April 29, 2014

Christopher Hitchens - The "some Christians" excuse

In 2009 Christopher Hitchens & Stephen Fry stood in an Intelligence Squared Debate with the motion, the Catholic church is a force for good in the world. Christopher Hitchens tackle the classic Christian evasion and excuse for cruelty, prejudice and discrimination, that's just "some Christians." He said at 4 minutes:
"The same euphemism comes, in the term "some Christians". That is used in all the apologies about the Crusades, the Inquisitions, the anti-Semitic pogroms and all the rest of it. They say "some Christians" fell into error. "Some Christians" allowed themselves to be deceived in this way and to act against the gospel. Well, anti-Semitism was preached as an official doctrine of the Church until 1964. Do you think that might have something to do with public opinion in Austria, and Bavaria, and Poland, and Lithuania? That the Jewish people were accused collectively, as a people, of deicide. The crime of the murder of god, in the figure of Jesus of Nazareth. That anathema on them was not lifted until 1964, well after the perpetrators of the Holocaust had stood trial in secular courts and been rightly punished for their actions. How can this Church say it has any moral superiority? It has difficulty catching up to what ordinary people regard as common moral and ethical sense and it still can't make itself apologise properly."

Marriage Equality - Today it's a shout of "polygamy". Yesterday it was shouts of "male prostitution".

Cartoon of Peter Robinson, Ian Paisley and other members of the DUP. Originally published on Slugger O'Toole.
Debating marriage equality is debating the inevitable. The history of the West tells us that you cannot deny a minority community rights that a majority enjoy. The history of the West tells us that laws that stigmatise and marginalise a minority cannot stand.

Law after discriminatory law have been broken. Rights after rights have been spread. And at each stage the religious community are there to defend discrimination and oppose tolerance and pluralism. That is the lesson that needs to be shared as we face this challenge of bringing marriage equality to Northern Ireland. Namely: at each stage the religious will have you forget their previous failures in order to mask their present failure.

April 26, 2014

Ian Knox talks cycling with Michael Smiley

Michael Smiley featured on an eponymously named series on the BBC, 'Michael Smiley - Something to Ride Home About.' On that series Michael Smiley embarks on a cycle tour of Northern Ireland. In the first episode he meets the Northern Ireland political cartoonist and Penny Farthing rider, Ian Knox.

Below are a full selection of images from the episode that first aired on April 21 2014, including an Ian Knox cartoon of Michael Smiley. Slideshow of Ian Knox riding his Penny Farthing here.

Earlier posts on Ian Knox. Ian Knox speaking with the Detail here. My blog post on Ian Knox's cartoons of loyalists and republicans, here. Ian Knox and I drawing together in the Black Box, Belfast in 2013 here. Ian Knox and I drawing at McHugh's, Belfast here. My coverage of Ian Knox's December 2013 exhibition, 'Lifelines and Deadlines' here. A selection of photos of Ian Knox at work here. Slideshow of Ian Knox riding his Penny Farthing here. My article here on why an Ian Knox prize to encourage satire and political cartooning like the Herb Block foundation in America which rewards and encourages future talent.

April 25, 2014

Plus loyaliste que la loi

[UPDATE - High Court judges says PSNI 'wrongly facilitated' loyalist marches. I.e. the marches were illegal and were done illegally and unchallenged - read here.]

Brigid Brophy wrote in the Spectator Magazine in June 1981 here:
"The Northern Irish “loyalists” soon found themselves plus loyaliste que la loi and, indeed, in positive conflict with overall British law."
S. Nelson wrote in 1984 a book 'Ulster's Uncertain Defenders: Protestant Paramilitary and

April 24, 2014

Remembering Ireland's "patriot dead" of 1916. Forgetting Ireland's unionists.

GPO in ruins after the Easter Rising in 1916
Edward Carson said that the ideals and ambitions of Ulster should be clearly understood by the people of England, Scotland and Wales.

