Philip McGarry a recently retired co consultant psychiatrist examines the contrasting words of Pam Morrison and Gerry Adams in respect of the former IRA chief of staff Kevin McKenna. He sees in them a a reflection of the Better Angels Of Our Nature and The Worst Of Our Past.

Last week saw two very significant and contrasting interpretations of our recent history in Northern Ireland.

The first was the moving testimony of Pam Morrison, speaking publicly for the first time about her three brothers who were separately hunted down and murdered by the IRA in rural Fermanagh in the 1980s.

The second was the funeral of Kevin Mc Kenna, allegedly a former IRA leader.

Ronnie Graham was killed in June 1981 as he was delivering coal.

In November 1981 Cecil Graham was leaving his in-laws’ house where his Catholic wife was staying with their prematurely born five week old son Darren, when the IRA shot him 16 times.

In February 1985 Jimmy Graham was parking his school bus at a primary school in Derrylin when he was shot 26 times.

Continue reading @ The News Letter.

Better Angels Of Our Nature Or The Worst Of Our Past

Smash Genesis and you can smash Christianity! Evangelical Christian commentator and journalist, Dr John Coulter, uses his Fearless Flying Column today to issue a stern ‘wake up’ call to Churches. 

Many of us Christians can only combat the supposed growth in the secular society if we genuinely begin to think as Jesus thinks.

Unfortunately, many churches and denominations and factions within denominations believe that the only way to deal with pluralism and secularism is to ‘go with the flow’. 

On the issue of same-sex marriage, numerous clergy and even entire denominations are voting to abandon Biblical teaching on the issue and embrace gay marriage.

Maybe they believe that by doing so, the well-organised and highly-vocal LGBTQ+ activists will ‘back off’ the Churches and let them get on with their cosy comfort zones.

Such Churches and clergy seem to have adopted the view that society should shape the Scriptures, rather than taking the evangelical approach that the Scriptures should be about shaping Church culture.

Then again, is the Christian Church suffering because it became too judgemental, ramming a ‘thou shalt not’ culture down people’s throats to the extent that society has rebelled, not against Biblical teaching, but against those people who like to wave the Bible over people’s heads like a modern-day Sword of Damocles.

The Scriptures warn that a society which abandons traditional Christian values will fall apart. The Old Testament Book of Psalms is very clear on the issue.

For example, verse one of Psalm 127 states (latest New International Version translation): “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.”

Asked what would be the most attacked passages of the Bible, many evangelicals and fundamentalists would be forgiven for thinking it could be the Gospels detailing Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, or the end of days as told in the Book of Revelation, or even some of the Old Testament warnings on lifestyles.

However, the real target of those who are vehemently opposed to Christianity is the opening book of the Bible, Genesis from the Old Testament.

This twin-track attack is simple - Genesis deals with God creating the universe, and also the establishment of the family unit.

The opening verses of Genesis Chapter One must be a red flag to the evolutionist bull:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters (NIV).
The rest of chapter one deals with how God created the plants, creatures and man himself. This is commonly known as Creationism and is a central core of the Christian faith.

If evolutionists can debunk Genesis, they can convince people of the so-called Big Bang Theory (not the American sitcom!).

But the real target of those who wish to attack Christianity, is to debunk the concept of the family unit as outlined in Genesis Chapter Two.

In verse 18, we learn: “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” This is God recognising the importance of the family unit.

So how is the traditional Biblical family unit formed? Verses 20 to 24 provide the solution. They say:

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh.

Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman’, for she was taken out of man.’

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife and they become one flesh.

For evangelicals and fundamentalists, this is Scriptural approval that the natural family unit is a man and woman, and the unity they talk of is Christian marriage between man and woman.

However, if secularists and pluralists can stress that there is more to the definition of both the family unit and the institution of marriage, they will have gone a long way to discrediting the Biblical definition of both as outlined in Genesis.

This is also the real challenge to Christian families. Put bluntly, are they teaching the Gospel to their children in the home given that Christian evangelicals claim that children spend as much as 83 per cent of their time in this family unit before finally leaving home?

If Christian parents or guardians can influence children at this early stage in their development, hopefully the teachings of a Christian family, Sunday school, Bible class and church will remain with them throughout their lives.

The danger is that many Christian families use the Gospel message, not as valuable teaching for life, but to impose a cult-like control over their children.

In my own upbringing as a Presbyterian minister’s son, I learned my catechism - not because of the lessons they taught me, but because on one occasion I failed a Sunday school exam and was the talk of the congregation simply because the preacher’s kid could not repeat his memory verses from the catechism.

I did learn a very valuable lesson from that episode. If I cannot repeat my catechism word for word, liberal elders will use this lack of knowledge on my part to have a go at my dad who was an evangelical. They will also make an example out of me as a preacher’s kid.

So the solution is simple. To keep these liberal elders from mouthing off at dad, and to get these same elders off my own back, Learn Your Catechism!

Just as I, as a primary school age minister’s son, had to learn to box clever with these liberal elders, so too, the Christian Church must box clever in defending the teachings in Genesis.

Our children should not be afraid to stand up for the teachings in Genesis on Creation and the family unit. They should have the right to express the Christian opinion rather than just simply accept liberal spoon-feeding.

If the Christian Churches find themselves at the bottom of the heap in terms of influence in society because they have not defended Genesis, they have only themselves to blame.

