Safe routes to school

June 9th, 2022

Galway City Council are currently running a set of consultations regarding proposed developments under the ‘Safe Routes to School’ programme, for a number of schools in Galway city. The schools involved include those in Mervue, Renmore, Raleigh Row (Scoil Íognáid), Shantalla, and Westside (GETNS and St Joseph’s). The Renmore proposals have received some media attention, after a local councillor came out against proposals to discourage vehicular traffic outside the school, arguing that it would lead to traffic congestion, and prevent local residents from parking on Ballyloughane Road. (Note: all houses facing onto Ballyloughane Road have private driveways.)

With two children in Galway Educate Together NS (GETNS), I have made a submission in response to the proposals for the area around GETNS. In general, I am supportive of what is proposed, but am concerned that the proposals are very minimal. In particular, while the Renmore proposal, for example, recognises that a ‘safe route’ must address the full route taken by children, if walking and cycling are to be encouraged, the GETNS proposal addresses just the area immediately in front of the school – an area that is currently congested, to be sure, but which excludes the various daunting junctions that must be tackled by many of those coming to the school.

GETNS, as the longest established multi-denominational national school in the city, attracts a cohort from across the city, but in particular from areas like Westside, Rahoon, Knocknacarra, and other suburbs on the west side of the city. It is from these areas in particular that we can expect to attract additional pedestrian and cyclist commuting to the school. The only children who can access the school without crossing a major junction are those

(The Safe Routes project is unlikely, in itself, to convert those travelling from the eastern side of the city, or from commuter towns like Moycullen and Oranmore.)

The route along Siobhan McKenna Road is a significant one for those travelling to the school by foot or bike, but it has significant shortcomings that affect child safety, and interfere with its attractiveness for active travel. There seem to me to be five main issues here:

  • Car traffic can travel at high speeds along this road (when not prevented by congestion). A visual speedometer installed by the council regularly records speeds in excess of the 50km/hr legal limit. As a relatively straight road (with some gentle curves), relatively flat, and quite wide, the road design induces faster speeds from drivers. My understanding is that there were speed bumps on the road a number of years ago, but they were removed following complaints from residents.
  • There is no cycle route along the road. The outer edge of the path does have a tarmac surface for part of the route, which can give the impression of serving as a cycle path, but the tarmac is far too narrow to serve this purpose, and there is no separation between pedestrians and cyclists, as recommended in national guidelines. Nonetheless, many cyclists do use the path on the northern side of the road, in large part because younger cyclists can feel nervous using the main road surface, with the fast-moving cars mentioned above. Cycling was, it appears, the main issue raised by parents in a previous stage in the consultation process, but cycling routes get no attention in this proposal.
  • There are numerous junctions with residential streets, which feature very wide turning radii. These encourage drivers to turn at speed, and increase the distance to be travelled on the road surface by pedestrians. Where dropped kerbs are in place, these are often set around the corner, meaning pedestrians must turn into the residential street in order to follow the ‘safe’ pedestrian route across the road. All of this conflicts with best practice for pedestrian routes.
  • Some obvious, and much-used, but busy, crossing points on the main pedestrian arteries to the school lack any formal (controlled or uncontrolled) pedestrian crossing, which increases risk to pedestrians, and deters pupils, parents, and others, from walking. The junction with Circular Road, at the end of Siobhan McKenna Road, is one prominent example. Rahoon Road, other than at the base of the hill at Seamus Quirke/Bishop O’Donnel Roads, is another – though I understand that a crossing near the entrance to Millar’s Lane is under active consideration as part of the development of the Millar’s Lane active travel route. It can also be difficult for pedestrians to cross on the Browne roundabout (junction of Thomas Hynes and Seamus Quirke Roads), though again redevelopment of this is under active consideration as part of the bus corridor plans. Finally, while Moyola Park can provide a safe, low-traffic route from GETNS, and the end of the much-used Siobhan McKenna Road, to the active-travel friendly NUIG campus, there is no pedestrian crossing facilitating entry to the ‘central campus’ pedestrian entrance at Áras Moyola / Alice Perry Engineering Building. This, even though Newcastle, Westside, and Rahoon have large student populations.
  • Galway has a long history of urban design that actively impedes permeability, including developments that prevent future introduction of permeability. (I am thinking here of neighbouring housing estates where cul de sacs are offset, so that there is no point at which a pedestrian cut-through can be introduced.) Kissing gates, overly narrow cut-throughs (preventing access by those using mobility aids or pushchairs, and making access difficult for those with bikes, scooters, etc.), and other design features are depressingly prevalent in our designed environment.

