November 30, 2013

The Third Way - Where are the moderates?

I made a brief address:
"I come from long tradition in NI. People who have shut up and put up. The muzzled moderate. Right across the world we are seeing the emergence of a global youth protest movement. Where young people in Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey are rebelling against the sweaty mullahs who're trying to impose a theocracy and close the door on the 21st Century. In the 1970s under Vaclav Havel, this was called the power of the powerless. The use of parody, satire and writing to fight communism. Now through social media we can express the frustration of the empowered. 

November 28, 2013

When it's cool to be dumb, Ctd

The deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, Christopher Stalford tweeted in response:

Ian Livingstone also shared on his blog his experience and perception of schooling in the context of growing up in a Belfast family:
"I daydreamed my way through school. I paid no attention to class-work and my truancy had now become very regular. In my family there were no expectations from education at all. My parents saw it in a sense, like a glorified baby-sitting service - somewhere I could go during daytime while they were at work. The previous hopes they had for me when I had gained entry into grammar school were by now gone after I had been expelled. I was destined to enter into an apprenticeship as an electrician, plumber or a welder in the Harland &Wolff shipyard, like the majority of males in my family. A good education didn’t really matter."
My previous posts in the "Cool to be dumb" series here, here, here, here, here and here. On the Huffington Post UK here.

Phil Mickelson on Facing Adversity

Phil Michelson won the British Open 2013 at Muirfield, Scotland thanks to his unbending determination to win, work hard and never give up. This victory in particular contrasts with his coming runner up only a month previous in June 2013, when he sat second in the US Open for the 6th time. On the day after his Sunday 22 July victory, Radio 4 played a clip of the winner Mickelson who reflected on his win. He said:
"You have to be resilient in this game. You have to accept losses. You have to use it as motivation as opposed to letting it defeat you. You have to use it as motivation to work harder and come back strong and these last couple of weeks, these last couple of months I've played some of the best golf of my career."

November 27, 2013

Irish Senator David Norris on Loyalism

Irish Senator, protestant and unionist David Norris slammed the behavior of loyalism in the Senate. He said:
"As a southern unionist and someone viewed from the north as a Protestant, I would like to say I am bitterly ashamed of the behaviour of people who call themselves unionist and protestants. They are a disgrace to any decent representation of those values... They are an appalling embarrassment. 
When they were prisoners, they were like neanderthals, reading comics and doing press-ups. Whereas the Sinners, for whom I couldn't give a toss, at least had the intelligence to do a university degree."
Video of Senator Norris in full here.

Can we replicate Silicion Valley in Northern Ireland?

The younger brother of YouTube founder Chad Hurley, Brent Hurley (@BrentHurley) recently attended Silicon Valley Comes to Oxford and also spoke on Radio 4 here. He was asked: "Can the entrepreneurial success of Silicon Valley be replicated here [in the UK?]" Brent responded here:
"For me Silicon Valley is more a state of mind. It's a mentality among entrepreneurs to look upon the world and see problems they want to change. If you see a pain point, then you try to develop a solution, a product to address that."
Listen to Chad Hurley on Radio 4 here. Sebastian Payne wrote in The Spectator here:
"Trying to clone Silicon Valley has been a cornerstone of this coalition’s business policy. Rohan Silva, until recently the PM’s policy guru, spent several years in government and opposition creating the ‘Silicon Roundabout’, an attempt to provide a new leg for the UK’s economy in East London. 
Depending on who you believe, the East London Tech City project has either been aroaring success or a waste of time. Despite all the encouragement from the government, the main challenge is recreating the enticement of Silicon Valley in Shoreditch — something that may be impossible."
I want to ask: Can we replicate the Silicon Valley state of mind and mentality in Northern Ireland?

Previous posts on creativity herehereherehereherehereherehere and here.

November 26, 2013

Paramilitary murals are criminal damage

In the Irish News Newton Emerson explained the law governing the painting of gable walls. He said:
"There is certainly a case to be made that the mural glorifies terrorism under the Terrorism Act 2006 or encourages crime under the Serious Crime Act 2007. But really there is no need to resort to the kind of New Labour anti-terror legislation that has Willie Frazer threatening to dress up as Abu Hamza. Defacing a wall without the owner's permission is a good old fashioned offence of criminal damage, punishable by up to 14 years in jail. 
The law on criminal damage includes an interesting twist. Damaging property with a "reckless" disregard to endangering others is punishable by life imprisonment, even if you are the property owner or have the property owner's permission. This part of the law is intended to cover arson but may apply to anything. Is it mortally reckless to paint a UVF gunman on a wall in east Belfast under present circumstances? A good barrister should be able to make a case for it 
However we are straying back into New Labour territory. A simple charge of criminal damage should suffice, helped by the fact that defaced walls are generally owned by the Housing Executive or Housing Association, so "permission" to paint them cannot be obtained as easily as it would from an intimidated householder. Failing that, there are the planning regulations to consider."

Newton Emerson on Larkin's de facto amnesty

Newton Emerson wrote in the Sunday Times of November 24 2013 an article in response to the John Larkin's call for a de facto amnesty. He said:
"Larkin also proposes that the warehouse of files and evidence held by the PSNI's HET should be made available to victims and relatives on a non-disclosure "freedom of information plus" basis, having first been redacted to protect the right to life of anyone named. Managing that without lawyers would be quite an achievement.   
There are 3,000 unsolved murders from the Troubles. Would it be legally possible to deny all those families the justice they have a right to expect, both from the state (criminal) and to pursue by civil action themselves?"
Newton Emerson addressed the issue of the civil law:
"Preventing civil claims and prosecutions should be relatively straightforward. Larkin suggests passing legislation in London and Dublin setting a statute of limitations on murders prior to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Most civil offences already have a stature of limitations of 3 to 6 years."
He then addressed the criminal law:
"Preventing criminal prosecutions would be another matter. Article 2 of the ECHR, enshrined in British and Irish law, requires the state to investigate fully all suspicious deaths. This is generally interpreted to rule out blanket amnesties. 
Larkin points out that the ECHR has granted Article 2 exemptions to facilitate amnesties elsewhere, while elements of an amnesty have been implicitly accepted in several peace-process deals, most notably on arms decommissioning and locating the bodies of the Disappeared."