Follow Dr John Coulter on Twitter @JohnAHCoulter

Listen to religious commentator Dr John Coulter’s programme, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 9.30 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM. Listen online at


A Morning Thought @ 414

Frazer Myers looks at ‘Dirtbag’ leftists Amber A’Lee Frost and Anna Khachiyan on populism, feminism and cancel culture.
The left is in crisis across the West. It is out of power in most countries and out of touch with its historical working-class base. Class politics has given way to identity politics. And noble causes like anti-racism, anti-sexism and anti-discrimination have congealed into a stifling morass of political correctness and competitive victimhood.

Thankfully, there are some pockets on the left who recognise this predicament. I’m in New York to try to understand the thinking behind the ‘dirtbag left’. The phrase was coined by Amber A’Lee Frost, a writer, commentator and activist, to describe a loose constellation of American leftists who reject the civility, piety and PC that has come to characterise much of the left.

Frost is a co-host of the hugely successful Chapo Trap House, which offers a funny, irony-laden and often downright vulgar take on contemporary politics from the left. She also writes a column for the Baffler and is a trade unionist.

Newer on the scene is the acerbic and wickedly funny Anna Khachiyan, art critic turned cultural commentator, who co-hosts the podcast Red Scare. Red Scare saves its most biting criticism for ‘neoliberal’ feminism.

Among the most refreshing things about Frost and Khachiyan is that their politics are resolutely not woke. ‘You can tell people that I’m trans’, says Khachiyan, with characteristic irreverence, as Frost, Khachiyan and myself sit down to talk at Eastwood in the Lower East Side. ‘I’m not trans, but you can say that just for fun.’ Their reasons for rejecting wokeness are both pragmatic and political. ‘The majority of people are not woke’, explains Frost: ‘Why would we dismiss the majority of people as hopelessly reactionary?’

Continue reading @ Spiked Online.

Meet The Anti-Woke Left

Valerie Tarico on How Case for Christ Author Lee Strobel Fabricated His Best-Selling Story—An Interview with Religion Critic David Fitzgerald.

Many Evangelicals think of Lee Strobel as the man who can cure your doubts about their religion. His 1998 book, The Case for Christ, has sold millions of copies, was made into a 2017 movie by the same name, and was recently re-issued in a “new and updated” edition.

The story that Evangelicals find so convincing and delicious is this: Strobel, a tough-as-nails atheist journalist, and his atheist family are out to dinner when his daughter is saved from choking to death by an evangelical nurse who felt called by God to go to the restaurant that night. Strobel’s wife converts, and Strobel sets out to prove her wrong, using the same strategy that made him a fearsome investigative journalist. He lines up scholars and theologians and confronts them with the hardest possible questions about their faith—and comes away convinced that the Evangelical view of the Bible and Jesus is true. He accepts Jesus as his savior and proceeds to lay out those persuasive interviews in his book, which goes on, as I said, to become a religion best-seller.

The problem, according to author and religion critic David Fitzgerald (and others), is that key parts of this story are distorted at best and fabricated at worst. Fitzgerald is the author of Nailed and Jesus: Mything in Action, part of The Complete Heretic’s Guide to Western Religion series. In this interview, he discusses how Strobel stretches the truth to the breaking point, and why.

Tarico: Several books point out flaws in the Biblical research and archaeology cited by Strobel, including The Case Against the Case for Christ, by New Testament scholar Robert Price, and Challenging the Verdict by Earl Doherty. True believers may be persuaded, but few serious antiquities scholars or educated skeptics take Strobel’s work seriously. Even so, one might argue that Strobel assembled bad evidence in good conscience. You’re not so sure. Why not?

Fitzgerald: I can’t give him the benefit of that particular doubt anymore. Strobel has cultivated a thoroughly bogus image that he happily encourages readers to embrace. His fan base is led to believe he was a diehard atheist who was converted by these interviews. In reality, he was a lapsed Lutheran who became a pastor at a mega-church. It wasn’t until over a decade later—and after writing three books in defense of evangelical Christianity—he had the idea to select a line-up of Evangelical academics who support his view and lob softball questions at them, all under the guise of a “tough skeptic.”

He is careful about what he claims explicitly, but the popularity of his franchise rests on this pivot, the idea of a hard-headed skeptic who set out to prove Christianity wrong but was just blown away by the evidence and had to surrender to Christ. Strobel doesn’t set the record straight. Instead, he has milked it to the tune of millions of dollars, writing book after book with the same formula: He positions himself as the skeptic, and then lo and behold, the evidence for the resurrection or against evolution (or whatever new evangelical theme-of-the week he’s advocating) is just overwhelming.

Even today, he keeps up his “tough skeptic” schtick. This quote from a recent book is typical of Strobel’s rhetoric:

I was determined to reach whatever verdict was warranted by the hard evidence of history and the cool demands of reason.

Yes, I was looking for opinions, but they had to be backed up with convincing data and airtight logic—no rank speculation, no flights of faith. Like the investigations I undertook at the Chicago Tribune, I would have no patience for half-baked claims or unsupported assertions. There was too much hanging in the balance. As the Jonestown victims had chillingly reminded me, my faith is only as good as the one in whom it’s invested.

