January 31, 2014

Blogging has enormous depth, Ctd Modern day pamphleteers

Legal blogger Adam Wagner talking about social media for law professionals here
David Allen Green (@DavidAllenGreen) (@JackofKent) is a legal bloggers who began writing online in 2007 when he created his personal blog Jack of Kent, to promote the public understanding of law. He said that blogging is like being a modern day pamphleteer. He said:
"The elements of speed and self-publication in blogging make it, in my view, akin to pamphleteering... blogging is akin to pamphleteering, then it is pamphleteering with electronic footnotes."

January 30, 2014

@Kenanmalik "on the importance of the right to offend"

Kenan Malik (@kenanmalik) is a writer, lecturer and broadcaster, including a presenter of BBC Radio 4's Analysis. His last book From Fatwa to Jihad was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize. He recently wrote a piece on his blog, 'On the importance of the right to offend.' He said:
"There is something truly bizarre (and yet in keeping with the zeitgeist of our age) that someone should become the focus of death threats and an international campaign of vilification for suggesting that an inoffensive cartoon was, well, inoffensive. 
From the Rushdie affair to the controversy over the Danish cartoons, from the forcing offstage of Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s play Behzti to the attempt this week by members of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party to shut down the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s production of The Bible: The Complete Word Of God (a decision thankfully later reversed),  reactionaries have often used campaigns against ‘offence’ as a political weapon with which to harass opponents and as a means of bolstering their community support. The anti-Nawaz campaign is no different. Muhammad Shafiq and Muhammad Ansar both have had public spats with Nawaz, and both are cynically exploiting the claim of ‘offensiveness’ to reclaim political kudos."

January 29, 2014

Jenni Russell - 'Some universities teach and some do not'

Jenni Russell (@jennirsl) wrote in The Times:
"We must throw a spotlight on those institutions where students can get away with little work... [the] mass of words and numbers avoids the hidden truth about university courses; that a few offer a terrific, demanding education while many others are content to allow students to drift through — in a three-year haze. 
Occasionally that is obvious. Everyone expects medicine at Oxford to be more gruelling than event management at a new university. For a majority of courses, though, it is impossible to understand from descriptions just how much study is involved. Hundreds of thousands of students are miserably ill-served as a result. 
A tiny think-tank, the Higher Education Policy Institute, collaborated with Which? magazine last summer to research the student experience. In a survey that consulted almost 40,000 students over two years, it discovered that, on average, they work only three-quarters of the hours that ministers assumed they did. The number of hours per week that law students put in varied from 21 at some universities to 47 at others. Medicine, which one might assume was tough everywhere, varied from 32 to 50. Maths and computer courses required an average of 23 hours a week at the least demanding universities and 44 at the toughest."

Sir James Munby - The secular judiciary in England and Wales

Sir James Munby, Head of the Family Division of the High Court of Justice in England and Wales
In 2013 Sir James Munby gave a speech in which he said that the law of England and Wales is secular, and that Christianity no longer informs its morality or values. He said that "the days are past when the business of judges was the enforcement of morals or religious beliefs."

The Radio 4 series 'Beyond Belief' explores the place of religion and faith in today's complex world and in an episode 'Christianity and the Law', Ernie Rea was joined by Sir Mark Hedley, Joshua Rozenberg and David McIlroy to discuss the relationship between Christianity and the Law. Listen in full here.

The debate centred around the Keynote Address made by Sir James Munby in October 29 2013 here. He said:
"Happily for us, the days are past when the business of the judges was the enforcement of morals or religious belief. That was a battle fought out in the nineteenth century between John Stuart Mill and Sir James Fitzjames Stephen (Stephen J) and in the middle of the last century between Professor Herbert Hart and Sir Patrick Devlin (Devlin J). The philosophers had the better of the argument, and rightly so. 

January 24, 2014

Being Irish is not about being anti-British, Ctd

For too many people in Ireland, Irishness is defined by their anti-Britishness. In a piece in The Irish Times, 'An inclusive Ireland can surely find a place for the Union flag - Limits on flying flag do not enhance Irishness but succeed in diminishing Britishness,' Richard Irvine said here:
"Surely Irish nationalism should have more to offer than this [restrict Union flag and campaign against Orange parades]? An inclusive Ireland must have room for Britishness; it must recognise it, even embrace it. To strike at the symbols of unionist survival, to demand after 30 years of war they pull down their flag, is not just to demand too much too soon, it is to fail to recognise unionists’ suffering, their history, their identity."
He continued:
"Just as unionists must learn to accept an Irish identity – and an Irish language Bill would be a good start – so those interested in true Irish unity must realise their task should not be to attack unionist identity but to recognise it and build an Irish identity that can include it. As the late PUP leader David Ervine used to say: “The British presence in Ireland is not the army, it is us.” Until Irish nationalism recognises that, the flags of north Antriwill keep flying."
Richard Irvine is a history teacher and lecturer in Belfast, and an independent commentator. In full here. My previous post in the series with Fintan O'Toole here. My earlier post with Conor Cruise O'Brien, Michael Kirke and Brian O'Connor is here. My long form essay on the issue of being a Protestant and Irish in the Huffington Post can be read here.

See my previous posts on Irish racism here, here and here.

