September 30, 2013

Harper Reed - My education wasn't actually teaching anything I needed to learn to get a job

Harper Reed, CTO of Obama 2012 made an interesting observation on the non-role and non-relevance that education often plays in non-preparing young people for the world of work. He said in an interview with Tech Crunch here:
"I realized about probably three-quarters of the way through my education that in terms of computers, I actually wasn’t learning anything I needed to learn to get a job later on. I did learn some coding concepts in college, but more importantly I figured out that I’m an experiential learner. I need to put my hands on things and really see them, and really chew on them. It was better to do it in a real context, where it mattered if I did it right. Like where there was money at stake. So, I did an internship in Iowa City, IA. I worked for a real company that was trying to make a profit. The company built ecommerce apps. As an intern I started learning web apps to build web pages. Given my way of learning, it was fascinating to see how the management dealt with me. I was a child. I asked questions like a child does. “Why is the sky blue?” They just said, “It’s just blue. Go with that.” I said, “No! Tell me why we’re doing it this way. What is this?” It was client services, so we were just doing it because the client wanted it done, with no thought behind it. But all the questions I asked gave me this opportunity to see how things worked and the value of asking things that seemed obvious to everyone else. It gave me a lot of hope. It really kicked off the career that I have now."
This reminds me of the Mark Twain quote:
“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

Dominic Grieve - Leaving ECHR could breach Good Friday Agreement

Dominic Grieve MP said at the Liberty Fringe event at the Conservative Conference in Manchester on September 29 2013:
"[Leaving the European Convention on Human Rights] could be interpreted as a sign that Britain is not interested in creating a better world. It could mean breaking other treaties such as the Good Friday Agreement which paved the way for peace in Northern Ireland. If we leave it then we have to take the international reputational consequences of doing so. It's a cost-benefit analysis in terms of whether we think we will benefit of doing it  and what the down sides are."

September 28, 2013

Sectarian Power-Sharing Indulges and Gives Power to the Most Sectarian

In response to remarks made by first minister Peter Robinson, Patrick Murphy wrote in the Irish News September 28 2013:

"The first minister's behaviour is symptomatic of a long-standing illness in our society."

He continued:

"Stormont is built on sectarianism and cannot operate without it. Power-sharing on a sectarian basis merely gives power to the most sectarian. The system works in that it stops both sides killing each other, but the price is that they are allowed to kill democracy and good government instead."

Today's poor man was yesterday's rich man

As The American Thinker put it:

"Our average "poor" man, who also usually has an old car and various creature comforts, likewise has a material lifestyle that would have been the envy of our forebears."

Poetry is theft, Ctd with Ciaran Carson

Ciaran Carson wrote in the September 23 2013 edition of The Gown: 
"In 2009 I published a book of poems called On the Night Watch, poems written in a very spare, skinny form that went down the page in short lines. It wasn't until halfway through that I realised that I'd taken some of that form from the kind of poems Seamus had been writing in the 1980s."

He finished by saying:
"I think the generation of poets here that came after Seamus thought of him as a father of sorts." 

David Foster Wallace - Belief Templates and Critical Awareness

David Foster Wallace explained the standard liberal arts analysis:
"[An] exact same experience can mean two totally different things to two different people, given those people's two different belief templates and two different ways of constructing meaning from experience. Because we prize tolerance and diversity of belief, nowhere in our liberal arts analysis do we want to claim that one guy's interpretation is true and the other guy's is false or bad."
 DFW explains the problem with the standard liberal arts analysis:
"[The above analysis] is fine, except we also never end up talking about just where these individual templates and beliefs come from. Meaning, where they come from INSIDE the two guys. As if a person's most basic orientation toward the world, and the meaning of his experience were somehow just hard-wired, like height or shoe-size; or automatically absorbed from the culture, like language. As if how we construct meaning were not actually a matter of personal, intentional choice. Plus, there's the whole matter of arrogance. The nonreligious guy is so totally certain in his dismissal of the possibility that the passing Eskimos had anything to do with his prayer for help. True, there are plenty of religious people who seem arrogant and certain of their own interpretations, too. They're probably even more repulsive than atheists, at least to most of us."

September 26, 2013

The Basic Canon of Northern Irish life - Mistrust

Leon Uris in his book The Haj wrote of Arabs:
"So before I was nine I learned the basic canon of Arab life. It was me against my brother, me and my brother against my father, my family against my cousins and the clan, the clan giants the tribe, and the tribe against the world. And all of us against the infidel." 
As it was put elsewhere, little has changed since the seventh century, except for the weapons.When it comes to Northern Ireland we could put it like this:
"So before I was nine I learned the basic canon of (Northern Ireland) life. It was me against my brother, me and my brother against my father, my family against my cousins and the clan, the clan giants the tribe, and the tribe against the world. And all of us against the infidel."