So why don’t you come along with me on this investigative adventure? After all, as Jesus himself cautioned, what you believe about Him has very real consequences. Let’s resolve to keep an open mind and follow the facts wherever they take us—even if it’s to a conclusion that challenges us on the very deepest levels…

Tarico: The problem with Strobel’s books is pretty easy to spot: It’s confirmatory thinking. Yes, he uses hard questions about Christianity as outlines, but then he searches for any evidence or line of reasoning that might, in any way, allow his version of Christianity to be right. It’s fascinating how he speaks the language of skepticism—and then somehow does the opposite. The skeptical stance is merely a literary device, because he fails to ask the questions or consult the experts who could show him wrong.

But, jumping back, what about this story about him setting out as an investigator to dissuade his newly religious wife?

Fitzgerald: Strobel tells a very different version of events in one of the less-known books he wrote before his blockbuster, Inside the Mind of Unchurched Harry and Mary: How to Reach Friends and Family Who Avoid God and the Church. It goes like this:

His parents encouraged him to believe in God, and brought the children to Lutheran church regularly. He hated it and was relieved after going through confirmation that he was done with “the religion thing.” As an adult, Strobel didn’t look into the evidence for God—he simply thought the idea of a God, angels and demons were absurd to begin with.

A few years after high school, he married Leslie, his childhood sweetheart. As a child, she and her family attended a Methodist church and later a Presbyterian church with her mother, who would sing hymns to her as a bedtime lullaby. But religion was largely a curiosity for her.

After college, he landed a reporter job at the Chicago Tribune, where he tells us: “I thrived in the cutthroat environment, the adrenaline rush of deadlines, and the get-the-story-at-any-cost mentality. I was known as an aggressive and accurate reporter. There were times, however, when I went over the ethical edge. …like using ploys to mislead crime victims and witnesses . . . “My attitude was ethics were fine to discuss in journalism school, but they shouldn’t get in the way of getting a good story.”

Meanwhile, while Strobel was being a huge a-hole, his wife Leslie became close friends with a neighbor, who one day invited her to come to a new kind of church meeting in a movie theater. She soon rededicated her life to Jesus, and months later, in January 1980, Lee joined her.

Incidentally, the preacher at that church? Mega-church superstar, Bill Hybels of Willow Creek. In 2018, his assistant accused him of sexually harassing her during this same period, and he quickly retired, which prompted ten additional women to come forward and accuse him of sexual harassment. Then, both the pastor who succeeded him and the church board also resigned, admitting they mishandled the sexual misconduct allegations.

Tarico: Gross. Wasn’t Strobel working as a pastor under Hybels when he wrote The Case for Christ? Not that he was necessarily privy to Hybels’ bad behavior. But there is a broad, ugly pattern of Christian leaders with thinly veiled secrets and people looking the other way because they don’t want to interfere with God’s work. There’s also a broad, ugly pattern of stretching the truth—or breaking with truth—to advance the cause of Christ.

When people frame things in terms of eternity, heaven and hell, then all manner of bad behaviors can be construed as a lesser evil in the service of a greater good. Chris Rodda wrote a book called Liars for Jesus in which she takes down David Barton, an Evangelical who has literally rewritten American history to suit the Religious Right. Recently, you have been on the speaking circuit talking about Strobel, and you mention another infamous case, Antony Flew.

Fitzgerald: Oh, don’t get me started on David Barton—his book was so rife with false statements, his own publisher pulled his book off the shelves! As for Antony Flew, he was a respected British philosopher and atheist who ostensibly flipped in his later years—at least according to a book published in his name in 2007: There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. It’s this same beloved Evangelical trope: the “hard-core atheist” who succumbs to the evidence. But the book was almost immediately exposed as a hoax.

The book’s actual author(s) turned out to be its “co-author,” evangelical promoter and businessman Roy Abraham Varghese, and evangelical preacher Bob Hostetler (who has also written several books with another popular evangelical apologist, Josh McDowell). The pair had taken advantage of Flew, who didn’t write a word of it and was by then suffering from progressive dementia. (At the end of his life, as it advanced, he did begin espouse a rather incoherent Deism, so it’s easy to see what made him an attractive target. But even in his dementia, Flew rejected any belief in a personal god, let alone Christianity.)

Other “tells” were that the book was full of Americanisms; and that the confused Flew himself later couldn’t recognize the arguments attributed to him. Yet despite the hoax being exposed in 2007, almost upon arrival, the film version of Case for Christ goes out of its way to name-drop Flew, and Christians are still repeating the bogus story. In fact, more Christians seem to know “the world’s most notorious atheist” than atheists ever did.

Tarico: You call these easily-debunked defenses of Evangelicalism “comfort food for a desperately grateful Christian readership.” Do you think that’s the whole point? I’ve written about why good Christians do bad things to win converts—things like preying on grade school children (a la Child Evangelism Fellowship) or preying on foreign students via “friendship missions.” I say preying, because the students are lonely, far from parents and far from home, and don’t know American culture well enough to realize they are marks. Is the Strobel/Flew thing the same?

Fitzgerald: It certainly shows the same kind of dubious ethics (if not outright predatory behavior) that we’ve seen in plenty of other religious cases.

Tarico: I guess Strobel’s dubious story wouldn’t matter so much, but you say that he took the same liberties with his defense of Christianity as with his personal narrative.

Fitzgerald: Absolutely. What Christians need to realize is that regardless of whether Christianity is true or not, what Strobel and his team of “experts” are peddling to them so successfully is not. It’s a constant stream of distortions and misinformation.

