Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The End Of Solicitor-Client Confidentiality In Scotland

It seems that my former professional brethren are all at risk of being co-opted as special constables in the war against the gangs.

I don't care what fine words are uttered by the President and Council of The Law Society of Scotland on this matter; although they might not intend to turn solicitors into snitches, that will be the consequence of their actions. The purpose of solicitor-client confidentiality is to ensure that clients are able to receive all relevant advice, and they can only receive all relevant advice when they are able to provide their solicitors with all relevant facts. If solicitors feel compelled to act like Eaglesham's or Eyemouth's answer to Eliot Ness, then clients will not discuss matters with their solicitors as fully as they should.

One possible, and very possibly unintended, consequence of this state of affairs coming about will be non-gang members being prosecuted for gang-related crimes. If a gang-member knows that he can't discuss gang activity with his solicitor then there is no reason for him to plead guilty to anything, if only because he can't obtain the appropriate professional advice. This would in turn result in increases not only in the number of unsuccessful prosecutions but also of less convincing prosecutions being brought before the courts; should the police ever feel under pressure to keep up their war on the gangs, the temptation to cast their net wider and throw a whale in order to catch a sprat might become very strong.

Another very possible, and most hopefully unintended, consequence would be jealous and avaricious solicitors maliciously 'shopping' their more successful peers in the hope of tarring them with the suspicion of being gang lawyers. One would hope that if such behaviours were ever detected, the beaks would have the culprits in their jaws in a flash.

This is just another example of how the civil liberties of Scots are being degraded during an administration which boasts of its wish to set Scotland free. Although freedom might be slavery and ignorance strength, The Tartanissimo and the agencies under his control also seem to believe that tyranny is liberty. As James Erskine of Grange remarked of pre-Union Scotland in 1732, 'Liberty was a stranger here'. It seems that in many ways she's still a stranger.

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'That Bastard Verdict'

Although I will defend Scotland's unique 'Not Proven' verdict with the last breath in my body, there are times when one knows just what Walter Scott meant.

This is Scotland in the 21st Century, folks. Go figure.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Libyan Extradition Policy

The announcement that the now located Abdelbaset al-Megrahi would not be extradited by any new Libyan government, as neither would any other Libyan national, does make one wonder just why the BBC keeps referring to Gaddafi as being wanted by the International Criminal Court.

If he is ever caught, then it would seem to be the case that if his former subjects wish to try him themselves they will do so without any interference from abroad.

Similarly, it would be hard to see how any offer of amnesty or immunity made to him by any new Libyan government could ever be challenged by any other nation. The Libyans seem to be following the line taken by the Russians in their insistent refusal to extradite Andrei Lugovoy to the UK for questioning regarding the death of the late Alexander Litvinenko, that to do so would be contrary to their law (which it would be) and that they're not going to be dictated to in their own country by foreigners. We'll see how this one pans out; hopefully not into nationalism or pan-Arabist chauvinism, but a healthy regard for civil liberties, for law and for the rule of law instead.

To be forced to live in peace in a peaceful country in which he knows he is immune from prosecution but in which he can't oppress anyone anymore would be hell on Earth for Gaddafi, and at that point his transformation into a North African Pinochet would be complete.

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A Short Guide To Reading 'The Guardian'

While the BBC, the 'Daily Telegraph', the 'Daily Mirror' and the 'Daily Mail' all saw fit to record the passing of the Scottish SAS veteran John McAleese, as at the time of writing this I have been unable to find any reference to his death in the online edition of 'The Guardian'.

I hope that they have made some mention of it in the paper edition. If they have not, its editors would be guilty either of shocking carelessness or unforgivable churlishness. While we might not like the uses to which our armed forces are sometimes put, we should always be on the side of the very brave men on the ground who do the fighting, the ordinary soldiers who didn't go to Eton or Harrow. They're the ones whose side 'The Guardian' is always supposed to be on.