Tony James - Graduating and being able to use your brain

President and CEO of Blackstone, Tony James said during a recent interview on Bloomberg News:
"I love my Job and I've got the best job in the world. When I got out of college what I worried about more than anything else was not being able to use my brain and being bored and not being able to use my creativity. So I can do that now and Id be very reluctant to let that go. I'm stretched everyday and people listen to me."
My concern is for the lack of brain-stretching opportunities for graduates. Many of the roles are no more than corporate sweatshops which offer acres of tedium and a culling of brain activity.

September 23, 2013

Mark Stephenson - From Industrialism to a Networked Society

Mark Stephenson, a possibilist, futurologist and author of 'Optimists Tour of the Future' recently featured on Radio 4's show, 'Bremner's One Question Quiz, What Does the Future Hold?' He laid out some fascinating insights into what the future holds. Here's an example:
"As we move out of industrialism, we become a much more networked society. Our political system is not built to deal with long term thinking. As we become more and more connected, people are coding their way around those inefficiencies. By, for instance, taking their town off grid, therefore getting together and actually doing stuff. Networks of people who are designing healthcare in their community; Redesigning the energy supply in their community. I think we're moving to a world where we become citizen and state." 
Mark then made reference to Douglas Adams who had said that there were three types of technology:
1. Technology invented before you were born which you don't think of in technology. Like sewers and paper.

2. Technology invented between the ages of 0 and 35 which you get super excited about. For many, this is the Internet, mobile phones, etc.

3. Then there's the technology developed after you're 35 which you see as pointless and which makes you angry.  

Mark said of that:
"For my generation that's things like 3D tv and Twitter; I've got friends who are literally furious that Twitter even exists."

Mark further said:
"The people who determine the strategic direction of a nation or an organisation are usually in the last category. Yet most of the population are in the second category and so you get institutional bewilderment."

September 20, 2013

Class and Empire - America's big secret

Christopher Hitchens said:
"The big secret of the US is class and empire; Everyone knows there's a class system and empire, but it's not officially admitted. In England those are the subjects we're brought up with the milk of our mamas. Whereas it's intuitive, it's instinctive [for English people]."  
Video here.

Eamon McCann - Get past Orangeism and Greenery and we might be inbusiness

Eamon McCann puts his faith in the normalised and non-aligned of Northern Ireland:
"No solution based on reconciling the Orange and the Green will work. Fortunately, there is a swathe of Northern opinion – polls suggest it currently runs at about 30% – that does not adhere to Orangeism or Greenery. Of course, this isn’t reflected in political representation. Sort that one out and we might be in business."

September 19, 2013

Combinatorial creativity, Ctd

As Daniel Hannan wrote:

"Our fathers learned, on the savannahs of Pleistocene Africa, to make sense of their surroundings by finding patterns, and this tendency is encoded deep in our DNA."

Andrew Sullivan - "All faiths, even the most popular, are by definition sectarian"

Andrew Sullivan wrote in 2008 in The Atlantic Magazine here:
"All faiths, even the most popular, are by definition sectarian."

September 18, 2013

Opposition is the ointment to Group Think

The Harvard Business Review explains:
"Every leader should take this advice to heart: never shy away from opposition; welcome it — better yet, encourage it, then encourage it some more."
And here's some examples:
"If you surround yourself with too many like-minded colleagues, that is, you can create a culture of group think. That’s not good. Just take a look back at U.S. history. Lyndon Johnson’s escalation of military action in Vietnam, John F. Kennedy’s invasion of Cuba — many historians have argued that these mistakes were fueled by too many team members refusing to voice their opposition."

September 17, 2013

Universities aren't serving the brightest

The Sunday Times of September 15 reported that students are critical of teaching standards. Sian Griffiths and Alastair McCall wrote:
"The results [of the national poll by the ST] highlight fears that academics at some universities may be more interested in their research than in their students."

Sir Chris Woodhead, professor of education at Buckingham University and a former chief inspector of schools, said:
"It does not surprise me that top universities are criticised by their students, because they are responding to the excessive emphasis that the government has put on the research they do. This policy needs to change if we are to do justice to the brightest young people."