For example, Strobel’s very first interview is with Dr. Craig Blomberg, a Baptist seminary professor (not a historian).* Dr. Craig Blomberg has since said that Strobel’s write-up of the interview was not verbatim but rather heavily paraphrased and full of what were, in Blomberg’s view, “oversimplifications.” He said his initial impulse when he saw Strobel’s draft was to edit for accuracy, but in the end decided to correct only the worst problems (!). So right out of the gate, we have some serious credibility problems. And the rest of the book is just as full of inaccuracies.

*[Note: Only two out of the 13 experts clearly have history degrees. Dr. Blomberg has published on the historicity of the New Testament, but through his career has held an a priori theological commitment to the idea that the gospels are history. Denver Seminary, where he teaches, requires alignment with this statement of faith: “We believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the inspired Word of God, inerrant in the original writings, complete as the revelation of God’s will for salvation, and the supreme and final authority in all matters to which they speak.”]

Tarico: How does the film version of Case for Christ compare with the book?

Fitzgerald: Strobel has claimed that the film is about “80% accurate,” which is completely ludicrous. And I’m not talking about it getting the movie treatment. Of course, like all biopics, they change things around, simplify storylines, blend characters, I get that. That’s not special. But there’s Hollywood bullshit, and then there is a deeper, more insidious kind of bullshit. The film version of Lee Strobel’s spiritual journey bears almost zero relationship to his real life story, but it presents the Lee Strobel Myth™ in every loving detail. It’s the imaginary life he desperately wishes had been the case.

For example, two of the “experts” he “interviewed” and purported to be so impressed with, don’t even exist. “Father Jose Maria Marquez” and agnostic “Purdue professor Roberta Waters” are completely fictitious characters. In reality, all of Strobel’s hand-chosen stable of house experts are evangelical protestant apologists, and only 2 (possibly 3) out of 13 of them even have historical credentials to begin with.

What about the points raised by these experts?

Fitzgerald: Strobel doesn’t act like a reporter, and his “historians” don’t act like historians—because he isn’t, and they aren’t. Either they are misquoted by Strobel, as one of them has admitted—or they are acting as flat-out propagandists. Because it’s not just that they are misrepresenting the evidence. It’s the way they do so—deliberate, calculated and shameless. Here’s a prime example:

One of the craziest parts of Case for Christ was Strobel’s citation of “micrographic letters”—handwritten inscriptions on ancient coins too small to be seen by the naked eye—proclaiming Rex Jesus and Messiah and King of the Jews. This idea comes to Strobel second-hand from Baptist preacher and disgraced Mississippi State University archaeologist, E. Jerry Vardaman, who claimed to have uncovered a secret history of the ancient world, completely unknown to mainstream academia, in these tiny inscriptions.

Needless to say, this bizarre theory didn’t pan out, and Vardaman was removed from his academic position. Real historians were never fooled—just folks like Strobel and his expert Dr. John McRay, who cites Vardaman’s nonsense with a straight face. What’s more, in Strobel’s “new and updated” edition of Case for Christ, its clear that Strobel has since gotten the memo, since he oh-so-carefully rewrites this section to retroactively distance himself from the ridiculous claim—as if he was skeptical about it all along—but without removing it, or admitting that he knows it has since been completely debunked.

Tarico: You’ve taken some heat for your writings too—especially your argument that the New Testament stories about Jesus are historicized mythology instead of mythologized history.

Fitzgerald: Absolutely, Jesus mythicism is a minority position, and I suspect it always will be. For many reasons, I don’t think there ever was a “Real Jesus”—but whether there was a genuine historical figure or not, our evidence for him is not great, and none of it appears connected to anyone who ever actually existed in the first century. And in any case, the “Jesus of Faith” is a product of theological wishful thinking, every bit as fabricated as Strobel’s Hollywood conversion story—and for the same reason.

Tarico: It makes me think of fan fic.

Fitzgerald: (laughs) Yes! All scripture is fanfic!

Tarico: What do you most wish that Strobel’s readers knew about him or about his books?

Fitzgerald: That he is selling them spiritual junk food, just as hollow as a chocolate Easter bunny. And maybe they should be the ones calling out the David Bartons, the William Lane Craigs and the Lee Strobels, and not leave it to the atheists to do their fact-checking for them. Because if there is a god that’s anything like what Christians preach, he doesn’t need their sleight of hand to prop him up—does he?

Valerie Tarico
Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington.  

She writes about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society.

How “Case For Christ” Author Lee Strobel Fabricated His Best-Selling Story

A Morning Thought @ 413

Sean Bresnahan responds to an Irish Times piece in which loyalists give their view on the possibility of a united Ireland. 

In a recent interview with Simon Carswell of The Irish Times — speaking alongside fellow loyalists Winston Irvine, Jackie McDonald and Sammy Douglas — Rob Williamson, a coordinator with the Reach project in East Belfast, was quoted saying, ‘Sinn Féin and others who want a border poll in Northern Ireland on Irish unification haven’t told people what a united Ireland even entails’.

Williamson, for sure, is right that what a United Ireland entails needs determined — so everyone, including the Ulster Protestant minority on Ireland, know where they stand in the event of Irish Unity. The problem is that the 32-county forum it would require to map such out cannot be stood in advance and makes such a task, therefore, a practical impossibility.