I want to make something very clear - The ideals and ambitions of Northern Ireland unionists and Protestants should be clearly understood in Southern Ireland. For they are each and all, "fellow countrymen."*

Being a Protestant unionist does not preclude that person from being Irish. John Hewitt said it. Nick Laird said it. Sam McAughtry said it. Loyalist Gusty Spence said it. Edward Carson was Irish. He was British. He was an Irish Unionist. An Irish man who simply wanted to be Irish and remain part of the social, political and economic infrastructure of the British Empire. As he said:
"We’re both [Tom Kettle, Home Rule nationalist] Irishmen, and that is what matters."
Edward Carson, who opposed Home Rule was an Irish unionist and wanted Ireland united. In a

April 23, 2014

Ian Knox on the Arts Show

Episode 26 of the Arts Show looked into the world of Ian Knox. Of remark, Ian Ian Knox contrasted unionism with nationalism. He said that unionist politicians are easier to lampoon. In fact, they are more interested in his work. He explained:
"Nearly all the feedback I get regularly is from politicians is from unionists. They are the ones who want the originals. Not the nationalists. And here’s a kind of discipline about nationalists which means that the cartoons aren’t quite as funny. The whole world of unionism is much wilder and wackier."
My previous posts on Ian Knox. Ian Knox speaking with the Detail here. My blog post on Ian Knox's cartoons of loyalists and republicans, here. Ian Knox and I drawing together in the Black Box, Belfast in 2013 here. Ian Knox and I drawing at McHugh's, Belfast here. My coverage of Ian Knox's December 2013 exhibition, 'Lifelines and Deadlines' here. A selection of photos of Ian Knox at work here. My article here on why an Ian Knox prize to encourage satire and political cartooning like the Herb Block foundation in America which rewards and encourages future talent.

Below are a selection of images from the Arts Show:

April 17, 2014

Political correctness is the worst kind of censorship, Ctd

On BBC Radio 4, Woman's Hour of March 26 2014, Julie Bindel, journalist and founder of Justice for Women, said:
"White liberals are terrified of being called Islamophobic or racist... [and they] capitulate to the religious patriarchs rather than stand with secular feminists. Those Muslim born feminists, Southall Black Sisters is one organisation that refuses to capitulate to religious patriarchy, but still fights racism and cultural imperialism; and that's the kind of feminism that I stand with."
"I refuse to be one of those white liberals who ends up on the side of the religious patriarchs... I stand by my sisters in the global feminist movement."
Sara Khan, director of Muslim Human Rights organisation, Inspire, said of feminists on the right:

April 16, 2014

Exhibition - What an age to be alive

The words of the Age UK video are raw, provocative and inspiring. They are the words of British poet Roger McGough:
"There is no cure for ageing because ageing isn’t an illness, but a way of life. And some are better at it than others. The secret: think yourself younger than you really are. Design a website, invent an app, take up Zoomba, forget to nap. Time flies they say but it’s hours that fly. Time sits on its hands as we rush by. In the blink of an eye, the brush of a year, you are old - but valued still. Welcome to the fold."
They are also the words of the Age UK TV advert which is helping to launch an Age UK campaign - 'Love Later Life'. A vision to promote more positivity about ageing. The campaign follows from research that found that 77% of adults are looking forward to living longer, yet 91% of adults say something needs to be done to help us all lead a better later life. And 83% of adults believe negative perceptions of later life must change. The research found that 53% of adults have a generally positive attitude towards ageing and that positive attitudes increase the older we get. 50% of those aged 85 years and above believe that having a positive attitude to ageing is the key to living longer. From their wisdom and experience, this is a message for us all.

April 15, 2014


[UPDATE - more considerations on my Tumblr here]

Writing in the Guardian, Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) explained why western nations can end up as targets and victims of violence:
"The answer is actually well-known and well-documented. As explained by the CIA, the Pentagon, former CIA agents, and British combat veterans, spending decades bombing, invading, occupying, droning, interfering in, imposing tyranny on, and creating lawless prisons in other countries generates intense anti-American and anti-western rage (for obvious reasons) and ensures that those western nations will be attacked as well. In the London case, the attacker cited precisely such anger at US/UK aggression as his motive ("this British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. . . . the only reason we killed this man is because Muslims are dying daily"). Those are just facts."

April 13, 2014

Glenn Greenwald home. Sarah Harrison exiled.


This is exactly the contrast that struck me on hearing that Greenwald had returned to the United States without incident, event or arrest.

Glenn Greenwald landed in New York and passed through customs unhindered.