September 16, 2013

Interns - David Cameron wants you to report exploitation

Rosemary Bennet explained things in The Times. 'Cameron urges interns to report exploitation' was the title of the article, published September 16 2013. She said:
"David Cameron will urge unpaid interns to report their employers to the authorities if they are being asked to do a job rather than just work experience.

He has thrown his weight behind a TV campaign this autumn that will inform young people of their rights and employers’ responsibilities when they accept unpaid positions.

The campaign, which will be led by Channel 4, will call on unpaid interns to call the national Pay and Work Rights Helpline if they are being exploited, and the employer will be investigated. The Department for Business is working with the broadcaster on the production.

Basil McCrea - Respect for Flags

Basil McCrea, leader of NI21 confronts the faceless men and self-appointed community gatekeepers who orchestrate the decoration and desecration of our streets with flags that operate as symbols of tribalism and sectarianism. Originally posted on Slugger O'Toole here, the address received a warm response from the Slugger comment community. Alan in Belfast also covered it with analysis here. You can also provide thoughts and feedback to the message on the NI21 website here.

Read Basil's statement in full below:
Does the Union flag represent the United Kingdom or is it a marker in a sectarian battlefield? When the flag of the country hangs tattered from a lamppost, so does our society. When it is wrapped around someone during a riot or used to attack the police, it is defiled. In no other country would this be allowed.

September 15, 2013

Syria in a sentence

Andrew Sullivan captures Syria in a sentence: 
"In every crisis, the US will be excoriated if it does nothing and excoriated more for doing something" 

Via Andrew Sullivan in the Sunday Times (15.ix.13), 'Bobbing Obama leaves Putin holding the Syrian powder keg.'

September 14, 2013

[Drawing] for free, Ctd

Oliver Jeffers chastises the practice and the taking advantage of new talent with  the promise of that tired, laboured cliche. He said in an interview with Ideas Tap:
"A lot of people want to take advantage of art college students right out of university: “Oh hey, you do work for me for free; it'll be good for you to get your work seen”. That works up to a point but you have to know when the “opportunity” is not actually an opportunity but a pain in the ass."

September 13, 2013

Tim Stanley - America is exceptional

Writing in The Telegraph Tim Stanley counters suggestions Americaisn't  exceptional. He said: 
"Vlad is wrong: America is exceptional. But it's not exceptional because of its military or the unique genius of its people. It's exceptional because of its revolution and the Constitution that it created. Putin disregards this because he disregards democracy and human rights. Obama, however, doesn't help matters on the exceptionalism front because he fails to promote the principles and ethics of that Constitution. Limited government, free markets, respect for the individual and religious liberty: these are what makes America unique. Alas, they are not things that Barack Obama very much cares or talks about – so if the US doesn't seem particularly exceptional right now, that's why. It's led by a man who doesn't really understand his own country, so he doesn't really understand how to represent it on the world stage."

The University Oversupply Problem

The academic world needs to start taking some birth control. The spilling out of highly trained graduates at a level of supply that far outstrips demand is unsustainable. And it's not just graduate and masters graduates that face this problem; but PhD graduates too. The Economist looked at this in an article entitled "The Disposable Academic": 

"There is an oversupply of PhDs. Although a doctorate is designed as training for a job in academia, the number of PhD positions is unrelated to the number of job openings. Meanwhile, business leaders complain about shortages of high-level skills, suggesting PhDs are not teaching the right things. The fiercest critics compare research doctorates to Ponzi or pyramid schemes."

The Economist gave it's solution to the problem:

"They might use their research skills to look harder at the lot of the disposable academic. Someone should write a thesis about that."

September 12, 2013

Peace, It's Up to Us, Ctd

In an interview with BBC political correspondent Mark Davenport Richard Haass put it bluntly:
"No outsider can manufacture consensus."

Poem - "I am a Syrian"

From the misery of a bloody and brutal civil war, new poets, poetry and cultural creations are emerging. As the Syria-Canadian writer Ghada al-Atrash said:

"Today there is literature coming out of Syria that we could have never even dreamed of just a few years ago."

As expatriate Syrian writer Ghias al-Jundi said:

"A lot of poetry and beautiful lyrics are rising up from the ashes in Syria. There is a cultural side to the revolution, and it's brilliant."

As Mohja Kahf said, thanks in part to the Internet and social media platforms, "A new Syrian identity and literary tradition are being formed around the events of the last few years."

Ghias al-Jundi also explained that poetry in Syria is also playing a role of protest:

"[Poetry is] playing a huge role in Syria right now because the lyrics are part of demonstrations. People are singing these verses together in the streets."