January 22, 2014

Combinatorial creativity, Ctd Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln delivered the famous The House Divided Speech  on June 16, 1858. In that speech he said:
"A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South."
Captain Terence O'Neill said in 'Ulster at Cross Roads', December 9 1968:
"I could not see how an Ulster divided against itself could hope to stand." 
This epigram did not spring from nowhere or was it simply clutched from the air. This was the product of the collective readings and experience of Lincoln.

January 20, 2014

The economy has changed, education hasn't

In response to an article in The Spectator magazine by John Armitt, I wrote a piece in The Huffington Post here, 'Remaking Education to make young people work ready' and said:

"The economy has changed beyond all description in recent years. Unfortunately schools & university curricula haven't."


The Economist (@TheEconomist) included an article, 'The effect of today's technology on tomorrow's jobs will be immense'
 http://t.co/4pIrnAmxW3 http://t.co/v934fhY6Nl

Agency and Activism, Ctd Margaret Mead

This Act with Agency and Activism series began with Dale J. Stephens said in an interview with Forbes Magazine here:
"My best advice to you is this: realize that you have agency. Don’t expect going to school to get you a job, and understand that if you want to be successful you’re going to have to hustle and create opportunities for yourself."
This is very relevant to the young people in Northern Ireland. Not only in the careers sense in which Dale J. Stephens means it above; but also in the social and community activism sense. In Northern Ireland especially, young people err heavily towards a step in line, know your place (almost ageist) mentality. I looked at that mindset here on Slugger O'Toole. Margaret Mead said:
"Never ever depend on governments or institutions to solve any major problems. All social change comes from the passion of individuals."
She also said:
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
Previous post in the series with former president of Ireland Mary Robinson here. I spoke of the need to act with agency before choosing to go to university here.

January 19, 2014

Fintan O'Toole - "A parody of culture"

In an article in The Irish Times from August 29 2000, 'When bigotry takes on a life form of its own,' Fintan O'Toole questioned loyalist culture and it's definition. Calling some loyalist "cultural events" as a "parody of culture". He wrote of Johnny Adair and elements of loyalism:
"For the peace process to work it was necessary to sustain certain myths about Northern Ireland. The most potent, and potentially the most dangerous, was the idea that NI was divided between two "cultures" or "traditions", one catholic, the other Protestant. 
This notion was useful and perhaps indispensable, for how can you show "parity of esteem" to two different cultures if you don't recognise their clear existence? Yet it is also a lie. For one thing, it ignores the fact that surveys of attitudes in NI have consistently shown that something like 40% of the population does not identify with either the unionist or the nationalist (i.e. politically Protestant and politically Catholic) "traditions". For another, the most dangerous mindsets in NI don't belong in any real sense to a "culture" or "tradition".

January 18, 2014

Andrew Sullivan - Hard-wired for hate

Andrew Sullivan wrote about hate here, citing Allen Buchanan and Russell Powell:
"We should expect evolution to have produced a human moral psychology that is group-ish and strategic in nature — one that takes other individuals to be part of the moral community if they are part of one’s co-operative group, or otherwise capable of contributing to or disrupting co-operative goods. Extending moral consideration to outsiders — especially those who are not in a position to reciprocate or who could be exploited without fear of reprisal — is maladaptive in a moral system that arose from competition between groups. In other words, a conventional evolutionary view is that morality involved as a way of bolstering in-groups and excluding others – that we are ‘hard-wired’ for tribal loyalties and conflicts."
He earlier wrote on hate in The New York Times a piece by the title, 'What's So Bad About Hate' here:
"For all our rhetoric, hate will never be destroyed. Hate, as our predecessors knew better, can merely be overcome. Hate is everywhere. Human beings generalize all the time, ahead of time, about everyone and everything. A large part of it may even be hard-wired. At some point in our evolution, being able to know beforehand who was friend or foe was not merely a matter of philosophical reflection.

January 17, 2014

The surrender of journalism to PR

Andrew Sullivan said at the end of 2013 here:
"The surrender of journalism to advertizing and public relations – not alliance with, but surrender to – was the biggest media story of 2013 that the media almost didn’t cover at all."

January 16, 2014

Penn Jilette - The duty of fairness owed by those who cleave to a higher power

Penn Jilette said about the duty of fairness that believers should uphold here:
"The problem is, if you have a sense of fairness, simply by saying that you believe in a higher power because you believe in it, you've automatically given license to anyone else who wants to say that... I want to live in a world that has a marketplace of ideas. where everybody is busted on their bullshit all the time because I think that's the way we get to truth."
He continued on tolerance:
"What we call tolerance nowadays, maybe always—I'm always skeptical about the "nowadays" thing. I don't think things get that much different. What we call "tolerance" is often just condescending. It's often just saying, "Okay, you believe what you want to believe that's fine with me." I think true respect... it's one of the reasons I get along so much better with fundamentalist Christians than I do with liberal Christians because fundamentalist Christians I can look them in the eye and say, "You are wrong." They also know that I will always fight for their right to say that."
See full transcript here and here.