For now, at least — likely until we’ve already arrived at Irish Unity and the ‘sovereign united Ireland’ the current ‘legal’ position (set out under the British-Irish Agreement) demands of an Irish Unity scenario — there is no political means for it to be stood as anything other than a consultative initiative of the Dublin Government, bound entire within its own legal sphere.

That is not to say that Dublin should not attempt towards such a forum but to unearth the reality that, absent political input from the Six Counties — absent a national conversation indeed — the impact of such an initiative, and its ability to forward a concrete proposal that can be authoritatively argued for as the national consensus, will have been undermined at its beginning.

The absence of an ability to map the form of a future United Ireland is not due to failings on the part of Dublin, or any other party on the Irish side, including Sinn Féin (explicitly cited by Williamson). It is the result of political constraints entrenched within the Good Friday Agreement, which upholds Britain’s claim to sovereignty in the North and ensures, thus, that what a United Ireland is to entail not only needn’t be discussed but that it won’t be discussed, with unionism simply refusing to discuss it for fear of undermining the status quo.

In this environment, interim to Irish Unity itself, the best that can be done on the part of Irish nationalism is not to make unionism’s argument for it, as is being foolishly attempted, but to uphold the position that any future United Ireland, while its governmental basis will need to be determined, must entail as its basic starting point that Ireland, as one, will be a sovereign independent state, free to determine her own affairs without external impediment.

If we cannot (outside our own private positions) offer Williamson and his community greater detail as to the form a United Ireland will assume, which they deserve, we can at least ensure that this much is understood and by all concerned — that Irish Unity involves, fundamentally, the end of the Union and the constitution of a sovereign united Ireland, as already set out under binding international treaty.

Sean Bresnahan, Chair, Thomas Ashe Society Omagh blogs at An Claidheamh Soluis 

Follow Sean Bresnahan on Twitter @bres79

Future United Ireland Must Be A Sovereign Independent State

Thomas Dixie Elliot asks questions of loyalist culture.

Unionists and Loyalists, the likes of Jamie Bryson, are shouting from the top of bonfire pallets across the North that their culture is under threat.

But what is this culture really?

Irish culture is our language, our music and dance and our Gaelic sports, most of which goes back to the Celts. The Scottish and the Welsh people have their own distinctive languages and cultures.

Unionism/Loyalism can only point to a British identity and this what they claim as being their culture.

What British identity?

The ancient Britons allied themselves with the Romans against the marauding Scots, Picts and Anglo-Saxons. When the Romans finally decided that there was no place like Rome and cleared out, the Anglo-Saxons, who came from Germany, eventually defeated the Britons who became the Welsh.

Then the Normans came over from France.

They were descended from the Vikings of Scandinavia and in 1066 they defeated the Anglo-Saxons, who as I mentioned, came from Germany.

King William was a Dutch man of course and the present British royal family are Germanic (Germany again!!) Their real name being the Saxe-Coburg and Gothas. They had to take the name of Windsor Castle in 1917 because of anti-German sentiment during WW1.

Do you get where I'm coming from?

That's right, somewhere between Germany and France.

The fact is, the British, who the Unionists and Loyalists see as being the basis of their cultural identity, are actually more European than the EU they want to leave.

As for their bonfires.

Saint Patrick came over to Ireland from Roman Britain, aye the Roman Britain of the Britons, the Picts, the Scots, the Anglo-Saxons and of course the Romans. In order to win the pagan Celts over to Christianity Patrick adopted their tradition of lighting bonfires.

The Celts loved their bonfires and before long Patrick had converted them all to Christianity. Not long after that there was the Roman Catholics... The same Roman Catholics who the Dutch man King William, who was backed by the Pope, defeated at the Battle of the Boyne.

No wonder Jamie Bryson looks confused...

Thomas Dixie Elliot is a Derry artist and a former H Block Blanketman.

Follow Dixie Elliot on Twitter @IsMise_Dixie    

Somewhere Between Germany And France

A Morning Thought @ 412

Christopher Owens has been reading a book on the likely next British Prime Minister. 

By the time you read this, Boris Johnston could very well be the next (and maybe last) Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

His success takes in many factors: nostalgia for the British Empire, deference to status, overtures to celebrity culture and actions/comments passed off as Dennis the Menace style mischief to hide the (at times) racist and classist undertones running through his 'gaffes' (who can forget this classic

So commentators have been looking back at his time as Mayor of London to gauge how a man notorious for having a low boredom threshold will cope running a deeply divided nation. Thankfully, Douglas Murphy has given us this magnificent read which mainly shows up Boris in ways you might not have considered.

Being an architecture correspondent and blogger, Murphy spends most of the book examining the various 'follies' involving Boris that were meant to boost London in 2012 to coincide with the Olympics. And what he shows is a man who has little in the way of imagination, but plenty of drive to get what he wants done. Especially if the people involved are friends of his.

If you want a perfect example, look at the front cover.

That's the ArcelorMittal Orbit, rather optimistically described as " London's most exciting attraction" by the Olympic Park website. Not only is it an utter calamity to look at (resembling a decommissioned funfair ride), but it also cost nearly £20 million (partly funded through public spending), and has been losing over £500,000 a year since 2012.

All of this despite Boris proclaiming it as a future example of "the perfect iconic cultural legacy" that London has given the world. Clearly, he's someone who thinks 'iconic' means 'immediate.'

