Curiosity: “We’re doing something completely novel, hanging it way out there”

Launched back in November 2011, Nasa’s mobile Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), the massive 900kg rover Curiosity, is scheduled to land on the red planet at 6.30am [BST] on Monday 6 August. [Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/MSSS] They’ve successfully repositioned the orbiting Mars Odyssey spacecraft to keep in touch with Curiosity as it descends into Gale Crater [pictured above] in a novel way. To achieve the precision needed for landing safely inside Gale Crater, the spacecraft will fly like a wing in the upper … Read more

“the outcome of the tribunal had effectively branded him as “sectarian” and “a liar”…”

So no surprise that Sinn Fein are training some big guns on Conor Murphy’s successor at DRD, Danny Kennedy for deciding not to appeal the Equality Commission’s Fair Employment Tribunal’s ruling against the South Armagh MP… As Mr Murphy told the BBC, it leaves him in an invidious position: The Sinn Fein representative told the BBC that the outcome of the tribunal had effectively branded him as “sectarian” and “a liar” and said he did not intend to let the … Read more

“The debate is gaining momentum due to the shut-out tactics of the two main parties which betray the ethics of an Agreement which was meant to unify.”

Last week, the News Letter had a feature article by former UUP Vice-Chairman Terry Wright, calling for the UUP to enter “virtual opposition”, a more structured stance of performance review for the executive and Assembly, if not full withdrawal from the executive. This may be seen as another attempt to try to square a particularly difficult circle for the party (and indeed the SDLP), as the intention behind the Agreement may be giving way to the practical logic of politics: … Read more

The net deals with ‘acute’ issues better than the ‘chronic’

Interesting piece from +Daniel Drezner in which he lauds the network of the web as a fact checker (not to mention dealing with idiots), but then argues that it also “permits an amplification of conspiracy theories that can attract pockets of people that otherwise would never bother to organize”. He continues: “The problem comes with slower-moving facts — those arguments or statements that are so “out there” that no significant online media would bother to check out until and unless it attracts … Read more

The legacy of Hutcheson, an Ulster Scots great…

ULSTER-SCOTS seems to me to have a tendency to cling on to the pathetic, irrational US Tea Party politics these days. But the real radicalism of Presbyterianism – with its strong anti-authoritarianism streak for fairness and equality – influenced the world. It is explored in this fascinating documentary of Saintfield’s Forgotten Revolutionary: Francis Hutcheson. In these harsh economic times, perhaps he is worth re-visiting. He might be one of the world’s leading Ulster Scots – influencing both economist Adam Smith and … Read more

A new IRA emerges lashed together from the wreckage of the old…

The big news of the weekend? The convergence of a wide range of republican paramilitary groups into a new one called, erm, the IRA… So it hasn’t gone away you know… That’s the PR of it anyway. I suppose one might be tempted to say that it took them long enough to decide that the current spilts were killing any ‘credibility’ they might have had at representing a coherent idea never mind anything else. What it proves is that you … Read more

Sean Quinn: “We felt it was the right thing to do and we still feel it was the right thing to have done…”

The jailing of his son and nephew was supposed to be “a practical way” of procuring compliance with the court orders to reverse the contempt of court in putting assets beyond the reach of the former Anglo-Irish Bank, now the state-owned Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC). Instead, the bankrupt Sean “I am not dishonest” Quinn snr has embarked on an unapologetic PR campaign.  Whilst his still ‘on the run’ nephew, Peter Darragh Quinn, has been reportedly photographed with his father at a GAA match in … Read more

Olympic riff

Something unusual happened last night, some 30 million BBC viewers  watched a Performing  Arts event live on TV as did a billion more throughout the world. While we’re used to major sports events attracting large numbers of viewers very rarely do we see a Performing  Arts event promoted so heavily.  OK so it was the opening night of the Olympics, it was our Olympics,  and the level of anticipation, with Danny Boyle in charge, was feverish; but really it was … Read more

Team GB: Britain’s careless inattention to its own edges?

