Belfast Barman

Causing a Nuisance since 1987

The pejorative language of religion

“Language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run and out of which they grow.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes. I am an Atheist. Or actually, I’m a non-theist. Or is it Humanist… Language tells us everything, its importance cannot be underestimated. But when it comes to common parlance, the language of the day-to-day, the centuries old pervasiveness of religion in language is hard to avoid. I try, but, as a mere mortal, I fail. It frustrates me to hear an atheist say, “I don’t believe in God.” Do you mean the Christian God? The God referred to by the name “God”? Or do you mean gods, plural, all of them…? I always try to make the effort when saying such things, to phrase it as, “I don’t believe in any gods.” It just feels more accurate; it’s difficult as a non-theist to give any special credence to the religion identified with most prominently in my geographic locality, I don’t believe in the Christian God any more or less than I disbelieve in Queztalcoatl, Zeus, Thor, or Vishnu. But when I’m surprised, I may say, “Oh god.” When I’m expressing my disbelief or shock at something, I may exclaim, “Jesus Christ!” Goddammit, Christ alive, and others – all phrases that mean something, mean everything, and mean nothing – depending on your perspective. It is challenging not to fall into the deistic linguistic trap of giving status to what I believe to be an utter myth, as it owns so much of our culture. It genuinely is tough to keep a check on language which gives that special status...

Nationalism, Unionism, and a lack of Pragmatism

I would consider myself a unionist, if other unionists didn’t make it so fucking hard. Mike Nesbitt said, somewhat bravely, that he would be transferring to the SDLP, his fellow opposition party, in the 2017(a) Assembly Election. Thus bucking the typical, ‘transfer to other unionist’ instruction that has become an ever-present feature of tribal election literature. (And of course, on the nationalist side) Bravo Mike, bravo. This is the first act I’ve seen from Northern Irish political-unionist leader that has ever made me stop and think, “maybe… just maybe, there’s hope for them…” Of course, it’s full of nuance – in Nesbitt’s voting constituency, East Belfast, Andy Allen (UUP) isn’t exactly odds on to be re-elected, and even if he is, by the time he gets passed, the SDLP’s Séamas de Faoite will have been eliminated hours earlier, it’s an irrelevancy. But it’s the symbolism. The UUP voters that do listen to Mike or think like he does, will likely than transfer back inside the unionist club. (Although again, it’s not unlikely that Andy Allen won’t get re-elected, and if he does it will almost certainly be as the last candidate over the line.) The Northern Ireland Executive will be headed by a unionist party, and a nationalist party. Mike has made the pragmatic decision that he would rather that the nationalist party was the SDLP – and why the hell not. I have no doubt that the DUP would much rather that the largest nationalist party was the SDLP as well. Pragmatism: the quality of dealing with a problem in a sensible way that suits the conditions that really...

NI Waiting Lists are costing me my vision

On the 5th of April 2016 I had eye surgery. Quite a horrible procedure actually, for an eye disorder called Keratoconus. The plan pre-surgery was for me to have an operation on one eye, and then approximately six weeks later, to have the operation on the other. It’s now the 10th of February 2017, and when I called the Royal Victoria Hospital today, I was told “there’s no date for you yet, but I’ll email again and ask if there’s a rough estimate for you.” I’m not filled with confidence. A little background: Keratoconus is a degenerative disorder of the eye, where the cornea warps into a cone shape, rather than the perfect curve which most people have. The lower eyeball in the graphic above shows what happens when light hits my eyes. Instead of it being focussed on my optical nerve, it bounces around, causing some problems. I get photophobic very easily. I wear sunglasses a lot, even indoors, and often at twilight when driving, because lights from cars just play havoc with my vision. I get headaches because of light sensitivity and in general my vision is getting bad. Five years ago, my vision was perfect… I mean like Legolas in Lord of the Rings perfect. Then i noticed my left eye was rapidly becoming harder to see clearly with, so i went along to an opticians who said it looked like I had Keratoconus (KC) and I should seek a referral to an Opthalmologist. Which I did and it was confirmed. In my left eye, it had progressed quite a lot, in my right eye though it...

DUP, RHI, Twitter Suspension, Censorship, and Optics

Update: 31/1/17: my account has been suspended again. For the same reason and for the same tweet. Appeal 1 was rejected. So far. Update: 30/1/17: following 7 appeals through twitter support, all rejected; I contacted a number of senior Twitter figures. One of them responded and engaged, they took the time to listen and to actually care. Thanks to them, they saw that the complaint against me had absolutely no basis in fact and was against no rule. As such; I was immediately reinstated and the contested tweet remains. Victory. However, it shouldn’t be THAT hard to get a fair hearing. I am currently suspended from twitter. My account, www.twitter.com/belfastbarman, is visible to people, however I am unable to access it. On Friday 27th at around 10am, I was using the Twitter app on my iPhone, when it suddenly switched to the following displayed message. Not understanding what had happened, at all – and I truly mean, at all. I clicked, ‘Start.’ Which presented me with the following message. At this point, I believed I knew what the issue was. So let me explain. The DUP, Northern Ireland’s largest political party, far-right conservatives, staunchly Christian-fundamentalist, and currently embroiled in the, ‘Cash for Ash,’ scandal, also known as RHI. The DUP announced a candidate for the East Antrim constituency who runs a company called, ‘Stephen Ross Boiler Services & Repairs. Stephen Ross is also currently an elected Councillor in Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council… in light of the, ‘Cash for Ash,’ scandal, I believed that announcing Cllr Ross as a candidate was deeply ironic and had terrible, (pardon the political term…)...

