June 30, 2013

"[Writing] is theft" Ctd Thomas Jefferson, John Locke and the Declaration of Independence

From 6 minutes into his talk on one of the founding father of the United States Christopher Hitchens explains how much of the Declaration of Independence was inspired and even "plagiarized" in parts from the work of John Locke.

SCOTUS ruling against DOMA moves the world a step closer to marriage equality

Andrew Sullivan has said that marriage equality is the civil rights issue of our age. As have many others, including Mayor Bloomberg. I agree. 

The recent decision by the Supreme Court of the United States did not actually find a fundamental right in the constitution to same-sex marriage. Therefore the highest court in America did not impose gay marriage by fiat on every state. Rather, the court led by Chief Justice John Roberts made it that federal law upholds and recognizes all gay marriages. 

There are 30 states that still ban marriage equality an they can continue to do so; but the federal government cannot stop marriage equality. As Andrew Sullivan said, the democratic debate will go on at state level, even as the momentum for equality has been increased. Andrew said:
"I find these incremental nudges and concessions to be the best kind of jurisprudence."
Andrew Sullivan then commented on the global import of America's new constitutional arrangement:
"Last week the court saw the mountaintop ahead and nudged America - and the world - towards it."

"[Writing] is theft", Ctd Orwell on Dickens

"Dickens is one of those authors who are well worth stealing." 
George Orwell

The above illustration is mine, you can see more of my art at www.brianjohnspencer.com.

June 28, 2013

Writing is hard Ctd Neil Gaiman on writing on paper

On a June 23 episode of Open Book on Radio 4 Mariella Frostrup talked with Anglo-American writer Neil Gaiman. One of the first writers to blog and one of the most prolific on Twitter, Neil is well known for his children books and his famous commencement speech, 'Make Good Art.' So good it is that it's been turned into a book.

Anyway, Mariella asked Neil: "You seem like a very linked-up, Twitter friendly 21st Century writer, so I was amazed to read that you still work your first draft by hand. Is this right and why? Neil Gaiman responded:
"I absolutely write first drafts by hand. And in fact, in this linked up age when your computer is not just something you work on but something that your plug into the world through and the world can get to you through.  
It's almost for me an act of defence.  
When I'm sitting there and writing by hand with a fountain pen in a notebook nobody can put message on my screen. Nobody can tell me important things. I I get the urge to go and check how a particularly unfamiliar word is actually spelled, I'm not going to look up an hour an a half later when I've just bought something I didn't even want on eBay wondering how I got there through a particularly incantation of web pages.   
All of which I'm completely capable of doing on my computer. So for me I like the pace or writing in a notebook. And also I noticed in the early 90s that I felt that my writing was starting to bloat a bit. And I realised if I was writing anything directly into a computer I never seemed to delete things. I would just add things. 
The pieces grew and grew. Whereas if I write in a notebook and am transcribing it as a second draft I can find  2 or 3 pages that aren't very good. Then I just leave them out. I feel like I've saved myself a bundle of work. It's a fantastic feeling. And I'm the kind of writer who like to feel that he's making every word count."

Fintan O'Toole on Ireland's dark history

The esteemed Irish journalist and author, Fintan O'Toole wrote in Up the Republic!: Towards a New Republic:
"For most of its history, the state failed miserably in the basic task of ensuring that citizens were free from subjection to the arbitrary will of others. It allowed the institutional Catholic Church (as opposed to Catholics themselves) to exercise unaccountable and secretive powers in key areas of public and private lives of citizens, from access to contraception to basic public services such as healthcare and education. The state also actively colluded in grotesque systems of arbitrary  power; such as industrial schools, Magdalene Homes and mental hospitals - incarcerating without trial a higher proportion of its citizens than the Soviet Union did.  
More recently, the state itself has been dominated by private interests. Corruption allowed wealthy citizens to purchase public policy, to the detriment of the majority of their fellow citizens. The skewing of the planning process for the capital city over two decades is just one example. And even when corruption was not at play, specific interest groups - banks being an obvious example - acquired a position of complete (and in the event, disastrous) dominance over key areas of public policy."

Why does everyone want to go to Law School? Ctd craven self-interest and student loans

Andy Mergendahl, writing in the lawyerist.com said something that brings a lot to the debate on why the hell everyone wants to go to law school, and importantly, why law schools enlists students knowing employment prospects are as bleak as a ducks arse.

Andy said that so long as the federal student loan system persists and the money flows, the law school over subscription problem will exist. 

See, it's all craven-self interest. Here's Andy:
"It’s tempting to conclude, given the legal job market and the intense criticism the schools have endured, that they must be changing a lot, and quickly. 
I disagree. As long as federal student loan money continues to flow like a river, nothing significant will change. Money drives everything in the law: legislation, the executive branch, judicial elections, law firms big and small. Only money (or the lack of it) will change the law schools."

June 27, 2013

LETR, strong support for more practice-focused undergraduate legal study

On undergraduate law degrees, the following was said in the Legal Education and Training Review [emphases are my own]:
"The qualifying law degree:
2.10 A qualifying law degree (QLD) is one that is recognised by the BSB and SRA as satisfying the academic or initial stage of qualification as a barrister or solicitor.

2.11 Demand for QLDs has continued to grow across the higher education sector since the 1960s, tracking the general expansion of UK higher education. Today, accounting for all single and joint honour variants available, there are over 600 QLD courses available across the UK and the Republic of Ireland. These include joint honours degrees; sandwich degrees; part-time degrees; degrees which incorporate parts of the qualification regime of other jurisdictions, such as the Anglo-French double maîtrise and degrees which incorporate the Legal Practice Course (LPC), the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) or CILEx and paralegal qualifications.

