Bombs under bridges

Ireland

I remember making Nic Robertson’s mistake. It is to look at violence and to see evil, without seriously considering the underlying cause:

The IRA [Irish Republican Army] was at the forefront of the conflict [“The Troubles”] – killing, bombing, shooting and intimidating their way to influence. They had grown out of a demand for equality in Northern Ireland’s deeply bigoted society that often gave advantages to Protestants over Catholics.[1]

First, this neglects that Ireland has been an English colonial project since at least the 17th century:

The mandate for extermination [of Native Americans] anticipated similar calls for ruthless wars against a dehumanised enemy that would be heard from land-hungry colonists in southern Africa, New Zealand and Australia. It was also a reminder that the first colonisation of North America was contemporaneous with the far larger settlement of Ireland, mainly by Presbyterian Scottish immigrants. Between 1620 and 1642 120,000 colonists arrived to help undertake what Sir Francis Bacon revealing called ‘the reduction to civility’ of the Gaelic-speaking Catholic Irish.[2]

Lawrence James’ description is brief—he goes on to describe The Troubles at greater length later in his book. But nonetheless, we see crucial commonalities: The hunger for land—Lebensraum if you will—masked as a “civilizing” project, as if English Catholics (Episcopalians) of Henry VIII’s church were somehow more civilized than Roman Catholics, and carried out by Scottish Presbyterians, as if even they were somehow more civilized than Roman Catholics.

It is in that historical context that we should see Boris Johnson’s likely implausible notion of a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland.[3]

He called again for the link during the Conservative leadership campaign, despite engineers expressing scepticism at the idea of building such a link over waters more than 300 metres deep in places, parts of which were used by the Ministry of Defence to dump more than 1m tonnes of obsolete munitions.[4]

And it is in that historical context that we should see Ulsterist resistance to what is now being called a “frontstop,” the customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain necessary to avoid such a border between the North and South.[5]

There is no humane logic to such bigotry and the Irish, seen by the English as a “fickle, childlike race, unable to subdue their wilder passions,”[6] suffered it for centuries. It is little wonder that finally, early in the 20th century they rose up only to be lumped in with Communists and trade unions. The IRA resorted to violence to displace the colonizer and the conflict took a familiar pattern of asymmetric conflict culminating in partition and independence for the Republic of Ireland, excluding the North. But the fight for the North continued.[7]

Robertson foolishly treats Sinn Fein as a Northern Irish organization,[8] But it was in Dublin with the IRA at the beginning.[9] And the Ulster Protestants seek to perpetuate a vicious subjugation of Catholics.

Nic Robertson, “Sinn Fein surged in Ireland’s election. Here’s why that’s so controversial,” CNN, February 10, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/10/europe/ireland-election-sinn-fein-analysis-intl/index.html

Peter Walker, “Government ‘actively looking into’ Scotland-Northern Ireland bridge,” Guardian, February 10, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/feb/10/boris-johnson-northern-ireland-scotland-bridge-plan-being-actively-looked-into-no-10