A poem by Youssef Bou Yihea, "I am a Syrian":

"My sect is the scent of my homeland, the soil after the rain, and my Syria is my only religion."

Read in full here:

September 11, 2013

Martin Scorsese on the Importance of Visual Literacy

Martin Scorsese wrote in the New York Review of Books here:
"We’re face to face with images all the time in a way that we never have been before. And that’s why I believe we need to stress visual literacy in our schools. Young people need to understand that not all images are there to be consumed like fast food and then forgotten—we need to educate them to understand the difference between moving images that engage their humanity and their intelligence, and moving images that are just selling them something."
George Lucas has made a contribution to the debate. He said:
"If people aren't taught the language of sound and images, shouldn't they be considered as illiterate as if they left college without being able to read or write?"
Maria Popova talks here about the power of imagery and graphics to move and compel here:
"From hand-drawn diagrams to sophisticated data visualization, by way of graphic design, illustration, photography, and information architecture, this magnificent volume of contemporary and experimental visual storytelling explores what it means to convey information with equal parts clarity and creativity, speaking with remarkable aesthetic eloquence about the things that matter in the world today."

September 10, 2013

Aleks Krotoski on Combinatorial Creativity

On a recent BBC Radio 4 show, 'Last Bus to Serendip' Aleks Krotoski (@aleksk) discussed serendipity (her blog runs some stuff on it here and here as well). Serendipity being that delightful learning moment or moment of discovery, encounter or chance meeting that can change the course of your life. That happy accident we've nearly all had. We're all like lightning conductors to everyone else's lightning. The term was coined by Horace Walpole, an 18th Century man of letters who created the word after the Three Princes of Serendip who made great discoveries whether through chance or sagacity.


Aleks Krotoski explored serendipity its role and effect in building networked knowledge and fuelling combinatorial creativity. She asked the poet Richard Price, "Do you think about serendipity during the creative process and when writing poetry?" He responded by explaining the two types of serendipity. The first kind of serendipity:
"Very much so. There are two kinds of serendipity for poets. One is serendipity of influence. A good example is, I'm in a second hand book shop in Brighton. I come across the biography of the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire and I'm very taken by his WW1 poetry. 15 years later, I'm working on my last book 'Small World' which is just about parenthood. There is no connection there. Yet Apollinaire's style - that became really careful for 'Small World'."   
Aleks interjected: "The reason why people talk about libraries as sources of serendipity is that 2 books next to one another could have completely different topics but could bump well against one another. But you're talking about war and parenthood - some people may not see the connection. To be able to see that connection is quite a skill."
"Maybe but it's also to do with the industrial process of reading tonnes and tonnes of things."

September 09, 2013

Why Law School? Ctd, Lorin Stein

When all else fails, go to law school. A pretty standard drag and drop career move written into the cultural script. Even the editor of The Paris Review, Lorin Stein nearly took the route. That was until at the last moment his big literary break broke. It was explained in an interview with The Financial Times. It was said:
"In 1998, just at the point where he [Lorin Stein] was about to give up and go to law school, he got a call. Jonathan Galassi, FSG president and publisher, needed an assistant. He was in."

Writing on paper Ctd, Tracy Chevalier

The British-domicile American author Tracy Chevalier took a creative writing class at 30 and now finds her work a mainstay of the big screen. Speaking with Gavin Esler on Talking Books she explained her writing routine: writing with pen on paper, then editing while transcribing her work onto the computer. She said:
"I like writing on paper. I feel more connected. It's more organic."

September 08, 2013

LAD - Unveiling and Assailing Northern Ireland's Grand Swamp of Backwardness


Newton Emerson wrote in the Sunday Times on September 1 2013 a piece on Northern Ireland's satirist group, Loyalists Against Democracy with an article entitled, 'Respect are culture? Not on the internet.'  Here are some of the best extracts (in full here). Newton started with a preface note on recent events:
"It is hardly as serious as the Arab Spring but the chaos of the past year in Northern Ireland has also been an internet phenomenon. The first flag protests last December were organised online, without involvement from political parties or paramilitaries, and brought thousands out onto the streets."
Newton Emerson explained that attempts to counter loyalist anarchy largely failed save for LAD. He said:
"The same cannot be said for the real online wonder of the year. Loyalists Against Democracy (LAD), a satirical Facebook page, took it's name from a loyalist banner at the first flag protest which read: "Democracy doesn't work". "

September 07, 2013

A degree should not be taught in abstract isolation

I love quotes, quips and epigrams and I love it even more when I can come up with my own. Here's one which captures my point of how we need to create work-ready, world-literate graduates and school-leavers.
"A degree should not be learned and then earned in abstract isolation from the working world all around us."    