A student culture of censorship

I've already written before about Northern Ireland and Ireland's historical (here, here, here, here, and here) and modern impulse (here, here, here and here) to censor. I've also posted here about the need for Britain to enact speech laws like those allowed under the First Amendent in the United States. The editor of The Northern Slant Connor Daly (@cdaly29) wrote here about a "culture of censorship" among student bodies. A trend he called dangerous. He said:
"Student unions have a proud history of welcoming forward thinkers and instigating progressive movements. A culture of censorship, however, is neither forward thinking nor progressive. Rather than advise and educate members, this culture demands that others adhere to the standards and activities that certain groups consider appropriate. It misses the wider point; making scapegoats through piecemeal tactics rather than constructively tackling issues head on. 
When attitudes and actions are offensive it is important to right these wrongs, to encourage a new culture of tolerance, or be it zero tolerance. At the same time it is crucial to send out the right message; a reassurance and willingness to change things for the better, not to ban things with no real end game in sight. Defining ourselves by what we are against and sweeping controversial events or otherwise under the carpet is unproductive. Such tactics may raise awareness, but the issues will persist as will this fondness for censorship."
The editor of The Belfast Telegraph Mike Gilson, who slapped down proposals to regulate the press here, gave his take on the ban here:
"No-one can defend its lyrics which could be interpreted as promoting a rape culture. But it is not the only song, book or magazine which could be viewed in that light. 
Bans smack of totalitarianism. Once anyone sets off down that road it can be difficult to stop and the people who were once praised for acting with the best of intentions would then stand accused of limiting free speech. The lines, suddenly, become very blurred indeed."

November 25, 2013

Martin Rowson - Political cartoons are assassinations without the blood

In a presentation by Martin Rowson (@MartinRowson) entitled The Power of the Political Cartoon, the Guardian cartoonist explained why he does political cartoons. The self-professed "Albert Schweitzer of British Cartooning" whose sole aim is to please, said:
"I do them because they are assassination without the blood. They are part of the political establishment in the country. For 300 years we've had this kind of satire tolerated. Extremely vicious, rude, personal attacks on people. So in a way it's ritualised. But it's also meant to do damage. It is voodoo. It's part of the symbiotic relationship cartoonists and politicians have. It's mind over matter. We pretend we matter, they pretend they don't mind. 
And what they do also is buy the originals. And this is where we get back to the voodoo. They buy the originals and they invariably hang them in their toilets. You don't have to be much of a Freudian to work out what's happening there. Thy are in fact flushing away the bad magic."
He continued:
"The purpose of satire somebody once said is to puncture pomposity. In fact the purpose of satire is to tear aside the fine arrangements and ceremonial clothing of the elite to show that they are sweating, stinking, pissing, shitting people just like us. It is an egalitarian purpose in satire."
Watch the full presentation here. My previous blog posts on Martin Rowson here and here. Similar posts on Ian Knox here, and Gerald Scarfe here, here and here.

Ian Knox in photos

I'm a huge, huge fan of Ian Knox (on UK Comic Wiki here). He is the esteemed local artist, political cartoonist and Northern Ireland treasure who has been cutting swathes into politicians for decades. He worked for comic strips in the 70's and 80's and in 1989 became editorial cartoonist at the Irish News, a position he has held ever since. Ian Knox is the one who calls out ignorance, apathy, corruption, fraud, prejudice, superstition wherever he sees it, in a way that simply no one else can. 

His strength is his vintage. With it comes wisdom and wit. But his vintage is also his weakness. With it comes a large degree of digital illiteracy. The end of this is that there is scant coverage of him or his works online. Though he does have a newsprint sales web portal here

With that in mind, this blog post is the first in a series of a larger effort that will hopefully raise the profile and presence of Ian Knox online. Immediately below if a self-portrait of Ian Knox, and further below is a selection of Ian Knox at work. I hope you enjoy.

If the press is accountable to Peter Robinson, then Peter Robinson is no longer accountable to the press

Andrew Sullivan at the Harvard University JFK School of Government here

Peter Robinson has got this very wrong. The role of the press, the media and journalists is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. The newspapers are not the government's pet to control, or in any way influence. The newspaper is there to hold government to account. Not the other way around. Andrew Sullivan said of the role of the journalist in his Theodore H. White lecture to Harvard's JFK School of Government here:
"I think our job is to say things that no-one else will say and to find out things that make people very uncomfortable. The powerful and the powerless. I think our job is not to worry about the impact of what we find out and say but to say what we think and to report what we see."
George Orwell famously said:
"Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations." 
Mick Fealty wrote of the Stormont all-party, power-sharing coalition here:
"This also goes some way to explain why the Stormont administration has, even after six years, failed to produce anything (beyond copious amounts of PR) resembling a partnership government." 
What Peter Robinson is effectively calling for, is for the press to laud and applaud ineffectual government. He wants Orwell's PR. He wants more PR to go on-top of the "coprious amounts of PR" that flows from the sectarian machine. This a perversion of the western, democratic model. His charge and call is an inversion of a healthy, functioning press. As Boris Johnson said in The Telegraph:
"It's a vigorous, voracious press that keeps our country honest."
As the November 3 2013 Sunday Times editorial said:
"It is the job of the press to keep the politicians honest. It is not the job of politicians to to decide what the press can print." 
Newton Emerson spoke in March 2012 on BBC NI's Hearts and Minds on the First Minister's complaint about the predominance of negative publicity in the media here. He said:
"Peter Robinson now sits at the top of a vast and cynical scare-story machine, instead of shooting the messenger, he should take aim at the negativity his government funds and his party humours." 
If the press is accountable to Peter Robinson, then Peter Robinson is no longer accountable to the press. These claims should concern any committed democrat. Peter Robinson has already defended the veto of Northern Ireland's archaic libel regime, see here. A law slammed by British journalists as a “national embarrassment” and by the American media as “repugnant to U.S. constitutional principles.” See also my article on Eamonn, I’ll see you in court – the new DUP war cry here.