2.12 To be a QLD, the programme must satisfy the requirements of the Joint Announcement
on Qualifying Law Degrees (JASB, 2012; SRA, 2011a).4 QLDs primarily require 240 of the total of 360 credits (assuming a typical three-year degree, or part-time equivalent) to be
in law subjects. This includes the seven Foundations of Legal Knowledge (the Foundation subjects), which together must amount to no fewer than 180 credits; legal research, and
a requirement for some legal study in the final year (at level 6).5 Although titles will vary by institution, the Foundation subjects are public law (constitutional, administrative and human rights); EU law; criminal law; obligations (contract, restitution and tort); property law; equity and trusts.

2.13 There is little prescription of how subjects are organised, or the stage of the degree at which they should be delivered, so the same subjects may be taught at any of levels 4, 5 or 6 by different institutions. In practice, however, the majority of the Foundation subject credits tend to be concentrated in the first two years of the programme."
The above text doesn't tell us much but the image, if you can make anything of it, does. It gives the results of polling among law professors etc. where they were asked questions, like whether or not QLDs were too theory heavy and practice light.

Full LETR document can be accessed here.

Muriel Rukeyser: "Breathe in experience, breathe out [creativity]"

The American poet and political activist Muriel Rukeyser wrote:
"Breathe in experience, breathe out poetry."
I say something similar. Here's my adaption:
"Breathe in good books, sights, conversations, movies, art; and by doing so you can begin to breathe out good writing, good art and good work in whichever creative medium you work through."

Gay couples in Northern Ireland can adopt

I heard it here first:
Alex Kane commented:

Why does everyone want to go to Law School? Ctd It's all your fault

That's what the President of the American Bar Association, William Robinson thinks:
"It’s inconceivable to me that someone with a college education, or a graduate-level education, would not know before deciding to go to law school that the economy has declined over the last several years and that the job market out there is not as opportune as it might have been five, six, seven, eight years ago."
See more on his take on the situation here. Lexis Nexis shares the sentiment to a lesser extent:

June 26, 2013

Rod Liddle on Anjem Choudary

My favourite online writer Rod Liddle is at his absolute biting best with his blog post, 'Jane Austen! Why can’t we have Anjem Choudary on the new ten pound note?'
"Would he have got away with this for so long if he was, say, a Methodist imbecile, rather than a Muslim imbecile?"
Read him in full here.

Exhibition: "Belfast Faces and Famous Places"

The exhibition at the independent coffee shop, Common Grounds opened on June 7 2013 and will run until mid-July.

You can read a preview of the exhibition by freelance journalist Amanda Poole here. You can also listen to the opening speech by Eamonn Mallie here and below:

listen to ‘Listen to @EamonnMallie launching @BrianJohnSpencr's #BelfastFaces exhibition - see it in @commongroundsni’ on Audioboo

Below is a selection of some of the pieces featured in the exhibition. You can see a full gallery here.


How to write, Ctd with Neil Gaiman


Andrew Sullivan on Syrian non-intervention

Illustration by George Butler

To my mind, Andrew Sullivan has put together the most reasoned and forceful argument against intervention expressed to date:
"These are not our religious wars. We had ours in the 16th and 17th centuries. No one intervened to police ours  – and because of that, we arrived at our own liberal evolution."
He continued:
"Non-intervention can be a blessing in resolving core internal conflicts that need to be resolved internally before a new order can arise. That may take decades or centuries. And if we are yanked by every outbreak into intervention, we shall indeed soon be like Gulliver."
In full here.

June 25, 2013

Why does everyone want to go to Law School? Ctd Legal Education andTraining Review

After 30 months, it's out. Legal Cheek has produced a good summation of the 335 page document.

Coffeehouses are crucibles of creativity

Tom Standage of the Economist wrote in the New York Times Sunday Review:

"Rather than enemies of industry, coffeehouses were in fact crucibles of creativity, because of the way in which they facilitated the mixing of both people and ideas. Members of the Royal Society, England’s pioneering scientific society, frequently retired to coffeehouses to extend their discussions. Scientists often conducted experiments and gave lectures in coffeehouses, and because admission cost just a penny (the price of a single cup), coffeehouses were sometimes referred to as “penny universities.” It was a coffeehouse argument among several fellow scientists that spurred Isaac Newton to write his “Principia Mathematica,” one of the foundational works of modern science.

Coffeehouses were platforms for innovation in the world of business, too. Merchants used coffeehouses as meeting rooms, which gave rise to new companies and new business models. A London coffeehouse called Jonathan’s, where merchants kept particular tables at which they would transact their business, turned into the London Stock Exchange. Edward Lloyd’s coffeehouse, a popular meeting place for ship captains, shipowners and traders, became the famous insurance market Lloyd’s.

And the economist Adam Smith wrote much of his masterpiece “The Wealth of Nations” in the British Coffee House, a popular meeting place for Scottish intellectuals, among whom he circulated early drafts of his book for discussion.