Because as David Foster Wallace said:
"The value of education has nothing to do with education and everything to do with awareness."
 For as Michael Oakeshott said:
"Great achievements are accomplished in the mental fog of practical experience."

Northern Ireland needs more female entrepreneurs

The Harvard Business Review said that the greatest point of untapped leverage in the world is the woman who could be an entrepreneur.
"After reviewing extensive research, a group of us made recommendations on how the United States could improve the outcomes of its development efforts and bring greater prosperity and stability to the world. We all agreed on one of them: Invest more in female entrepreneurs."
Unfortunately things aren't exactly great in Northern Ireland. On the state of entrepreneurship in Northern Ireland the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor of 2009, available here, reported:
"Female entrepreneurship in Northern Ireland remains low and at 2.4 per cent is
now significantly lower than in the UK (3.7%). The level of entrepreneurial activity
for males has risen from 7.4 to 8 per cent. The female/male ratio is now less than
a third (30%) which is the same as in 2008 and the lowest in the UK."

September 06, 2013

Patrick Kavanagh and Sean O'Faolain - Tackling de Valera's Mytholgised Irish-Ireland

Eamonn Wall wrote an article on Patrick Kavanagh entitled, 'It is midnight in Dublin and Europe is at war": Patrick Kavanagh's Poems of "The Emergency".' Available here, Eamonn made some fascinating analyses on the role of Kavanagh and the Bell Magazine in working to counter de Valera's rural, mythologised Ireland.  Eamonn explained the role of "The Emergency", de Valera's euphemism for Ireland's neutrality during the Second World War. He said of it:
"Sean O'Faolain saw "The Emergency" as "six years of silence" (Brown 211). Clearly, neutrality, if not politically or morally, at least practically and psychologically, presented Ireland's southern intellectuals with major difficulties. This policy appeared to institutionalize the withdrawal from the wider world that Irish-Irelanders had been advocating since the last decades of the previous century, an ideology given plain voice by Thomas Derrig, the Minister for Education in De Valera's government, in a speech at the 1937 Dublin Feis:
"That set of values which makes the Irish mind different looks out at us clearly from our old music - its idiom having in some subtle way the idiom of the Irish mind, its rhythms, its intervals, its speeds, its build have not been chosen arbitrarily, but are what they are because they are the musical expression, the musical equivalent of Irish thought and its modes... The Irish idiom expresses deep things that have not been expressed by Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Elgar or Sibelius - by any of the great composers."

Giving an opposition to political propaganda in Northern Ireland

Malachi O'Doherty wrote here in an article for The Irish Times entitled, 'No one agree on the North's history - so why don't we just stick to the facts':
"Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly recently said on The Nolan Show that the IRA had secured us the vote. No one corrected him, presumably because it is all just too much trouble to unpack the detail."
Though I would posit that I offered a morsel of a rebuttal. One that no-doubt requires more detail but which nevertheless counters the base reductionism and propaganda of the Gerry Kelly narrative. I said here
"At the Castlederg event, Gerry Kelly said that the two self-immolated militant republicans "made us (as Irish republicans in the north of Ireland) free." Free From what? British oppression of course. 
I’m not condoning or in any way excusing the discrimination and persecution of Catholics, but this Sinn Fein/Republican idiom and cliché is a shameful irony and hypocrisy. Why? Although people forget or don’t know, in the decades after 1922, Ireland was an incredibly oppressive place to live. For Catholics as much as Protestants.

Fintan O’Toole explained this in his book ‘Up The Republic’ where he said:
"For most of its history, the state failed miserably in the basic task of ensuring that citizens were free from subjection to the arbitrary will of others. It allowed the institutional Catholic Church (as opposed to Catholics themselves) to exercise unaccountable and secretive powers in key areas of public and private lives of citizens, from access to contraception to basic public services such as healthcare and education. The state also actively colluded in grotesque systems of arbitrary power; such as industrial schools, Magdalene Homes and mental hospitals – incarcerating without trial a higher proportion of its citizens than the Soviet Union did."
I continued:
"Yes, Ireland incarcerated, without trial, a higher proportion of its citizens than the Soviet Union did. 
Fintan O’Toole then further said: “More recently, the state itself has been dominated by private interests. Corruption allowed wealthy citizens to purchase public policy, to the detriment of the majority of their fellow citizens.”

More Recently at the MacGill Summer School, Fintan O’Toole called both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland a failed state. Both states were catastrophically mismanaged. So I’ve never gotten the republican’s messianic narrative, that if we can just get the Brits out, all will be fine, everyone will be free.

