Friday, 23 January 2015

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics: The DUP number game

The DUP are claiming that their 9 MPs being greater than the SNP's 9 and Plaid Cymru's 3 puts them in a position to be at the leaders' debates ahead of these other regional parties.

But look at it another way the DUP will be fielding between 16-18 candidates (the number is variable as they are still talking about possible deal(s) with the UUP), this is against the SNP who will be standing 59 and Plaid who will be standing 40.

Of those 59 and 40 they will all face a Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat and a high proportion also facing a Green and UKIP candidate. Of the DUP candidates there may be a handful who face Conservatives, UKIP and Green candidates. Not one will face a Labour or Lib Dem candidate (although they may be facing a member of one of those parties under a different label).

So does the DUP on the numbers game they are playing deserve a podium at the debates? In my opinion no.

However, I would love to see Peter Robinson up there as to actually debate real issues would show up how backward the DUP actually are. I've long been of the opinion that even many third and fourth placed candidates in the rest of the UK have a greater grasp on reality, people and working for all people than the DUP. So I dreamt last night of Peter Robinson having to face questions for the other UK party leaders having to justify the conscience clause and his parties anti-LGBT and anti-abortion agenda while claiming they wanted to be British.

Of course both Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Alliance are now all saying that they too have as much right for representation with the inclusion of two parties who don't stand across all of the UK in these debates. And the DUP are saying that Naomi Long of the Alliance is represented by the Lib Dems, when she is not on my membership list and has said she is not a Liberal Democrat many times and the SDLP by Labour.

Selective Ten Commandments

The theft of part of the Mannamán Mac Lir statue (pictured right) that overlooks Lough Foyle near Limavady appears to be a case of selective ten commandments following by religious zealots.

The body of the Celtic sea god was removed with a wooden cross put in its place on which were inscribed the words "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" along with the Greek letters alpha and omega (one of the biblical names for God "the beginning and the end"). Now this is the first commandment as listed in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, but no body is making this statue an idol that would defile the second commandment. Of course locally people will refer to Mannamán's anger when Lough Foyle is rough and call seahorses that form on the lough Mannamán's but this is not idolatry but merely placing a representation of a myth in an area that they are associated with.

But this statue was commissioned by Limavady Borough Council at a cost of £10,000 plus was drawing tourists away from the other tourist attractions in the Foyle area such as the City of Derry/Londonderry bringing tourist money into the area for more than just Benone beach down below. Therefore not only have the perpetrators cost local taxpayers £10,000 and whatever the replacement cost might be they are also stealing money from tourism that local businesses may have relied upon. So they have actually broken the 8th commandment.

However, I do have a question for however carried out this theft. From their thinking how to they refer to the days of the week?

  • Monday after all is named for the North Germanic moon god Mani.
  • Tuesday after the Norse one handed god Tyr the god of one handed combat.
  • Wednesday for Norse Wodan or his North Germanic counterpart Odin who was a guide for souls after death.
  • Thursday of course is called for Thor the god of Thunder
  • Friday is after the Anglo-Saxon fertility goddess Frige 
  • Saturday is the only day to retain it Roman god as it origin Saturn the god of wealth, agriculture, liberation and time
  • Even Sunday is named like Monday for the body in the sky. The Sun goddess Sunna in Germanic and Norse mythology
Therefore taking this action to the logical conclusion these poor thieves must have a tough time referring to the days of the week.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Presbyterian Church in Ireland: No appetite to fulfil own pastoral guidelines on gay issues

Idaho sticker with the PCI's Union College in background
In today's Newsletter there is article which looks at why the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) is not looking to follow swiftly on the heels, or maybe not follow at all, the Church of Scotland in its acceptance of openly gay clergy. It comes under the heading "Presbyterian figures stress little appetite for gay Presbyterian debate".

Sadly I would have to concur. Long term readers will remember over 5 years ago I wrote about my own experiences as a gay Presbyterian. I also wrote about the PCI's own pastoral guidelines especially and have on a number of occasions shared my dismay the failure of the PCI to even honour the recommendations from those guidelines. For clarity I post them here:

Recommendations That the General Assembly -
  • 1. adopts the guidelines and advocates their use and practice within the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. 
  • 2. strongly state that attitudes and approaches within our congregations that, 'victimise or diminish human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex' are unacceptable. 
  •  3. encourage repentance for the occasions when persons with same sex attractions have been treated in ways severely lacking in grace within the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and that the Assembly encourage an attitude of grace and mercy to be actively shown to all who struggle with different aspects of their sexuality. 
  •  4. continue to encourage our congregations to 'Create an environment of love, acceptance, patience, forgiveness and grace.' 
  •  5. ask that the Board of Social Witness (BSW) to investigate the possibility of creating 'a safe space' for people struggling with their sexuality and that funding be sought to create such a safe space. 
  •  6. ask the BSW and Board of Youth and Children’s Ministries to cooperate in updating the 'Loving in the Real World' youth resource to include more instructive material on the area of same-sex attraction.
  • 7. encourage the possibility of the establishment of parents' support group/s to help parents who are struggling with the issues surrounding children who have 'come out'.