The best thing for the DUP is Foster stepping down.

Either temporarily or permanently, either way – in the long term, it’s a win for the party. Like it or not, the DUP were elected to the position of the largest party in the NI Assembly, and as such, have a mandate and obligation to govern. With Foster in charge going forward however, imagine the discourse likely in every single Stormont debate when funding comes up. Need money for health service? If it wasn’t for the RHI scheme, initiated by First Minister Foster, maybe we could afford it. Teachers demanding a pay rise? If it wasn’t for the RHI scheme, initiated by First Minister Foster, maybe we could afford it. Specialist Cancer Drugs Fund? Upgrading roads? Keeping our (wealth of) Airports open? Gritting the roads? If it wasn’t for the RHI scheme, initiated by First Minister Foster, maybe we could afford it. This is the sort of thing that hangs as a noose around the neck of a party for the duration of a mandate. Actually, for as long as it has a lifespan… and it’s safe to imagine the opposition parties aren’t likely to let this drop in a matter of days, weeks, or months. In 15 years time, when we are unable to afford X, it will be partly because of the RHI debacle. Whether the fault for that lies with Foster or not will be debated for some time no doubt, but her hands are on it. Like Watergate, Blair-in-Iraq, the Miners’ Strike… political terms of office can so-very-easily become defined by just one thing. I strongly suspect history will hang this as Foster’s political epitaph, her...

It’s not about remembering the fallen, but BEING SEEN to remember the fallen.

Poppy time. That wonderful time of the year when the more-patriotic-than-thou enter the annual dick-measuring contest of who remembers those servicemen and women who have given their lives in the military. So far this year we’ve seen arguments over whether or not football teams can wear a poppy, I’ve seen a literal muppet with a poppy on TV and a supermarket selling pizzas with pepper and pepperoni in the shape of a poppy. In what way is this an act of remembrance. How you remember anything is up to you; it’s personal, its a reflection – it’s how you feel and what you think. I am always choked up on the 11th of November, it really truly gets to me. I don’t often wear a poppy, I haven’t been to a remembrance day commemoration event in well over a decade… but I remember. I honour in my way, I reflect and consider what was given by those who gave all they had. How you pay respect is up to you. But now, it’s not enough. It’s the same with every issue these days. It’s not enough to believe that Cancer should be eradicated… if you aren’t posting a twibbon on your social feeds, people may just assume that you’re pro cancer. Ten years ago if you weren’t wearing a white ‘Make Poverty History’ wristband, people would just assume you wanted there to be more poverty in the future. When the Paris attacks happened, everyone rushed to post something about it – obviously they did care, but it’s also en vogue to be seen to care about it. When I was younger...

United Airlines presents a real and complex test of the Executive and David Gordon

The story of United Airlines receiving £9 million of money from the Northern Ireland Executive is widely spread, including here from myself on Slugger O’Toole, and the follow up here from David McCann. Here’s my thoughts. The Executive is screwed on both sides of the argument. That they gave what is effectively a bailout to United Airlines, a publicly traded company, for a route which is already profit-making. The airline wanted to move the aircraft to other routes which were more profitable. Which is of course fair enough. However they rushed the decision to give this money over, with no assembly or committee oversight, against the advice of civil servants involved. They saw this as essential. And so stumped up our cash. Now however the EU has blocked it as illegal/forbidden state aid. The Executive might have known that if they had bothered to check and not rush the decision. The problem now lies at newly-appointed ‘spin doctor’ David Gordon’s door. The Executive has and is being criticised by many in the public for giving the money over in the first place. The Executive is being criticised for losing the route, for leaving NI without a route to the USA. The Executive has been overruled by the EU, an organisation which half of the Executive campaigned for us to remain within, Sinn Feín. The DUP of course want us out of the EU. The argument that Northern Ireland has been left without a route to the USA is diminished by half of the Executive believing that NI (or the 6 counties) is part of Ireland. In which case Belfast...

The Judges who said No to a Prime Minister, to save Democracy.

For those who don’t understand, here’s an idiot-proof explanation of why Parliament has to, and SHOULD have to, approve the application of Article 50 to leave the European Union. And no, this isn’t, “trying to undo the will of the people.” There was a referendum, that wasn’t legally binding. Neither side of the political argument was fighting for it to be legally binding, nor indeed could it have been legally binding in practice, why? Because laws are made by parliament, not by people putting an X in one box or another. If you want laws made solely based on such measures, please do us all a favour, send a letter to your nearest electoral office and instruct them to remove you from the electoral register. So laws and policy aren’t made by ticking an X in a box, they’re made by those people we elect to govern, in council, parliament and elsewhere. (And indeed by those we don’t elect, such as the House of Lords and the monarch.) We elect and entrust our elected officials in parliament to create and curate our laws – they do so at our behest and we have the power of hiring and firing. The will of the people of the UK as a whole (although not all of its constituent countries) voted to remove the UK from the EU; the will of the people of the UK as a whole elected our MPs. The institution and its predecessors have been doing so for seven hundred years. If you believe Theresa May should have the unchecked, unratified and unmanaged power to, with the use of...