It’s quite clear that the Republic of Ireland made a mockery of the Republican principles of liberty, equality, fraternity as much as Northern Ireland and Britain made a mockery of traditional notions of fairness and equality.

So for all those chaotic unionists, instead of letting the boils fester and rumble, why not take confidence in what Fintan O’Toole said in making a nonsense of the Gerry Kelly tribute to terrorists who “made Ireland free”?

It’s quite clear that it has been the increasing Europeanisation, internationalisation and secularisation that has been at the centre of the liberalisation of Ireland, both north and south.

It was these terrorists and paramilitaries that protracted the violence and retarded the economic and educational development of Ireland north and south. To paraphrase Epictetus, it is only those who are educated and who have a job who are free.

Infographic - The Most Influential US Legal Cases of the Last Century

The American legal system has changed massively over the past century. The legal cases featured below represent some of the most influential cases that have impacted and shaped the US system of laws.

Why does everyone want to go to Law School? Ctd

A measure of political maturity

September 05, 2013

Northern Ireland needs a poet

I wish I could find it but I can't. It's happened to us all. You read something that reaches inside you. The sort of words and writing that you could lap up all day. I can't remember when or where I read the article and passage but it went something like this:
"Northern Ireland/Ireland needs a national poet to talk us through this."
People that know me and who read this blog will know of my firm belief in the power of words, satire, humour and irony to pull down and show the futility of the madness enacted on the streets and in politics.

Here's a great observation made in the Irish Times which encapsulates the need for a nationally relevant poet that can sum up the situation in a simple phrase and who can maybe posit some ideas and even a solution. The commenter went by the title JayGee and said in response to an article written by Malachi O'Doherty:
"I have a collection of poetry called "A Rage For Order" (poetry of the Northern Ireland Troubles) published by The Blackstaff Press in 1992, and edited by Frank Ormsby. I found more truth and regret and love and sorrow in its verse than all the rantings of sectarian politicians.  
For me and my own sense of loss and bewilderment it accomplishes more than any 'Truth Commission' ever could and for any one seeking solace in truth I recommend its humane and moving pages."

September 04, 2013

The 12th July - Belfast city centre management report

Cartoon I did for Slugger O'Toole for 12th July 2012 here.
Here's some of the main findings from the Belfast City Centre Management report on the effect of the 12th July parades on Belfast city centre.

- One "well-known High Street brand" had only seven customers.
- Store owners were now questioning whether it was worth continuing to open on 12 July.
- Businesses reported "an increase in tensions," with the perception that it had put people off coming into Belfast.
- Just over 80% of shops that opened reported trade below expectations.
- Just 7% of these businesses were happy with the number of people they got through their doors.  In contrast 80% were unhappy with a further 13% undecided.
- A big concern was people openly drinking alcohol on the streets, with large amounts of rubbish being left behind.
- Based on their 2013 experience, 65% of businesses would potentially not open next 12 July, something described as "frankly disappointing."
- 50% of businesses reported an unfriendly family atmosphere and several cited rising tensions as being a turnoff for some consumers.

The observation below was a stand-out comment and should make subject for very serious, frank consideration:
"Visit Belfast received complaints from tourists who talked of "an intimidatory atmosphere" and "louts roaming around drunk.""
When the news was shared on Facebook, an English inward migrant now domiciled in NI for some years said: 
"As someone who has lived here for quite a long time now, I can confirm that 12th July is absent a positive atmosphere. It's militaristic, nasty, sometimes vulgar, and not much fun." 

More on the anti-social behaviour and levels on drinking from the BCC Management report:
"One of the concerns most reported by the businesses was the openness with which individuals were drinking alcohol on the street[s]. This was the only type of anti-social behaviour reported, and there were no instances where PSNI assistance was required. Businesses believe that on-street drinking has remained an issue since the shop opening began in 2009 and this needs to be addressed. The condition of the public realm after the parades also remains a key issue, with reports of large amounts of rubbish, empty beer and other alcohol bottles and tins. The city centre took longer to clean than previous years with cleansing of Donegall Place not being complete until 13:30hrs. 
Visit Belfast received communication from visitors complaining about the condition of the public realm, especially the dirt and rubbish but, more significantly, also an "intimidatory atmosphere" with "louts roaming around the streets drunk".  
The complaint stated that the advertised Orangefest carnival atmosphere was not present; the correspondence concluded: "advertising this Orangefest as a celebration or carnival is not doing the city any good because it’s not living up to tourist expectations". This observation is important, as it is made by someone not familiar with the parades or the issues associated with them. Therefore it is an independent unbiased view."