With the previous points as prelude, I attach below the main parts of the submission I made to the consultation on the Safe Routes proposals for GETNS:

The proposed changes are welcome, but insufficient to achieve their stated goals. While our children currently walk and cycle to/from school, we are hopeful of transitioning to cycling next year, but the current lack of cycling facilities, let alone ones meeting national recommended standards, is a significant barrier. This, in particular, needs further attention.

In addition to the changes proposed, I would recommend the following:

  1. The “Potential Pedestrian/Cycle link to Moyola Park” (marked on drawing 11220-1000) should be implemented. At present, those reaching the school from the East (eg from NUIG Central and North campuses) need to travel through Moyola Park as far as the N59, and then double back down the road towards the school (and vice versa). A cut-through from Moyola Park would reduce the amount of pedestrian/cycle traffic on the already congested entry way to the school, reduce the amount of pedestrian traffic at the western end of Moyola Park, and encourage cycle use (by making it easier to use the low-traffic, and relatively safe, Moyola Park to travel from the school to the cycle-friendly NUIG.
  2. At present the pedestrian crossing on Thomas Hynes Road has a staggered ‘on demand’ system, and there can be a significant delay from pressing the button to getting a green light, resulting in signficant numbers of pedestrians, including young children travelling alone, crossing against the red. In line with the Safe Routes to Schools document we should “Omit staggered crossings in favour of direct/single phase crossings” (p16), shorten the maximum waiting time for a green light once requested, and add signage/markings to alert drivers of the upcoming lights.
  3. A segregated cycle lane should be provided to join the school, along Siobhan McKenna, with the pedestrian route at the southern end of Claremont Park. It is notable that “New/improved cycle paths” were the highest-rated request from the previous consultation (64% of GETNS parents), but that this plan provides no specific improvements to cycling facilities. As a short-term measure, the left-turn slip lane at the end of Siobhan McKenna (at the junction with the N59) should be removed (in line with guidance, p16), and use of kerbs/bollards/wands to quickly/cheaply create segregated cycle lanes (in line with recommendations on p18) should be investigated.
  4. Additional measures to enhance pedestrian/cycle safety along the Siobhan McKenna route would include side road upgrades to reduce kerb radii, at the entrances to Laurel Park, John Coogan Park, Gaelcarraig Park, Inishannagh Park, and the junction with Bóthar Lé Cheile.
  5. Ensure dropped kerbs and tactile paving at all crossing points. At present there is no dropped kerb at the vehicular entrance to GETNS.
  6. The path at the crossing point on Thomas Hynes/N59 can be over-crowded – widen the path to leave plenty of space for those waiting to cross the road, while also facilitating those walking along the street. There is space to expand the paths on both sides of the roads at these points.
  7. In line with the Safe Routes document and DMURS 4.2.5, the use of guard rails at the pedestrian crossing on Thomas Hynes Road should be discontinued – and the elements above will provide DMURS-compatible safety features that will make them redundant.
  8. The path on the south side of the road from Thomas Hynes past the front of the school, and continuing to CROI, is far too narrow – I have had problems navigating with a pushchair in the past. This is exacerbated by the presence of various obstructions (eg street lighting). In line with DMURS 4.2.5, these should be minimised, and moved to the side of the path – I am glad to see the proposed plan includes mention of this, though it appears that the mid-section of the path, near the middle zebra crossing, will continue to be very narrow.
  9. Implementation of a crossing point on Circular Road, near the North-West corner of the Westside sports field, should be introduced. Given the ongoing enhancements to the Millar’s Lane route, and the possible introduction of a crossing point on Rahoon Road near the entrance to Rosán Glas/Millar’s Lane, this has the potential, together with enhancement of pedestrian facilities on Siobhan McKenna, to create a safe pedestrian/cycling route from Kingston, through Rahoon and Westside, connecting with NUIG and the city centre. As GETNS attracts children from a wide catchment area (due to its distinctive ethos), this will serve pupils from across this area, as well as providing general enhancements to the public realm.
  10. The access point from Rahoon Road to Rockfield (which provides access to Claremont and thus Westside) is too narrow for a child to easily/safely bring through a bike/scooter, or for a pushchair to be used. This is a significant problem for safety, permeability, and universal design. This entrance point needs to be widened, at least to facilitate pushchair/wheelchair access to the bus stops on Rahoon Road, and to facilitate travel by bike by parents and children.

