May 31, 2013

Why does every want to go to Law School? Ctd 'Nearly 2/3s of U.S. Parents Want Their Kids to be a Lawyer' (And What About the UK?)

According to research by, two-thirds of parents in America want their kids to become lawyers. This comes in the face of a legal economy that is flat and a labour market for law school graduates that is uncertain to say the least. Read the article by here.

I pointed the research out to Legal Cheek and got a fitting hat tip in return:

Also got some response and feedback to the news:

Why does everyone want to go to Law School? Ctd

OK, so in the Huffington Post I explored how pretty much everyone goes to law school or is encouraged to go to law school. Pretty messed up. I explored this under the title of 'Law School: the Default Career Choice'.

The post stirred up some action and got a few response from some big names.

Including Above the Law:

Lee Pacchia of Bloomberg Law:

André Carrilho on The Challenge of Caricature

André Carrilho explains the monumental challenge that caricaturists have to confront every time they pick up a pencil. Here he is:
"Caricature is peculiar in a sense that it has to look like the person you are portraying, there’s no debating. Its’ a specific visual game, and everybody, and I mean everybody, has to get it. In other kinds of visual work one has some leverage, one can argue a specific point of view, a specific taste and aesthetic reasoning. In caricature, it’s not a matter of opinion or taste. A good caricature HAS to be recognizable, independently of the style of the artist."
Also, on the question of being shaped and influenced by other artists, Andre puts up and interesting stance:
"Someone has said that one should be influenced by all the art disciplines except your own. I agree."
Full interview here.

May 30, 2013

Obama - A Natural British Conservative Ctd

Initial observations came from Andrew Sullivan here.

The meat comes from Ezra Klein writing in the Washington Post here:
"If you imagine a policy spectrum that that goes from 1-10 in which 1 is the most liberal policy, 10 is the most conservative policy, and 5 is that middle zone that used to hold both moderate Democrats and Republicans, the basic shape of American politics today is that the Obama administration can and will get Democrats to agree to anything ranging from 1 to 7.5 and Republicans will reject anything that’s not an 8, 9, or 10. The result, as I’ve written before, is that President Obama’s record makes him look like a moderate Republicans from the late-90s."
Andrew Sullivan then said:
"He is indeed a moderate Republican, which is why I’ve always liked his approach to governing and to policy.

The actual Ronald Reagan would not stand a chance in today’s GOP." 

My first post on this topic can be read here.

May 29, 2013

Why we are the way we are in Northern Ireland

I think the video above captures better than any words could, why Northern Ireland remains so unstable.

Vice correspondent asks some kids on the outskirts of Belfast:
“For all the Americans out there, what’s the celebration? Why are you doing it?”
The children respond:
Children (whole): ……………………… silence*
Child 1: “I dono [sic].” children laugh*
Child 2: “Battle of the Boyne and all that action there…”
Child 3: “Bit of fun”.
I explored the video and the surrounding issues further on You can read that essay here.

'Stop Stealing Our Dreams' by Seth Godin

May 27, 2013

Education's Information Asymmetry Ctd.

"In London there are 80,000 jobs in the technology industry; and yet last year, only 375 teenagers took an A level in computing."
- Debbie Forster, COO CDI Apps for Good
This is an absolute sham and highlights the absolute disconnect between education and the world of work. The process needs to be a symbiotic pipeline that makes the learning process as relevant to the real world and therefore the transition from education to the world of work as seamless as possible.

However the shockingly low number of teenagers studying computing at A level is symptomatic of Education's Information Asymmetry. I encourage you to read this link and leave any feedback, comments or thoughts you have.

May 26, 2013

Rod liddle on Ireland disconnect

rod liddle

"thats the bbc: no blacks, no dogs, no irish..."

May 24, 2013

May 23, 2013

The Dickensian World of Modern Law Practice

Lawyers aren’t exactly the most tech-minded of people. Tech-averse if you ask me. But in the booming world of social media and e-commerce, can lawyers really continue to ignore the insatiable and irresistible advance of technology?

Talent or Hard Work? Thoughts with Dan Pink

I've always assumed that it's only the super-freaky talented who really make it in life.

Howver my thinking has changed in recent times to the point where I've been asking: is it natural talent or hard work that brings success?