Christopher Hitchens - Encouraging signs of polarisation

In his book, 'Letters to a Young Contrarian', Christopher Hitchens said (here and here):
"I have a dear friend in Jerusalem, that home of rectitude and certainty that is so often presented to us as “holy” for no better reason than its unenviable position as “home” to three (highly schismatic but self-described) “mono”theisms. His name is Dr. Israel Shahak; for many years he did exemplary service as chairman of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights. Nothing in his life, as a Jewish youth in pre-1940 Poland and subsequent survivor of indescribable privations and losses, might be expected to have conditioned him to welcome the disruptive. Yet on some occasions when I have asked him for his impression of events, he has calmly and deliberately replied: “There are some encouraging signs of polarisation.” Nothing flippant inheres in this remark; a long and risky life has persuaded him that only an open conflict of ideas and principles can produce any clarity. Conflict may be painful, but the painless solution does not exist in any case and the pursuit of it leads to the painful outcome of mindlessness and pointlessness; the apotheosis of the ostrich."

#WhitePaper - What does a united Ireland actually mean? Ctd

Graphic via Paul Krugman
A commenter wrote on Slugger O'Toole here that more and more of his or her Catholic friends are thinking with their heads, rather than their hearts. They want to know more about what a united Ireland actually means in terms of the important issues which will effect them and their families (jobs, health, education, economy, social security, housing, political representation, policing, justice etc). Until then they see it as a case of ‘better the devil you know’ - i.e. the status quo.

This is what this series is about. Trying to find out what a united Ireland would look like in terms of jobs. But making a reasoned and considered case for maintaining the Union. Fintan O'Toole wrote in The News York Times a piece by the title 'Ireland's Rebound Is European Blarney' and said:

January 15, 2014

Pictures - Fintan O'Toole at work

As you may have guessed, I'm a bit of a fan of Fintan O'Toole. He spoke to The Irish Times here inside the Dublin offices which included some nice panoramic shots of the office, his books, workstation and him typing. Call me a stalking, but I thought these inside glimpses were fascinating. You can see what he's reading, how he organises his affairs, and that he's an old-timer - as per his one-finger-stab-the-keyboard typing style! 

You can see the original footage and accompanying article here and here. He made two especially interesting remarks. One:
"And what we know in Ireland is, unless something is being driven very very clearly, what happens is it goes back to the default mechanism in Ireland which is patronage, which is cronyism, machine politics. Which is the way these things get done."

January 14, 2014

The Cult of Univeristy, Ctd One in ten school leavers went to university 30 years ago; now almost half do

Jenni Russell wrote an article in The Times here, 'New graduates - just do the maths and weep' and said:
"Only one in ten school leavers went to university 30 years ago; now almost half do. New research by Malcolm Brynin at Essex University confirms that the graduate premium is declining. It fell by almost a third in the 15 years after 1993. The reward for being a graduate has dropped away, but paradoxically more employers are demanding graduate qualifications. A degree is now a necessity if you hope to avoid a badly paid job, but it no longer guarantees a well paid one."
On Northern Ireland, Patrick Murphy cut through the euphemism and obfuscation when he said in The Irish News that:
"[Northern Ireland universities are not remotely close to being the best in Ireland, never mind the world."

Ed Moloney - Censorship extended the Troubles by up to a decade

The Irish journalist Ed Moloney wrote in the Nieman Reports of Hardvard University here. He started with a brief historical sweep:
"Censorship has a long if not very honorable place in Irish history. The British imposed press controls during the 1919-21 war of independence, as did the pro-Treaty side in the subsequent Irish civil war. Newspapers were forbidden, for instance, to use words like “guerilla” to describe opponents of the new Irish government. Censorship lived on after the early Troubles. In the south of Ireland it took a less political and more religious form. The state censor was allowed to ban books and films on moral grounds, i.e. when they offended Catholic doctrine or values. 
In Northern Ireland censorship remained entirely political. In the 1920’s the pro-British Unionist government passed the Special Powers Act, a draconian piece of legislation which gave the police the authority to ban any dubious expression of political thinking and to imprison those responsible.

Christopher Hitchens - Thought crimes

Christopher Hitchens said here and here:
"[If] one person gets up and says:
“You know, about this Holocaust, I’m not sure it even happened. In fact, I’m pretty certain it didn’t. Indeed, I begin to wonder if the only thing is that the Jews brought a little bit of violence on themselves.”
That person doesn't just have a right to speak, that person’s right to speak must be given extra protection. Because what he has to say must have taken him some effort to come up with, might contain a grain of historical truth, might in any case get people to think about why do they know what they already think they know. How do I know that I know this, except that I’ve always been taught this and never heard anything else?

When it's cool to be dumb, Ctd

The above segment from The Simpsons episode Dial 'N' for Nerder, Nelson is attacked for showing intellectual daring and ability. This is the culture I experienced in school, albeit in a milder less violent form, But yes, it absolutely was not cool to show intellectual daring and ability.

My earlier posts in the 'When it's cool to be dumb' series can be accessed here,here (UDA prisoner), hereherehereherehereherehere and hereOn the Huffington Post UK here.

Self Censorship, Ctd Political correctness is the worst kind of censorship

Jo Swinson MP, the equalities minister announced that she wants to ban "fat talk", which The Sunday Times covered here. In response to this, India Knight wrote in The Sunday Times of December 22 2013 here:
"The actress [Jennifer Lawrence] is one of an increasingly vocal band of women — the television presenter and former model Tyra Banks being one and the equalities minister Jo Swinson being another — to call for an end to “fat shaming”, that is, to calling people fat. 
At first glance, this is a great idea, and one that clearly comes from a good place. “It should be illegal to call somebody fat on TV,” Lawrence said last week. “Because why is humiliating people funny? . . . If we’re regulating cigarettes and sex and cuss words because of the effect they have on our younger generation, why aren’t we regulating things like calling people fat?”