Aside from critiquing the final product, Murphy also explores the history of each proposal. The same names crop up time and time age, showing how Boris is fond of cronyism. What Murphy concludes is that Boris masks 'art' as 'property to let' for various countries and corporations to use and abuse. The end result is an even bleaker terrain than what had been there beforehand, both in terms of visuals and sustainability.

Tellingly, a recent report shows that the post 2012 Olympics boom has utterly deteriorated, with the various areas suffering from greater poverty than in 2009, a lower quality of life and even sporting activities suffering.

So much for ping pong coming home then.

Moving through other projects, some realised and some abandoned, Murphy demonstrates that Boris is little more than an opportunist, both in terms of his need to have been seen to do "something" about the housing crisis in London (regardless of whether it was the best idea) and his deferral to the establishment (witness his constant defence of the Metropolitan Police during the Ian Tomlinson affair, describing the criticism as "an orgy of cop bashing").

While this may be an outlook that makes for a lasting political career, it also leads to vanity projects vandalising the skyline and being funded by the taxpayer. If Boris does become PM, it will be entirely appropriate, and for all the wrong reasons.

Read this, and feel your eyes water at the amount of money spent in the name of ego.

Douglas Murphy, 2017, Nincompoopolis: The Follies of Boris Johnson. Repeater Books ISBN-13: 978-1910924570

⏩  Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland.


A Morning Thought @ 411

Anthony McIntyre reviews a short book he picked up in Dublin.

Being the only work I have read by Annie Proulx, it immediately stuck me as being from the genre of that oft talked about literary American essentialism. I was so reminded of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. While almost wholly sans the violence of Blood Meridian, this novella about a pair of gay cowboys is carried by a pronounced atmospheric writing that easily conveys the sense of ruggedness snaking its way through many works in this genre. Brokeback Mountain was first published as a short story in the New York Times in 1997.

The title of the book is the mountain range where Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar first meet in the early 1960s. They are employed by a grazer to look after sheep but end up looking more at each other than they do the flock. They were not sheep shaggers but shagging had its place. The central characters are young, tough, rough, uncomplicated and ineluctably drawn into a situation that despite the beautiful simplicity of the narrative, the demands of the byzantine were always going to create tensions. Creative or destructive, the joy of reading is in the discovery it leads to.

Was it the loneliness that led to the sensual indulgence or something else? The work prompted more than enough debate about the matter in the arts world.  It certainly had consequences for one of the men, at least. The bifurcation as they came down from Brokeback Mountain, like a river, soon found its way back to the Sea of Love. Ennis, now married with two children, accommodated the fact that gay sex on the mountain was not something casual in the mists, courtesy of Jack’s reappearance on the scene. The mountain may not have come to Ennis but something else had: love, passion, lust, whatever, it had to find its own level.

A slim book, I picked it up for the convenience offered by its brevity in a Dublin charity shop, something to break up the gravitas of Robert White on Irish republicanism and Steven Pinker on the history of violence.

From the moment I set out on the coach from Drogheda to Dublin one Saturday morning, I was pulled into its pages. We had reached our stop before I realised, almost a full hour consumed. I sensed that, come the return journey, I would have to resort to the Kindle in my bag as there were but a few pages left in Brokeback Mountain. It took my mind off the challenges to be faced later in the day in  a Dublin trade union office. Yet people, usually religious bigots, get so uptight about a gay kiss when a Judas one is the damaging of the two.

Without saying a lot Annie Proloux manages to say quite a bit. There is more of a footprint moulded by her spartan use of words than there is to be found in more verbose works. Brokeback Mountain was adapted for a film although some who watched it thought it much too long. The compactness of the book might be what carries it. It is a work which cause the author some regrets, a result of the sheer number of self-important scribes who showered her with their own alternative plots, having watched the movie. These creative geniuses, like the winter snow on Brokeback Mountain, have long since faded from view.

The reader of course wonders how it will all work out. In a book this size there is not too long to wait. While there was no expectation of tragedy, in an era where anti-gay bigotry was much more pronounced, the potential for the type of relationship Jack and Ennis found themselves in, theirs was a bond that the culture of the time sought to dissolve. If gay love worked hard to survive, bigotry worked as hard to kill it off.

The world treated them like criminals. And that made them victims. In an America where their very existence was illegal, gays were forced into dangerous shadows. At a time when being out meant being arrested, lonely men looked for love in dark parks, public bathrooms, and Times Square bars. Often, they only met their murderers.
In order to live freely they had to take their chances.

Annie Proloux, 1998, Brokeback Mountain. Publisher - Fourth Estate. ISBN-13: 978-1857029406.

Brokeback Mountain

Stanley L. Cohen argues against any proposed two state solution to Palestine's Israeli problem. 

Is the Two-State Solution now the zombie of Western political-thought–an idea long dead, yet still walking the landscape, with bits of it rotting and falling off, while reason and history shoot holes in it, but it keeps staggering on, infecting the political discourse? Who can sincerely believe in it anymore? Least of all, Israel and the Zionists, since the idea’s basic post-Madrid concept has been so thoroughly abused and violated, perforated with holes so big you can plant a settlement in them. The idea has been rendered no longer materially feasible, to put it politely–well and truly screwed to pieces, not so politely– while any lingering confidence by the Palestinians in the good-faith intentions of Israel and the United States has been replaced with mistrust and despair, and the cold realization that US policy does not have any interest in a just or fair outcome for the Palestinians. It never really has had any interest in helping the Palestinians. What killed the Two State Solution, we might ask?