Slugger covers it here, the BBC here and you can read the full report here.

Legally Blonde - Why everyone wants to go to Law School

The cultural myth endures. Andrew Sullivan provides the analysis here. Girl says her law mentor went to law school after being inspired by Legally Blonde. The same happened with a girl in Belfast here. Here's what some of Andrew Sullivan's commenters have said: 
"I agree that students need more practical experience. The ABA is definitely run by people with some old-fashioned thinking, so that organization needs a shake-up. The number of people who go to law school who really shouldn’t is also a problem... The bar exam is just institutionalized hazing and in no way reflects whether someone is qualified to practice law."
A commenter from an earlier Dish post here
"But it’s long been a byword among young lawyers that an extraordinarily high percentage of instruction has been irrelevant to the actual practice of law, unless you take very seriously such chestnuts as the critical importance of learning to “think like a lawyer.” For one thing, an awful lot of law students, in my experience, have been “thinking like a lawyer” since about the third grade, which made them very unpopular children. More importantly, the cult of legal education seems to depend on the perpetuation of what amounts to an intellectual hazing system, where the student’s tolerance for tedious content, arbitrary testing, and self-imposed pressure is presumably preparation for the agonies of being on the low end of the professional totem pole for years."

Rosa Luxemburg and Internationalism, Ctd

Rosa Luxemburg wrote in 1917 from prison to a friend, Matilda Verm:
“What do you want with these special Jewish pains, I feel as close the wretched victims of the robber plantations of Putumayo and the blacks of Africa with whose bodies the Europeans played ball. I have no special corner in my heart for the ghetto. I’m at home in the entire world, where there are clouds and birds and human tears.”

September 03, 2013

"Art is theft" Ctd with Eamonn Mallie

Northern Ireland broadcaster Eamonn Mallie responded to my previous post in the "[Writing] is theft" series here and responded by flagging up a quotation from the artist Basil Blackshaw:
 "I steal from good painters and bad painters. It's what you do with the theft."

Fraser Nelson on Polish lady and the welfare trap

Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator made comment on work incentives and the welfare trap in Britain. He said:
An 85% tax on the low-paid says about Britain says that we, as a country, are deciding not to use the talents and skills of our low-paid. If it were not for mass immigration, we’d really notice this. The economy would not grow. Employers would be furious. We would have been forced, as a country, to fix welfare 13 years ago. Instead, we are using immigrants to grow the economy instead. Even the Poles think this is madness. Here is a Polish recruitment agent, Iwona Dilinskas, is quoted. If she was British, she says:-
“I’d probably not want to work more than 16 hours a week. What for? If I work 16 hours or less, they pay 80% of my rent [as housing benefit]. And all my council tax. I get working tax credit, child tax credit, child benefit. So, to be honest – why work?”
Why indeed? So that’s why the immigrants come. And this endless supply of good, industrious, well-educated workers means that tackling Britain’s welfare problem is seen more as an act of charity than an economic imperative. Iain Duncan Smith has the solution: Universal Credit, a revolutionary new way of welfare which makes sure that workers will keep a fixed share of the extra income they earn. But so little money has been put behind it that UC is aiming – aiming! – to have an effective tax rate on the poor to 65%. Better than 85%, but still pretty bad. The point of Universal Credit would mean it can be cut to (say) 30% – but at some expense. But this aspect is universally ignored in Britain, such is the poor quality of the debate. Last week, the Daily Mirror splashed on an assertion that the poor pay 36% in tax: if only! As their readers know, the real tax burden is far higher – and is crushing the life out of many communities.
Fraser Nelson was quoting a Polish lady who was featured in the Sunday Times magazine in spring 2013. You can see an image of that source below:

Children start school in nappie

This is how the Times of London covered it:
"Some four-year-olds arrive at school in nappies and are unable to speak or recognize their own name, a report has warned. 
The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), a right-of-centre think tank set up by the former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, said that it was “heartbreaking” that some children starting school were unable to socialise and acted as though they were 12 to 18 months old.
The study into the roots of educational failure in England also warns that white working-class boys are in danger of becoming an “educational underclass” because they lag far behind the majority of pupils. 
The report, Requires Improvement, was drawn up by a group of education experts chaired by Sir Robin Bosher, of the Harris Federation of Academies and a former primary school head teacher. It also claims that six per cent of boys between four and five years old do not know that English is read from left to right and top to bottom. 
It says: “Staff.. are increasingly expected to deal with basic development issues like potty-training. In some schools, we have heard that it is so common for the pupils to need help going to the toilet that teachers must routinely carry disposable hand gloves."
Read in full here.