In retrospect, I could also have added the following points (and may add them to a supplementary submission):

  • The distance along Upper Newcastle Road, between the signalised junctions with Thomas Hynes Road (at the northern end) and R338 (at the south) is 1.0km. This road segment has five bus stops on it, and on the west side has multiple pedestrian routes joining Thomas Hynes Road (and the residential areas to the west, including Westside, Rahoon, and Knocknacarra) with Upper Newcastle, including paths through Greenfields, Fairlands, Moyola Park, and Ardilaun Road. In addition, it is anticipated that the future Newcastle Community Centre (to be located adjacent to GETNS/CROI) will have pedestrian access from Upper Newcastle Road. To the east, this segments has to multiple parts of the NUIG campus, including the North Campus (including Corrib Village, where most residents are reliant on active travel, and the Institute for Lifecourse and Society, which acts as a significant bridge between campus and community), and Central Campus (which includes significant teaching locations for engineering, health sciences, and business).
  • The lack of any pedestrian crossing along this segment adds up to 1km (10-15 minutes) for pedestrians who rely on pedestrian crossings – and additionally mean that those who follow ‘desire lines’ between safe pedestrian routes on each side of the road are put at increased risk. The introduction of two additional pedestrian crossing points along this road segment should be considered – one between the Greenfields/Fairlands entrances to the road, and another close to the Central Campus entrances to the road (which are close to the two pedestrian routes from Moyola Park).
  • There is a very short segment of a cycle lane at the northern end of Thomas Hynes Road, on the eastern (south-facing) side, but this ends suddenly, before connecting with any junctions. Segregated cycle lanes on both sides of this road, for the full length of Thomas Hynes Road, will (together with cycle lanes on Siobhan McKenna Road, and the existing route on Seamus Quirke Road) significantly aid cycle connectivity between GETNS and Dangan, upper Newcastle, and areas to the south of Galway University Hospital (eg Shantalla, the West, upper Salthill, and Claddagh).