May 22, 2013

FTSE and global stock markets are soaring

In the Times: 'Footsie parties like it’s 1999 as shares approach all-time peak'

In the Guardian: 'FTSE 100 within sight of all-time high'

In the Telegraph: 'FTSE 100 in striking distance of 1999 peak'

With contributions from Andrew Sullivan on the Dish:

'We're All Publishers Now' - Matt Mullenweg on Blogging

Thanks to the endless reaches of the internet 'we're all publishers now'.

What do I mean by this? Well, think about it. If you wanted to publish you're own written words and reach an audience you would have to produce pamphlets and thus employ the labour of a printer and his printing press. A costly business!

May 21, 2013

Fianna Fáil Launch in Belfast

Missed this one. Fianna Fáil met April 2 2013 in Belfast to launch a new unit in Northern Ireland's capital city. Read their press release here.

Here's what they said on the situation in Northern Ireland or 'the north' as they call it. Peter Armstrong, the acting Chairperson of Belfast Fianna Fáil said:

Has Blogging Failed in Ireland?

Someone thinks so.

May 20, 2013

"It's the Flags Stupid, Not the Economy" (Ian Knox)

This Ian Knox cartoon with the caption,"It's the Flags Stupid," (a take on the famous quote here from Clinton) captures most perfectly how very incredibly Northern Ireland politics and many within Northern Ireland society are entirely detached from mainstream 21st Century living.

As for the original quote - "It's the economy stupid" - what did it actually mean? Donald Riley explains here and excerpted below (emphases mine):
'It’s the economy because without a strong one, there is nothing else. There is no national defense. There are no entitlement programs. There is no discretional spending.'
See a selection of Ian Knox prints for sale here.

See an archive of Ian Knox's work from the 'If You Ask Me' segment on the BBC's Hearts and Minds show here.

See Nelson McCausland's recent attack on Ian Knox here.

May 19, 2013

Shared Future Document is Play Acting for London and Obama

I don't mean to be an outright pessimist but the partially complete/hash job Shared Future Document released May 9 is nothing more than a move to garner more money off London and a gesture to show Obama, Merkel and other G8 leaders that stuff can be done in Northern Ireland.

Not that anything material actually got done. Still something to wave at them though.

We Need 'Big Brothers, Big Sisters' in Northern Ireland

If you're concerned about the young people of Northern Ireland then please take a moment to watch the video clip above and the other videos below. You can read all about the 'Big Brothers, Big Sister' campaign here.

Although the statistics and the message is directed towards an American audience, the model could just as easily be applied in Northern Ireland.

Michael Oakeshott and the Practical Cook

Michael Oakeshott, English politcal philosopher

Below is an extract from a New York Times commentary by David Brooks who discusses English philosopher Michael Oakeshott.

What I'm interested in is his analysis of Oakeshott's view on practical learning which was at the core of his 1947 essay, 'Rationalism and Politics'.

Seán Lemass on Unionists (1932)

Here's Seán Lemass, Taoiseach (1959 - 1966) and successor to fellow Fianna Fáil founder Éamon de Valera, on unionists in Ireland:
"Some say deporting people of Unionist belief is a form of genocide; in my opinion they have a country, that country is England and I would be most happy for them to reside there, not interfering with Irish affairs North or South of the unjust border of Ireland, we must not put up with their continuous invasion and occupation of our land. I did not fight and see my brothers die for them to soil this State. I do not advocate an armed invasion of our stolen land but unless by 2016 we have our six counties I would feel it to be a must."

My Favourite Tweet of All Time

I'm quite the critic of what I've come to call 'Law School Think', Law as the Default Career Choice as well as the broader school of thought that is committed to rigid 'anti-employability' third level education (the traditional model) in the face of a fluid and changing world (the new model).

May 18, 2013

World History in One Chart

World history in one chart: (via @jimpethokoukis)…
Above is a tweet from American blogger Matt Ygelias (@mattyglesias) which struck me greatly: it has managed to capture in one image what man has managed to achieve in only a few hundred years.