I've also posted here on the need for Great Britain to adopt speech laws like those protected in the United States under the First Amendment.

John Larkin - The past, truth and reconciliation

My response to the events and David Aaronovitch is on the Huffington Post UK here.

November 24, 2013

Being Irish is not about being anti-British, Ctd

In a 2011 article for the Guardian ahead of the Queen's visit to Ireland here, Fintan O'Toole wrote on Irish identity:
"For the task that the GAA will complete when the Queen visits Croke Park is a momentous one – that of creating a distinctive and proud Irish identity that is not anti-British. The GAA came out of a time when the easiest answer to the question "what does it mean to be Irish?" was "not British". It takes real courage to replace that easy negative with something more positive and fluid."
Full Guardian article here. My earlier post on creating an inclusive Irish identity that does not define itself by its anti-Britishness is here.

November 22, 2013

Normal Northern Ireland - Hench Fitness and Rory Girvan

Rory Girvan, founder of HENCH Fitness (@InsideHENCH)
Rory Girvan (@InsideHench) is the athlete and entrepreneur behind HENCH (website here). A creative and innovative fitness gym started in 2012 and located only meters from Belfast city hall, at 37 College Street. Born in North Belfast Rory practices what he preaches. He studied Biomedical Sciences in Liverpool and Sport and Exercise Sciences in Edinburgh. He is a competitive weight-lifter, winning a Silver Medal at the WDFPF World Powerlifting Championships (see here) (more here and here). He is the owner of a growing business employing 10 fitness professionals.

HENCH, 37 College Street
I have been hugely impressed by Rory. He mixes warmth and openness with a fierce ambition, for the sport and business. The tech entrepreneur Felix Dennis said that an idea is worth nothing without execution. Rory has given expression to this. Rory saw the state of the fitness industry and had a vision. He has taken an old dilapidated factory space and executed that vision with a fine professional polish.

Walk into the vast premises at HENCH and you be met with a beautiful mix of vintage and modernity, and a striking sense of being part of the new, post-industrial, networked, international economy. That's the Northern Ireland I know. A team saturated and soaked in ambition. A people straining every sinew to succeed. Read my blog post on the transition from industrial to networked economy here.

Inherited myths, biases and bigotries

Kevin Myers wrote in the Sunday Times of November 10 2013 that Maureen Wall of UCD began her opening history lecture to first arts by asking foreign-educated students to stand. Kevin Myers cited what the famous lady then said to the foreign students:
"You, I have some hopes for. Your minds have not been filled with toxic rubbish that passes for history in our schools. But as for the rest of you, bitter experience has taught me to despair already."
Conor Cruise O'Brien wrote in States of Ireland (p. 89):
"Our school histories do not seriously discuss the ideas and policies of the men of 1916 in relation to the Protestants of Ulster."
The same cuts for Protestant schools, they do not seriously discuss the ideas of the men of 1912, led by Edward Carson, who signed the Ulster Covenant. Malachi O'Doherty suggested a solution to the problem flagged above. He wrote in the Irish Times of November 22 here:
"The further we move on from the Troubles in Northern Ireland the more divergent accounts of that period become... Dr Haass wants to achieve some reconciliation of divergent views of the past to create a basis for co-operation in the future. One approach might be to insist on more teaching of history in schools" 

When it's cool to be dumb, Ctd

India Knight wrote in the Sunday Times of November 17 2013:
"Privately educated children are taught that being clever is cool; some state-educated ones get given the feeling that it is sometimes wiser to hide one's light under a bushel."
My previous posts in the "cool to be dumb" series here, here, here, here and here.

November 21, 2013

Marriage in the 21st Century

There are three people in Juliet’s (@Reprobatemum) marriage. Herself, her husband, and her boyfriend, Sam. She says it's one big, happy family, sharing childcare, a dog... and her bed. They each tell their story here:
"What’s remarkable about this whole scenario is not that I have a husband who’s prepared to share me, but that I have a boyfriend who is. Tom’s had the best part of a decade with me under the same roof, and for both of us it’s liberating to be able to take the odd break from family life. He’s not always thrilled about my gallivanting, but he understands what I get from the escapism of a new romance. But it takes a whole other level of acceptance to take on a relationship that comes with a husband attached. 
We face opposition, but there is a thrill in rejecting a societal norm. And love works in mysterious ways. If Tom’s fear is that I’ll one day leave him, then Sam’s is that we can’t build a future together. As for me, I’m scared that I’ll end up losing them both, my reputation and ultimately the respect of my children. It’s all very well to assume that the rest of the world should accept what makes me happy, but the reality is that society has rules about relationships for a reason, and it’s perhaps foolish of me to think I can bend them without getting people’s backs up."
Sunday Times Magazine article in full here. Andrew Sullivan debate on re-imagining marriage with Dan Savage (@fakedansavagehere and below:  

Fintan O'Toole - Folly of sectarian 'solutions'

The Good Friday Agreement is a dual purpose document that seeks to do two things. One, stop the IRA and other paramilitaries from killing people. Two, it was supposed to be a founding document that would allow Northern Ireland to move from sectarianism into a new world.

