party and Gemma O’Doherty/ACI want: to subvert the will of the people, because the people of Ireland are not “the Irish people,” as Barrett explicitly stated in one of his speeches. The majority of Irish people oppose their agenda. They oppose racism. They oppose a reactionary Leave It to Beaver trip back to the 1950s. They voted for abortion rights and same-sex marriage. They support membership in the European Union.
Barrett, O’Doherty and their ilk cannot handle this reality and so they try to blame “fake news” or manipulation by Google for the current state of affairs, rather than acknowledging what the democratic institutions of Ireland have created through the will of the people. Barrett’s Volk supports his vision of Ireland: Catholic, ethnically Irish (whatever that means), and authoritarian.
Take the threat of Ceannaire Barrett seriously; do not laugh at him as ridiculous. He knows what he’s doing.
Are you a knitter who has always admired cabled Aran sweaters, but think they look too complicated to give it a go yourself? Fear not, my friends: cabled knitting is a lot easier than you think! And, what’s more, it’s easy to do if you already know how to knit and purl, and it looks super complicated, so you’re sure to impress!
What are you doing when you’re cabling? Essentially, you’re moving stitches around by taking them off and putting them on a cable needle, and then putting them back on your main needle. The cables are sets of knitted stitches that are set off by surrounding them with purl stitches: so you’re looking at stockinette stitch on a background of reverse stockinette. Usually, the cables only appear on the right side of your knitting; on the reverse side, you just knit the knit stitches and purl the purls–so every other row, you don’t need to look at the pattern! (I love that–that way I can watch reruns of Gilmore Girls or Grey’s Anatomy or the latest Mock the Week while knitting.)
Note about cable needles: There are lots of styles, but I think the easiest thing to do is to use a regular double-pointed needle that’s one or two sizes smaller than the knitting needles you’re using (so, if you’re knitting on size 8, use a size 6 double point). You can try a cable needle if you want, too–as you try different methods, you’ll find what’s easiest for you. I had a friend back in Chicago who mostly worked cables without any cable needle, which you can do if the cables are small (if you have a 5X5 cable, you’ll need to use a cable needle).
The picture above, and the one below, are of the sweater I’m currently working on. There are tons of books of Irish-knit patterns. This one is from an excellent collection called Woodsmoke: Cable Collection. Some of my other favorites include:
Cabled knitting requires a yarn that is either solid or only slightly variegated. The yarn should also have good stitch definition (so, don’t use angora or anything fuzzy like mohair). And lighter colors show the cabled pattern better than dark colors. My favorite yarn for cabling, and the one I’m using on this sweater, is Mrs. Crosby’s Steamer Trunk. It’s heavy, has great stitch definition, and you can usually buy enough skeins of a single dye-lot to make a sweater.
For beginners to cabling, I strongly recommend starting with a scarf. Scarves are straight all the way from beginning to end, so you just need to focus on the techniques of cabling, rather than worrying about increases and decreases, or shaping a neckline. Look on Ravelry.com for easy cabled patterns.
And, lastly, one of the most important factors to making your Irish cabled patterns pop: YOU MUST BLOCK YOUR WORK. This point cannot be overemphasized. If you don’t know how to block, or you have cats that seriously impede the blocking process, many yarn stores will block work for you (for a small fee).