January 13, 2014

Newton Emerson - Ian Paisley, Ulster nationalist

Ahead of tonight's screening of Eamonn Mallie's documentary on Ian Paisley, it's worthwhile to look back at what Newton Emerson said of Paisley's Ulster nationalism on BBC Hearts and Minds in June 2007 here:
"In an interview with last Saturday's Irish News, he blamed the Troubles on British government betrayal, complained that English politicians know nothing about Irish politics, claimed that Dublin is more generous than London. Ian Paisley appears more matey with Bertie than Blair. Furthermore, he lauded his relationship with Bertie Ahern because, and I quote, "I am an Ulsterman and he is a southern Irishman. We know how to talk to one another." 
The simplest explanation for Paisley's ambivalent Britishness is that he is really an Ulster nationalist. He's certainly flirted with advocates of an independent Northern Ireland throughout his political career - but these flirtations have never gone further than fond kiss goodnight.

January 12, 2014

Live Drawing - The Mermaid

Click below to see a full selection of cartoons from a night of live drawing in Portrush.If you would like me to attend an event, draw at your wedding, party or business conference, please do get in contact. Below is a list of past clients and prior events.

With the Arts Council NI at their 2013 conference here, at the Pump House, Titanic Belfast with the Friday Night Mashup here, at the QUB Peace Journalism seminar here, St Joseph's PS Christmas craft fair 2013 here, at the Thriftway Travel christmas party 2013 here, at the Civic Conversation 2013 here. At a Christmas party (2013) here. At the DUP Conference 2013 here, and drawing the DUP politicians here. Doodling 6 guys in a pub here. At Culture Night Belfast 2013 here. At the GEMS NI Conference here. At Funtastics indoor play park here.

Live drawing in the Black Box with famous political cartoonist Ian Knox here. See my life drawings from the Loft Belfast at 99 North Street here, here and here. My thoughts on life drawing here. One of my favourite cartoonists Andre Carrilho talks about the challenge of caricature here.

January 11, 2014

Stop Appeasing Fanatacism, Ctd

I wrote a piece on the Loyalists Against Democracy blog here, saying that we need to stop appeasing fanatics. And it is they, who say the DUP are appeasing terrorists, who have got it fantastically wrong. It is they who are being appeased. As Sinéad O'Shea wrote in The Irish Times here:
"Bryson has been at the forefront of the flag protests and has become a spokesperson for working class Protestants. It is he and his followers that the unionist leadership now feel they have to appease."
Her sentiments were backed by a Belfast taxi driver. She recounted her encounter with the Protestant driver here:
"On my way to Stormont on Monday, I spoke to my taxi driver, a protestant. It’s become a cliché of journalism but it was his words which were to be the most portentous. We laughed at how friendly everybody is in Belfast when you talk to them and how unbelievable it is that so much trouble can have occurred in one small place. My driver said he thought that was the problem, that everybody was too nice, too nice especially to the “nutters.”"
She concluded by saying: "The question of how to undo the evolution of extremist tendencies remains unanswered." The Irish Times article in full here. My previous post on appeasing fanatacism is here.

Cart Builder

"I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it."
- Pablo Picasso

The picture above is of my mother's dog, a Bernese Mountain Dog, on Christmas Day 2013 drawing the cart I made. See below for some close-ups of the dog-cart and also some images of my other work work exploits.

January 10, 2014

UUP - Somewhere between the DUP and TUV

Irish racism, Ctd

Hard-line Irish nationalists continue to have the same demented obsession with the "Protestant planter" as far-right racist xenophobes that exist in England, Greece, France and right across Europe. They blame them for a political situation they don't like and want to utterly extinquish this genetic 'race' from Ireland. The Protestant planter did not invade and conquer Ireland. There were given farming land by the English Crown, just as the Jews were given land by nations in Europe. They are no different from the odious Bosnian Serb ethnic cleanser who believes that their ethnically unpure, politically uncomfortable neighbouring population should be 'sent back where they came from'.

The tweets above are See the Irish Tribesman blog here for an example of explicit racism and xenophobia. Here's an example:
"British invaders Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar were shot dead at Massereene Army base, Antrim. Apparently the Real IRA have claimed responsibility for eliminating these tools of British colonial rule."
And according to a post here, I'm a "British colonial student". My post here on Orwell touches on the racist leanings of celtic nationalism. George Orwell said:
"Its motive force is a belief in the past and future greatness of the Celtic peoples, and it has a strong tinge of racialism. The Celt is supposed to be spiritually superior to the Saxon — simpler, more creative, less vulgar, less snobbish, etc."
Racism is intimately linked with fanatical nationalism. In 'Du Principe federatif (1863) Proudhon said that nationalism was evil in itself, and that it was 'the product of politics rather than nature'. He further said that nationalism leads inevitably to war, compromises personal liberties and reinforces the dictatorial powers of the state.

Conor Cruise O'Brien maintained that: "Nationalism everywhere tends to be xenophobic."