In 2005 Fintan O'Toole wrote a fascinating article on the peace agreement on September 13 2005 in the Irish Times under the title, Folly of sectarian 'solutions'. He said on the second plank of the agreement:
"[The agreement is] supposed to be a kind of constitution. It defines Northern Ireland as a political space and seeks to do so in a genuinely radical, exciting way. It is, indeed, perhaps the boldest constitutional document ever agreed between sovereign states. It creates space that is not ultimately claimed by any state, defines national identity as potentially both mutable and multiple, and rests sovereignty, not on history and geography but on that most complex and fluent of things - the collective mind of a majority of the population."
On the first plank of the agreement, Fintan O'Toole explained:
"[The agreement] built the internal architecture of Northern Ireland's governance on a static notion of "two traditions" which were to be appeased and given "parity of esteem". The hope was that even though sectarianism was built in to the power-sharing system by the requirement of simultaneous majorities on the unionist and nationalist sides, the experience of working the new institutions would in fact diminish it. But there has been no momentum, and the division have been formalised, entrenched and deepened."
We need to achieve what the founders intended, diminish sectarianism. This requires a break with the negative feedback loop of mutual hatred, loathing and recrimination. It needs a break from management and towards vision.

Read Fintan O'Toole from 2005 in full here.

November 20, 2013

Deaneos Prosecco

I had the great pleasure and privilege to work and collaborate alongside Michael Deane, the eminent Belfast restaurateur and businessman, in his ambitious project to create his very own Deanes' brand of prosecco. I left the brewing and bottling process to the experts and kept to what I know best, art, and helped to produce the label you can see above. Being legally trained at university I'm not great with technology and left the graphic design detail to local designer Adam McConnell.

This project followed the earlier collaboration where I helped produce a label for Deanes' home brand wine. See below for images of the label I produced for the Deaneo Prosecco and of the Deanes' team enjoying a first taste of the bottle's contents.

Irish racism, Ctd

Newton Emerson wrote in the Irish Times of Saturday November 16 2013:
"The supposed republican principles of the anti-agreement 1916 Societies are somewhat underaxsmined by the language of their latest recruitment drive, which is replete with sectarian references to "planters", "colonialism" and "occupation"."
Newton Emerson continued, and asked a critical question:
"One of the mysteries of Irish politics is why, unlike in the rest of Europe, people who speak like this are not immediately recognised as ethnic fascists."
See my previous posts on Irish racism here and here.

The Cult of University, Ctd

As a commenter wrote in response to an article in the Financial Times here:
"Attending 8 hours of lectures per week in an arts/humanities/social 'science' course is a waste of £27,000 except for the academically gifted."
That's the point I've made many times. What 18, 19 or 20 year old student is in the way minded to complete 200 page reading lists and use their own initiative to effectively structure their week around 8 hours of lectures? Not many. I wasn't able to. The average 18, 19, 20 or 21 year old needs structure, guidance and routine.

The 8 hour lecture model undoubtedly works for some, especially the academically minded. But this model cannot work for the majority of young people.

The Influence of Andrew Sullivan, Ctd

Ross Douthat wrote of Andrew Sullivan in The New York Times here:
"The day the gay marriage rulings were handed down I raised the possibility, on Twitter, that Andrew Sullivan might deserve to be remembered as the most influential political writer of his generation, and I was happy to see Tyler Cowen flesh that argument out:                           
Doesn’t... Sullivan have a reasonably strong claim to that title, especially after the recent Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage? Sullivan was the dominant intellectual influence on this issue, from the late 1980s on, and that is from a time where other major civil liberties figures didn’t give gay marriage much of a second thought, one way or the other, or they wished to run away from the issue. Here is his classic 1989 New Republic essay. Here is a current map of where gay marriage is legal and very likely there is more to come.
Ross Douthat continued his analysis of Andrew Sullivan:
"No writer of comparable gifts was on the issue earlier, pushed harder against what seemed at the time like an unassailable consensus, engaged as many critics (left and right, gay and straight) and addressed himself to as many audiences as Sullivan. No intellectual did as much to weave together the mix of arguments and intuitions that defines today’s emerging consensus on the issue — in which gay marriage is simultaneously an expression of bourgeois conservatism and the fulfillment of the 1960s’ liberative promise, the civil rights revolution of our time and a natural, Burkean outgrowth of the way that straights already live. And no intellectual that I can think of, writing on a fraught and controversial topic, has seen their once-crankish, outlandish-seeming idea becomes the conventional wisdom so quickly, and be instantantiated so rapidly in law and custom."
I wrote an earlier post on the influence of Andrew Sullivan here. New York Times post in full here.

November 19, 2013

Sacrificing the Young to Save the Old

A commenter wrote in response to an article in the Financial Times and in response to central banks hosing us down with cheap money and creating growth based on monetary steroids here:
"Being 24 years old with two years of experience in finance in America, I cant help but really depise the current amount of monetary easing going on at all the major central banks. 
I cant for the life of me justify the current levels of home, energy and food prices given the state of the global economy. However it seems that the major central banks are all so desperate to keep OLDER people rich, that they will never let prices of anything drop so that they actually make sense to new entrants to the work force. 
Simply put, I wasnt working during the 80s and 90s, Older people have a massive advantage in the sense that they worked in more stable economies, with higher wages, interest rates and steadier real estate and stock market performance. However now I feel like central banks are so dedicated to keeping these older folks wealthy, that young new entrants to the labor market only get stuck with paying inflated taxes to cover boomers retirement, AND rock bottom savings rates so that BOOMERS dont lose value on their homes. 
When is anything going to be done for US? The young generation."

Gillian Tett - If a country wants to improve its education system its population must be hungry for change

Gillian Tett provided an overview of the successful education systems across Finland, Poland and South Korea and drew a few key lessons from this phenomenon. She said:
"It pays to invest in vocational education, alongside academic learning; it makes sense to spend more in poor areas; when the status and training of teachers improve, this has a powerful impact on results; children benefit from being given more freedom to manage their time; and when parents get involved with their children at home, this produces much better results than volunteering for the Parent Teachers Association. “The more time that parents spend volunteering on PTAs, the worse their children perform,” Ripley observed at an event in New York last week."
Here's the key lesson. She continued:
"But perhaps the most important message is the most basic one: if a country wants to improve its educational system in a hurry, its population must be hungry for change. “All the countries which have obtained this [improvement] have faced an economic existential crisis,” Ripley says. “There was a real imperative to change and their people didn’t feel they had a choice"."
In FT in full here.