June 24, 2013

Patricia Park argues the case for blue-collar work

Patricia Park makes more money bagging groceries than lecturing at a university. In an article for the Guardian here and excerpted below, she explains the economics 1-0-1 of supply and demand:
"At a time when unemployment is at an all-time high and college tuition continues to climb, the old formula no longer upholds. Students emerge with their hard-earned degrees and the college loans to show for it, but for what returns? The majority do not land a six-figure banking job straight out of school. According to the Economic Policy Institute, wages for recent college graduates have not grown over the last decade, and actually dropped from 2007-11. In 2011, that average was just $16.81 per hour, a figure that barely makes a dent into student debt.  

Survey finds graduates with work experience are 3 times more likely to land a job

I found that this was stating the obvious. Here's what was reported:
The High Fliers study of more than 18,000 university leavers indicates that graduates who have had internships are three times as likely to land jobs. 
Marketing is the most popular sector for these first jobs and more students than ever plan to work in London. 
Fewer students are taking time off after studies to travel. 
This picture of the graduate jobs market is based on face-to-face interviews with students leaving 30 leading universities across the UK, carried out by High Fliers Research, which produces data on graduate recruitment.
Read BBC report in full here.

How to be creative

Maria Konnikova says here:
"[We] know that much of what we associate with creativity—whether writing a sonnet or a mathematical proof—has to do with the ability to link ideas, entities, and concepts in novel ways. This ability depends in part on the very thing that caffeine seeks to prevent: a wandering, unfocused mind."
The above is an excerpt from an essay in the New Yorker, 'How Caffeine can Cramp Creativity'. The essay was also covered by Andrew Sullivan here. While on this creative path I also came across an academic paper on a theory behind the creative process which you can read here.

Why does everyone want to go to Law School? Ctd, 'Glut of graduates threatens hope of career in law' reports Sian Griffiths

From Sunday 23 2013 in the Sunday Times, a must read: 'Glut of graduates threatens hope of career in law.'

In short: young people are not being warned about the shortage of legal jobs according to the Law Society of England and Wales.

The warning from the Law Society certainly gives force to the article, 'It Is Now Completely Clear to Everyone That Law School Is for Suckers.'

Basil McCrea asks: are we producing too many law graduates?

Finally a politician has shown himself to be aware that there might be something wrong with belching out law students in the full knowledge that employability prospects are low:
This comes in the tail of the Sunday Times article which came under the title, 'Glut of graduates threatens hope of career in law' covered by Education Editor Sian Griffiths (@SianGriffiths6). As covered in tweet below:

"Art is theft" Ctd, with Alexia Tsotsis

The co-editor of Tech Crunch Alexia Tsotsis writes:

"Calling Facebook a copycat isn’t particularly creative; not only did Myspace, Friendster and Makeoutclub have the whole social network thing down first, but Questions, Places, Poke, Messenger, Stickers and so on were all ideas stolen inspired by other startups.
And there are so many more, countless. But while Zuckerberg is indeed the greatest artist, in the case of Instagram video, he didn’t steal."
Read in full here.

June 23, 2013

Neil Gaiman's "Make Good Art" speech

The now famous words of Neil Gaiman:
"When things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art. I'm serious. Husband runs off with a politician -- make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor -- make good art. IRS on your trail -- make good art. Cat exploded -- make good art. Someone on the Internet thinks what you're doing is stupid or evil or it's all been done before -- make good art."

For more on the speech see here and here.

June 22, 2013

The Economist's Emma Duncan explains why education's production line stinks

Emma Duncan in the middle.
The Times of London is back in the good books. Not too long ago Sir David Bell was exalting the sanctity of the traditional university degree: he smacked down the employability demands of students and exhalted the intellectual integrity of the degree. The Times reported on his worries in a report entitled, 'Intellectual integrity of degrees is at risk, says university chief.' I smacked that idea down on the Huffington Post here.

So after that the Times was in the bad books. I really wasn't impressed. For too many people, the traditional degree is causing information and skills asymmetries. The academic hand does not fit the professional working glove. To address this, universities need to teach real world skills and be associated with industry and the job market. One of my favourite quotes on this is this:
"The value of an education has nothing to do with knowledge and everything to do with awareness." 
- David Foster Wallace

Being a writer

Advice from Rainer Maria Rilke, Paris, February 17, 1903.

"You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now.

No one can advise or help you - no one.

There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must", then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.

Then come close to Nature. Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose. Don't write love poems; avoid those forms that are too facile and ordinary: they are the hardest to work with, and it takes a great, fully ripened power to create something individual where good, even glorious, traditions exist in abundance. So rescue yourself from these general themes and write about what your everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty Describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the Things around you, the images from your dreams, and the objects that you remember. If your everyday life seems poor, don't blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is no poverty and no poor, indifferent place. And even if you found yourself in some prison, whose walls let in none of the world's sound - wouldn't you still have your childhood, that jewel beyond all price, that treasure house of memories? Turn your attention to it. Try to raise up the sunken feelings of this enormous past; your personality will grow stronger, your solitude will expand and become a place where you can live in the twilight, where the noise of other people passes by, far in the distance. And if out of , this turning within, out of this immersion in your own world, poems come, then you will not think of asking anyone whether they are good or not. Nor will you try to interest magazines in these works: for you will see them as your dear natural possession, a piece of your life, a voice from it. A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity. That is the only way one can judge it.

So, dear Sir, I can't give you any advice but this: to go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows; at its source you will find the answer to, the question of whether you must create. Accept that answer, just as it is given to you, without trying to interpret it. Perhaps you will discover that you are called to be an artist. Then take that destiny upon yourself, and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what reward might come from outside. For the creator must be a world for himself and must find everything in himself and in Nature, to whom his whole life is devoted."