The settlements killed the Two-State Solution–but NOT as an accidental by-product of Israeli “security” issues, as if the settlements were a casual, reversible mistake. But rather they killed the Two-State Solution as part of a calculated agenda from the very start of the Zionist project to capture, de-populate and settle Jews on All the land of Palestine. Zionism’s early generation of founders always envisioned the large-scale removal of the Arab population, and the settlement of their own descendants in land belonging to others–you can read it in their diaries and letters, in their unguarded moments when they are talking among themselves. Herschel, Jabotinsky, Ben Gurion, Meir–they all spoke privately of what they understood: that all of Palestine would be theirs, and that it would be a state for the Jews alone.

This has not changed. The Israeli political establishment is today far more racist and authoritarian than the original Zionists ever dreamed of being. We see today how the orthodox right wing has taken over the official agenda entirely, with predictable results: more walls, fences, checkpoints, prisons, military forces, deadly raids by helicopters and fighter planes, and dehumanization for the occupied people. When the Israeli Occupation Forces start getting their first shipment of drones from the US arsenal, it will only get worse. The settlements–whose population has roughly quadrupled since Madrid–were Always part of the plan historically, even though the agenda of settlement has always been directly at odds with international law, and counter to the creation of a Palestinian state, or any “peace process.” This contradiction has stymied forty years of negotiations–and any continued talk with settlement-building part of the equation is simply contrary to common sense.

Speaking as an American, I must note for you here today that it is fundamentally difficult to understand why Americans ever believed in the Two-State Solution at all – I don’t mean the deep political establishment in my country, which is essentially pro-Zionist, strategically and sentimentally, and has used the Two State Solution as a stalling ruse to buy more time for Zionism’s plan. But rather, I mean the thinking, commenting, “chattering class” of intellectuals, television hosts, and so on, tasked with the job of “selling” the idea over the last forty years or so, and those average Americans targeted for this deception. Because for Americans, a fundamental cognitive dissonance has always surrounded the very idea of Israel as an exclusive “state for the Jews”: and that is the fact that American political culture and civil polity are founded on the sacrosanct, bedrock value of the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution, which essentially says that a democracy does not establish Any religion as the religion of the state, and may not favor any faith over another.

We can’t claim credit for this idea – we got it from the French revolution, and from English philosophers before them. It was a radical idea in the 18th century, but today it’s a mainstream, default concept in the West. It’s how we do government in the West. So how did the United States become the proponent and guarantor of the zombie idea of Israel–an exclusive state which bases citizenship on membership in one religion, while reserving a degraded, second-class citizenship for those who are not Jews? Everything about this is antithetical to the American political tradition. It has been one of the great, triumphant acts of cynical political salesmanship in my lifetime: that the exclusive “state for the Jews” has been rendered as acceptable in polite quarters– even just and fair!–to Americans, within the context of our political discourse, even though every ten year old in American Civics class learns in school that we are a nation where all people are equal, and no religion controls, but you are free to worship as you please.

Selling this idea to Americans has taken decades and lots of money and influence, operating sometimes quietly, sometimes openly. US President Harry Truman in 1947 was extremely skeptical of any “state for the Jews,” and generally objected to the Zionist plan on purely fundamental American values–that the establishment of a religious state was counter to what America stands for, and he didn’t want any part of it. He thought he had worked out with his British counterparts a solution for partitioning Palestine that would allow 100,000 Holocaust survivors from Europe to move there, but would create a federal, democratic government with the existing majority Arab population controlling the majority of the land, in a secular state, among which the European Jews would be permitted to live. Truman even went so far as to remind advisors that “religious wars” had ravaged Europe for centuries, and had been the very thing the American Revolution had got us all away from in 1776, and that a “Jewish State” was not an American idea. Eventually, Truman went along with partition, but only if it awarded Palestine mostly to the Palestinians, with a small enclave for the Jews. He expressed his doubts that any creation of a Jewish state could ever be fair to the Arabs.

But then something happened–and this is the salesmanship of Zionism–in the circle of liberal, “progressive” Democrats surrounding the Truman White House: famous men like Judge Brandeis, or the former first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. Liberals! They pushed on behalf of the Zionists for a Jewish state, and against the fairness doctrine that Truman wanted. The Liberal movement in the United States helped create Israel, and in doing so, robbed the Palestinians of their homes, their villages, their farms, their cities and towns. Always beware of the smiling, do-gooder liberals, is the lesson there. So much for the American ideal of the Establishment Clause. Next, the US Constitution enshrines the basic idea of “equality” before the law, and due process for all citizens. As a lawyer, I can tell you that “due process” is the mechanical operating feature of the US Constitution which triggers so many of our rights as citizens–that everyone has the same access to, relationship to, and enfranchisement under the law. The United States has fought bitterly over these issues–including its own civil war, and many rounds of social and political rights movements–but this fundamental western Enlightenment idea has held up as the core value of all our laws in the United States.