Andrew Sullivan has done for homosexuality what John Stuart Mill did for freedom

Andrew Sullivan (@sulldish) began writing and campaigning for marriage equality in 1988 as an important moral argument. Kenneth Minogue produced a review of Andrew Sullivan's seminal publication, Virtually Normal (1995) in The National Review, he said:
"Andrew Sullivan has done for homosexuality what John Stuart Mill did for freedom: he has presented the whole range of social opinion about his subject with lucidity and fairness, and gone to work refuting most of it... Only those familiar with the deep wells of the history of political philosophy... will recognize the scale of his achievement."
Post in full here. Watch a video of Andrew Sullivan talking about same-sex marriage in 1997 here and below:

November 18, 2013

David Allen Green on social media regulation

The Financial Times legal blogger David Allen Green (@DavidAllenGreen) wrote about social media regulation in The New Statesman. My previous post on Allen Green's move from the New Statesman to the FT can be read here. He said here on social media self-regulation:
"Social media provides the means by which clusters of like-minded individuals can easily swap ideas and scrutinise data on public matters. In this way, social media users can hold politicians and media outlets to account in a manner not possible -- or conceivable -- until a few years ago. Instead of a politician saying something forgotten the day after, or a reporter's bylined piece being in next day's fish-and-chip paper, those involved in social media can pore over details and make connections weeks and months later. Transgressions can be linked to and accumulated. A speech or a byline can now come back and haunt you long after you have "moved on".

Adam Wagner on blogging, social media and self-regulation

Adam Wagner was asked here: "The Inquiry would also welcome your views on the extent to which the content of websites, and the manner in which you operate, can be regulated by a domestic system of regulation?"

He responded here:
I do not think blogs can or should be regulated by a domestic system of regulation, for the following reasons: 
a. Practically unworkable: Practically it would be impossible to regulate all blogging. Hundreds of thousands of blogs are set up each day, let alone posts published, and the term is so elastic (see above) that the task would be simply too large and amorphous for any regulator to manage. Even if only popular blogs were targeted, say those over a certain number of hits, what is to stop an individual blogger simply setting up a new blog in order to avoid regulation? I expect that such a system would be simply unworkable. 
b. Current system works: The current system of criminal and civil law already provides a reasonable level of regulation. Bloggers - whether their websites are read by 1 or lm people - are subject to financial penalties for libel or quasi-criminal sanctions if they commit a contempt of court. See for example the case of Elizabeth Watson, referred to be below, who was sentenced to 9 months imprisonment (later suspended) for breaching a court order through information published on her personal website. That being said, I also note a 1 February 2012 report in The Independent that Mr Justice Peart has said in relation to an Irish case involving the website that "The civil remedies currently available have recently been demonstrated to be an inadequate means of prevention and redress".

Conor Cruise O'Brien - Marching through areas that don't want them is not good policy for the Orange Order itself

Fintan O'Toole cited Conor Cruise O'Brien in the Irish Times in May 11 1996 after he announced he would run for election as a unionist candidate in Northern Ireland. Conor Cruise O'Brien said:
"I feel that unionists are essentially besieged. They're under a pan-nationalist siege, of which the main stimulus is being supplied by Sinn Fein. So I don't see it as my job to get out and annoy unionists. I think they're been annoyed quite enough. I have, in an Orange context at an Orange House, urged them to see that marching through areas that don't want them is not good policy for the Orange Order itself or for the unionist community."
The article 'Cruiser's new voyage provokes 'no qualms, no heart-searching'' can be obtained from the Irish Times archive here.

November 17, 2013

Legalising homosexual sex in the United States - Lawrence versus Texas [2003]

In 1980s Texas, "deviate sexual intercourse" - as homosexual sex was known - was punishable with prison or a fine. In 1981 a Texan court upheld a police department's decision not to hire a man because he was gay. 

The change to the law only came in 2003 when the landmark case - Lawrence versus Texas. John Lawrence and Tyron Garner were fined $200 for being caught caught allegedly having sex in one oftheir  homes. However, the Supreme Court declared the judgement "unconstitutional". In effect the Lawrence case legalised consensual, homosexual acts. This meant that the 14 US states that still had "sodomy laws" were rendered null and void. 

Michelle Rhee - Redefining what it takes to be successful, Ctd

In an interview with The New York Times here, Ms Rhee laid out her philosophy:
"As educators, we have to approach our job believing that anything is possible. It is incredibly important that we constantly communicate to kids that they can accomplish anything when they put their minds to it."
Previous post in the series here.

Ireland the not so immaculate

Catholic Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid with Éamon de Valera
The Sunday Times journalist Siobhán Maguire (@ShivMag) wrote in Sunday Times of November 10 2013 on the inaccuracies of the Judi Dench and Steve Coogan film, 'Philomena'. She cited the co-founder of Adoption Rights Alliance, Susan Lohan who said:
"The film, though well produced and well acted, fails because it confuses mother-and-baby homes with Magdalene laundries. They weren't Magdalenes - they were unmarried mothers... I think that took away from the horror at the core of the film."
Susan Lohan added:
"It was like, 'Here we go again, another diminishment of what the Irish state did to its own citizens'. The issue here is that, from watching the film, you might have been lulled into thinking Philomena's case was an anomaly because there is zero acknowledgement of all the other women whose babies were trafficked to America."
She further explained her pain in watching the film:
"I wanted to stand up and scream during a screening and ask people if they knew how systematic the mother-and-baby homes were, that the state paid for this service and the church tendered for the business.