My previous post in the Irish Racism series with Newton Emerson here and on a racist tweet here. My blog post on Arthur Griffiths, the founder of Sinn Fein, who was a racist here. My blog post for The Huffington Post on the racism I've experienced as a cultural Protestant in Ireland here. Incidentally a university report has found the 60% of foreigners in Ireland have experienced racism. More on that in The Irish Independent here

Taking back what it is to be Irish, Ctd

Brian O'Connor wrote in The Irish Times here:
"That’s not to say nationality is irrelevant to identity, just that people’s ideas of it differ. Admittedly that’s a concept we have a history of struggling with here, mainly because too many people spend too much time insisting the most important thing about them is their own version of Irishness. In real life, the story is always individual."

Guest post - Those Were The Days, My Friend…

My cartoon of Kellys Cellars, Belfast to accompany the guest post by Jason O'Rourke
Do you remember when there used to be a metal paling fence outside Kelly’s Cellars that made a sort of corridor? It had a turnstile at the end, by St Mary’s. And there were those big gates at the end of Castle Street. Turnstile there too: once you left the city centre you couldn’t get back in. It was a real pain for guitar and banjo players to get through. They had to hold the cases tight to their body and shuffle through like prisoners on a chain gang. It was difficult enough when you’d had a few pints, never mind carrying a big case like that. I think those gates on Castle Street were the last ones to be removed.

We always used to play in Kelly’s on a Saturday evening, in the wee snug opposite the top door. It was just big enough for a small table and about seven people. It was brilliant, because once you were in there you could play away to your heart’s content, and the noise from the bar didn’t bother you. The ones at the edge of the session, where it spilled out into the bar, always got the melters asking for ‘Carrickfergus’, or the kids trying to sell jokes or cigarette lighters. So, you had to get there early enough to get a seat in the snug, and then you were on the pig’s back. It was no place for a non-smoker though; turned into a gas chamber within minutes of the session starting. You’d sit there playing tunes and there would be five Regal burning away in the ashtray, with nobody actually smoking them. Rollups were better because they’d just go out. There was so much free drink you would be steaming by ten. The bars used to close earlier back then, and once you were thrown out of one, you’d generally be trying to get in somewhere else for a late pint.

January 09, 2014

Art is theft, Ctd

The above cartoon by Michael Ramirez is from 2012. The below by Morten Morland is from 2003.

My Art is Theft series featuring Ronald Searle, Quentin Blake and Morten Morland here, with Ian Knox and Brook here, with Morten Morland talking about theft here, and a piece on the links between Morten Morland and Michael Ramirez here. On the theft of Peter Brookes' cartoon, read here. Austen Kleon post here. Jack Vettriano here. Andre Carrilho on the challenge of caricature here.

The post on the BBC Radio 4 Sins of Literature broadcast here. A piece with Christopher Hitchens and Maria Popova on Joyce here. Another piece on Maria Popova here. Post with contributions from Eamonn Mallie here. The Northern Irish poet Ciaran Carson here. With Alexia Tsotsis here. More of my stuff on Maria Popova here, here, here and here. With Picasso and Austin Kleon here.

Christopher Hitchens explains here how parts of the US Declaration of Indepence were built on and even plagiarised from the writings of John Locke. More comments from Hitchens here.

January 08, 2014

The two worlds of Northern Ireland, Ctd Heaney and O'Brien

Conor cruise O'Brien knew in the 1990s that it was a matter of moving beyond nationalism and unionism. Fintan O'Toole explained O'Brien's philosophy for Irish politics in The Irish Times here:
"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."
Seamus Heaney said the same thing in a 1997 interview with The Paris Review here:
"But listen to what I’m saying! Protestant, Catholic—the point is to fly under or out and beyond those radar systems."
My earlier posts on Heaney here and here. My earlier posts on Conor Cruise O'Brien herehere and here.

Act with Agency, Ctd Combatting ageism in Northern Ireland

When representing a client (a youth whose liquor license application was opposed by the police on the grounds of the applicant’s youth), Thomas Ebenezer Webb said:
"Alexander the Great at the age of 22 had… brought the entire Persian Empire under his sway… at 23 Descartes evolved a new system of philosophy. At 24 Pitt was Prime Minister of Great Britain… and at 24 25 Napoleons Bonaparte saved the Republic. Is it now to be judged that at 25 my client, Peter Mulligan, is too young to manage a public house in Chapel Street."

January 07, 2014

Twitter - A perpetually gaping maw of a gigantic elephant trap

James Delingpole (@JamesDelingpole) wrote an article in The Spectator magazine by the title, 'How Twitter almost destroyed me.' He said of Twitter, (what  he called "the perpetually gaping maw of the gigantic elephant trap that is Twitter), here
"Twitter is a publishing medium more dangerous than any that has ever before existed. The problem is that it is once trivially ephemeral and hideously permanent. Whatever your state of mind, whether you’re drunk or sober, depressed or euphoric, it’s there waiting to capture your every thought from the moment you wake up to the moment you check your Twitter feed one last time before you go to sleep."
He continued:
"You might be a journalist, like me, who writes hundreds of thousands of words’ worth of considered, well-wrought, nuanced articles expressing precisely who you are and where you’re coming from. But as far as the mob is concerned, that makes not the blindest bit of difference. It’s on those 140 characters you’re being tried and condemned. You’re hateful. You’re a misogynist. You’re anti-disabled. You’re a racist. You’re a rapist. Or whatever. And there’s no room for wriggling, you said it, after all. It’s there: in black and white — and ‘favourited’ by various ill-wishers, just in case you try to erase it."