  1. [1]Nic Robertson, “Sinn Fein surged in Ireland’s election. Here’s why that’s so controversial,” CNN, February 10, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/10/europe/ireland-election-sinn-fein-analysis-intl/index.html
  2. [2]Lawrence James, The Rise and Fall of the British Empire (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1994), 14.
  3. [3]Peter Walker, “Government ‘actively looking into’ Scotland-Northern Ireland bridge,” Guardian, February 10, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/feb/10/boris-johnson-northern-ireland-scotland-bridge-plan-being-actively-looked-into-no-10
  4. [4]Peter Walker, “Government ‘actively looking into’ Scotland-Northern Ireland bridge,” Guardian, February 10, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/feb/10/boris-johnson-northern-ireland-scotland-bridge-plan-being-actively-looked-into-no-10
  5. [5]Daniel Boffey and Jennifer Rankin, “Boris Johnson and EU reach Brexit deal without DUP backing,” Guardian, October 17, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/oct/17/boris-johnson-and-eu-reach-brexit-deal-without-dup-backing; Daniel Boffey et al., “Boris Johnson ‘on brink of Brexit deal’ after border concessions,” Guardian, October 15, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/oct/15/boris-johnson-close-to-brexit-deal-after-border-concessions; Rory Carroll and Lisa O’Carroll, “Rival unionists accuse DUP of catastrophic Brexit miscalculation,” Guardian, October 17, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/oct/17/rival-unionists-accuse-dup-of-catastrophic-brexit-miscalculation; Peter Foster, “Brexit plan revealed: Telegraph obtains proposal Boris Johnson will send to Brussels,” Telegraph, October 1, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/10/01/brexit-plan-revealed-prime-minister-rolls-sleeves-send-brussels/; Conor Humphries, “Irish PM says hard Brexit would raise issue of Irish unification,” Reuters, July 27, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-ireland-nireland-idUSKCN1UL280; Laurence Norman and Max Colchester, “U.K., EU Agree on Draft Brexit Deal, Paving Way for Key Vote,” Wall Street Journal, October 17, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/brexit-talks-are-dealt-a-blow-as-northern-irish-party-rejects-draft-11571294766; Kate Proctor, “Irish border after Brexit – all ideas are beset by issues says secret paper,” Guardian, September 2, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/sep/02/irish-border-after-brexit-all-ideas-beset-by-issues; James Rothwell, “DUP’s demand for a veto over deal brings talks to standstill as consent not customs becomes crucial issue,” Telegraph, October 16, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/10/16/dups-demand-veto-deal-brings-talks-standstill-consent-not-customs/
  6. [6]Lawrence James, The Rise and Fall of the British Empire (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1994), 377.
  7. [7]Lawrence James, The Rise and Fall of the British Empire (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1994).
  8. [8]Nic Robertson, “Sinn Fein surged in Ireland’s election. Here’s why that’s so controversial,” CNN, February 10, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/10/europe/ireland-election-sinn-fein-analysis-intl/index.html
  9. [9]Lawrence James, The Rise and Fall of the British Empire (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1994).

Winter? What winter? What’s a ‘winter?’

Climate crisis

When I woke up and looked at the weather report this morning, it was 59° F. As I was driving home—I quit around sunset—the thermometer reading in my dashboard told me it was 72-73° F. As I was fixing dinner, I received repeated warnings of impending thunderstorms—it might be quite a night. There is, of course, no snow on the ground.

I’ve been remembering, from my time here 50 years ago, walking door-to-door with a snow shovel, realizing that as I walked up people’s walks through freshly-fallen snow, I was compacting it beneath my footsteps such that it would adhere to the concrete below, making my own job harder. I had no idea what to do about that.

It’s certainly not a problem this year. The maintenance folks at my apartment complex usually (they missed one day) douse the walks and parking lots heavily with salt whenever snow or ice threatens.

Don’t get me wrong. There have been cold days and even snowy days. But the snow melts within a few days and I’m still not wearing winter clothing—I wear a Gore Tex windbreaker I bought for San Francisco Bay Area rain, not my heavy winter coat, and I’m still wearing sandals—because the effort required to don winter clothing seems wildly disproportionate to any fleeting discomfort I might feel in my brief exposures to the cold.
RAYGRAPHIC
Fig. 1. Pittsburgh snowfall by decade. Graphic by Ray Petelin, January 9, 2020.[1] Fair use.

But if a local meteorologist is to be believed, it actually turns out that this has not been an exceptionally low-snow decade.[2] I honestly don’t know how to reconcile his chart (figure 1) with, for examples, my mother’s ongoing terror of a Pittsburgh winter (she grew up here in the 1940s and 1950s) or what I hear from just about everyone. Something’s clearly off kilter there because contrary to what he says, what I hear even from younger folks is that there is less snow than there used to be. Those who were here for it recall an exceptional blizzard in the late 1990s, a much lower-snow decade than the 2010s, let alone the 1960s (I was here for a couple years in the 1960s).

I have to think that total snowfall in each decade is somehow—this would actually be a good human science question—the wrong measure for people’s experience of snow and cold.