The heroine of Hackney - Shall I Not Remonstrate?

Pauline Pearce, "The heroine of Hackney", stood up to street fighting thugs and vandals that were terrorising her community and local businesses during the London riots (see original video here). She stood up and put out against barbarism. This contrasts with people in Northern Ireland who have surrendered, capitulated and prostrated before the most fanatical and riotous thugs. Here's a sample of what she said:
"This is a f****** reality. Low up the f****** burning the property. [Stop] burning people's shop that they work hard to start their business. You understand? The shop up there, she's working hard to make her business work and you lot want to burn it up, for what? So that you can say you're "warring" and you're bad man. 
This is about a f****** man who got shot in Tottenham, this 'aint about having fun and rioting and busting up the place. Get it real black people, get real. Do it for a cause. If we're fighting for a cause let's fight for a f****** cause. You lot p*** me the f*** off. I'm ashamed to be a Hackney person because we're not all gathering together and fighting for a cause we're running down Foot Locker and TV shops. Dirty thief run off."
Asked by Simon Armitage on the broadcast Speeches that Shook the World (watch here) if her speech made a difference, Pauline said:
"I do think to some degree it did. People said to me it was kind of at that point that people started coming out with the brooms and everyone started standing up for the communities a bit more."
Simon Armitage commented, "You were the voice of decency in amongst a lot of chaos for a moment."

Read my previous articles on on the need to protest and challenge extremism on the streets here, here, here, here, here, here and here. See the original video of Pauline Pearce here and by reading further.

November 16, 2013

Fintan O'Toole on the hyper-inflation of language and emotion

Father Alec Reid claimed on October 18 2005 here that Ulster unionists treated the Catholic community "like the Nazis treated the Jews." Fintan O'Toole responded to this with an article in the Irish Times with the title 'Comparison with Nazis is absurd'. He said:
"I happened to be in the Polish city of Wroclow. At lunch that day, when there was some talk about historical memory, I was on the brink of mentioning the controversy to my Polish hosts, but I just couldn't do it. I was too ashamed.
Fintan O'Toole called it a "combination of historical ignorance and monumental self-pity." He continued: 
"How could you possibly explain that Irish nationalists, who are thought to be so steeped in the past, know so little about the recent history of the continent they inhabit? There is no excuse for not having at least a general sense of proportion, for being wary of camparisons that are as inaccurate as they are offensive."
He spoke of the cognitive dissonance and contradictions:
"The irony of all the hyper-inflation of the experiences of Catholics in Northern Ireland after partition by involving the Nazis or, as Sinn Fein tends to prefer, apartheid Africa, is that it actually occludes those experiences themselves. It discredits history itself as a context in which we can understand the present."
In full here. Fintan O'Toole also wrote in The New York Review of Books here in 1998 that, "The analogy between Irish Republicans and Mandela is not in fact valid."

November 15, 2013

Jeremy Paxman on voter apathy

Paxman said in the Radio Times:
"Russell Brand has never voted, because he finds the process irrelevant. I can understand that: the whole green-bench pantomime in Westminster looks a remote and self-important echo-chamber. But it is all we have."
Jeremy Paxman then explained that he strongly believes in people actively exercising their vote and said that we "ignore the democratic process at our peril." He then reflected on the 2015 General Election:
"At the next election we shall have a choice between the people who’ve given us five years of austerity, the people who left us this mess, and the people who signed public pledges that they wouldn’t raise student fees, and then did so – the most blatant lie in recent political history."
He added: "It won’t be a bombshell if very large numbers of the electorate simply don’t bother to vote. People are sick of the tawdry pretences."

Peter Tatchell on challenging orthodoxy

Peter Tatchell (@PeterTatchell) explained to Simon Armitage in the BBC 4 broadcast Speeches that Shook the World (view here) on what makes a good speech:
"I think a good speech has an element of provocation, controversy and even confrontation. Because that's the way you challenge orthodoxy. That's the way you get people to sit up and notice."
He also said on the power of language:
"Emotive words can change the course of history; but powerful language in the wrong mouths can be extraordinarily dangerous."

November 14, 2013

Writing is hard, Ctd Alex Massie

Ken Robinson - "You have to work at creativity"

The Educationalist Sir Ken Robinson appeared on Desert Island Discs here with Kirsty Robinson and explained how creativity is not god given, but man driven. In that it man has to nurture, develop, master and marshall the power of creativity. Ken explained that many people have no idea of what abilities they hold. He explained that, contrary to popular myth, creativity and innovation can be developed in a deliberate and systematic way. And according to Ken, what we need is a learning revolution. He explained that there are a number of misconceptions. He said:
"People think creativity is about special things. Yes of course you can be creative in Music, dance, theatre and literature. But this isn't just about the arts. You can be creative in science, technology, and mathematics. In any field where human intelligence is active there's opportunity for creative thinking and achievement. Our current systems of education tend to stifle these powers of creativity. Not in a way that is deliberate but it tends to be systematic."
He said:
"We're all born with tremendous confidence in our creative competences. Young children are tremendously creative and buoyant; but by the time they've left schools they've often lost that confidence. And most adults, if you ask them if they're confident they'll say that they're not.
He explained that hard work, grit and resilience is the teacher and creator of creativity:
"Creative abilities in any field Have to be developed and evolved. They don't just happen. When an adult says they can't draw, they're probably right, they probably can't. It's like if an adult were to say that they can't read and write, well they can't. It's not that they're incapable it's just that they haven't learnt what's involved. 
So the fact were born with these natural faculties doesn't mean they evolve naturally all of their own, you have to work at them."
More information on Sir Ken Robinson

His life began in a crowded house on Merseyside in the 1950s, full of visitors, noise and laughter. His front door was just a hundred yards from Everton football club, but his boyhood dreams of playing for The Blues ended when he contracted polio.