January 06, 2014

George Orwell - [Loyalists] and the English Language

Loyalists Against Democracy (@LadFleg), myself and others in the public sphere are regularly reproached for making fun of illiteracy, bad spelling and broad accents. I'm regularly rebuffed as a "snob". A charge I reject, refrain and responded to directly here and here.
Those are made fun of for bad spelling and for poor grammar have committed unpardonable and intolerable acts. They are not beyond criticism. When they commit gratuitous and promiscuous criminality they inflict social and economic misery across the whole of Belfast and the whole of Northern Ireland.

Writing is hard, Ctd

Read Gideon Lichfield in the tweet above. See what he says about "throat clearing." Well, writing can be very hard. Perfectly hard enough to not require the extra difficulties that are of the perfectly avoidable kind. People often have the habit of coating their writing with introductory layers of fluff that mask for an introduction. According to Lichfield: avoid the throat clearing. 

My previous posts in Writing is hard series are here with Alex Massie, with Tim Kreider here, with Christopher Hitchens here, with American author Stanley Karnow here, with Ernest Hemingway here, with Neil Gaiman here, with James Joyce here, with Dan Brown here. My piece that looks at George Orwell's 6 rules to good writing is here. I also wrote a piece on The Huffington Post here.

I've also posted here about the propensity for law school to teach law students to write badly here. I made The Case For Plain English here. I've also written a few pieces, including here, on Writing on Paper as a way of making the writing process easier. Apparently blogging is an art form, see here.

January 05, 2014

Live drawing - Funtastics

On January 5 2014 I enjoyed a live drawing at Funtastics indoor play area in Carryduff, Belfast. Above you can see me at work and with one of the happy customers! Click below to see more pics from the day.

If you would like me to attend an event, draw at your wedding, party or business conference, please do get in contact. Below is a list of past clients and prior events.

With the Arts Council NI at their 2013 conference here, at the Pump House at Titanic Belfast with the Friday Night Mashup here, the QUB Peace Journalism seminar here, St Joseph's PS Christmas craft fair 2013 here, at the Thriftway Travel christmas party 2013 here, at the Civic Conversation 2013 here. At a Christmas party (2013) here. At the DUP Conference 2013 here, and drawing the DUP politicians here. 6 guys in a pub here. At Culture Night Belfast 2013 here. At the GEMS NI Conference here.

Live drawing in the Black Box with famous political cartoonist Ian Knox here. See my life drawings from the Loft Belfast at 99 North Street here, here and here. My thoughts on life drawing here. One of my favourite cartoonists Andre Carrilho talks about the challenge of caricature here.

Christopher Hitchens - Enlightenment principles need to be fought for and defended by every generation

On he Enlightenment principles, Christopher Hitchens said here and in the video above:
"I think that the positions I hold against Islamic theocracy are for example - especially its extension by promiscuous criminal violence - are defences of the Enlightenment. Which is the most radical conclusion that humanity has yet reached and the greatest of its radical achievements. I won't enumerate them, I'll just assume that people know what I mean by that. That these things probably do need to be defended every generation, that this is our call for that. I don't want to be found waiting. The reactionaries I think are those who try to accomodate themselves to that or try to make excuses for promiscuous violence or the proposal for a caliphate. What could be more conservative than saying that not just an empire should be established, and a religious one, but a former one should be re-established. Imperial nostalgia as well as imperialism."
Christopher Hitchens has also said that free speech needs to be fought for by every generation. He said:
"The urge to shut out bad news or unwelcome opinions will always be a very strong one, which is why the battle to reaffirm freedom of speech needs to be refought in every generation."
My previous posts on Hitchens on Northern Ireland here, on segregated schools here and on the "parasitic class" here. On Albert Camus and "the rats" here. On Northern Ireland's "barbaric, sectarian leaders" here. His comment that anti-semites are "mentally and morally unwell" here. On Vaclav Havel here. On the US First Amendment here, on the US as an empire and clas-based society here, and on how to succeed here. On women and poverty here. On the US Declaration of Independence here. Christopher Hitchens explained that he left the UK in part because of the libel laws, see here. Christopher Hitchens spoke here about the authority of bloggers and online writers (7m30s) (original video in full here). Hitchens on "being bored" as the worst sin here. On why Hitchens is such a compelling writer here. On cliche here. On socialism here.

To see Christopher Hitchens on the Enlightenment in full, here at 36 minutes.

Art is theft, Ctd

My Art is Theft series featuring Ronald Searle, Quentin Blake and Morten Morland here, with Ian Knox and Brook here, with Morten Morland talking about theft here, and a piece on the links between Morten Morland and Michael Ramirez here. On the theft of Peter Brookes' cartoon, read here.

