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Sat May 23, 2015 at 05:17 AM PDT

Proud to be Irish #MarRef

by misneach

Today is a historic day. By all accounts the people of Ireland have 'resoundingly' (WaPo's description) voted to enshrine Marriage Equality in the Irish Constitution. It appears that Yes will carry the day by a 2:1 margin, and voter turnout was so high that more people have voted in this referendum than have ever voted in a referendum in the history of the state.

The technical result will be that Article 41 of the Irish Constitution will have a new subsection 4 inserted which states:

"Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex."
I feel so emotional at the moment that it is difficult to articulate. I should note that I'm hetero and this will not affect me directly at all - and I mean that. There is no change to the status of marriage for heterosexual couples, no change to surrogacy or adoption, no requirement for a priest to preside over a same sex marriage; the only change is that existing protections afforded to married couples will have their remit expanded to be made available to couples in same-sex relationships. It's this inclusion that has my eyes glistening as I type this.

One of the most touching moments in the campaign came from Ursula Halligan, who is the Politics Editor for TV3 News in Ireland. She came out publicly in an Op/Ed published by The Irish Times, in which she described how she struggled for decades with homophobia, and spent her life in the closet until the referendum approached. Her words:

When I fell in love with a girl in my class in school, I was terrified. Rummaging around in the attic a few weeks ago, an old diary brought me right back to December 20th, 1977.
“These past few months must have been the darkest and gloomiest I have ever experienced in my entire life,” my 17-year-old self wrote.
“There have been times when I have even thought about death, of escaping from this world, of sleeping untouched by no-one forever. I have been so depressed, so sad and so confused. There seems to be no one I can turn to, not even God. I’ve poured out my emotions, my innermost thoughts to him and get no relief or so-called spiritual grace. At times I feel I am talking to nothing, that no God exists. I’ve never felt like this before, so empty, so meaningless, so utterly, utterly miserable.”
Such is the situation that has been faced by the LGBT community, especially in Ireland for many years - it's important to note that homosexuality was a crime here until 1993. This island has come a long way in a short period of time, but until right now there was a big thing missing.

Ursula went on to explain:

I realised that I could leave the prison completely or stay in the social equivalent of an open prison. The second option would mean telling a handful of people but essentially go on as before, silently colluding with the prejudices that still find expression in casual social moments.
It’s the easier of the two options, particularly for those close to me. Because those who love you can cope with you coming out, but they’re wary of you “making an issue” of it.
The game-changer was the marriage equality referendum. It pointed me toward the first option: telling the truth to anyone who cares. And I knew if I was going to tell the truth, I had to tell the whole truth and reveal my backing for a Yes vote. For me, the two are intrinsically linked.
If my story helps even one 17-year-old school girl, struggling with her sexuality, it will have been worth it.
If Ireland votes Yes, it will be about much more than marriage. It will end institutional homophobia. It will say to gay people that they belong, that it’s safe to surface and live fully human, loving lives. If it’s true that 10 per cent of any population are gay, then there could be 400,000 gay people out there; many of them still living in emotional prisons. Any of them could be your son, daughter, brother, sister, mother, father or best friend. Set them free. Allow them live full lives.
Yesterday we told people who have struggled with their sexuality that they shouldn't be afraid, because millions of their Irish family stand beside them; that is the most beautiful thing of all.

Today I am indescribably proud to be Irish.

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For those of you that hadn't yet heard, on 22 May 2015 - less than 3 weeks from today - a public referendum will be held to amend the constitution of the Republic of Ireland to recognize same-sex marriage.  This is the first time in history a public vote has been called at a national level on marriage equality, and I confess that I am proud to live on the little island in the North Atlantic where this historical moment is happening.

One of the most amazing parts of this moment is the fact that only a couple of decades ago - a time when most of the music they play after midnight in the pubs here was released - such a vote would have been incomprehensible. The fact that 68% of the population (based on the most recent poll) supports the acceptance of marriage equality is even more amazing still.  That having been said, there is an historic danger that a complacency may envelop those who - in their hearts - support equality, and a regressive element may win the day.

In the US it's become up to the courts to make the decisions on this subject.  Ruth Bader Ginsberg may provide a refreshing view on the case Obergefell v. Hodges but I confess that I would worry about the outcome of a public referendum on the subject in the US at this particular moment.  In Ireland - in this moment - it's being put to the people (sorry, The People) to decide.

I post this because I know that there are 40 million (well, 39.6 by the most recently available census data) Irish-Americans, many of whom are forward-thinking individuals like the frequenters of this site, and who are people who have friends and family Back Home with whom they maintain contact.

I would like to ask that those of you who believe in Marriage Equality take a moment to give a call, send a message on Facebook, Skype, Twitter, etc., or drop an email to their contacts Back Home and implore them to step up in this historic moment.

Thank you, and may Equality win the day.