Ben Bernanke has sketched things out further in a recent address. He said:
Many factors affect the development of the economy, notably among them a nation's economic and political institutions, but over long periods probably the most important factor is the pace of scientific and technological progress. Between the days of the Roman Empire and when the Industrial Revolution took hold in Europe, the standard of living of the average person throughout most of the world changed little from generation to generation. For centuries, many, if not most, people produced much of what they and their families consumed and never traveled far from where they were born. By the mid-1700s, however, growing scientific and technical knowledge was beginning to find commercial uses. Since then, according to standard accounts, the world has experienced at least three major waves of technological innovation and its application.
The first wave drove the growth of the early industrial era, which lasted from the mid-1700s to the mid-1800s. This period saw the invention of steam engines, cotton-spinning machines, and railroads. These innovations, by introducing mechanization, specialization, and mass production, fundamentally changed how and where goods were produced and, in the process, greatly increased the productivity of workers and reduced the cost of basic consumer goods.
The second extended wave of invention coincided with the modern industrial era, which lasted from the mid-1800s well into the years after World War II. This era featured multiple innovations that radically changed everyday life, such as indoor plumbing, the harnessing of electricity for use in homes and factories, the internal combustion engine, antibiotics, powered flight, telephones, radio, television, and many more.
The third era, whose roots go back at least to the 1940s but which began to enter the popular consciousness in the 1970s and 1980s, is defined by the information technology (IT) revolution, as well as fields like biotechnology that improvements in computing helped make possible. Of course, the IT revolution is still going on and shaping our world today.

Ben Bernanke on Change

ben bernanke graduation commencement

We humans are always all too happy to uphold the status quo. Sure why not? Keeping things as they are can often be in the interest of a great many. For others it just requires too much effort.

For young people in Northern Ireland, where youth unemployment stands at 23.8%, they should be particularly mindful of the need to not settle for conventional thinking; to not accept the status quo.

May 17, 2013

Northern Ireland is growing ever more Catholic, ever more Diverse

Comparison of 2001 and 2011 census, religion or religion brought up on in Northern Ireland. Image: Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency
Graphic from Irish Times available here.
It's becoming ever more clear that the old order in Northern Ireland is dying out. No longer are protestants in the numerical ascendency; rather that section of the community now falls under the growing shadow of the youthful Catholic class.

May 16, 2013

What Governments Actually Matter to the White House? Under Bush it was Israel, Ireland and Saudi Arabia

At 9m30s into the video above Geoffrey Wheatcroft says something very interesting on US-UK relations - the so called special relationship. He said:
"When Sir Christoper Meyer was British ambassador in Washington he forbad any members of the embassy staff from using the expression, 'special relationship'. He also said something else. Based on his experiences of being British embassador in Washington he came to realise that the White House took seriously the views of the governments of exactly three countries: Israel, Ireland and Saudi Arabia."
Though it should be said that the above video pre-dates the formation of the coalition government in 2010. I would regard it that things will have changed under the Obama administration; however it does tell us something about the US-UK relationship and the pscyhe of American government more generally.

May 15, 2013

The Bloody Brae: A Dramatic Poem

John Hewitt was a master of the modern verse. A father figure of the current generation of the Ulster poets which includes leading names such as Seamus Heaney, Frank Ormsby and Michael Longley, John Hewitt did much to promote art and literature in Northern Ireland throughout his life.

And even though he passed away over 25 years ago his mind and method lives on. Thanks in part of course to the well known Belfast city centre bar that bears his very name, the John Hewitt Society and the annual John Hewitt International Summer School.

May 14, 2013

On the Pain of Writing Ctd

Writing in English is hard. I've talked about this a few times before, most recently here where I explored the famous James Joyce quote on the challenge of writing in English:
"Writing in English is the most ingenius torture ever devised for sins committed in previous lives."
The Joyce epigram came as massive comfort to me. I was someone who for a very long time had thought I was unique in finding it difficult to get words on paper.

Prelaunch Meeting of NI21 (May 14 2013)

On May 14 2013 a private gathering was arranged at the Malone Lodge hotel where people were invited to listen to and then engage in dialogue with John McCallister and Basil McCrea about their new party, at that stage un-named but now known as NI21.