'The Guardian' is often at its best when Britain is at its worst, such as during the phone-hacking scandal. Equally, it is when Britain is or has been at its best that 'The Guardian' is often at its worst, and this is a classic case in point. It takes physical courage greater than I can fathom to do what Mr. McAleese and his colleagues did in 1980, and to be disrespectful to those who preserve your liberty is to treat it with contempt.

My condolences to Mr. McAleese's family.

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Legal Thoughts, Part I

It has been reported that a new suspect has been identified during the re-animated investigation into the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher. I am troubled by this.

The heartbreaking fact of the matter is that WPC Fletcher's murderer, whoever they might be or have been (given the current situation in Libya, this might perhaps be a more fluid, less definite condition than they might be wholly comfortable with), very probably walked out of the Libyan Embassy in London under the cover of diplomatic immunity. If they had immunity at the time, then I cannot see how they do not enjoy immunity now. I cannot possibly see how diplomats whose credentials have once been accepted can later be held to account for anything they did or might have done while their credentials were recognised.

For even after her murder, their credentials were recognised. That's why they walked out of their own accord, rather than being carried out in body bags after a brief encounter with some gentlemen from Hereford.

All we would achieve by pursuing a prosecution in this matter would be to make every British diplomat fair game for illegal prosecution, wherever in the world they might have served and without regard for whatever period of time might have elapsed after their posting had finished. I am beginning to wonder if those in charge of this country's government have finally lost all understanding of that the rule of law really is.

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Legal Thoughts, Part II

The apparent thuggishness displayed by Frederick Goodwin, the most financially destructive incompetent in British corporate history, while flying the Royal Bank of Scotland nose first into the ground is being exposed in a soon to be published book entitled 'Masters Of Nothing: The Crash And How It Will Happen Again'.

Goodwin is reported as having thrown a Queeg-like wobbly when presented with the 'wrong' type of biscuit. If true, it seems like pathetically juvenile behaviour from the leader of a multi-billion pound organisation. More alarming, however, is the question of fire alarms.

As inimitably paraphrased by 'The Daily Record',

"At dinner functions, an engineer was kept on standby until the early hours to switch off fire alarms when fatcats wanted to smoke inside".

This raises two issues which might appear to merit closer investigation by the authorities.

The first is whether or not the Royal Bank of Scotland jeopardised the safety of its staff or contractors contrary to the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974. There would be staff and contractors on site while these dinners were taking place, even if it was only the engineer who turned the fire alarms off having to wait around to turn them back on again. It would be interesting to know whether individuals who pursued what might perhaps be a course of criminal conduct, the alleged neutralisation of the fire alarm system, did so of their own volition or under duress, and if under duress what form that duress took.

The second is whether any of these reported puff-fests took place during the period between the banning of smoking in certain public places in Scotland and Goodwin's defenestration from the Royal Bank of Scotland. One would imagine that the Royal Bank of Scotland does not permit its staff to smoke within any of its places of business, although it might permit smoking in certain designated areas outside them. One would also imagine that the law of Scotland would deem all of the Royal Bank of Scotland's places of business to be public places of the type in which smoking has been banned. If the ban has been breached, then it would seem to be a simple matter for those who breached it and for those who allowed it to be breached to be held to account for their actions. We do not have one law for people at the top and another for people at the bottom.

That's the theory, anyway.

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On Mozilla Firefox

This puppy's wonderful!

I've been paying for broadband for over six years, and at last I've got what I've been paying for!

As sad as it is to say, when even a literary-minded non-techie Internet Explorer loyalist like me decides to investigate whether there might be better browsers out there, the only conclusion one can draw is that Bill has blown it; and that is a state of affairs for which he has nobody to blame but himself.

The 'Publish Post' button actually works now! Look! Look!

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Friday, August 26, 2011

On Gaddafi And Bounties

As someone whose repugnance at the rapprochement between the western nations and the Gaddafi regime has now been on record for the best part of a decade, I still have reservations about the approach being taken to effect his capture.