Sarah Harrison cannot return to the UK. This is on the very real fear and very material likelihood of arrest and prosecution as a terrorist under the Terrorism Act 2000. Glenn Greenwald said here (16m) of the risk of arrest and prosecution:

April 12, 2014

When it's cool to be dumb, Ctd

Shane Smith (@ShaneSmith30), CEO and co-founder of VICE, said:
"One of the shocking things when I go back to Canada is they cut off the tall trees — it’s sort of like everyone’s the same. Everyone’s going to be the same, we’re all okay. Just the, sort of, cultural ‘we’re all okay.’" 
Shane Smith said something similar here:
"I grew up being a socialist and I have problems with it because I grew up in Canada [and] I’ve spent a lot of time in Scandinavia, where I believe countries legislate out creativity. They cut off the tall trees. Everyone’s a C-minus. I came to America from Canada because Canada is stultifyingly boring and incredibly hypocritical. Thanks, Canada."
Russell Kane (@russell_kanesaid on the third episode of series 3 of BBC 3's Free Speech:
"I couldn't wait to get out [of school] and restart my education and do it on my own. Where I could be proud of getting high grades instead of being bullied."

April 11, 2014

Understanding journalism and the proper role of the Fourth Estate

As Andrew Sullivan said, "Every now and again, it’s perhaps worth revisiting the entire definition of journalism." At present, journalism and the media is out of step with the original and traditional model. The traditional model is based on the premise, as Glenn Greenwald said, that:
"Basic to political science and the American founding and to human nature is that people cannot operate and exercise power without checks or they’ll inevitably abuse it."
As Daniel Ellsberg, the Edward Snowden of the 20th Centruy, said:
"Secrecy corrupts, just as power corrupts." 
Therefore it falls upon journalism and the free press, Edmund Burke's "Fourth Estate", to shine a light upon the powerful and those who want to act in secrecy. Journalists are to be the adversaries and opponents of the powerful. Their job is to be in confrontation against, and not in collaboration with the government. Glenn Greenwald said July 2 2013 on Fox and Friends:
"Thomas Jefferson, 250 years ago, said those who most fear investigations are the ones who attack free press first. This is what journalism is about, shining a light on what the most powerful people in the country are doing to them in the dark. "

April 10, 2014

The relationship between money and words will be corrected, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan said during a March 2014 address to Harvard University on the fall of journalism to advertising and PR:
"Suddenly this great [internet] freedom became a great liability. [The internet] was destroying their profits. Eradicating lots of things they were able to do."
Sinead Gleeson (@sineadgleeson) wrote an article in the Guardian on how writers are poorer and struggling to survive, eat, pay rent in the internet age. Joanna Kavenna was quoted as saying, ‘Being a writer stopped being the way it had been for ages. It wasn’t what I expected.’

Yet Shane Smith (@shanesmith30), VICE envisions a change and a correction in the relationship between words and money:
"Everything online is free, we have been a free magazine, everything we do online is free. I think we are going to move towards more of a subscription model. I think that young people are realizing that I’d rather be a part of it. You know Kickstarter has been really successful. On a business sense, on a philosophical sense, where people realize if I believe in something I’m going to actually be part of that. Which I think is incredibly positive. And I think that that’s going to be the next wave of how people are going to get things done online."

April 09, 2014

Yelling Lundy! is the hallmark of authoritarianism

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Lundy, Governor of Londonderry during the Great Siege of 1688-89
The hallmark of authoritarianism is yelling LUNDY! at anyone questioning loyalism. The extremists are a minority. Buy the ultra-reactionary radical insurgency opposed to rationality, to political compromise, to participation in a parliamentary system, is a loud and vocal one. And unfortunately a lot of this sort of intimidation is meated out with the consent and collusion of political unionism. They repress the moderate and rally the fringe with hysterics, bombast and propaganda.

Loyalism can't and won't take criticism. Loyalism can't and won't learn from shortcomings and wrongdoings. Brian Feeney said in the Irish News, ''Liberal unionists' like Lo labelled Lundies':
"The unionist view of the world... it simply this: to deny the validity and sanctity of the Act of Union is automatically told hold a false, untenable position.
He continued:
"The fiercest unionist reaction is and always has been reserved for anyone perceived to be any class of unionist who utters a word in suspecy of any aspect of nationalism."

[Nurseries] feed the skills gap, Ctd

It seems the trend is embedded and endemic. A pernicious culture of short-sightedness. Ofsted's chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw said:
"More than two-thirds of our poorest children - and in some of our poorest communities that goes up to eight children out of 10 - go to school unprepared. That means they can't hold a pen, they have poor language and communication skills, they don't recognise simple numbers, they can't use the toilet independently and so on."
Sir Michael added:
"The corollary of not preparing children well for school is that they don't do well in reception and, if they don't do well in reception, they don't get on at key stage one, they find it difficult to read at seven, they fail at the end of primary school and that failure continues into secondary school."