September 02, 2013

Christopher Hitchens - Sectarians are morally and mentally unwell

Christopher Hitchens explains at 51 minutes here how he regards those who suffer anti-Semitism as the both mentally and morally un-well. He said:
"The evidence is that Billy Graham suffers from a very horrible disease, a version of paranoia that's known colloquially as anti-Semitism. It's impossible to be mentally or morally healthy if you suffer from this disorder. [He was] sick with this conspiratorial, infantile nonsense and that's not pardonable."
My immediate response would be to say how aptly this applies to those in Northern Ireland and the island as a whole who are fervent, set and committed sectarians, both in the name of religion and nationhood. Either way, both are as hideous and odious as the other.

Hitchens' analysis also echoes with an earlier blog I write here on Seán Ó Faoláin. He headed and wrote for the Bell Magazine for some many years and made comment on some in Ireland's demented obsession with British involvement in Ireland. I quoted him as writing:
'It is essential for the mental health of Ireland that we should as quickly as possible get to the stage where we do not give a damn about Britain.'
This all also reminds me of the Einstein quote:
"Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind." 

Christopher Hitchens - "There is only one cure to poverty and that's the liberation of women"

Click here to see Christopher Hitchens explain how we can tackle poverty. He said:
"There is only one cure to poverty and that is by the way, the liberation of women. "

"[Writing] is Theft" Ctd Thomas Lynch, Yeats, Auden, Heaney, etc.

On the death of Seamus Heaney, Michigan-based undertaker and poet Thomas Lynch paid tribute to the Irish poet on BBC Radio 3 with an essay which spoke on the role of combinatorial creativity. He said:
"I stole that thing about a bridge from another poet who read it somewhere or stole it from another one or made it up. It's what we do, rent to own. Borrow, steal, make things up... When Auden got word of Yeats' death he wrote his famous elegy in memory of William Butler Yeats in which he gives his own directive, borrowing the dead man's table manners:
"Earth receive an honored guest
William Yeats is laid to rest,
Let the Irish vessel like emptied of its poetry."
When Brodsky died, too young, too soon in 1996 Heaney borrowed for Audenesque the rhyme and meter that Auden borrowed from Yeats, and Yeats from Blake and Blake from maybe a children's rhyme."

Roger Scruton - Understanding Political Opposition

The English philosopher Roger Scruton ran  a series on August 2013 on Radio 4 on the nature and limits of democracy by the title, 'Of the People, By the People'. He explored the role of political opposition and explained:
"It has been assumed in this country from the time of the Anglo-Saxons that political decisions are taken in council, after hearing all sides to the question, and taking note of the many interests that must be reconciled. Long before the advent of democracy, our parliament divided into government and opposition, and except in stressful periods during the 16th and 17th Centuries it was acknowledged that government without opposition is without any corrective when things go wrong. That is what we saw in the Soviet Union and its empire - a system of government without a reverse gear, which continued headlong towards the brick wall of the future."
He continued:
"And the lessons that they (the public-spirited citizens who studied democracy in underground universities and planted the seeds of opposition in the former communist countries) learned need to be learned again today, as our politicians lead us forth under the banner of democracy, without pausing to examine what democracy actually requires."
Read more on the BBC website here.


September 01, 2013

Albert Camus - The Rats

I'm not sure where exactly the original source of the below passage can be found, but Christopher Hitchens cites Albert Camus from La Peste. At 25 minutes 11 seconds here, Christopher Hitchens said:
"The plague is over, the rats have died or disappeared. The city of Iran has returned to health; the Mediterranean is shimmering again, the white buildings have been cleaned, the people are back on the streets. 
And yet, the rats were only down in the sewers, and waiting for the day when they could once again set themselves up to die on the streets of a free city."

Seamus Heaney - On our step in line, know your place culture

Henri Cole of The Paris Review asked Seamus Heaney: "As you end your twelfth year at Harvard, what are your impressions of American students?" Seamus Heaney responded:

"When I came here first I was very aware of their eagerness to be in contact with the professor. At home in Ireland, there's a habit of avoidance, an ironical attitude towards the authority figure. Here, there's a readiness to approach and a desire to take advantage of everything the professor has to offer. That unnerved me a bit at the start, but now I respect it. Also, the self-esteem of American students tends to be higher. They come to college with positive beliefs in their abilities, whatever they are."

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