Disney’s ‘Gay Moment’


Yellow Ranger

There are strange forces at work in the world. In Russia, the Minister for Sport wants to  organise football hooliganism as a spectator sport, a Dutch presidential candidate wants to ban the Koran and Disney has produced a Power Ranger film with a Yellow Ranger, Trini who is trying to figure out her sexuality.

My own preference, which may or not be of interest to you, is for tolerance and liberalism. This is taking a bit of a battering at the moment by so called ‘populism’ and so called politicians. The spread of alternative facts in fake news gives the impression that politicians have a legitimate right to make stuff up.

If voters can be hoodwinked, misled and whipped into a frenzy by celebrity liars, how can we expect people to make well-informed choices?

What we need are paragons of virtue who can restore some sanity to the world – Go Power Rangers!

Basic Income and Social Justice

Do we, as a society, wish to encourage the creativity and contribution of all our citizens? If so, we should be interested in a pilot scheme being run in Finland offering a basic income to a random selection of unemployed people.

A regular monthly basic income of €560 a month is paid to the individual for two years. There are no restrictions on payments, so the recipient can undertake a period of full-time study, get paid for part-time work or set up a business and still get the money.

The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce)  is a think tank whose mission statement is “to enrich society through ideas and action.” They are supporters of the Basic Income philosophy.

The social security system in the UK often imposes sanctions on those trying to retrain or start a business. Those caught in zero hours contracts or offered work below a living wage would also benefit from a basic income strategy

Anthony Painter, a director at the RSA thinktank, paints a picture that will be familiar to viewers of Ken Loach’s film, I, Daniel Blake. “You are late for a jobcentre appointment – so you get a sanction. You’re on a college course the jobcentre doesn’t think appropriate, so you get a sanction. Your benefits are paid late, so you face debt, rent arrears and the food bank. That’s the reality for millions on low or no pay – they are surrounded by tripwires with little chance of escape.” [from an article in the Guardian].

Social Justice is defined as “Justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.” A level playing field is a rarity in society. Social advantage is perpetuated by education systems where selection determines who goes to the better schools. Tuition fees and long-term debts deter students from poorer families applying for university places. The class system and institutionalised racism play a part in society’s inequalities and ensure that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Tweets from the Centre for Social Justice highlight many areas of concern in the UK @csjthinktank

The ideas of two radical thinkers about Basic Income in the 18th century, Thomas Paine and Thomas Spence are well contrasted in this link.


There are many killings that would bear closer scrutiny. Some would argue that a line has to be drawn under a period of conflict and that everyone should move on.

From the British army’s viewpoint it is unfair to identify soldiers and bring them before the courts to recall events of decades ago. They were employed to combat terrorism, and in that capacity, may have opened fire on suspected attackers believing their own lives were in danger.

If you are a bereaved friend or relative of a slain civilian, those decades have not diluted the need for an answer to the questions how and why did that person have to die? Whether there will ever be a satisfactory answer is a moot point.

The ‘shoot to kill policy’ in Northern Ireland  was investigated by the Stalker Enquiry. His efforts were thwarted by a lack of co-operation from the RUC and Special Branch. John Stalker was eventually suspended after a smear campaign and faced crippling legal costs to defend himself. Public donations were raised to support a man who is widely respected for his courage in the face of corruption and those actively perverting the course of justice.

Some people advocate a truth and reconciliation commission in Northern Ireland whereby those giving evidence may be granted immunity from prosecution. It could be argued that the only way that the whole truth can be told about people ‘disappeared’, unlawfully killed or caught in the crossfire is by offering such immunity. Some say that the events are too raw, the suffering too great or that it is too early for  a commission that would allow the perpetrators to walk away scot-free.

Some British ex-military  argue that they are being treated unfairly in historic enquiries. Their actions have a paper trail, their service records and the Military Police enquiries can be re-examined in perpetuity. Whereas their enemy’s actions, no matter how horrific, will rarely have witness statements, and supergrass trials collapsed under legal challenges.

Others  contend that servants of the crown should only operate within the law, and that any criminal actions should be fully investigated and punished .

During the Troubles the state turned a blind eye to the criminal actions of those fighting terrorism. A few scapegoats won’t bring peace and reconciliation, but might be the price justice demands for the victims. Those on all sides who orchestrated the darkest deeds are unlikely to have the spotlight shined on them or face prosecution.