John McCallister took to the lectern and kicked off the proceedings. He began [the below will not be letter perfect as I transcribed the dialogue onto my phone as the evening progressed. I should also say that any emphases are my own]:
"Relationships in Assembly are significantly worse today than in 1998. Where have the 1998 voting levels gone to 15 years on? Where are we? We now have the 'United Community' shared future document, but sadly we're further away from that goal than ever. 
Basil and I resigned because this is not the right way to do business: the endless quest and belief that unionist unity is the way forward - even though every election shows that unionist unity doesn't work. The "them'ens will get it" type of politics - that's what drives politics in Northern Ireland. 
That's the politics of fear. We need to replace it with politics of hope."

May 13, 2013

Andrew Sullivan on the Modern Form: "Why I blog"

To my mind Andrew Sullivan is one of the greatest minds alive today. His intellectual curiosity and pursuit of enlightenment is both refreshing and awe inspiring. Producing nearly 300 blogs a week Andrew has been blogging since 2000. Following this gruesome blogging schedule Andrew has carved out a name for himself as one of the world’s leading bloggers, regularly featuring on some of the most authoritative top blogs lists – including that of Time Magazine.

May 10, 2013

Why Northern Ireland Politics Needs a Boris Johnson

Margaret Thatcher may have divided opinion but the modern Tory maverick, Boris Johnson unites us all. He is revered and few can deny the political capital that Boris brings to electoral politics.

His personality and buffoonery, underpinned by real substance is political dynamite. What the Boris story tells us is that personality is King.

 As Hugo Rifkind writing in the Times said
‘It’s a rare politician today who seeks to sell himself or herself on the basis of policy alone. We get character, charm, declarations of ethics.’
However, Northern Ireland could be the exception.
We have a deficit double whammy: politics and politicians devoid of both character and policy. For today I’ll keep it simple and just look at the first deficiency.
We don’t have a Boris and Eamonn was right to lament on this. But we can go further: we don’t even have a Denis Skinner, Jacob Rees-Mogg or a Nigel Farage. We could lay claim to Lembit Opik at a stretch.

Frankly, Northern Ireland politicians are a thoroughly ‘dull’ lot. And these aren’t my words, but those of BBC journalist Mark Simpson.
Cast your mind to a given episode of Stormont Today and you’ll see a Plenary session choreographed and scripted to death by speechwriters and SpAds. You’ve seen it before: the elected representative takes to the floor with a pre-fabricated treatise and bestows it upon the world with a slow and painful barrage of logorrhoea.
‘Lies, damned lies and statistics’ that don’t mean anything to the common man. Where they could use one word they chose two and where they could speak in Anglo-Saxon plain English they choose a word of Latin origin.
Then when questioned its all evasive language, cliché, euphemism, insincerity and overused idioms.
The politics all feels very ready-made, flat and lifeless.
This reality is perhaps best typified by the Wikiweaks revelation when the former SDLP leader, Margaret Ritchie was described by a US official as “wooden” and “burdened with an unpleasant speaking voice”.
It hasn’t always been this way. It’s often recounted that Edward Carson made a massive impression on Churchill following his inaugural speech at the commons and was revered as a barrister.
More recently, Ian Paisley was undoubtedly a compelling speaker of the highest ability. Similar stuff could be said of Gerry Adams who could speak with real cogency.
Though these two political characters really gave meaning to Orwell’s famous quote on political language: 
‘Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.’
Anyway here’s the challenge: a vibrant political class is an absolute necessity for ensuring a healthy legislative system and for tackling voter apathy.
As Eamonn Mallie has said previously:
"Never has this election meant so little to so many - apathy is the enemy of all the political parties here."
What political personalities like Boris and Nigel Farage do is awaken the electorate. As the BBC's political correspondent Nick Robinson said on May 3 2013 on BBC News at 6:
"Like Alex Salmon and Boris Johnson; Nigel Farage can reach parts of the electorate that other politicians just can't"
This was echoed by James Foresythe of the Spectator who said in a podcast that the Tory party needs their own Nigel Farage cult of personality. Asked why, he responded:
"Because Nigel Farage reaches parts of the electorate that other politicians can't. And if you look at the Tories they've got one person who can do that and that's Boris Johnson. And I think in 2015 David Cameron has got to find a way to use Boris Johnson. Because there's going to be a massive story: what is Boris doing? Is Boris going to come back as an MP? Does Boris want to be a leader?
I think that Cameron should indicate pretty soon that Boris is going to be campaign chairman, because that is somebody who can talk to the kind of people that Nigel Farage is currently reaching. Brings together the Tory family."
Charlie Brooker in the Guardian went further and explained why the Boris' and Farages of this world can do what other politicians can only dream of:

