How May Day became a workers’ holiday

May Day is celebrated around the world as a labour holiday. One of the few countries that doesn’t celebrate it is the one where it all began, the USA. The origins of May Day as a workers’ holiday go back to strikes, police brutality, and a miscarriage of justice in the USA of the 1880s.

Interesting reading.


Elderly trans* people in Indonesia

I have no idea what it’s like to be a trans* person in Indonesia. According to this report from the BBC, many of them are prostitutes. This can happen when prejudice against trans* people is so harsh that it’s all but impossible for them to get any other job. But it’s not a job for life. And that is why Yulianus Rettoblaut (known as ‘Mami Yuli’) has set up a home which provides food, shelter and skills training for elderly transgender people.


Maamtrasna Murders: Photos

The Maamtrasna murders, 130 years ago, were shockingly brutal, but they are more remembered today for the blatant miscarrage of justice in the following court case. Myles Joyce was hung, protesting his innocence to the last. Recently, the National Library of Ireland has acquired photographs of Myles Joyce and the other nine men accused of the Maamtrasna murders.

Another report adds:

A monoglot Irish speaker, Myles Joyce, who had no English, was defended in court in Dublin by a solicitor and barristers who spoke no Irish. The evidence he gave as Gaeilge was ignored in court. Evidence which might have helped his defence was withheld and the trial also heard from informers gave false evidence against him.

The judge and jury who convicted him had no Irish and the jury deliberated for less than six minutes to decide on his guilt before sentence of death was passed.

An Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, said Mr Joyce’s case was one of most significant and distressing cases ever concerning the denial of language rights.


Politics USA: Lotteries and Poverty edition

Republicans love to complain about some liberal “nanny state” idea and then they turn around and write laws about what poor people can’t do with their money and what women can’t do with their bodies and other things that are “for your own good”. What the fuck is up with that?

Fred Clark, discussing the North Carolina state lottery, writes of a

weird, seething resentment of the poor that twists so much of American policy — reshaping it around the driving principle that we must, at all costs, make sure no tax dollars are ever spent in a way that would give any poor person, anywhere, even a single moment’s pleasure.

Politics is strange, and sometimes scary. I have actually seen a suggestion that welfare food stamps should permit only the purchase of gruel. Because apparently poor people aren’t allowed to enjoy things (or to have a varied and healthful diet).


Hans Rosling makes data sing

Over on the blog of Tullamore Toastmasters I posted some videos of the Swedish Professor of Public Heath, Hans Rosling, whose statistics are fascinating, insightful, and, ultimately, encouraging. The world is in many ways better than we might have thought it was. (The world isn’t only healthier than we might have thought; it’s also a lot less violent.)


The Miraculous Disapearing Watch

Tip to graphic designers and others who doctor photos: When you try to hide the fact that the moral leader of millions wears a watch worth €30,000, you should remove the reflection too. Patriarch Kirill’s press office was perfectly correct to call this a “ridiculous mistake“. The Patriarch is, of course, the moral leader of millions.


Uniform Thuggery

Is the thuggery in the Middle East so very different to that in the USA? Time magazine’s person of the year is “The Protester”. Protests have been a defining aspect of 2011, as has been the authorities’ reaction to protest. And so often, almost uniformly, that reaction has been thuggery. Uniformed thuggery. This is possibly one of the most important articles Fred Clark (slacktivist) has ever written.

Of course, the police can all too often be thugs anyway, in situations which have nothing to do with protest.