The foundation of the Zionist state, of course, was a monstrous crime against the notion of “due process.” Who among the 800,000 Palestinians stripped of their land and homes in 1948 ever received “due process” of the law? Who among the millions of refugees today refused the right to return to where their families come from has ever received any “due process” of the law? Speaking as a lawyer, this is the most troubling aspect of any “Two State Solution”–the constant threat by the Zionists that any Palestinian assertion of the Right of Return justifies a cancellation of all other rights Palestinians possess–it is a miserable, deceitful and coercive cruelty played out over decades by the Zionists against those displaced Palestinians and their descendants who have suffered. It is the original crime at the foundation of the Zionist state–and the Zionists continually cry for the Palestinians to renounce their human right before any other rights can be discussed. As if the human right did not precede all other rights.

This is why the Two State Solution is dead–because the Zionists cannot admit that their state is founded on a crime, and the moral contradiction of their position does not permit a way forward. There is only blind advancement of conquest, subjugation and Apartheid. Speaking as a lawyer, I am most troubled by the failure of the Israeli people to understand the Right of Return in purely legalistic terms: it is a property right, and the body of law dealing with property is long and deep, and originates in many cultures and languages, including, famously, the law-giving culture of the Jews. Much of the ancient Jewish Torah and religious teachings, after all, are concerned explicitly with property, righteousness and what is fair. The foundation of their faith is, in essence, the story of a contract between a people and God, and what happens when contracts are not honored.

Even this past year, we have witnessed the vindication of property claims by Jews against banks, insurance companies, and art collections, concerning the plunder of the Nazis–where property is concerned, many Jews have vindicated their rights across many decades of troubling history, recovering bank accounts, businesses, houses and art. Yet where are the Israelis who stand up and say, “the Right of Return is an issue of equity and property–the land belongs to someone else.” Again, the moral failure of the Israeli state, under the corruption of Zionism, blinds all who stand on stolen ground.

Yet, the “due process” concept is even more troubling for the future that is upon us now: the Apartheid state that the Zionists have built over the years since the Madrid talks can never permit even the faintest whisper of “due process” for those who must live under it. Why do Americans support this? Do they even know what they support? The One State of Zionist Apartheid is upon us, and that needs to be spelled out in every way to folks in the United States. Because now, as the Two-State Solution is dead, the choice for even liberal, peace-seeking Israelis (and for the Americans who would support them) is a choice between a single state from the river to the sea, in which every single person has total and equal enfranchisement before the law, with a resulting Arab majority; or it is a single state ruled by an iron fist, with two classes of citizens–the official, enfranchised class, and the subjugated, serving class, with walls and fences and Bantustan villages to keep them in their place. Does this sound familiar?

But still, proponents push the zombie corpse of the Two State Solution forward. I am amazed at how hollowed out this concept has become from all the abuse it has suffered–according to the Occupiers and the United States’ right wing, the future Palestinian “state” will not have control of its own borders, or ports; exclusive highways for Jews only will criss-cross its land, connecting settlements; it will not have any army or national military force; it will not be permitted armor or airplanes; it will have fences and walls, and the Israeli army and navy, surrounding all of it. That doesn’t sound much like a state I’d like to live in! I wouldn’t live in that state if you made me the President.

Zionist phobia of a dignified Palestinian neighbor runs deep and broad–just like racism–and would provoke laughter if it were not such a sickness. This phobia is so powerful that the Israelis and the Americans won’t even allow the Palestinians to take their place among the organizations of nations, and have access to international cultural and political resources–as witness the temper-tantrum Israel and the US State Department threw last year when the Palestinian Authority joined various United Nations organizations. It is time for the Zionists to grow up, and stop poisoning the phony discourse–either admit your agenda is conquest, or get out. If it’s conquest, then the apartheid system shall prevail, which–as South Africa demonstrated–will lead to a protracted battle for rights by the majority population, leading to their eventual triumphant – in A One State Framework. This is what Palestinians have to look forward to, I’m afraid!

But I have been visiting South Africa quite a lot in the past few years as a lawyer–and I can tell you, I know of no more other society so determined to find a just and equitable future together, really struggling with the legacy of injustice and working creatively to make a real nation, than I find in South Africa. It holds out the promise that one day Palestine will be the state we are talking about, from the river to the sea. Yet the zombie of the Two State Solution still strides the land, spawning its infected army of zombie believers–most recently the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, who staggered through the region, ineffective and clueless, then made an observation back home that Israel was flirting with Apartheid.

The result? He has paid politically in Washington, where he had to go down on bended knee and apologize publicly to the Zionist lobby, and it’s unlikely his political career has anywhere left to go now, because he dared to use the “A-word” in referring to Israel. Of course, popular cinema has taught us that to kill a zombie, you must hit it in the head, and destroy its brain. This tells me that we must struggle now to defeat the intellectual justifications for the Two State Solution–defeat the far-flung network of bogus think-tanks and apologists who hold up Israel as a shining beacon of polite, lawful statehood, while keeping the Palestinians disenfranchised. We must win the intellectual battle, at the same time as the fight on the ground continues–the world must learn that the American and Zionist agenda is intended to subjugate the Palestinians further, and will continue to do so until world opinion & the Palestinians themselves change that–just as happened in South Africa.

This article is adapted from an address to the “Nakba 2014” Conference in Zurich, 15 May 2014.

Keep up with Stanley Cohen @ Counterpunch Follow Stanley Cohen on Twitter @StanleyCohenLaw

The Two-State Solution Is Neither