'Farage, like Johnson, appears to be genuinely enjoying himself most of the time, like a delighted Aquaphibian guffawing in a bumper car. And this enjoyment instantly endears him to a huge section of the population on a level that transcends – or at least sidesteps – politics. Many people who hate Nigel Farage the reactionary throwback find themselves liking Nigel Farage the chortling oaf. Being a chortling oaf not only makes you critically bulletproof – oafish chortling being a perpetual escape pod – it functions as a kind of cloaking device, somehow obscuring the notion that you're a politician at all. Farage and Johnson are widely viewed as down-to-earth outsiders, despite their backgrounds and policies marking them out as anything but. 
In other words, the best way to succeed as a politician is to pretend that you aren't one. Which is both an interesting philosophical bind, and a hell of a mess for the future.'

So we need to front up to this paucity of personality. To do so, let’s go lateral and ask: why are our politicians so dull?
Firstly, the Times columnist Tim Montgomerie speaking on Radio 4 really came onto something.
To paraphrase Tim: modern politicians haven’t commanded men in uniform like past generations or presided over successful businesses.
Unquestionably there’s an advantage in having a crop of politicians who’ve done their time in the real world; men and women who are at the top of their game who can then apply their experience learnt at the coal face in speeches and the days affairs.
Secondly, in Northern Ireland we have a fascination with being skilled in reading, writing and arithmetic.
What about public speaking?
Look at the Americans. They’re always bright, vibrant and wonderful communicators: a reflection perhaps of the American spirit and their conditioning towards unbridled optimism. The fact that public speaking is at the core of American education system could teach our policymakers a lesson.
The truth is that we in Northern Ireland are pretty weak on communication skills. It certainly doesn’t help that we’re conditioned towards a bizarre blend of cynicism and modesty where nobody wants to put their head above the common whole. Just think about what it’s like for a young person to show intelligence in the classroom – it can be positively dangerous.
Our society is more about taking and knowing your place.
The famous American Dale Carnegie, author of How to Stop Worrying and Start Living wrote a seminal piece on learning the rudiments of public speaking.
‘As I looked back and evaluated my own college training, I saw that the training and experience I had had in public speaking had been of more practical value to me in business — and in life — than everything else I had studied in college all put together. Why? Because it had wiped out my timidity and lack of self-confidence and given me the courage and assurance to deal with people. It had also made clear that leadership usually gravitates to the man who can get up and say what he thinks.’
The irony here is that Dale Carnegie is the man who wrote that ‘any fool can criticise, condemn and complain’. However I really feel that there’s something in my critique. The Northern Ireland electorate need not reconcile itself to a permanence of bland and utterly uninspiring politicians.

We can’t teach ‘Borisness’ or coach our politicians to be like Obama, but we can educate our young people in public speaking and recruit men and women who’re genuinely skilled orators. Just look at Jim Allister’s speaking skills: he spent years at the bar as a practicing barrister.
If all else fails Stormont could just buy the class of 2015 the classic book on good political oration by Aristotle, On Rhetoric. Then the current stock of politicians would learn the fundamentals of good public speaking: ethos, pathos and logos. Whatever that means…
(You can follow Brian John Spencer on Twitter by clicking here)


Boris gives us an insight into his secret from 2004 interview with Independent:

‘I think it’s important to remember that most people find politics unbelievably dull, so I don’t see any particular vice in trying to sugar the pill with a few jokes.

May 08, 2013

Why We Hate in Northern Ireland

It was Mary McAlease who said, “There is a sediment of sectarianism in all of us if we come from Northern Ireland”; and as Eamonn put it last summer: I challenge you to deny it.

To put it flatly: it’s just part of the human constitution in Northern Ireland – whether it’s sectarianism of the benign, not-so-benign or utterly vicious kind. The moderate BT9 type hates the rival rugby team, while the local loyalist hates “them there taig” and the republican hates “the huns.”

May 07, 2013

The Maker Movement and Digital Factories

On Monday 10 December 2012 the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 discussed the rise of digital factories, digital manufacturing, the associated “Maker Movement” and the emergence of the “New Industrial Revolution”. You can listen to what they had to say here.
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