June 21, 2013

Huck Magazine and 'the Working Artisan's Club'

"Some people are built to create – to shape their future with their own two hands. The Working Artisans’ Club is a celebration of that fact."


June 20, 2013

Over 200 law students to graduate from Queen's University Belfast

Northern Ireland needs to stand on its own two feet

The Detail reported that US diplomat Richard Haass may be appointed peace envoy for all-party talks:


In response Alex Kane rightly said onTwitter that we in Northern Ireland need to sort it out the any deadlock ourselves:


Like I said on eamonnmallie.com: "Peace, it's up to us."


"[Writing] is theft", Ctd

At 1 hour 17 minutes Christopher Hitchens explains that plagiarism and using other peoples words is "inevitable".

Complimentary analysis can be read in an article entitled 'Makers and Takers: Art and the Appropriation of Ideas'.

Also of important note is the piece written by Christopher Hitchens in his book 'Unacknowledged Legislation: Writers in the Public Sphere' where he wrote a chapter entitled, 'In Defence of Plagiarism'.

And in George Orwell's essay on Charles Dickens entitled simply,'Charles Dickens' Orwell said:
"Dickens is one of those writers who are well worth stealing."

Christopher Hitchens - A writer can never truly stop

Speaking on C-Span, Christopher Hitchens explained how a writer can never truly stop or switch off. For a writer is a professional without a set clock. A writer is person with a vocation who is always absorbing so that he or she can then hold a mirror up to society. A writer is above all this: a person with the responsibility to use their gift for they occupy an important role in society.
"If you’re a self-employed writer, there’s a tendency to always feel guilty anytime you’re not working, because you never quite know when you’ve stopped because you don’t have office hours or an employer."
From 22 minutes in the video above, also here. Also here.

June 19, 2013

'Drink and Draw' with the Loft collective

The lovely picture above is one taken by a member of The Loft Collective (@loftbelfast) - a shared studio that hosts an exciting group of artists in the north side of Belfast city centre. The above event was a night eponymously called 'Drink and Draw' - held June 18 2013: Life drawing with alcohol in suit. Always good for freeing up the creative impulses and loosening the hand and wrist. Carrying on Ronald Searle's bibulous tradition supremely.

Click the link below and check out a selection of my drawings from the night:

June 18, 2013

Christopher Hitchens - Writing is hard

Christopher Hitchens explained how he finds writing most pleasurable when he sees it in print (33m20s):
"I don't really know if I [enjoy writing] or not. I hate not writing, I know that. I sort of do it because I feel I have to. Sometimes it's a real pleasure doing it. Usually the pleasure comes though when you see it in print. Not until then and usually not until some time after."
Then he explained how he writes:
"I write on table at home in long hand. I sometimes write in bars too, in the afternoon. I go out and find a corner of a bar. If the noise isn’t directed at me me I quite like it if the jukebox is on and people are shouting the odds about a sportsgame and I’m hunched over a bottle in the corner. I write in long hand anyway so I can do it anywhere. Sometimes in airport terminals. And then when I’ve got enough down I start to type it out, editing it as I go. I don’t use any of the new technology stuff."

And at 39m20s he explains how politicians aren't any smarter than the average man. Then at 40

The Northern Ireland economic recovery

Richard Ramsey, chief economist at Ulster Bank breaks it down:

"6 years after our Wile E. Coyote moment, is the economy ready to hit the ground running?

Bears and bulls often feature in economic parlance – the former indicating a market that has experienced significant decline, the latter is a market on the rise. But the Wile E. Coyote is a lesser spotted economic creature who perhaps best symbolises Northern Ireland’s experience over the last six years.

Northern Ireland experienced its Wile E. Coyote moment - when the “super genius” races off a cliff and for a fleeting moment appears to defy gravity before plunging to the hollow below - around mid-2007.

For Northern Ireland, this was the moment when the so-called ‘NICE’ decade (to coin the phrase used by Sir Mervyn King - Non-Inflationary, Continuous Expansion) came to an end with a ‘RUDE’ awakening (Rising Unemployment and Declining Economic activity).

Prior to that, our economy had enjoyed low inflation and sustained growth in employment, property prices and public expenditure, plus the positive overspill from the Celtic Tiger boom. Furthermore, the economy benefited from its new found political stability, stemming from the setting up of the Northern Ireland Executive.

In short, practically everything that could have been a positive driver for the economy was present in the NICE era. In economic terms, however, we ran over a precipice without realising that gravity would kick in, and practically everything that was positive during the NICE decade went into reverse. It quickly dawned on us that our economic indicators were set to fall from a great height.

In the six years that have followed, the fall has been taking place, and the most frequently asked question has been ‘have we hit bottom yet’? Or, ‘is the Northern Ireland economy experiencing a recovery’?

When answering this question honestly, economists increasingly sound like Vicky Pollard of ‘Little Britain’ fame, with their “Yeah, but, no but, yeah but…” responses. Indeed, anyone flicking through the newspapers in recent weeks and months could be forgiven for being confused. Mixed messages have been the order of the day, with optimists and pessimists provided with a steady stream of information to strengthen their respective cases.

But there have been grounds for optimism on a number of fronts which indicate that the coyote may have hit bottom, survived and could soon be up and running again.