I can't stand the whole 'bounty' thing; it reeks of the desperation that accompanies lawlessness. It sends out the wrong message, that justice is a commodity that can be bought and sold like any other. The FCO, otherwise known as the FO with a great big C in the middle, should be discouraging it forcefully, if only because it gives the impression that either the world's most sophisticated intelligence services don't know where he is, or that it is thought that he might be much more difficult to catch than anyone anticipated.

If it is legitimate to pay a bounty for Gaddafi, it would presumably also be legitimate to pay bounties for the capture of other people associated with his regime, such as Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, and this is where the law and morality of it all becomes very muddy. There have been rumblings from Washington that Megrahi should be delivered to American justice. This would be a travesty, as he has already been convicted under the law of Scotland. For the rest of his days, he will be a prisoner of Her Majesty's sentenced to a period of imprisonment for life but who has been released on licence. That is his status; he has no other. It is unfortunate that many relatives of American victims, and some American politicians, were unhappy that he was released on compassionate grounds, but that's all it is; unfortunate. In fact and in law the USA has no jurisdiction over him, and any ex post facto claim of jurisdiction over him by the USA would be contrary to law and the rule of law; revolutionary justice of the worst sort.

They might see it as being unfortunate that he has survived for so long after his release, to which one can only say that if you were a non-UK national dying of cancer in Greenock prison who was released on compassionate grounds, then the combined effects of being transferred to your own country, of being around your own family again and of having access to drugs and medical care which might not be available on the NHS might prolong your survival for longer than anticipated as well. That he is still alive so long after having been released shouldn't really be a cause for irritation. It's only surprising that we should be surprised.

If the chaps from Fort Bragg do wish to take him for a ride, they can perfectly legitimately take him to see his social worker at East Renfrewshire Council, the only non-Libyan official in the world with legal authority over him; and the sight of Dwight and Clayton Lee doing a rope slide from a Black Hawk over Rouken Glen Park would probably be something they don't see in Giffnock every day.

(Update 26/08/11 - a matter of moments after this item was posted, the 'BBC Six O'Clock News' reported that Megrahi might appear to have broken the terms of his licence by no longer apparently being in residence at his villa in Tripoli. While this is obviously an undesirable state of affairs, I can't really recall any other situation where a Scottish prisoner on licence has breached its terms while living in a country which was undergoing a revolution and in which they were regarded as being close to the ancien regime, perhaps making them feel that they might be at risk if they continue to stay at the address they provided to the authorities. Megrahi's case has been exceptional from the outset, and I think even the Scottish Prison Service might understand if he's uncontactable for a few days under present circumstances. If he were really smart, he'd be looking to claim asylum in the one country in the world which possesses both a working government and a duty of care towards him, which is, er, the United Kingdom. Just imagine what fun the Daily Mail would have with that one, and by law there wouldn't be a damn thing anyone could do about it. The bugger will probably end up living in Buckingham Palace before he's done).
Link

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Back On The Blog

Regular readers will have noticed that the blog has been off-line for six days. I had deleted it.

This was on account of my desire to write a book, and the blog was proving to be so much of a distraction that I could not commence that task. However, having finally started writing it last night, I realised that it would be too big a job, and that I would be unable to complete it without causing lasting damage to my health.

So with my apologies to my loyal readers, I'm back here and will stay here, unremunerated and unedited but at least able to write something that someone, somewhere might read. Blogging might be one of the most ephemeral forms of literature, its merit lying somewhere between pamphleteering and graffiti, but I find it's one of the most enjoyable to produce. I never should have stopped.

Where was I?

(Update 27/08/2011 - Some reflection has led me to believe that readers deserve an explanation of the phrase 'I would be unable to complete it without causing lasting damage to my health'.