Eulogy – Dr Anne Boyle

February 7th, 2019

We had the memorial service for my mother today – she died Monday, and the Irish tradition is to have a short few days of funereal rituals prior to the burial. In Mom’s case – always the non-conformist – she asked for a non-religious service and a cremation, so the last few days have been about moulding old rituals into new forms.
Much of the service was structured around eulogies from her three children, followed by reflections from those present. I think she would have liked the notion that there was no single authoritative pronouncement on her life, but multiple overlapping glimpses.
Here are the lines I delivered:
Holding court in the kitchen, sitting by the stove, or bustling about from oven to table, while children and grandchildren ate fresh-made scones with ham and cheese, or slices of batch loaf spread thick with Nutella.
Making friends out of seemingly random strangers in cafes in New Orleans, in queues in museums and restaurants, while waiting on the bench that is Eason’s windowsill.
Returning from an evening’s canvass, with tales of the voters she had connected with, listened to, and learnt from.
Mom enjoyed meeting people, engaging with them, getting them to open up about their lives, their passions, their challenges. And then she would share those stories, bringing to life the dreams and struggles of people who became part of this living tapestry – a waitress in her favourite coffee shop, who she had gotten to know in the days and months she spent drafting dissertation chapters; the families of her pupils at Hillside Park; her extended family – siblings, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
The power of stories, of narrative, had been the tool she used to ground her PhD project, to understand and communicate the role of education in the lives of members of the Travelling community. It had been the means by which she had connected intuitively with the work of theorists like Michel Foucault, fascinated by his tales of punishment, control, and institutional power. And every day, it was her skills as a listener and a storyteller that she used to bind her family together, listening to the quotidian details of our lives, and retelling them so skillfully that I had, at times, to remind myself that her version of a minor drama was second or third hand, rather than something she had witnessed herself.
Family was at the centre of her life. As she had, so many times before, in her closing days she echoed the words of her own mother, in urging us (her children) to avoid fighting with each other, and to provide support for each other, and for Dad.
She did so much for us, sacrificed so much. Maybe it was because I was such an overwhelmingly charming baby, but she decided not to return to her work in the tax office after my birth, despite being one of the first able to avail of maternity leave after the lifting of the marriage bar.
So much of our parents’ time, money, and energy, was invested in us, focused on us. Holidays spent packed together in a car, as we travelled. Travel, exposure to other cultures, and experiencing the artifacts of culture and history so immediately, was a very conscious gift, from Roman Baths and Wookie Hole in England in 1980, to exploring the Brothers Grimm during a memorable visit to Austria, the Carnac menhirs in Brittany, the Lascaux Cave paintings, Niagara Falls, the historic sites of New England when Dad was based there for work, from the witch trials of Salem to the Plymouth settlement.
It wasn’t all serious. There was the sugary indulgence of Disney World. Relaxing into the surf near Bordeaux.
While she treasured her home life, Mom was fascinated by what lay just out of sight. Some of the earliest memories she shared were of sitting with her father, as he explored a world atlas with her. As with so much else, I think her fascination with knowledge, her love of learning can be traced back to those formative moments.
She was proud of where she came from, of who she was. In the sitting-room hangs a photograph of her grand-uncle, lost at Gallipoli before she was born. Remembered still by her, by us.
She was a McCarthy. She loved West Cork, its beauty and its sense of home. She loved her parents, and was proud of the example they had provided, of generosity, of standing up for what was right.
And she had stories, always stories. Of how they were unafraid to stand up against the symbols of Official Ireland – the bullying school mistress; the priest who sought to exclude and shame others.
She brought their fearlessness with her to Galway, speaking up against the anti-Traveller barricades she passed, walking into town as a young mother, later joining the Galway Traveller Support Group, and dedicating her working life – and so much more – to the Traveller pre-school system, striving for an education system that offered inclusion and opportunity, while valuing diversity.
She was fearless and unstinting as a mother too. When I, at seven, wondered why our teacher had told us the boys in my class would do ‘crafts’, while the girls learnt to knit, she ensured I had the chance to be perhaps the first boy in Renmore Primary to learn knitting. Which is why I have in a short 36 years, already completed 30 rows of plain.
She got up early to drive us to rowing practice. She was on first name terms with IRTC staff as we sought the Flirt FM licence, with our home phone the main point of contact for our not-yet-a-station. And when we decided to follow the roads less travelled – to take a year out to work in student radio; to leave a job with a bank in favour of an Olympic dream; to move to Cambridge; to leave a job in telecoms to become a graduate student in the humanities – every time, she provided all the support we might need, and more.
She was my Mom; she was our Mom. And our Grandma; our Grandmama. Sister; aunt; life-partner. Though I think she would be taken-aback by the description, she was, as so many have reminded us this week, a lady. A fierce, funny, strong, thoughtful, loving, unconventional lady. And we’ll miss her.

An end to the Free Music Archive

December 4th, 2018

Sorry to hear, courtesy of Radio Survivor, of the end of the Free Music Archive. It’s worth listening to the Radio Survivor podcast in full, as it goes into some detail on the development, and the context within which the Archive was developed, and in which this latest development occurs.
The Archive was an ingenious move by WFMU, a tactic in responding to copyright licensing challenges that opened up conversations about radio formatting, how music should be paid for, and more.