The number of corporate insolvencies has fallen in each of the last three quarters. Indeed, the Q1 2013 outturn represented the smallest number of corporate insolvencies since Q3 2009. Meanwhile, the newest edition to the suite of official economic indicators, the Northern Ireland Composite Economic Index (NICEI) rose in both the third and fourth quarters of last year. This follows a peak to trough decline of some 12%.

Last month, the number of individuals claiming unemployment benefit, more commonly known as the dole queue, fell for the fourth month in a row. This is a feat not achieved since before the credit crunch began in August 2007. For most of the last six years new car sales, a key barometer of consumer confidence, have been following a downward trajectory. Indeed, new car sales fell by almost a third between 2007 and 2012. Once again, however, new car sales have experienced some recovery by posting year-on-year increases in each of the last four months. As a result, new car sales over the last 12 months are just 29% off their 2007 high.

As far as recessions go, what has marked out Northern Ireland’s current downturn has been the housing boom and bust. Indeed, the housing market has experienced the most pronounced Wile E. Coyote moment of all within the Northern Ireland economy. Therefore signs of a sustainable recovery within the housing market will be the most closely watched barometer of a wider economic recovery. After all, a recovery in the US housing market has been a key factor behind its wider economic upturn.

In this respect, it is encouraging to note that the local housing market too is starting to produce some mixed messages (i.e. some good as well as bad) which is a pleasant change from the overwhelmingly negative news flow over the last six years. Granted Northern Ireland house prices are 56% below their 2007 peak, the mortgage market is still experiencing its lowest level of home mover mortgage activity since 1974, and the level of remortgage activity in Northern Ireland is still over 80% below its pre-credit crunch levels. However, last week the latest DSD (Department for Social Development) housing bulletin confirmed that 2012 saw its first increase in house completions in six years. The 2012 outturn of 7,900 housing units is still very low by historical standards, but suggests that 2011 now marks the low in house completions. The rise in completions probably also reflects the completion of houses started years ago. This explains why the housing starts figure for 2012 is still marginally lower than the previous year. However, 2012 also looks to be the turning point for housing starts too. Following a lacklustre first half of the year, the second half of 2012 saw year on year rises in housing starts. 2013 is now expected to see a pick-up in house building activity.

In time, these forward looking indicators of economic activity (housing starts) will feed through into the lagging indicators of economic activity, most notably the labour market. Last week’s Quarterly Employment Survey (QES) reminded us that whilst we may be debating whether a recovery has taken place or not, it has largely been a jobless one, particularly for the construction sector. The total number of jobs in Northern Ireland fell by 1,510 in Q1 2013. Whilst Northern Ireland has been successful in announcing a raft of job announcements in recent weeks and months; the scale of the challenge it faces is worth highlighting. According to the QES, Northern Ireland lost (in net terms) 41,480 jobs between Q2 2008 and Q1 2012. Since then only 4% (or 1,800) of those 41,480 jobs have been recouped. As a result, in Q1 2013 there were still 39,680 fewer jobs relative to Q2 2008. Making a significant dent in these figures will be a major long-term challenge.

It is also worth noting that some sectors, and indeed numerous firms, have not experienced any Wile E. Coyote style fall off a cliff. Their experience of the recession has been more akin to the gravity-defying Roadrunner. Two obvious examples within the manufacturing sector are the pharmaceuticals and agri-food sectors, which have not experienced a huge drop in demand whatsoever. Indeed, output from our pharmaceuticals sector, which includes flagship exporters such as Norbrook, Randox and Almac has never been higher. Similarly, there are sub-sectors and firms within the services sector that continue to thrive. The ICT and software sectors are obvious examples. Again firms within this sector don’t suffer from a demand deficit. Instead a lack of supply of skilled graduates is their biggest limiting factor to further growth and expansion in the future.

Whilst the Northern Ireland economy currently looks like a rather dishevelled Coyote; we should take some comfort from the fact that Wile E. Coyote never gives up, never dies and is always up and at it again soon after, becoming more innovative by using whatever resources it can get its hands on. However, the trick is to break the cycle, learn from the mistakes and avoid any Wile E. Coyote moments in future."

Irish News Business Insight, June 18 2013

Barack Obama speech to Northern Ireland, in full

Michelle and President Barack Obama's address to Northern Ireland in full here, in the video above and transcribed in full below:

"Good morning. Oh, what an honor. Good morning, everyone. First of all, let me thank Hannah for that very bold and wonderful introduction. And of course, I want to thank all of you for being here today. 
It is such a pleasure to be here in Belfast. And as you might imagine, whenever we travel to places like this or anywhere else in the world, we’ve got a pretty packed schedule. We’re meeting with Presidents and Prime Ministers and First Ladies. We’re visiting historical sites and attending state dinners. And my husband is spending hours trying to make progress on global issues from trade to international security.

June 17, 2013

Alex Kane suggests NI21 could gain 6 Assembly seats in 2016

Complimented by earlier analysis in the News Letter when he said:
"And if NI21 does make an impact, even a limited one, that will also damage the UUP more than anyone else: which, in turn, will probably benefit the DUP." 

And on the UUP electoral fortunes come 2016:

"I don't vote. Don't see the point."

An Open Cover Letter

Hey guys,

First up: I love the Dish. I love what it does for Dishheads, non-Dishheads, for myself, my thinking and for driving fresh thought and for creating new models of writing and online journalism.
But why would the Dish that does so much to contribute authentic writing to the internet want to be in any way associated with me, Brian Spencer - a dude from Ireland?