Young squaddies, police constables and paramilitaries were mostly pawns in a game that had no winners.


Ethics in Combat

A wounded Palestinian, Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, was shot as he lay on the ground by an Israeli military medic, Elor Azaria, on 24 March 2016. The military tribunal has ruled that the manslaughter conviction carries a jail sentence of 18 months.

The Guardian newspaper states “Presiding judge Maya Heller said the panel had found that Azaria’s actions had seriously harmed the values of Israeli society as a whole, as well as violating the “purity of arms” of the Israeli military’s ethical code.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and other politicians have called for Elor Azaria to be pardoned.

Sharif’s family commented  “Even though the soldier was caught on video and it is clear that this is a cold-blooded execution, he was convicted only of manslaughter, not murder, and the prosecution asked for only a light sentence of three years. The sentence he received is less than a Palestinian child gets for throwing stones.”

If it is accepted that the wounded man posed no risk to the Israeli soldiers milling around, the punishment for the fatal shooting is incredibly lenient by any humanitarian standards.

The IDF’s own code of ethics states in a paragraph headed  Purity of Arms “The IDF servicemen and women will use their weapons and force only for the purpose of their mission, only to the necessary extent and will maintain their humanity even during combat. IDF soldiers will not use their weapons and force to harm human beings who are not combatants or prisoners of war, and will do all in their power to avoid causing harm to their lives, bodies, dignity and property.”

Elor Azaria was heard to say that Sharif “deserved to die” for wounding a comrade. A pardon for Azaria would send a clear message that Israeli soldiers can kill with impunity, no matter what.



BillyDo – Billy Don’t

Relationships fail, falter and sometimes blissfully gel.

A new website, BillyDo, was launched, but didn’t gel so I scrapped it.

Apologies to anyone who was tempted in the 24 hour life of the site to sign up for cupid’s arrow. On reflection, I did not see myself as matchmaker and the privacy aspects would be a minefield.

I was inspired by the student who graded his ex-girlfriend’s letter and then put it on twitter…I often feel like marking the poorly written letters and emails I receive from businesses.

For all your proofreading queries thankfully help is at hand from jdscribe …editing love letters?


Ulster fans, where were you?

I am paying nearly £100 every month for cable TV, phone and Internet – that’s without Sky Sports. So I headed for the pub to watch Ulster vs Glasgow because Sky were the only people broadcasting the match.

That’s when I discovered they had closed the King’s Head for renovations. Luckily I was in a taxi and moved on to the Bot. The game was on in the front bar with no sound. I asked the bar staff to turn up the volume. After fiddling about with the channels and setting the main bar’s TV to the GAA football for a customer who came in after me, we finally had sound. It was so low I moved closer and craned my neck to see the TV.

I was the only person interested in the game. Where were all the Ulster fans? Were they put off by the less than friendly service in the Bot? Maybe they went elsewhere for service with a smile. The Pavilion bar is close to the Ulster rugby ground and has a great post match atmosphere. Cutters Wharf and Lavery’s would normally have more than a few Ulster fans in to watch the games.

The Bot used to be a very popular bar with students. It was where I first drank a hot whisky in a bar. A great drink on a cold day and a roaring open fire added to the welcome. On a recent trip to Glasgow, a woman behind the bar put on her best sarcastic performance to tell me that they didn’t have the recipe for a hot whisky, as she poured boiling water into her mug of tea.

The Bot might not be in business too long if they don’t offer a welcome to their dwindling customers. It might be worth getting Sky Sports if I have to endure poor bar service. £4 a pint in gloom or three pints for £5 from the supermarket to drink in your own living room with self-service catering only a kitchen away.

Quantum Stuff

The name Heisenberg may grab your attention either as a devotee of the cult classic TV series Breaking Bad, or because of your interest in quantum physics.

heisenberg peter-finch-in-network

I’m hoping it’s the former because my knowledge of quantum physics is very sketchy. Bryan Cranston was brilliant in the role as Science teacher turned drug dealer.

His portrayal of a man on the brink of disaster making bizarre life choices was very convincing. He is now cast as the news Anchor in the National Theatre’s stage production of Network.

Go to your window, stick your head out and shout “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!” It’s a classic line from the film Network that starred Peter Finch.

In this crazy, messed up world if you’re not mad as hell, you’re not paying attention.

If you were looking for an explanation of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle try this link.