January 04, 2014

The two worlds of Northern Ireland, Ctd

Jamie Pow (@jamiepow) wrote on the Northern Slant (@NorthernSlanthere that:
"The Haass talks may not have produced conclusive agreement among our leaders, but they have taught us something about our society. The most significant division in Northern Irish politics today is not between Nationalist and Unionist. Rather, it is a division between those who still want to see politics as such, and those who want to strive beyond it." 
Read my The Two Worlds of Northern Ireland series from here. My post on professor John Brewer who said that the silent majority needs to reclaim the peace process here. My blog post on Fionualla Meredith who said that the moderate needs to speak up and pound the streets here. Analysis from Pete Shirlow here. My blog following Richard Haass comment that a majority want peace is here. Brian Feeney and the Unionist who has utterly divorced himself and herself from the political process, the 'internal emigre' here. My previous posts in 'The Two Worlds of Northern Ireland' series here, here, here, here, here, herehere and here.

January 03, 2014

A look back over 2013 and my 12 Achievements

2013 is the year I learnt that conformity and convention are over-rated. That you need to act with agency and activism. From the early 2000s until late 2012 I laboured under and scaled over the message that a degree equals a job, only to find recruiters perfectly indifferent to my achievements and my very person. 2013 is the year I came awake to the cult of university and to Britain and Ireland's hereditocracy. This experience of youth unemployment left indellible scratches on my brain. I felt "the endless misery", as George Orwell put it.

Against George Orwell's stamping boot, I made a resolution: never again would I write a CV, cover letter, application or do a verbal reasoning or psychometric test. If the world didn't want me I would come and get it. I learnt that if you want to achieve greatest you have to stop asking for permission. In 2013 my life became, not a matter of who would let me, but who was going to stop me. I also learnt that it wasn't me who had the problem, it was them. I learnt to say as Robert Downey Jr said:
"Listen, smile, agree. Then do whatever the fuck you were gonna do anyway."

Iran's baby boomerang

Christopher Hitchens said in the video above and here:
"What is happening in Iran is very interesting. Within the carapace of a theocratic state, an almost completely secular society is being created. This is for a ghoulish reason. The Iranian mullahs lost so many young people in the suicide waves they sent against Saddam Hussein, gangs of school children and teenagers to clear mind-fields in the Iraqi border... They lost so many young people that they had to pay Iranian mothers, incentives if you agree to have 3 or more children you can have a lot more subsidy and quite a lot of help from the regime. They tried to breed quickly a new regime, a consequence of which it worked out all right - but not in the way they expected. A consequence of which more than half of the country is under 25 and they all hate the mullahs. So it's what I call the baby boomerang in Iran. And if you want to get a drink, drugs or pornography you can do that very swiftly and the mullahs are powerless to stop it."
In an interview with Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institute here, Christopher Hitchens explained the same phenomenon:
"The hatred for the regime among the young is a delightful thing to see as is the friendship towards the United States. And I have a word for it--it's the baby boomerang. You see, the Mullahs threw away so many of their young people in the suicide wave, war with Saddam Hussein--which people I think still remember the throwing away of handfuls of the younger generation. You know, it turned into a pointless war. They had to give Iranian women incentives to make up the deficit. 
Now there is a baby boom but it's a baby boomerang because this younger generation despises the Mullahs and the state that they run, wants to live in America, wants--if it can't do that, wants to live an American life. The regime meanwhile is becoming visibly senile. It's not reproducing itself or palpably senile. And so even the revolutionary guards are getting a bit long in the tooth... Oh give it ten years and yes it will metamorphose into something like a secular Middle Eastern democracy but the timeline of Hezbollah and of the nukes isn't a ten year timeline."
My point is that, within a conflict state, an almost completely post-conflict secular society is being created in Northern Ireland. There is a quiet, internal and endogenous transformation which must reach into the political arena. There are two words of Northern Ireland and the progressive, liberal and secular one is in the ascendency. Whereupon Northern Ireland will no longer be the "outcast from life's feast."

My previous posts on Hitchens on Northern Ireland here, on segregated schools here, on Vaclav Havel here, on Northern Ireland's "barbaric, sectarian leaders" here, on the US First Amendment here, on the US as an empire and clas-based society here, and on how to succeed here. Christopher Hitchens explained that he left the UK in part because of the libel laws, see here. To see Christopher Hitchens on the need to defend the Enlightenment principles, here at 36 minutes.
Read me blog on professor John Brewer who said that the silent majority needs to reclaim the peace process here. My blog on Fionualla Meredith who said people need to speak up and pound the streets here. My blog following Richard Haass comment that a majority want peace is here. My previous posts in 'The Two Worlds of Northern Ireland' series can be seen here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
My previous posts on Iran, on being a woman here, on young Iranians bring about change here, on
Al-Quds day here, and my Huffington Post post, 'Am I living in Ireland or Iran' here. My two pieces here and here on the Quilliam Foundation and tackling extremism.

A Catholic party for a catholic people, Ctd Catholic, no Protestants and Dissenters

The original purpose of Irish republicanism was made to unite, Protestant, Catholic and dissenter. Yet Sinn Fein, the self-styled republican party in Northern Ireland, runs an ethnicised, particularised, idiosyncratic and exclusivist agenda. It's not a republican party by any meaning of the word republican; it's a Catholic nationalist party for a catholic people. Dr Cillian McGrattan calls the Sinn Fein project here an "imperialising, vacuous and undemocratic project."