EU Kids Online survey suggests Irish kids consume more than createonline content

In the Irish Times Breda O'Brien talks about our new online world and the habits of Irish children:
"Irish kids tend to favour gaming, chat and watching endless YouTube videos, which an EU Kids Online Survey suggests may leave them at a disadvantage in an era where generating, rather than consuming, content will be key."
Breda O'Brien, p. 14, Irish Times, Saturday January 5 2013.

Hannah Nelson speech in full

"Good morning. My name is Hannah Nelson, I am 16 years old and I am from Belfast. I have been thinking about an important question: how do you make peace permanent in Northern Ireland? 
Permanent peace in our country is not just a simple dream for me as a teenager growing up today in Northern Ireland. It is a sincere, genuine aspiration. I believe that enduring peace can only come about through true respect for others. We have a right to express and celebrate our diverse cultures.We all have an obligation to value each other as individuals. 
As a 16 year old I dont want to live in the past, I want to live for the past. I want to live in a country where it is not my religion that is important but my value as a person which is significant. It is important that we all have a unique identity. A choice in life to chose who and what we want to be. We are growing up in a world where we are taught to be tolerant. To live peacefully we must put this into practice.

Coffee with Jeffrey Peel, talking NI21

For some time now I've enjoyed reading and following Jeff Peel on Twitter and on his blog which you can access here.

He's a man of erudition and a man of the globalised world, but also a man rooted in Northern Ireland. And so he drives a fresh type of discourse and debate that Northern Ireland so desperately needs. It isn't the idealism that you see elsewhere or the old-time thinking, but talk of the future, guided by ambition and pragmatism.

And so I thought it right to ask Jeff for a on the record comment on his thoughts of NI21, the latest political party in Northern Ireland. Here's Jeff:
"As I’ve mentioned in my blog I wish Basil et al my good wishes. But I’m not sure I’ll be joining any time soon. 
Firstly, I don’t really ‘get’ the Northern Irish parochialism of it. Basil used to talk at length about appealing to the “garden centre Unionist” - the type that sing “Ireland” at rugby matches but still love the Queen. Hmm.
My political interests are not really in that domain.

Northern Ireland needs to start behaving in a different way to tap into a new world order that is, increasingly, connected - with a consequent reduction in the importance of nation-state and politician. We need to define ourselves less as anything in particular in terms of “identity” and more in terms of the quality of things we say. We need to start thinking about really important things that affect us all - not just here, but in the rest of the UK.

Therefore a Party that is as narrowly defined as NI21 doesn’t really do it for me. I’m comfortable in the secular, melting pot of UK progressive politics. I’m fiscally right but socially left. But I want to be associated with a Party with a grander, national ideology. I’m a Classical Liberal. I want to see the return of a confident UK Conservative Party that is clearly ideologically defined. I’m much more comfortable with UK politics than Northern Ireland politics. So I’m disappointed that Basil and John didn’t join the Conservative Party locally. Because that Party needs some leadership and some clear direction. 
NI21 is half-baked and unimportant. It’s tiny and will remain so in my view. Its appeal is to the local and to the nice. But it’s unimportant in the scheme of things.

In short we need to stop “defining ourselves” as British, Irish, or Northern Irish - and just start getting involved in politics if we want to change things. However, we’re part of the greatest pluralist democracy on earth and we need to join in that country’s debates and challenges. We need to reduce our dependency on aid - that’s what the block grant is. Aid. And we’re aid-dependent. We need to start building companies without expecting grants. We need to start knocking down peace walls immediately - rather than waiting 10 years. We need to realise that governments are mostly wasteful and nearly always meddling. We need to reduce our public sector employment. We need to reduce the role of clerics in our civil society. We need to extend the 1967 Abortion Act to here. We need to embrace diversity.

If Basil starts addressing these fundamentals I might be convinced otherwise. But speaking in Irish isn’t a good start."
My response to Jeffrey would be to cite Alex Kane writing here. A commentator who has as good a view and informed insight into Northern Ireland politics as anyone:
"The UUP will stay around for a long time yet, but the Conservatives (as I have said before) will remain dead in the electoral water."
Alex further said on eamonnmallie.com:
"Conservatives are busy reconstituting themselves as some sort of ‘new’ vehicle to attract non-voters—yet how do they avoid the reality that they are as much a part of the political/electoral past as the rest of us?"

Why does everyone want to go to law school? Ctd with Alex Aldridge

Alex Aldridge of Legal Cheek talks about going to law school from 13 minutes of his Law Tour podcast series interview with Charon QC.

Listen to podcast in full here.

June 16, 2013

Considering cliché with William Giraldi and Terry Colon, Ctd

Image thanks to Terry Colon here.
William Giraldi breaks it down an gives a nomenclature of cliche that had bedded itself into the common phrase:
"And so we come now to Eagleton’s own language. One requires a counselor to help explain how someone so attentive to the words of others can often be so frivolous with his own. If Eagleton had sent a cliché constable to patrol his streets of sentences, we'd have been saved assault by the following hoodlums: “pulling out all the stops,” “a hair’s breadth,” “packs a formidable punch,” “stuffed to the rafters,” “the skin of his teeth” (three times), “random thoughts,” “one fell swoop,” “without rhyme or reason,” “a thin line,” “stuck in their ways,” “the tip of the iceberg,” “tender hearted” (with an AWOL hyphen), “load the dice,” “only skin deep” (twice), “something to be desired,” “bare bones” (twice), “safe haven,” “by the sweat of his brow,” “dreams of grandeur,” “bleeding-heart liberal” (at least it has its hyphen), “head over heels,” “out of thin air,” “paper-thin,” “the best of both worlds,” “rags to riches,” and “cheek by jowl.” Please don’t ever wed “beyond” to “pale” or “shed” to “light”—Eagleton presides over those delinquent nuptials twice apiece."
William Giraldi in the Daily Beast in full here.