Celebrating women

March 20th, 2017

(While I’d originally intended to publish this on 8th March, for International Women’s Day, various events intervened. Still, it’s never a bad day to celebrate the work of women, as they bend the arc of history towards justice.)
Several recent news stories have caused me to reflect on women in my life who have been working, in different ways, for social justice.
Over the last several weeks, news has spread globally about the finding of the remains of infants and children (with age estimates ranging 35 weeks gestational age to three years old) in what appears to be a septic tank on the grounds of a former ‘mother and babies’ home in Tuam. While the location and method of burial – an unofficial, unmarked cemetery, perhaps a mass grave – has attracted particular attention, this development draws attention (again) to broader questions, which have surfaced repeatedly over the last several decades. It draws attention to the way we treated women, particularly those who got pregnant outside of marriage – something that has been dealt with episodically in Irish current affairs, but each time tucked back into the recesses of public space. One particular piece, in The Guardian, drew attention to the treatment of children of mixed race – something that made them less likely to be adopted by American Catholic families seeking ‘authentic’ Irish Catholic children. My aunt published a wonderful collection documenting the experiences of mixed-race children who grew up in Ireland, largely over a slightly later period, My Eyes Only Look Out. It’s an important piece of journalism that gives a space for these people to tell their own stories.
Another piece of social justice news – this a bit more cheerful – was the recognition, by the Irish government, of the Travelling Community as an ethnic group. It has been a key goal of Traveller activists for quite some time, as part of a broader campaign seeking to defend their human rights. My mother’s PhD thesis, completed in 2014, focused on parental involvement in Traveller Preschools, and identified the manner in which these schools were viewed as ‘protected enclaves’ by parents, places where young Travellers could start their educations, grounded in their own communities. A big part of what stands out for me in the work is the pride parents have in their identity as Travellers, and how this ties into their experiences of, and relationships to, education. It’s another example of story-telling, of giving space for voice. As Nick Couldry argues, “the offer of effective voice is crucial to the legitimacy of modern democracies.” It is important that people get to give voice to their own experiences, and for such narratives to be woven into the reflective and analytical pieces that can integrate them into policy, into cultural form, into history.
Here’s some of what the parents my mother spoke with had to say about being Travellers:

Parents said they were proud to be members of the Traveller community. Even in the face of discrimination and marginalisation, they were proud of their identity. They had a strong sense of being the bearers of a long and rich tradition. They had survived adversity and they saw themselves as a distinct group with cultural norms which they held in high regard. This pride was expressed by Sally (parent, Cuanmara) when she said: “I’m proud of who I am and would never change that for anything in the world … But I’m happy.” Lucy (parent, Lisnashee) also expressed pride in being a Traveller: “I feel very proud, it doesn’t bother me who I am to be honest … I am who I am.”
Although they spoke with pride in their Traveller identity, many qualified their feeling of pride with a fatalism which indicated that, whether or not it was convenient, they were Travellers and this could not be changed. Deirdre (parent and childcare worker, Liosbeag) was emphatic in saying, “you are what you are and that’s it … you are born what you are and you die what you are,” while Sara (parent, Castletown) declared: “Everyone is happy with their own culture and we can’t change it no matter what we are.” Similarly, Lisa (parent, Seanbaile) stated: “You are what you are. I like my children to know they are Travellers, ‘cause you cannot make yourself something you are not”, while Tara (parent, Avonard) said in relation to her children that “if they found out they are Travellers, what can they really do about it, like”.