I hate to say it, because spectacle is no really my thing, but last night’s opening ceremony was impressive. At a quick reckoning, I think it is the first live one I’ve seen since Munich in 1972. I think what Danny Boyle got right, was the narrative thread (and a set that must have cost an absolute bomb… Best write up I’ve seen so far, is this from the NYT: …a wild jumble of the celebratory and the fanciful; the … Read more

Haste and fast tracking are best reasons NOT to abolish Seanad Eireann

Great piece in the Irish Times today, from Philip Pettit of Princeton University why the the proposal to abolish the Seanad is the wrong way to go: The need to put legislation through a second house ensures against the danger of fast-tracking inadequately considered laws. The existence of a second house creates a base for dissident voices to be heard in the community, guarding against majority complacency. And the requirement for the second house to agree on the dismissal of … Read more

Shotgungate: a visual comment

With the news that DUP Health Minister Edwin Poots sent a few shotgun rounds across the bow in order to warn off a few no good intruders doing the round I had to put this riveting imagery to cartoon. I further felt the shotgun imagery was readily applicable to the Poots blood donor controversy that went on a few months ago and I quickly put together a cartoon on that, as you can see below: Brian SpencerBrian is a writer, … Read more

Red Arrows Perform Olympic Flypasts Across UK

The RAF Red Arrows are performing formation flypasts across the UK to mark the start of the London 2012 Olympic games.  Starting in Edinburgh at 12.23pm, Belfast was the second stop at 1.01pm, followed by Cardiff at 4.21pm with the Olympic stadium in London scheduled for 8.12pm.  The BBC video from Belfast is not embeddable, but here is some eyewitness video from Belfast. And another one [Loving the red, white and blue smoke trails over City Hall – Ed]  Don’t tell Máirtín… Pete … Read more

Sheriff Poots “opened up from an upstairs bedroom” to scare away intruders – can you ever take the guns out of politics?

While the dissident non-conformist republican groups are amid a rebranding exercise, there was a reminder this morning that paramilitary groups aren’t the only ones with guns that are willing to use. DUP Health Minister and Lagan Valley MLA Edwin Poots has admitted to firing warning shots out of a bedroom window to ward off potential intruders one night in early June. The Belfast Telegraph reports: Police said they were investigating the incident which happened in the early hours of June … Read more

The Rising of the Undead

Disparate republican militant groups have announced a coming together under a single leadership that has breathed new life into the IRA, promising to bring murder, anarchy and terrorism back to Northern Ireland. Here’s my illustration. Brian SpencerBrian is a writer, artist, political cartoonist and legal blogger. Actively tweeting from @brianjohnspencr. More information here:

Ignore the issue of victims, and it will fester…

Nick Garbutt is doing some good work bringing much needed perspective to the vicitims issue… After yesterday’s column in the News Letter, he points out what ought to be the bleedin obvious, ie that in terms of any natural justice, the guy who blows himself up (of which there were many in the early days of the Troubles) is not the same as the person or persons they kill…  …it is not the same for people who just found themselves … Read more

Slugger’s Digital lunch (2), on the eve of the London Olympics…

So at 1pm (BST) we’ll be ‘broadcasting live’ via YouTube (and here) our second Slugger’s Digital Lunch…  Last week, we had Lee Reynolds of the DUP (you can pick up the YouTube here).  I hope we will have even more voices this week. <iframe width=”420″ height=”315″ To participate, you must be on Google Plus. That may take a little of time and working out, but if you already use Skype you’ll have most of the hardware you need to make … Read more

“Non-conformist republican groups” merge under banner of the “IRA”

Under the banner of the “IRA”, the Real IRA, Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD) as well as smaller groups often referred to as Óglaigh na hÉireann have formed a “unified structure under a single leadership”. They will be “subservient to the constitution of the Irish Republican Army”. Only the Continuity IRA remains outside the new partnership. Up to now politicians have tended to belittle the dissident threat, pointing to its fragmentation. Consolidated factions under a single brand will surely raise … Read more

Summer Recess Caption Competition

With the Northern Ireland Assembly many weeks deep into a very generous summer recess I felt compelled to capture the personal and political détente and the legislative freeze with some striking illustrative prose. I look forward to hearing what captions come up. Brian SpencerBrian is a writer, artist, political cartoonist and legal blogger. Actively tweeting from @brianjohnspencr. More information here:

DARD also appointing more Catholics than Protestants (as well as DCAL and DRD)…

Well, without adding too many caveats to this one, I think Jim Allister is on to something with his posting of the latest employment figures at DARD… It’s a spectacular outcome when you consider “24 Protestants were appointed from 159 applicants and 20 RCs from just 74 applicants”. Now the caveats. We really ought to see what the picture is across all departments. And as one commenter on Slugger’s Facebook page noted: …with Catholics being majority at universities here, they … Read more

Historic decline for gun control in the US from 60% down to just 24%

If there is one fault with the progressive view of politics it is that the people, en masse, rarely concur. And in the US beyond the Beltway, the people are rarely inclined towards even the most optimistic forms of historical determinism… Nicholas Kristoff starts his own (self described) tirade on the subject with some telling stats: Since 1959, Gallup has asked Americans if they favor banning handguns. When the polling started, 60 percent said yes; the latest poll showed support from a … Read more