The realisation was achieved while banging my head off the wooden leg of a sofa in my workplace, during the course of one of those seizures to which I am fortunately only occasionally prone)

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Raising Train Fares In The Wake Of The Riots

Last week, we saw riots in England, many of them in areas where there is high unemployment.
This week, we hear that there will soon be large increases in the cost of rail fares.
Constantly telling people of the importance of having a job and then making it very difficult for them to get to it seems to me to be an unsatisfactory way of trying to reduce unemployment, or of staving off the threat of violent dissent.

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On David Cameron's Use Of The Word 'Sick' To Describe Some Parts Of Society

This was fascist language, used in the fascist sense. Individuals are sick. Cultures can become corrupt. Polities and peoples are never sick.
What's coming next, some great plan to restore national vigour? A little more therapeutic violence overseas? A new political liturgy? Shirt movements? What? Once you've complained about the cultural hygiene of parts of the society you govern, anything's on the cards.

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On The Character Of Alex Salmond

It has been reported that the First Minister recently exchanged words with Thomas Docherty MP, and that during the exchange The Tartanissimo remarked to Mr. Docherty, 'How long have you been an MP, son?'
If true, this extremely patronising remark shows just how deeply arrogance and aggression run with The Tartanissmo's character. I have been trying to tell you, you know.

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HRH The Prince Of Wales Favours 'National Community Service'

On a visit to Tottenham yesterday that was probably 11 days too late, HRH The Prince of Wales spoke of his desire to see a scheme for 'national community service'.
That HRH The Prince of Wales is in favour of something usually means that it should be opposed unflinchingly, and this is no exception. To my mind that was an unwarranted and perhaps even unconstitutional intrusion into politics. Under our system, what he does or does not want to see in our society is neither here nor there. His functions are to wave politely, to ask people whether they have come far and to sign bills passed by Parliament into law.
If he believes that he will reign as some kind of benevolent pater patriae, a philosopher king sharing his wisdom to his subjects when he feels it is required, then he is frankly delusional. I am the best arbiter of the type of education and training my son will require in order to become a rounded member of society, and I will suffer no more damn insolence from HRH The Prince of Wales on that subject.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

On The Absence Of Comparative Justice In The Wake Of The Riots

On the face of it, it is hard to see whose offence was more grave. Sutcliffe-Keenan is an unpleasant, dough-headed yob; Morley was at one time a Minister of the Crown, not merely expected but presumed to possess the highest standards of integrity. No harm to life or property took place as a result of Sutcliffe-Keenan's actions, while Morley got away with a lot of money. Sutcliffe-Keenan's offence would not have been committed if like-minded unpleasant, dough-headed yobs not taken the initiative in Tottenham; Morley's was a premeditated, calculating and very cynical course of conduct pursued over the course of several years. Although Sutcliffe-Keenan was trying to incite violent disorder, Morley certainly wasn't the only one with a creative approach to accounting and an over-developed sense of entitlement.
It is hard to determine just why these offences have been treated so differently. If a savage and retributive sentence required to be imposed on Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan pour encourager les autres, it must surely have been passed in the knowledge that les autres were in no way encouraged by those actions of his which have placed him before the court. Trappist monks have ignited rioting more effectively than he did.
Where is Shami Chakrabarti when she is most needed? Come to think of it, who's Shami Chakrabarti?

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

On The Unpleasantness Of Libertarian Rhetoric

Given that they might have seen and possibly even lived through real looting, I hope that no libertarian ever describes the simple act of paying lawful tax as looting ever again.