So not only have the PCI not been showing an appetite to get involved in the gay debate the Board of Social Witness have yet to report back about the possibility of creating a safe space within the church for these issues to be discussed, nor has any support group been set up. Nor can I find an up to date version of Loving in the Real World reflecting the points raised. So far from having to follow the Church of Scotland that seem lethargic when it comes to taking action on their own recommendations on the issue.

Indeed for the past seven years since they resolved to pass these Pastoral Guideline there has been a lack of action on these action points and any debate on the issue can at best be described as a monologue and certainly not a dialogue with those lesbian, gay and bisexual members who may still be sitting in their pews or those who, like me, have left as they no longer feel welcome or accepted (as in point 4).

All that aside, however, retired minister the Rev Donald Watts former clerk of the Irish Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly does say:

 "I think the much bigger debate is our acceptance of people who have a homosexual orientation within the church. 
"I think the clergy debate is a bit of a distraction from the much bigger issue."

I hope he is right, but for the time being I think the PCI find what they believe the bedroom practices of those with same sex attraction has been a distraction to even consider them as individuals, believers and humans. The debate on clergy in my opinion is just a red herring as to the inactivity of the PCI to get involved in this debate with anyone it actually impacts.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Tories show true colours and ditch being fair to society

As a Liberal Democrat there is one thing I need to say about the first Conservative poster of the 2015 election campaign:

Yeah that is right for years they have talked the coalition Liberal Democrat mantra "A Stronger Economy and a Fairer Society", so in their first attempt to distance themselves from their Liberal Democrat partners they turn their backs on being fair to society.

Therefore just as in the 2010 manifesto look out for them making pledges to cut the tax burden on the richest and very little to assist the poorest.

While yesterday Ed Miliband was going on about how he was going to be fairer to society while at the same time continuing to cut spending in some departments but little to say about strengthening the economy. Only the Liberal Democrats will continue to work towards doing both simultaneously rather the swings and roundabouts of the Labservative agendas.

DUP selective British rights: The Driver's Licence Clause

Yesterday DUP MP for Lagan Valley Jeffrey Donaldson said:

"British Citizens in Northern Ireland deserve the same rights as the rest of the UK."

However, this was not about the rights of NI LGBT people to have the right to marry whom they choose. Nor is it to defend the Equality Act in full, in face of his colleague Paul Givan's conscience clause. Nor it is a freeing up of abortion legislation, no a whole gamut of rights issues that the people of Northern Ireland are the only ones in the UK to have equally with the rest of the UK.

No. This was about the change in driving licence design that in England, Wales and Scotland will not display the Union Flag alongside the European Union Flag, but in Northern Ireland will retain just the flag of the EU.

Of course this comes mere weeks after once again the main parties failed to come to any agreement on symbols and flags (amongst other issues) once again, and merely passed this on to another commission. So it is hardly surprising that flag controversy once again hits Northern Ireland when it is an issue that after over 16 years of talking we have yet to reach a consensus on.

But once again the argument from Donaldson shows the duplicity of the DUP. They use the argument of British Citizens having the same rights as the rest of the UK when it suits them, but with the other hand will argue that Northern Ireland is different from the rest of the UK when it comes to things like LGBT rights, abortion and other issues if it suits them politically with their base.

Sorry Jeffrey I'm not going to let you, or any member of the DUP, get away with playing the British rights card when you deny me the same rights as I would experience elsewhere in the UK because of my sexual orientation. Especially in light of Cllr Maurice "gays caused Hurricane Katrina" Mills becoming a Member of the British Empire in the New Year Honours, while LGBT British citizens are seen as less than full UK citizens with the same rights by the DUP I shall continue to hold institutional homophobia from Mr Donaldson's party to account.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

My Predictions for 2014 - How did I do?

It is that time of year once again to dust of my crystal ball and try and work out that is going to happen over the next twelve months.

1. An Olympic medalist will make a statement/protest about LGBT rights live on the Olympic Broadcaster. This will be the reason why we were right to let the athletes attend the Games at least one of them will make a protest and it will be the LGBT communities 1968 Black Power moment.

No medalist did make a statement or protest but Dutch slopestyle snow boarder Cheryl Maas did raise her gloves with images of a rainbow and unicorn to the camera after her qualification runs.
Earlier this month pairs figure skating silver medalist Canada's Eric Radford came out as gay, although other medaling and champion male figure skaters have come out as gay none have like Eric done it during the height of their career. But this all means 0 points

2. After the 400 bomb alerts, some of them viable, in Northern Ireland in 2013 one of the ones in 2014 will lead to a fatality.

There were no fatal bomb attacks in Northern Ireland this year, thankfully I score 0 points.
3. Mark Cavendish will win stages in three of the British Isles capitals this year. 