Some of the fatalism seemed to be linked to an awareness of the negative view of Travellers often held by settled people. When talking about their identity as Travellers some did introduce the notion of shame, to deny that they themselves felt any shame. Tom (parent, Seanbaile) said: “I’ve never been ashamed, like, of who I am or what I am” and Deirdre (parent and childcare worker, Liosbeag), when referring to the possibility that her son might follow the traditional trade of his father and grandfather, said: “It’s not that I’d be ashamed of that”.
Some respondents reflected on their continued identity as a community, even as some of the traditional trappings of Traveller life – nomadism, living in tent or wagon, for example – are dropped:

Many Travellers nowadays live side-by-side with settled people in standard housing, especially in towns and cities. To the outside observer there might appear to be few differences between Travellers and the settled community. Although large numbers of Travellers have outwardly assumed aspects of the settled population’s way of life, they regard themselves as a distinct community. As Sara (parent, Castletown) put it: “You are in a house like a settled person, your kids go to school like a settled person’s … [but] both communities are different.” The difference is one’s identity and sense of belonging to a distinct culture. Tara (parent, Avonard) described how an awareness of the difference between Travellers and the settled community first occurred to her:

I was eight or nine before I even copped on that I was one … I knew that they were all my people. I knew still I wouldn’t let anyone say anything about them; but you know from an early age, are you a buffer [Traveller term for ‘settled people’] or are you a Traveller.

Traveller culture differs from that of the settled community, and is reflected in a distinctive approach to family relations, in the practice of nomadism, in the Cant language, and in the practice of traditional Traveller trades.

Sara (parent, Castletown) described how support from family manifests itself:

It’s the family, like, if you come from the Travelling community and the support when you’re sick or sore. All your family has all that support. They come to you and they comfort you and at least you know that you can turn back to them. Traveller families are very very close to each other when it comes to weddings or comes to deaths or respect or all that kind of way.

Tríona (teacher, Lisnashee) gave an example of where local Travellers had rallied round to bring home for burial a member of their community who had been living abroad and who had died in poor circumstances:

They’d a big funeral there last month. Six thousand they paid for the headstone …They were so happy to bury her, to bring her home and to bury her. I mean, she was an alcoholic but they didn’t deny her. They brought her home.

Indeed, this support from the Traveller community can sometimes give rise to tension and misunderstandings by others, as referred to by John (parent, Cnocard):

Family is the centre and for the burial everyone would chip in for the tombstone and [settled] people say – ‘Ah, Travellers are rotten with money’ and all this. They never see the poor side.

Travellers are expected to provide support to the extended family when needed and they put family loyalty above all else (Bewley 1974, Gmelch 1975, O’Hanlon 2010). As Mac Aonghusa (1993, p.102) put it, “families depend on each other for support in times of trouble and enjoy each other’s company in family celebrations”.

How many jobs does Ireland need?

November 27th, 2013

Drawing on the recent piece by Michael Taft, assessing the proportion of emigration for which the recession/response is responsible, and on some CSO estimates for population, we can see the following:
The Irish population has grown by 108,000 between 2009 and 2013.
Taft estimates a net 136,000 Irish aged 15-29 emigrated due to recession over the period from 2008 to 2013 .
That clearly leaves out those over 29 who emigrated due to the recession, but it gives us a floor.
Thus, to keep up with natural growth, the Irish economy would have to have grown by 244,000 over this period. Instead, FTE employment has dropped by 303,000. That’s a net difference of 547,000 between what would be required and what we actually see. The 300,000 the CSO reports as unemployed only tells a small part of the story. (Note, that’s partly because the FTE figures will capture the ‘underemployed’ figures, which are hidden by the simple employed/unemployed summary.)
It’s great to see increases in net employment – I’ve been seeing for the past week or two the press releases touting an increase of something over 50,000 in the last year. However, let’s not kid ourselves: we need ten times that to get back to pre-recession levels – and that’s not even accounting for the loss in purchasing power of those who are in employment. A back of the envelope estimate – assuming that population growth continues at the same pace – would suggest we’ll need another 250,000 jobs to keep up with upcoming population growth over the next five years. So, if we wanted to get back to ‘normality’ over a five year period, we’d need about 160,000 net jobs a year over that period. To put it another way: 50,000 is just about keeping up with natural population growth. Any fall in unemployment in the past year can be attributed wholly to emigration.