April 08, 2014

United Kingdom - The national security and anti-terrorism state

David Allen Green (@JackofKent) wrote an article on his blog, 'The national security and anti-terrorism party.' In that he said that government oversight and overreach is inexorable and inevitable. No matter who is in government. In 2012 the coalition government announced it planned more email and social media surveillance. The plan echoed a similar announcement made in 2009 by the Labour Party. Later scrapped. David Allen Green cited the Home Office which said in that article:
"It is vital that police and security services are able to obtain communications data in certain circumstances to investigate serious crime and terrorism and to protect the public."
And David Allen Green said in response:
"But they may as well be saying: 
"It is vital that police and security blah obtain data blah serious crime blah and TERRORISM KLAXON blah and to protect the public."

The soft bigotry of the "university experience"

Carola Binney said:
"I have a confession to make: I go to my hometown university. 
The decision to stay in Oxford is one I often feel I have to justify. When people learn that my parents live a 30 minute walk from my college, I get an ‘Oh, cool’. It’s in that tone that I imagine might also be prompted by someone telling you, while wearing flares and flashing trainers, that they maintain a shrine to Peter Andre. 

April 06, 2014

In photos - Dick Kingston

This old-dude is famous for cycling around Belfast. Here are my photos of the dude, taken early summer 2013. Unfortunately Dick had a serious hid issue in November 2013 and hasn't cycled since. Cherish these image. A local icon for resilience and determination in old age.

April 05, 2014

The Belfast-NY Digital Project - Brownstones and blogging

Sharon Otterman (@sharonNYT), writing in the New York Times here, talks blogging and brownstones. Brownstones being a Brooklyn monument and icon. Otterman profiles the brownstone blogger, Suzanne Spellen a lay historian who writes daily on Brownstoner (@BrownStoner) about brownstones under the name @MontroseMorris (a well known 19th-century Brooklyn architect). Spellen is a lady who once lived between brown walls but was priced out of the borough.

April 04, 2014

Frank Church - Abuse of state power

The Snowden-NSA-leaks revealed a world of vast, systemic, institutionalized, industrial-scale Leviathan mass surveillance. A system of surveillance that has gone far beyond the original mandate to deal with terrorism. Following the Nixon-surveillance scandal, Senator Frank Church led an enqiry into the misuse of state power. This resulted in the Church Committee.

In 1975 Frank Church said:
"[The National Security Agency’s] capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide."
Thomas Paine said in 'Dissertation on First Principles of Government' (July 1795):
"He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself."

April 03, 2014

What a time to be alive - The great opportunity of new media journalism, Ctd

Shane Smith (@ShaneSmith30) co-founder and CEO of Vice (@VICE)

Shane Smith (@ShaneSmith30) said at Internet Week NY 2013 here:
"It’s the best time ever in history to be a content creator."
He also said here:
"It’s shifting towards the content-creator - it’s literally the best time in history... creating content is the best business model out there at the moment."
Interestingly, he sees India as the measure of the future, by grace of its booming youth population:
"As goes India, so shall go the world."
Jonathan Ives, Apple designer, said:
"We are at the beginning of a remarkable time, when a remarkable number of products will be developed. When you think about technology and what it has enabled us to do so far, and what it will enable us to do in future, we’re not even close to any kind of limit. It’s still so, so new."
Shane explained the VICE media model during his Internet Week talk:
"We didn’t start out to be a news company... we started out as an entertainment company. We were sort of pushed into news. A, we enjoy it. B, our audience pushed us into it."

April 02, 2014

When it's cool to be dumb, Ctd Gary Mitchell

Gary Mitchell, the Rathcoole-born playwright, said in an interview with Culture Northern Ireland:
"We have this thing where we think middle class people and upper class people are better than us. They [the middle class] can write things, we [the working class] can’t. We can work in factories. And if someone proves that it is possible to go to Rathcoole Secondary – the school you got expelled into - and become a famous writer then they have to pull him down. Because they said, “you’re from Rathcoole, you can’t” and stopped their kids from becoming a writer or wanting to be famous."
Gary Mitchell then spoke of the pervasive inferiority complex of the Protestant working class. A culture that says you have to keep up appearances without thinking too much of yourself. Under this culture he was just a wee lad from Rathcoole. He wasn't allowed to be a writer.
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