Not a great year for the Manx Missile in Grand Tours this year. He wasn't selected by Omega Pharma-Quickstep for the Giro start in Belfast, which ruled out wins there and in Dublin. Then before the Tour de France even arrived in London he had crashed out in the sprint for the win on Stage 1 into Harrogate. So 0 points

4. There will be a coup against Kim Jong-un.

Unless we are counting the film The Interview it would appear that if anything Kim Jong-un created a coup against Hollywood. 0 points

5. Olympians Katherine Grainger and Louis Smith will announce their retirements. 

In March Louis was first to answer that question. He actually returned to competitive gymnastics and appeared in Glasgow at the Commonwealth Games and is ready to step up in Parallel Bars if required and maybe even Rings if push comes to shove ahead of trying to make the team for Rio.
It took Grainger slightly longer to come to her decision but on 23rd September the deadline GB rowing had set her if she wanted to be considered for selection for Rio, she reported for training for the first time since the Olympics. While it is good to see them both now back training with the GB squads it means 0 points on this prediction.

6. Britain will win three or more medals in the Winter Olympics. 

Well with Gold for Lizzy Yarnold in the women's skeleton, Silver for the men's curling team, bronze for the women's curling team and Jenny Jones in Snowboarder Slopestyle that makes 4 and 1 point

7. A DUP elected representative will actually speak/vote positively about an LGBT issue. 

Couldn't be further wrong on this what the year actually brought is the least private private members bill with the support of the First Minister and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment at the launch looking to append a conscience clause only into the sexual orientation regulations of the Equality Act. Am tempted to award myself negative points for being so wrong on this. As resounding 0 points

8. Sammy Wilson will spend thousands of tax-payers money defending a court challenge by an same-sex couple who oppose their UK marriage being down graded to a civil partnership. 

This has not happened yet, but it is rumoured to be in progress, we wait and see what Sammy's successor Simon Hamilton does. 0 points for now and we shall see what Simon Hamiliton, Sammy's replacement does.

9.With Haass talks failing to reach an agreement on flags Northern Ireland descends into further acts of civil disobedience.

Well Twadell protests are still going on but the civil disobedience didn't really maintain its intensity. But we have talks again this Christmas which failed to settle parades and flags once more. 0 points

10. England lose their first two group games in the World Cup in Brazil and are out before they face Costa Rica.

I was right just didn't expect it to be Costa Rica who were already guaranteed to be through before the last set of games. But anyhow it was 1 point

11. Scotland vote to stay in the UK. My prediction of the result 38% Yes, 62% No to the question that is put. Turnout will be under 50%.

OK they did vote to stay. My prediction of the result ended up being 7% off and turnout was far greater than anything I had seen. But it is the headline that counts and for that 1 point

12. As a result of the above Alex Salmond faces a l eadership challenge from Nicola Sturgeon and John Mason in the Autumn and steps aside. 

Well he stepped down before there was a challenge, and Nicola was uncontested for the leadership. I think I'll only claim ½ point

13. David Cameron is told by the EU that he cannot keep restricting free access to Romanians and Bulgarians, so he attempts to call an immediate referendum on EU membership. 

Well yeah David has been saying this about all EU immigrants. But they have not yet sprung the referendum on us. 0 points

14. As Parliament rises for the summer after months of failing to get his actual agenda through Parliament David Cameron announces he will resign after his party elect a successor. Immediately Zac Goldsmith resigns his seat and Boris Johnson stands for Richmond Park. But in the ensuing by election Lib Dem Robin Meltzer defeats Boris and his leadership aspirations are over.

Boris is deciding to avoid Robin Meltzer, but he is seeking to return to Westminster in May so his leadership challenge is kind of live. I'm taking ½ point here too.

So in total I appear to have scored a less than impressive 4 points but then I did take some stabs in the dark.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The cost of the next 12 days of Christmas 2014

Those wonderful people at PNC bank have yet again published their Price Index for the Twelve Days of Christmas and the news is good for those on a budget as the increase in cost of the traditional 12 gifts is the smallest since the crash in the Price Index of 2002.

The overall index is up 1.0% on last years prices with the biggest increase being the the geese a-laying. Six of them will now cost $360 up 71.4% on the $210 relative bargin of last year.

Remaining unchanged on last year are the turtle doves at $125, calling birds at $599.96, gold rings $750, swans $7,000, milking maids $58, dancing ladies $7552.84, pipers $2635.20 and drummers $2854.80.

Those leaping Lords however are now charging  $5348.24 a 2% increase on the $5243.37 of 2013. French hens are now $181 up a whopping 10% on their cost of $165 for the three of them last Christmas.

And a partridge in a pear tree will now set you back $207.68 which is 3.8% more than in 2013 when there were a cent less than $200. This was due both to an increase in partridge food costs and shipping for the tree.

Of course the milking maids on their minimum wage will be up in arms about the Lords claiming an improve Christmas Price Index increase in their wages while they are subject to a pay freeze.