One of my favorite cartoonists out there is Terry Colon, the man responsible for the image above and for many other great works. In his blog post 100 % Pure Cliche, Terry considers his critique of cliché and the regurgitation of stock phrases among American sportsmen:
"So, what am I getting at, you ask. Not much really. I'm not anti-cliche. It's just shorthand used over and over to answer the same questions asked by reporters over and over about similar things in sports which happen over and over. In some ways it's like a ritualized event. Nobody, the reporter, the athlete nor the viewing fan, expects much more than a cliche which is taken with a grain of salt by all. Nobody expects fresh and articulate off-the-cuff answers to stale questions, rehashing subjects that have been thoroughly hashed out before. 
After all is done and said, athletes aren't wordsmiths, they're not Dr. Johnson or Groucho Marx or anything like. As the new most popular sports cliche goes, "It is what it is.""

June 15, 2013

Christopher Hitchens - The authority of bloggers

At 7 minutes 30 seconds in the video above and here Christopher Hitchens talks about the authority of the online writers.
"I became a journalist because I didn't want to have to rely on the press for information. I'm very sorry for people who do think that's what they're getting when they buy the New York Times in the morning. I only read it to make sure I know what everyone else thinks is going on. It's useful to know what people think is the news. None of my sources are from the press... Yes, from bloggers and their allies I get most of what I think I need to know and I'm very happy at the possibility of, the evident likelihood now of the decline of the networks and of the flagship newspapers, which seem to me to be engines of reassurance and consensus and bad writing, poor English. Let it all die, I don't give a damn."

In an earlier post here on how Hitchens write, Christopher said: "I don’t use any of the new technology stuff."

June 14, 2013

On drinking from the hose pipe and the resurgence of reading from print

Emily Rhodes in the Spectator begins her recent essay, 'The Special power of the printed word' by confronting the dilemma the modern Internet user and reader faces: trying to ingest material from a never ending spray of links, stories, blogs and breaking news, memes, cat videos and so on. She says:
"I wonder if we don’t all feel rather overwhelmed by the huge number of articles online. There is simply too much to read – an infinite, impossible amount – and in a veritable forest of links, it becomes hard to see the wood for the trees."
Her answer: the traditional printed word.
"Print conveys a certain authority on words, and perhaps even a short book has more clout than a digital essay. Penguin Specials offer more depth than a newspaper or magazine article, and yet their brevity makes them less intimidating than a weighty tome. They are a winningly approachable means of getting a digestible, insightful briefing on a vital, current issue."
And there's demand for the printed word. The Penguin Specials which went out of print in the 1980s are coming back. In an age where digital has supposedly killed the print media star it runs against the rhythm of play. But it's so - there is a demand for the printed word. Over to Emily again:
"After twenty-five years of dormancy, it would seem that once again there is a demand for a short, reliable, printed briefing on a current issue, in spite of the proliferation of online information and eBooks."
Spectator essay in full here.

Northern Ireland: outward looking? A global competitor?

Here's Prime Minister David Cameron's bargain for Northern Ireland: pull down the peace walls over the next 10 years and get more spending powers.

This was the proposal and announcement made after Cameron summoned Robinson and McGuinness to Downingg Street ahead of the G8 summit in Fermanagh.

Cameron then said, and this is what I found interesting:

"This agreement is a symbol of our ambitious vision for Northern Ireland – a genuinely shared society that is fulfilling its economic potential and strengthening the foundations for peace, stability and prosperity."

The peace walls were built in response to calls from locals who feel threatened by sectarian attacks. In a sign of how the Good Friday agreement brought peace, but not harmony, to Northern Ireland there are more peace walls now than there were in 2006. They play a particularly important role in north Belfast where the two communities live close to each other."

More in the Guardian here.


June 13, 2013

Being British and Irish and Northern Irish

Timeline of NI21

September 9 2013 - 
Basil McCrea puts ‘robust’ case for Union to Sinn Fein meeting - Regional - Belfast Newsletter: 

August 28 2013 - 

August 19 2013 -
Basil McCrea in QUB blog - 'Compromise After Conflict':

July 13 2013 -
'The Catholic Unionists' wrote Gerry Moriarty in the Irish Times:

July 12 2013 -
John McCallister wrote in Belfast Telegraph: 'It's time for Stormont to develop a maturity.'

July 10 2013 -
'In full: proposal for opposition at Stormont' - News Letter coverage as public consultation into John McCallister's private member's bill is launched (Assembly Reform (Opposition) Bill).

July 8 2013 -
In the Stormont Assembly Basil McCrea calls again for Official Opposition in light of Spotlight revelations, here.

July 7 2013 -
Basil McCrea gives YouTube update on SF event, Spotlight revelation and other developments, here.

July 4 2013 -
Huff Post blogger Jason A Murdock asked: 'Can NI21 Change the Face of Northern Irish Politics?'

July 2 2013 - 
Irish Times reports on NI21 at SF summer school and reported that Basil said border poll would be divisive in Northern Ireland, here.
NI21 unhappy with AERC report into Stormont Opposition, see here.
NI21 takes firms stance against homophobia in Stormont, see here.
Commitment to tackling homophobia well received by Twitter community, see here.
'Convergence: the new consensus in N Ireland' in the Scotsman. 