A small while ago the IDF confirmed that Hadar Goldin was not in the captivity of Hamas.  This information is coming from jpost:

What it means is that the Israeli government is satisfied with the level of destruction in Gaza. The electricity supply is non-existent, schools destroyed, emergency medical services unusable, and no way around the IDF blockade that determines what can - and cannot - make its way into the Gaza ghetto.

Beyond that, the pinnacle of all excuses for removing the indigenous people to be replaced by settlements has now successfully been re-justified.

It seems this round is over.

Guess this is it until 2016.

noun ˈter-ər-ˌi-zəm\
: the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal - Merriam-Webster's Dictionary
On Saturday, residents of northern Gaza returned to their homes to try and salvage some belongings, and dig more bodies out of the rubble, before fleeing again at the end of the agreed 8 hour cease fire.  For many of them, they found they had no home left to return to.

The level of destruction is hard to fathom.  For weeks, the eleventh most powerful military on the planet has been literally pulverizing this strip of land - 25 miles long and 7 miles wide at its largest point - with the stated aim of harming Hamas, currently the government in Gaza.

In the process of pursuing their stated goal of wiping out Hamas, the Israeli military has caused the loss of life of roughly a thousand people so far, over 70% of whom are civilian casualties. More than 150 of those dead civilians have been children. Among the targets chosen in this campaign have included civilian shelters operating in United Nations schools, mosques, medical clinics, and multiple hospitals.

Killing hundreds of civilians to damage their government is, by definition, terrorism.

{continued below the fold}

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This weekend, the Southwestern US is experiencing a record breaking heat wave.  Just last weekend, Alaska experienced a record breaking heat wave.  These are predicted symptoms of changing weather patterns due to climate change.  Yet the 'debate' about climate change rages on, with no substantial progress being made.

A 2012 poll by the Pew Research Center found that only 42% of Americans believed that the earth is warming due to human activity.  While the poll also ascertained that a solid majority (67%) did believe the earth was warming, only 45% believed that there was a general consensus among scientists with regard to the planet warming due to human activity.

This should be surprising, given that somewhere between 97% (source) and 99.8% (source) of peer-reviewed scientific articles over the last 20 years conclude that the planet is warming due to human activities.  However, most of us are no longer surprised by this because we have - on too many occasions - found ourselves caught in one of those unwinnable arguments with someone who is thoroughly convinced there is some international conspiracy to trick everyone into thinking our actions have consequences, and who has an unending supply of disinformation to back up their view.

If we are to have any hope of ensuring that this planet is not irreversibly altered by the time our grandchildren are our age, I think we may need to re-evaluate how we go about winning the broader climate argument.

[Continued below the fold...]

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Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 03:22 PM PST

Some Truth on the Tragedy in Gaza

by misneach

Over the last week, the news has been dominated by stories about retaliatory strikes by Israel against Hamas targets in the Gaza strip, and the suffering of the Israeli people as they are warned into safe rooms many have in their homes by Israeli government air raid sirens.  The heart wrenching stories about the emotional pain and suffering of the Israeli people is terribly upsetting, and with its ubiquity in media coverage it is no wonder that the leader of the free world can only re-iterate the position held by American conservatives and liberals alike, that Israel has the right to defend itself.

However, to those of us who regularly keep abreast of events occurring around the globe, there are common themes throughout the media coverage of the "conflict" that give one pause.  Anyone who has kids has heard "he started it" or "she started it," but when those exact sentiments are being put forth by the information ministry of one side of the "conflict" and unquestioningly echoed by the major news outlets, one has to start to question - the same as we would with our children - whether the information we're being given actually tells the full story.

A person's views are merely a product of the information from which they are drawing their conclusions, so we're only as good as the information we're given.  The reality is that we are being given only a very small part of the story in relation to this "conflict" so it comes as no surprise that the information to follow in this post will be upsetting to some.  For that I cannot apologize, because one should never apologize for speaking the truth, however uncomfortable that truth may be.

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Wed May 30, 2012 at 11:38 AM PDT

Ireland - Fiscal Treaty Referendum

by misneach

As some of you may know, tomorrow the Republic of Ireland will vote on an amendment to the Irish Constitution that will enable the Irish government to ratify the latest EU agreement, called the "Treaty on Stability, Co-ordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union."

The government, the political parties, and other interested groups have spent millions of Euro on both information and propaganda about this referendum vote.  Sadly, the majority of Irish people still have absolutely no idea what they are voting on.

Called the "Stability Treaty" officially and "Austerity Treaty" by opponents, wild claims are flying back and forth from both sides, and this has muddied the waters of the debate and distracted the public from the far reaching implications of this choice we face on Thursday.

So what are we voting on?

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Lord Acton once implored us to remember a simple mantra:

Where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that. All power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Since the end of the Second World War, and increasingly so from the Reagan years on past the demise of the USSR, the US has taken the position as the worlds sole superpower.  This has given to the US government a sense of absolute power, and such power often has dire consequences.

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