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Owen Hatherley

Good article from this chap, who seems to be an architecture writer, in 'The Guardian' about the proposals to evict rioters' families. He appears to reach broadly the same conclusions regarding the de facto enclosure of the social housing sector as I did in a post of June 28 2010, but coming at it from a different angle. If anything else, the 'Shock Doctrine' element of these proposals is very much more pronounced now than it was then, the riots having presented those determined to clear the estates with a perfect example of a crisis that should not be allowed to go to waste. It remains to be seen whether anyone will lose their home unjustly as a result of being maliciously 'shopped' on account of a neighbourhood vendetta, but given the interesting times we live in I wouldn't bet against someone trying to do it. I'm actually kicking myself a wee bit that I didn't think of the points he's made when the news of this stupid and unpleasant proposal broke, so kudos to Mr. Hatherley. He's a very capable and thoughtful writer.
As I wrote last week, our government seems intent on creating a vagabond class, permanently marginalised and thus stigmatised. They might just get it. If they do, that will be the point at which the problems will really start. As I wrote yesterday, we might just be going through one of those phases of societal transition that history is littered with. Let us all hope - and pray - that what comes next is in every way better than this.

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FANS (Fathers Against National Service)

David Cameron has today re-launched his scheme for 'National Citizen Service'. As I wrote at the time he first mentioned it, if anyone wishes to put a gun in my boy's hand then someone will have to put one to my head first.
Now, one of the most important lessons one can draw from the study of British history is that the British state is not and has never been beyond arranging such an outcome. However, in my opinion it is of the utmost importance for every father of young sons in the land to oppose this policy. Even its title is misleading, given that British nationals are not citizens but subjects. If enacted, it would degenerate very quickly into national military service. That is the way of all these things. The British state will eventually require to deploy national military service, if only because my son is now a little over one year old and I can see no end to our involvement in Afghanistan; not soon, not ever. Athough the poor are still so poor that they keep volunteering, at some point in the future they just won't volunteer any more, and those in power will have to do something about it. With that in mind, I am no longer frightened of saying that my wife and I did not bring our boy into the world for him to become cannon fodder for the grand plans of some Washington think-tank loons, and those of their British acolytes too scared to think for themselves, to try to bring peace to an unpacifiable country. No. That is intolerable, and accordingly will not be tolerated. Here I stand. I can do no other.
If he wishes to fight for you, fine. He will at least have all the facts I can give him before making a final decision on that course of action. But if you think you can order him to fight for you, then you can go and take a three-cornered flying one to yourselves. I have not spent two decades chuntering away at the fag end of the Great British Globalised Economy, over-educated and under-rewarded, qualified for a profession I can't practice, blowing raspberries at VDUs while cheaptack, badly written programs requiring more RAM than the base unit can handle won't load on to them, for those who bear no small measure of responsibility for that state of affairs to demand my son as well.
There will be those people who read that and say I am being disrespectful to those who have lost their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq. Such people are obtuse, willingly blind advocates of DFO (Death For Others). My heart goes out to every parent who's lost a son in those places. I hope they understand when I write that I do not wish my son to share the fate of theirs. There will be those who will say, 'Kelly, this isn't about your son, it's about you'; and they'd be dead right. A very great deal has been said in the past few days about the importance of fathers staying with families, providing their children with good example. How this is possible for men confronted with a gynocentric family law system which those in charge of it seem to have no intention of reforming, even in light of recent events, or of altering the moral mindset which has come to regard human conception as a purely biological, morally neutral act of little consequence, like pollination, does not seem to register with David Cameron. It was quite sick of him to enunciate all the ways in which our society has become sick, when they have all been the consequence of the exercise of Parliament's will. That notwithstanding, opposition to any form of national service is, in my opinion, a cause against which every father should rally. If he wishes a display of fatherpower, then he should have it.
Accordingly, I raise the standard of FANS (Fathers Against National Service). Oh, don't worry, it's all very Big Society. Without regard for creed, colour or status, FANS is open to British fathers living with the mothers of their children in nuclear families, adoptive fathers in the same position, and to grandfathers acting as de facto fathers to children whose own have gone AWOL, the bastards. Freelance sperm donors, cranks, careerists, opportunists, axe-grinders and ideologues of whatever hue need not apply; my energy is limited, and that in turn plays havoc with my patience for time-wasting adults.
One striking conclusion we can draw from the past fortnight's events is that families are very similar to societies. They do not die of their own accord, but at the hand of outside agencies. Some of them even commit suicide. However, those of us British fathers whose interest in and love for their children is absolute need to step back and say as one that we will not be rolled over, that our sons and daughters are the best of subjects and that there is no need for them to be press-ganged iton sweeping streets they haven't littered, against both our wishes for them and our knowledge of their characters. Fatherhood is a privilege. It is not a political football.
If such a law as Cameron proposes comes to pass, I will have to seriously consider whether I wish my family to remain residents of the United Kingdom. Now, we have somewhere to go, as do Antonio, Alberto and Miguel Clegg (if National Citizen Service is good for some, it's good for all). But millions don't have that option. As I said, if a display of fatherpower is what is felt is required, then it should be given. Please email martinkellyllbdiplp@yahoo.co.uk to let me know if you want to join FANS. Let's get the ball rolling, and deal with the formalities later.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