July 1 2013 -
Basil and Mary Lou McDonald interviewed after debate on border poll, see here.
Audio recording hereVideo here

June 29 2013 -
John O'Dowd urges republicans to listen to what Basil said at SF summer school, see here.

June 28 2013 - 
Basil reflects on Obama visit to Northern Ireland, here.

June 19 2013 - 
The Tyrone Times reported that DUP MLA Ian McCrea called NI21 "chameleons", see here.

June 18 2013 -
An Phoblacht reports that Basil is to speak at SF summer school here.
NI21 confirms intention to introduce bill that would revoke labels on designation.

June 17 2013 -
'Alex Kane suggests NI21 could gain 6 Assembly seats in 2016', writes Brian John Spencer.

June 16 2013 -
 'Can NI21 appeal to the Great Silent Minority?' asks Bill White of LucidTalk.

June 15 2013
In an interview with Alex Kane, Peter Robinson said that NI21 offer nothing new, here.

June  15 2013 -
Alex Kane writes about, 'The new party girl' Tina McKenzie in the Belfast Telegraph, as in image below:

June 14 2013 - 
Alan in Belfast covers Tina McKenzie's feature on Lisburn's 98FM, 'NI21′s chair Tina McKenzie on why she got involved, party labels and Alliance'.
Breidge Gadd wrote in the Irish News, 'NI21 has no debt of loyalty to pay', in the image below:

Alex Kane wrote in the Irish News, 'Catholic Unionist quest an exercise in folklore', as in the image below:

The Irish News also reported that, 'NI21 will tweet more as gaeilge', as in image below

June 13 2013 -
Writeup by BBC political reporter, Stephen Walker: 'New unionist party tweets in Irish'
Brian John Spencer writes, 'NI21 Tweets in Irish'.

June 12 2013 -
Mid-Ulster Mail writes, 'NI21 targets Mid-Ulster ‘non-voters’'

June 11 2013 - 
Fermanagh Herald writes, 'Fermanagh is in our plans, says leader of new unionist party'.

June 10 2013 - 

Alex Kane wrote in the News Letter, 'Not a bad start, but the real work begins now for NI21'
Article by Spanish blogger under the title, 'Presentado oficialmente 'NI21' de McCrea y McCallister'.

June 9 2013 -
Article by Irish language news site, An Tuairisceoir entitled, 'An mbeidh rath ar pháirtí úr Mhic Rath?' Translates into English as, 'will there be success for McCrea's new party?' As retweeted here.

June 8 2013 - 
Liam Clarke in the Belfast Telegraph wrote, 'NI21's task is to live up to expectations'.
Liam Clarke writes again, 'It was all laughs at NI21 party launch... but just 11 hours later Basil put his foot in it as he seemed to back polygamy on radio'.
Sam McBride writes, 'Hours after launching, NI21 in polygamy row'.

June 7 2013 - 
Gerry Moriarty in the Irish Times writes, 'New pro-union party launched in Belfast will be modern and inclusive, its leaders pledge'.
David Vance on A Tangled Web writes, 'Yes, it’s what Northern Ireland has been CRYING out for – a new UNIONIST Party!  We just don’t have enough, do we? cough!'
Hoboroadblog writes, 'Another Unionist Party'.
Irish News report headlines, 'Leader of new party NI21 seeks to enthuse non-voters'.
Sam McBride writes in the News Letter, 'NI21 may be a new party, but will face age-old dilemmas'.
Rebecca Black in the News Letter wrote, 'NI21 has crowd clamouring to hear political vision'.

June 6 2013 - 
Launch speech by party leader Basil McCrea in full here, published by the Belfast Telegraph.
Launch speech by John McCallister here.
Claire Cromie in the Belfast Telegraph writes, 'Basil McCrea and John McCallister launch new political party NI21'.
Alan in Belfast on Slugger O'Toole, 'NI21 launches – looking for fresh voices rather than defectors'.
Stephen Nolan featured party on his show and later published audioboo, 'Will Basil McCrea & John McCallister's new party NI 21 "offer a robust & constructive opposition" at Stormont?'

June 4 2013 -  
Alex Kane wrote in the Belfast Telegraph, 'Pros and cons to success for latest pro-Union party'.
News Letter: 'McCrea won’t confirm ‘NI21’ party name'
BBC NI: 'Basil McCrea and John McCallister's new party is NI21'.

May 14 2013 - 
Brian John Spencer writes, 'Prelaunch Meeting of NI21'.

May 12 2013 - 
Alan in Belfast on Slugger O'Toole penned a piece entitled, 'Team Jasil – that’s John and Basil – say: “Get off your backsides and vote for people that are trying to make a difference”.'

NI21 Tweets in Irish

This was a tweet sent by @NI21official, citing and directing people to an article written by An Tuairisceoir, an Irish language magazine. The tweet triggered a report by Stephen Walker, BBC political reporter.

Stephen Walker explained in his report:
'The party's Jonathon Rainey said they would tweet in Irish "because our party is of interest to Irish speakers".'
Though this tweet puts a question mark over the idea of this being established Twitter practice for the party:

Response from @N121official communication officer:
"We're genuinely pleased with level of support we got for tweeting Irish language link. I live in Cavan and my kids all speak Irish. Second nature to me. I'm in favour of tweeting in Irish when its warranted. Interested in alternative view too."

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