Trump will quit race in the final days before the election: prediction

This is my firm belief and I’m storing it here for posterity. If (and when) Trump comes to the realisation that he cannot win this election, and he’ll take it down to the wire – 48hours, maybe less – he’ll bow out unceremoniously. Donald Trump is not the type of man who tries his hand at something if he thinks he’ll be a loser. So I believe he won’t let himself be a loser. He’ll claim that he’s seen undeniable evidence that the election has been rigged, that the democratic process has been circumvented and that ‘crooked Hillary’ has cheated the voters out of their ability to freely choose their next President. He’ll say that he won’t give the election process the legitimacy of having his name involved if it isn’t open, fair and NOT rigged. That if Hillary and ‘her’ liberal media are going to fix the election for her to win, she may as well run against no-one but herself and look the pantomime villain that he knows her to be. Sure, if he stays in and loses, he’ll say exactly the same… but once the rhetoric dies down, he’ll be recorded in the history books as a loser in this race – something he won’t permit. So he can quit just prior to the vote, then take a pseudo moral high ground, telling his supporters that he couldn’t in all good-conscience partake in a criminally rigged election, it would disrespect himself and disrespect them and their vote.  Then he’ll dine out for the rest of his days as the, “forced to take a principled stand and...

New Government Proposals on Voting for Foreigners

Further to the proposals by Amber Rudd, Home Secretary, at the Conservative Party Conference, Theresa May plans to take proposals on ousting foreigners from jobs even further. At future elections, if a candidate for council/assembly/parliament is not UK-born, voters will have to write a brief statement outlining their reasons for wishing to elect a person from a country that isn’t as amazing as ours. Following this declaration, all votes cast in elections for bloody foreigners will be assessed by a panel of experts, including Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Theresa Villiers and Katie Hopkins. If this panel judge that your reasoning is insufficient, the vote will be disregarded. The form is rumoured to look as...

Donald Trump Appears To Be So Desperate For Cash That He Is Breaking The Law

As someone who was born in the UK and lived almost exclusively here since birth, with a brief period in Canada, I was quite surprised that Donald Trump was asking for my help in his campaign to become president. What could I do that the hundreds of millions who actually are American could not? As someone who makes a big deal out of being rich, why does he need $35 from me? And is that even legal? No. I’ve never registered support for any American presidential candidate. There are two plausible options as to how I got this email. Trump or one of his team randomly entered my email address into their database. Trump or one of his team has bought mailing lists in bulk from some marketing company, now he is sending mailshots to people who have no involvement whatsoever in Trump’s campaign, the Presidential campaign in general or even have nothing to do with America and AREN’T AMERICAN. But I definitely did not ‘opt-in’. I mean, I’ve not registered support for either candidate… of course I think that Trump is an evil runt of a man who might in fact be being controlled in a Lord Voldemort/Professor Quirrel-esque way by Dougal from The Magic Roundabout who has become symbiotically entwined with Trump’s brain… But ultimately, until the Dougal theory is proven, Trump is potentially in breach of Federal Election Commission legislation governing who can and can’t donate to an American Presidential campaign. He is DEFINITELY trying to persuade ME to act in breach of the FEC legislation.. Can non-US citizens contribute? Foreign nationals are prohibited from making...

Sport shouldn’t be subjective: The Olympics should just be for Sport.

Controversial one this; I know this because I’ve discussed it with people before and it’s divisive and causes quite an emotive response. I don’t believe that any activity where the winner is decided based SOLELY (that part is important) on judging should be classed as a sport – and therefore perhaps shouldn’t be in the Olympics. Gymnastics Rhythmic Gymnastics Trampolining Diving Synchronised Diving Synchronised Swimming Dressage I would even consider the status of Olympic Boxing (as Knockouts are relatively rare and therefore judging is the usual method of progression), so too for some other combat sports. Judging, whilst of course done against very specific guidelines, is subjective. For example, in some events, some judges have awarded the same competitor a 4 or a 5 and another has judged them as a 7 or an 8. Yes, there is the mechanism of ruling out the highest and lowest – but the fact remains that this is quite clearly subjective. Small differences matter, but considering the margins that people win (or lose) a medal with, this subjectivity pollutes the concept of sport. That a competitor may not win a medal because a couple of judges consider  that their toes weren’t pointed enough (Trampoline), that their arms and elbows weren’t straight enough (men’s gymnastics – high bar), or that the competitors weren’t synchronised enough (synchronised diving). I in no way mean to diminish the skill or athleticism of what these competitors do, they are PHENOMENAL human beings who do incredible things, all of which I couldn’t even begin to dream about being competitive at – however I don’t believe they are sports. They are entertaining for sure,...