The Holy Island

One night in 793, some quiet Northumbrian monk on the island of Lindisfarne, his name lost to history, might have thought his eyes were playing tricks on him when, late at night, he spotted a light out to sea.
He would not have known that the fate he and his brothers were to endure would be repeated again and again and again as the Vikings ravaged England for centuries. Nobody really knows why they started coming at all. One suggestion I've read was that it was on account of an internal explosion in population of a type so sudden and extreme it made them realise that they had to move outwards or die. There just wasn't space for them all in Scandinavia, so conquest was their only hope of survival.
Yet for all their rage, pillage and unbelievable capacity for violence, for all of the chasm between their pagan beliefs and the Christianity of the English, many of them eventually integrated. Anyone with Norman heritage has a little bit of Forkbeard in them. They were not merely a criminal gang, they were one of the most frightening criminal gangs of all time. Yet although they made an enormous impact on the system, by themselves they never brought the system down.
Political England was never the same after their arrival as it was before, but Christian England never wavered an inch in its faith in their ultimate defeat, trusting in God, as it should have done, to protect them from the Norsemens' wrath.
Over the past few days, we have seen berserkers roaming the ways of England once again. The horned helmets have been replaced with hoodies, but the senseless rage and lust for pillage differ in no way from that suffered by the English over a thousand years ago. I leave it to professional social scientists to theorise about why what happened happened. No doubt they will produce any number of hypotheses, possibly tainted by their own convictions. Yet the pillagers did not win then, and the pillagers will not win now. The reason they will not win is that whatever else is broadcast about it or claimed to the contrary for it, this is a godly land, and if enough of His children pray for deliverance from this menace He will deliver us from it.
Lindisfarne, the place where the Vikings made landfall, is also known as 'The Holy Island'. If the British wish to recover anything from their experiences of past few days, the hope of holiness would be a good place to start.

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The Wilding Of David Starkey

The old rood boy's got himself into a spot of hot water over some comments he made on 'Newsnight' about the role of race in the riots. Whatever Piers Morgan (aka Piers Stefan Pughe-Morgan, ne Piers Stefan O' Meara; he's got more bloody names than Prince Edward) and the Hon. Robert Peston might think about what he said, although he might have expressed himself badly he might also have had a point.
The point I think that he was trying to make is that race was irrelevant to the riots, and that because people of different races have lived together so closely in London for so long, that part of the world has to all intents and purposes developed its own culture. I don't think anyone would go so far as to call it a civilisation just yet, particularly after the events of the past few days, but that might still happen. It's been a field lesson in anthropology just as much as a crisis of political and police authority. What seems to be going on down there now is that we have what is to all intents and purposes the sort of colonial society of the type that develops wherever two cultures meet, the effects of which have been magnified by the mixing of very many more cultures than merely two. It has developed its own customs and language, its own mores and values. Given time, it might even develop its own religion and tabus.
Given the history of colonial societies as colonial societies per se, whether it ever develops into a vigourous civilisation is a bet I wouldn't put a fiver on in William Hill's. The barbarian war bands seem too numerous and too diverse to enable any single one of them to establish themselves as pacifiers and conquerors. The thoughts of Sir Vidia Naipaul on what has happened and what is going on might just be very illuminating. And may God in His divine mercy help us all.