The first of his six siblings to pass the 11-plus and win a scholarship to one of Liverpool's best schools, his education would fundamentally shape the rest of his life. He said:
"If a teacher hadn't seen something in me that I hadn't seen in myself, my life might have gone in a very different direction."

Previous posts on our need to redefine our definition of success here, here, here, here and posts on creativity here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

November 13, 2013

Richard Haass - Understand who is behind your political adversary

In a discussion here from 2011, Dr Richard Haass talks about the peace process in Northern Ireland. He said:
"In any negotiation, it's not enough to look behind you at maintaining your own domestic position, you've also go to look behind your adversary and ask yourself what he has to do to maintain his domestic position. In a funny sort of way negotiations only succeed if each side to some extent becomes an implicit partner of the other side." 

Fintan O'Toole on the Good Friday Agreement

In 2005 Fintan O'Toole wrote a fascinating article on the Good Friday Agreement on September 13 2005 in the Irish Times under the title, Folly of sectarian 'solutions'. On where the agreement ranks in human achievements, Fintan O'Toole said:
"[The agreement is] supposed to be a kind of constitution. It defines Northern Ireland as a political space and seeks to do so in a genuinely radical, exciting way. It is, indeed, perhaps the boldest constitutional document ever agreed between sovereign states. It creates space that is not ultimately claimed by any state, defines national identity as potentially both mutable and multiple, and rests sovereignty, not on history and geography but on that most complex and fluent of things - the collective mind of a majority of the population."

Alex Massie - It's about remembering not celebrating

Scotland's Alex Massie wrote on wearing the poppy in The Spectator blog here. He said:
"Consider the photograph at the top of this post. It was taken on Armistice Day in 1924. In Dublin.Yes, Dublin. The Union Flag is flown. The National Anthem – ie, God Save the King – is sung. A Celtic Cross is erected on College Green prior to its transportation to France where it would serve as a memorial to the 16th Irish Division. Some reports estimate as many as 50,000 Irishmen attended the commemoration. (There is British Pathe footage of it here). The Irish Times proudly reported that “the display of Flanders poppies was not equalled by any city in the British isles”. 
He continued: 
"Commemorations on this scale were not unusual in the 1920s. Two years later some 40,000 Irishmen marched to the Phoenix Park for a service of commemoration beneath the imposing Wellington Monument... The poppy and remembrance fell from favour in Ireland, elbowed aside by the rival story of the Easter Rising. A rebellion thought contemptible by most Dubliners became the national epic (in large part thanks to the British government’s obtuse reaction to the events of Easter 1916, a reaction that remains obtuse even if considered within the context of the First World War). But we can see more clearly now even if, paradoxically, also more darkly. This is Ireland, after all.
He continued:
"[The] enthusiasm was not restricted to Unionists. In 1919 Joe Devlin, the nationalist MP for West Belfast, declared that the 16th Irish Division’s dead “died not as cowards died, but as soldiers of freedom, with their faces toward the fire, and in the belief that their life-blood was poured out in defence of liberty for the world”. If England’s difficulty was, for some, Ireland’s opportunity there remained many others who saw the struggle for Ireland as a small part of a wider struggle to establish the rights of all small nations. Fighting for Belgium or for Serbia was a proxy for fighting for Ireland."
He concluded:
"No-one celebrates the First World War. How could you? But remembering it, in all its complexity, is one way of helping to understand who we are and how we came to be who we are, wherever we happen to be."
Read Alex Massie in full here. Read my previous blog post on the Irish in WWI featuring historian Diarmaid Ferriter and John Redmond here

November 12, 2013

Mark Forsyth - The Elements of Eloquence

On November 11 2013 Radio 4 ran a feature on the new book authored by Mark Forsyth (@Inkyfool) called The Elements of Eloquence. The book examines what makes a beautiful sentence. Here's some of the oratorical tools and techniques which add taste and texture to any delivery.

One. The AABA pattern (also known as diacope) is very common rhetorical tool. For example: "Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo"; "my horse, my horse, my kingdom for a horse"; "alone, alone, all alone"; "You villain, villain, you damned, smiling villain."

Two. Another rhetorical device is antithesis. The use of opposites in the same sentence, as deployed by Charles Dickens and then singer Katy Perry.

Three. Another tool is Chiasmus, a rhetorical device that originates from the Greekchiazo, meaning "to shape like a letter X." It is a figure of speech in which the second half of an expression is reversed to mirror the first half, i.e. A/B, B/A (where the letters represent words, phrases or parts of speech).

Perhaps the best known example of chiasmus is JFK’s "ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country." Another is, "We don't get stop playing when we get old, we get old when we stop playing."

Mark Forsyth also explained how he wants to move public speaking up the value curve in schools and society. He said:
"Since the 19th Century no one has really been taught rhetoric. That's why I want to bring this back. Shakespeare was steeping in it."
First broadcast on the Today programme on Monday 11 November, you can listen here. Read my previous posts on public speaking, including a post on Dale Carnegie here and here.

November 11, 2013

The young people will bring change to Iran

Alec Ross, Senior advisor to Hilary Clinton 2009-2013 appeared on Newsnight with Gavin Esler on Monday 11 November 2013. He said of young people in Iran and China:
"What is ultimately going to change China, what is ultimately going to change Iran are young people in these countries. There are half a billion people in china who us microblogging sites, 400 million of whom are under 25. That's what's going to change China. That's what's going to change Iran."
It's my belief that the same applies to young people in Northern Ireland, it is they who will bring change to Northern Ireland. My blog here features comments from Alex Kane and Justine McCarthy who said the current generation of politicians cannot deliver peace.

Carola Binney - Tutorials over Lectures

Oxford student and Spectator blogger Carola Binney (@CarolaBinney) contrasts the elite Oxbridge tutorship model with the mainstream lecture model. She said:
"Good lectures are interesting, but the tutorial system is infinitely better."
By extension, can we ask: Does that make an Oxbridge or any on-on-one tutorship education infinitely better than an ordinary university instruction? 