Robinson Meyer, “Australia Will Lose to Climate Change,” Atlantic, January 4, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2020/01/australia-caught-climate-spiral/604423/

Ray Petelin, “Pittsburgh Weather: Did You Really See More Snow When You Were A Kid?” KDKA, January 9, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/01/09/did-you-really-see-more-snow-when-you-were-a-kid/


Ireland

Kate Devlin and Oliver Wright, “DUP and Sinn Fein agree deal to revive Stormont assembly,” Times, January 11, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/northern-ireland-s-power-sharing-government-is-expected-to-be-restored-within-days-after-sinn-fein-and-the-democratic-unionist-party-signed-up-to-a-draft-deal-brokered-by-the-british-and-irish-governments-three-years-after-sinn-fein-walked-out-gsk0sph39


Israel

Times of Israel, “In blow to Netanyahu, Knesset legal adviser said set to okay immunity debate,” January 10, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/in-blow-to-netanyahu-knesset-legal-adviser-said-set-to-okay-immunity-debate/


  1. [1]Ray Petelin, “Pittsburgh Weather: Did You Really See More Snow When You Were A Kid?” KDKA, January 9, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/01/09/did-you-really-see-more-snow-when-you-were-a-kid/
  2. [2]Ray Petelin, “Pittsburgh Weather: Did You Really See More Snow When You Were A Kid?” KDKA, January 9, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/01/09/did-you-really-see-more-snow-when-you-were-a-kid/

Another three guns

Redlining

I found another gun today. Actually three (if you count two small ones in front of the plaque) of them at a Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Munhall, above Homestead.


That makes ten of these damn sites in or near economically distressed and apparently predominantly Black areas out of twelve.

For some reason, Google’s server is rejecting the photograph I took, so I wasn’t able to add it to the pin. But it’s the most recent photograph in this album.


Brexit

The idea of effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the European Union’s customs zone while leaving the rest of the United Kingdom out makes a lot of sense until one considers that it is effectively “no deal” for England, Scotland, and Wales and would likely have all the expected catastrophic effects.[1] It is also anathema to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) whom the Tories have partnered with on Brexit and to even form a government in the first place. Indeed, for the DUP, as I understand its thinking, this would be treason.

There has been a lot of reporting suggesting that this is, nonetheless, what Boris Johnson has proposed to the E.U. And this is where I tend to shut up: I’ve learned over the years that I should see what a situation actually is rather than deal with what it might be. So I haven’t been archiving these stories and I haven’t been relaying them here.

But if this is indeed what Johnson has proposed, then he appears unlikely to garner the needed support for it even within his own party.[2]

Toby Helm and Michael Savage, “Support grows for a new Brexit poll amid fears over Johnson’s plan,” Guardian, October 12, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/oct/12/support-grows-for-new-brexit-poll-amid-fears-pm-plan


Kurdistan

Bashar Assad wins.

Karen DeYoung, Dan Lamothe, and Liz Sly, “Trump orders withdrawal of U.S. forces from northern Syria, days after Pentagon downplays possibility,” Washington Post, October 13, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-orders-withdrawal-of-us-forces-from-northern-syria-days-after-pentagon-downplays-possibility/2019/10/13/83087baa-edbb-11e9-b2da-606ba1ef30e3_story.html

Bethan McKernan, “At least 750 Isis affiliates escape Syria camp after Turkish shelling,” Guardian, October 13, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/13/kurds-say-785-isis-affiliates-have-escaped-camp-after-turkish-shelling


  1. [1]David Benfell, “Boris Johnson might think he’s playing poker with the European Union, but he’s actually playing ‘chicken’—with a brick wall,” Not Housebroken, August 2, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/02/boris-johnson-might-think-hes-playing-poker-with-the-european-union-but-hes-actually-playing-chicken-with-a-brick-wall/; Michael Savage and Daniel Boffey, “No-deal Brexit spells calamity for union, warns Gordon Brown,” Guardian, August 10, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/aug/10/gordon-brown-says-no-deal-brexit-would-be-calamity-for-united-kingdom; Tim Wallace, “‘Very real’ recession risk as economy contracts for first time in seven years,” Telegraph, August 9, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2019/08/09/recession-risk-now-real-economy-contracts-first-time-seven-years/
  2. [2]Toby Helm and Michael Savage, “Support grows for a new Brexit poll amid fears over Johnson’s plan,” Guardian, October 12, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/oct/12/support-grows-for-new-brexit-poll-amid-fears-pm-plan