On the Sinn Fein electoral base. Sinn Fein are not working to engage or incorporate with the protestant working class. In fact they do their best to counter, repel and antagonise. As Conor Cruise O’Brien said May 11 1996 in The Irish Times here.
"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."
Alex Kane explained in the News Letter here what Sinn Fein should be doing: 
"It seems to me that Sinn Fein has a simple choice to make: fully committing itself to co-governing Northern Ireland and making it the best possible place for both communities: or push on with a bogus, one-sided ‘reconciliation’ project that forever widens the gulf between themselves and unionists."
On Sinn Fein not being a republican party, the author of the Ulster's Doomed blog said:
"In that sense both the SDLP and Sinn Féin are actually nationalist parties, but the SDLP is a republican nationalist party, while Sinn Féin is simply a nationalist party... Sinn Féin is essentially a Catholic nationalist party... For Irish nationalism to succeed in its project – and for that project to have been worth the effort – it must be a truly republican project, and as things stand at present Sinn Féin is not... Let a new party arise – a party that unites Catholic, Protestant, dissenter, atheist and all others is a common endeavour. Let the rump of Sinn Féin co-exist, if for no other reason that to emphasise the difference. And then let the battle of ideas commence."
On the religiosity of Sinn Fein, it was written in The Irish Independent here:
"In McGuinness and Gerry Adams, Sinn Féin boasts the most ostentatiously religious leadership of any mainstream political party on this island (unionist parties included). Yet the ease with which these self-styled Holy Joes resort to bluster and doublespeak when speaking about what they claim are their most fundamental beliefs is breathtaking."
Michael Martin said of Sinn Fein here:
"Sinn Fein cannot be fully committed to all-island, all-community politics if it continues to insist on its own version of history and what it means to be Irish. How can a party be truly all-island and committed to convincing unionists if it sells t-shirts and mugs emblazoned with “IRA undefeated army”?
Increasingly, SF is not only demanding respect for its tradition of militant republicanism, it is trying to promote this as the only real republicanism. In spite of the fact that the large majority of republicans on this island repeatedly rejected the campaign of the Provisionals, they demand that their party icons be accepted by the rest of society.
Recently Gerry Adams even told the Dáil that Provisional IRA members stood alongside Pearse and Connolly. Simultaneously, his party has undertaken an aggressive policy of trying to turn the commemoration of events of 1916-22 to their narrow party advantage.
In case anyone still believes that Fianna Fáil says these things about Sinn Fein because of a fear of electoral challenge, the fact is we have been saying these things for years and, they are in no way our direct competitor.
Their basic positioning is as the all-purpose, anti-everything protest party. Ours is to be a centre-ground alternative, offering responsible opposition. We never have and never will cede to them the right to define Irish republicanism." 
As it was written here, self-proclaimed Irish republicans should remember that the third colour in the Irish flag is orange. My previous post in the series can be seen here and features Patrick Murphy and Alex Kane.

Guest Post - Moon Child

Jason O'Rourke gives a read in Belfast city centre
During the winter it gets dark early in Belfast. You may grudgingly accept that this is the price you pay for those heady long summer nights, but even so, it’s December now, and June is a long way off. It’s difficult to conjure the memory of warmth and blue evening skies when it’s pitch black at 5 p.m.

Tonight it is icy outside; the air is clean and clear. Despite interference from the orange streetlamps the evening sky is deep and massive; a myriad of stars can be seen in sharp focus. There are no clouds to hinder your view. On nights like this, when all these stars are visible, you look up at the sky in awe of the scale of it all: there are so many possibilities out there. The moon is a fat, blunt-ended, waxing crescent; almost gibbous. It hangs low in the sky, a colossal presence above the roof-ridges of the terraced houses, and its crater-pocks and lines are easily visible. Belfast is bathed in its pale light; the frosty pavements and rooftops glitter in its glow. It is entrancing; you want to stop the car to look at it.

January 02, 2014

The two world's of Northern Ireland, Ctd internal émigrés

Brian Feeney wrote in The Irish News of January 1 2014:
In April 1982 Sir Peter Frogatt, vice-Chancellor of Queen's, told Sir Ewart Bell, head of the Northern Ireland Civil service, that there was "a considerable exodus to British universities especially on the part of the Protestant community."

Ewart Bell reported this to the then proconsul Jim Prior and said he regarded it as "another step towards the extent to which the Protestant community is 'opting out' of Northern Ireland."
Brian Feeney said:
"None of these internal émigrés participates in or endorses the antics of the yahoos waving flags or hammering big drums outside Catholic Churches... Yesterday's [Haass talks] failure will simply reinforce the majority of unionists in their opinion that, in the words of Alex Kane, they prefer to go to the garden centre that bother voting."
Brian Feeney concluded:
"It seems the out-working of Ewart Bell's 1982 warning about students will be extrapolated to society in general so that as the nationalist vote increases Sinn Fein will take ownership of the north. The DUP can still change but they can't stop it. If they weren't so pig-headed and bigoted they could influence it before they become a minority."
Read me blog post on professor John Brewer who said that the silent majority needs to reclaim the peace process here. My blog post on Fionualla Meredith who said people need to speak up and pound the streets here. With contributions from Pete Shirlow here. My blog following Richard Haass comment that a majority want peace is here. My previous posts in 'The Two Worlds of Northern Ireland' series here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
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