Conor Cruise O'Brien said the challenge was to move beyond nationalism and unionism

Cartoon of Conor Cruise O'Brien by Martyn Turner
Fintan O'Toole wrote of Connor Cruise O'Brien in a feature for the Irish Times in May 11 1996:
"His [Conor Cruise O'Brien] disavowal of Irish nationalism is based on his belief that it is ultimately inseparable from Catholicism."
Fintan O'Toole explained O'Brien's philosophy for Irish politics: "He does not accept that the really important challenge at the moment is not to move from nationalism to unionism, but to move beyond both." Fintan O'Toole then quoted O'Brien: "The main pressure is coming from the nationalists. It's dangerous not just for the North but also for us. In that context, I'm more useful taking a stand with unionists than I would be on some kind of neutral ground."

The article 'Cruiser's new voyage provokes 'no qualms, no heart-searching'' can be obtained from the Irish Times archive here.

The cult of university, Ctd

Hilary French, headmistress of Central Newcastle High School wants school leavers to shift their fixed gazed from university and towards industry. She has said she wants a "shift of focus away from university as the automatic first choice next step for sixthformers and a turn instead to employment." She further said:
"I'd like to challenge independent schools heads to embrace this. Parents too. There is huge potential in employer training courses and the new calibre of apprenticeships emerging. We must not be sniffy about them. Yes, at the moment we may associate apprenticeships with lower-level vocational training, but this need not be the case." 
Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the Independent Schools Council spoke to the same effect. Calling for more work-based training he said:
"University is not always the best route to fulfilling job or maximising your job prospects."
The 18 year Amina Tagari from Preston has opted for an employer-sponsored training scheme as opposed to university. She explained her logic: 
"Most of my friends went to university - they sit in classes taking notes whereas I feel I am getting experience as well as learning. I will be more employable as a result."
Another young person, Nikki Cusworth (23) took an apprenticeship over a degree after the experience of the interview process for the apprenticeship. She said:
"At the interview, the practical experience I would gain blew me away. I decided I was willing to a HND through the scheme rather than an honours degree because the skills would be such an asset in my career."
My previous blog post in the cult of university series here featured another 18 year old who opted out of university. Thomas Gunning explained his decision to take an apprenticeship with PWC over university:
"I would have left university around £60,000 in debt. If I had done the degree, I would still have to complete an accountancy qualification after that. This way I am ahead of the game."
The skills minister Matthew Hancock has admitted that the elevation of academic learning to the position of par excellence has damaged the workforce. He said:
"Apprenticeships are a crucial part of addressing Britain's skills gap - concentrating only on academic training to the exclusion of technical training was a big mistake."
The reporters Sian Griffiths and Kathryn Cooper reported that the number of high level apprenticeships is small but growing. From 1,500 in 2009 to roughly 5,300 in this year. Full report in the Sunday Times, 'Top head urges schoolgirls to jet into job' here. Previous posts on the cult of university here, here, here and here.

November 10, 2013

2016 is a time for national embarrassment, Ctd

Kevin Myers wrote in the Sunday Times of August 11 2013:
"The surreal tone to this year's MacGill Summer School was established at its opening ceremony, as the Taoiseach declared: "To be a real republic, Ireland has to be a sovereign republic." What? Sovereign? After surrendering vast swathes of legislative and financial independence to Europe? Has the man gone mad?"
Previous post on this topic featuring Fintan O'Toole here.

Human Rights - "The UK is the best pupil in the class"

What does an artist do? - "They notice things."

Grayson Perry shared a funny anecdote during the fourth lecture of BBC Radio 4's Reith Lecture series. by telling a story he managed to distill what it is artists do. He said:
"Recently a friend told me that she was working on an education programme at the Whitechapel Art Gallery and at the beginning of the project she asked the children, she said, “What do you think a contemporary artist does?” And this very precocious child, probably from sort of Muswell Hill or somewhere like that, she put her hand up and she said, “They sit around in Starbucks and eat organic salad.” Now it was probably quite an accurate observation of many fashionable artists in East London, but I thought … you know anyway. So then after this, they spent some time looking at what contemporary artists did. And at the end of the project, she asked them again, “What now do you think an artist does?” And the same child, she said, “They notice things.” And I thought wow, that’s a really short, succinct definition of what an artist does. My job is to notice things that other people don’t notice."
Fourth Reith Lecture in full here.

November 09, 2013

Loyalists are traitors to Northern Ireland

Just as dissident republicans are "traitors to the island of Ireland", so dissident loyalists are self-destructive traitors who debase and deface their own cause. As Am Ghobsmacht said:
"If Sinn Fein went to the Bahamas or Cancun for the next 15 years and put their feet up they could easily find a United Ireland here when they get back. Loyalists are doing a grand job of demonising Unionism and encouraging educated Protestants, sorry, I mean ‘liberal naive Lundy types’ to leave Northern Ireland."

Irish racism

John McCallister - "I am no settler, no colonist"

John McCallister addressed the Collins 22 Society. He said:
 "Firstly, as with Collins, this island is my home. My family has lived in the same town-land for at least the past 220 years. I am no settler, no colonist. This island – its story, its geography, its rich cultures – is my home just as it was the home of Michael Collins."
This measure of language resonates with that of John Hewitt who spoke of being 'no rootless colonist'. John also explained that being British does not preclude you from being Irish. He said:
"George V addressed the overwhelmingly Unionist members of the Stormont Parliament as "Irishmen". It is a reminder of something that unionism has too easily and too readily forgotten: That being a British citizen, supporting the Union with the rest of the United Kingdom does not mean that we do not share values, interests and an identity with the rest of this island. It does not mean that being British excludes or denies a sense of Irish identity."
Read John McCallister's speech to the Collins 22 Society in full here. Also on Slugger O'Toole here. You can also read John McCallister's speech to the GAA Ulster Council here
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