Primary Care Fallout

September 28th, 2012

The scandals around the Irish health minister are a constantly shifting landscape at present, with recent news including the resignation of Labour’s junior health minister, Roisin Shortall. Prior to Shortall’s resignation, I had submitted a letter to the Irish Times. Since they declined to publish it, I’m sharing it here:

A Chara,

It is unusual for a minister to come under such sustained attack, on such a wide range of fronts, as the minister for health has over the past several months. His personal judgement, conflicts of interest, and his competence in managing his brief have each been challenged by significant revelations.

Now we learn that sites in the minister’s constituency have mysteriously jumped up the priority list for primary care centers. This at a time of straitened circumstances, when the government claims to be making hard decisions in the national interest.

As a Labour Party member, too often I find myself gritting my teeth at many of the compromises of coalition. The premise of uno voce means that Labour ministers are implementing and defending decisions that often bear the imprimatur of Fine Gael far more clearly than the trace of social justice and intergenerational solidarity. Such, we are told, is the nature of coalition, of compromise. Perhaps so.

Corruption is of a different nature. The stench of personal self-interest, disguised to a greater or lesser extent, echoes through the scandals emanating from the department of health. The minister should resign. The Tanaiste must insist upon it.

Is mise,

Stephen Colbert’s lawyer, Trevor Potter, analyzes the Citizens United decision

May 27th, 2012

One of the strongest elements of Colbert’s coverage of the post-Citizens United era has been the inclusion of Trevor Potter. It’s been fun seeing just how much Potter clearly enjoys his role as real lawyer to Colbert’s fake-character-having-real-impact. This piece by Potter, originally a speech, shows his deep engagement with these issues:

I do not pretend this is a simple constitutional issue, precisely because this is where two important Constitutional values meet, sometimes head on: the First Amendment, the quintessential individual right to free speech, which we know about, and the important collective right to a functioning, representational government, which we sometimes forget is the whole purpose of the Constitution. But the Supreme Court has until now recognized repeatedly that the legitimacy of government is threatened at its core when it is corrupt, or even appears to most citizens to have a serious conflict of interest.

Compare and contrast

April 20th, 2012

People think I’m completely evil and what I’m doing is completely immoral, but at the end of the day I feel like I’m just educating people on technology.

That’s Hunter Moore, founder of ‘revenge porn’ site IsAnyOneUp, as quoted by the BBC. Compare that with the rationale provided for an ‘art’ exhibition currently showing in London:

Two Italian-born artists are showing off more than 10,000 private photographs they claim to have stolen from random people’s hard drives, part of an exhibit that also features fragments cut, torn or chipped off of iconic works by Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp and Jeff Koons.
The loot from the art-minded crime spree is intended to raise questions about what’s private, what’s public, and what makes art “art,” said curator Barbara Rodriguez Munoz, who gave The Associated Press a tour of London’s Carroll/Fletcher gallery on Thursday.

The Moore defense is one of several rather random claims made – that he avoids passing judgement (just as his most recent hosting company claims to ‘remain neutral’ on their clients’ activities), that while some are upset it provides entertainment for others, that if he weren’t doing it someone else would, and that he’s ‘just a businessman’ exploiting a market opportunity.
The artists are making a more targeted claim – that framing the project as ‘art’ with the purpose of ‘making us think’ excuses the illegal and unethical methods used to obtain their content, and the arguably voyeuristic nature of their product. But is there really that much of a difference between their claims and those of Moore, or are they both self-serving excuses for ‘doing what I want, for my benefit’, whether that benefit be advertising revenue or an artistic profile?

From O.J. to Trayvon – NYTimes.com

April 8th, 2012

This isn’t 1995. This is the good fight. This is about restoration of faith. Until there is a trial for George Zimmerman, the whole justice system is on trial.
via From O.J. to Trayvon – NYTimes.com.

Twitter / @markmackinnon: At press conference at her …

April 3rd, 2012

Twitter / @markmackinnon: At press conference at her ….

At press conference at her house, Aung San Suu Kyi was asked where Burma was as a democracy, on scale of 1-10. “On the way to 1,” she said.