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The Strange Invisibility Of Her Majesty The Queen During Our Recent Crisis

I feel I owe an apology to HRH The Prince of Wales regarding what I had mistakenly perceived to be his absence from the public arena during the recent rioting crisis. On the evening of Sunday 14th August he appeared on BBC1's 'Britain's Hidden Heritage', enthusing over the quality of the plasterwork in the pink dining room at Dumfries House.
At times like this, you have to remember the important things in life. My apologies.
A random thought occurred to me while pondering the noticeable absence of HM The Queen in recent days. One would have thought that at times like this, and during events of the type we have seen, the head of state should be out front and centre, appealing for calm among her subjects, imploring them to stop stealing from one another and requesting that they co-operate with her agencies. Unless I am greatly mistaken, this did not happen. Why it did not puzzles me. What other purpose does a national figurehead serve other than to be a focal point in times of crisis?
The only conclusion I can draw is that the British oligarchy is extremely nervous of the Queen, or any indeed any monarch, not merely being disobeyed but being both seen and heard to be disobeyed. After all this time, they are still frightened of their position's fragility. Perhaps they know all too well that everything they hold depends upon the monarch being able to claim the title 'Fidei Defensor', an assumed royal title so important to everything that happens in British public life that it is the only one to appear on British coinage alongside the monarch's name and their rank, and the thinnest of threads by which to be connected to that to which you feel entitled. Being a national figurehead when the Germans are dropping bombs is one thing. Being a national figurehead when your subjects are engaging in riotous disorder is quite another.
If that's the case, it's a viewpoint which in its own way is a rather pathetic one to hold after you've been at the top for nearly a thousand years. I almost feel sorry for them.
You may have noticed an increase in what might be perceived to be anti-monarchical sentiment appearing on the blog in recent weeks. You might not be wrong. This is a direct consequence at the wave of disgust that swept over me when I saw HRH The Prince of Wales done up in full regalia, including those spotless spats, presiding over the Armed Forces Day celebrations held in Edinburgh on 25th June this year. It was the spats that did it; impractical, toytown footwear that would show the slightest stain being worn in front of men who've been there and done it where military matters are concerned. The volume of what one might perhaps not unreasonably feel to be largely unearned decorations being worn by members of the Royal Family at the wedding of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge was laughably Ruritanian. I wouldn't have fancied being in a plane over London at the time, if only because of the impact all that metal might have had on the compass.
However, for what my perhaps incorrect, if not deranged, opinion's worth, all that posturing serves a deadly serious purpose. It tells anyone who might be minded to challenge our oligarchy that it has the army; and as any Roman usurper could tell you, if you can keep that, you're pretty secure.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Other Bits And Pieces From The Riots

It appears that even while the blood of innocents was flowing in the streets, The Tartanissimo, with his trademark toxic mixture of 'Come Ahead' chippiness and braggadocio, has insisted that the riots be referred to as 'English riots' and not 'UK riots'.
He never knows when to shut up, so here's something for him to think about the next time he decides to open his mouth on a matter which is none of his business and which common decency demands he should steer well clear of. In the last few days, Strathclyde Police have been held up as masters of the art of policing gangs. It sounds like the sort of thing that should be studied at Hogwarts. However for Glaswegians like me, who like to read books and think about the wider world without someone like The Tartanissmo telling me what to think about my own country, it has always been an embarrassment that our town has had such a bad reputation for gang violence. We've always wanted it to be like the rest of the UK. We needn't have worried. It seems that the rest of the UK is becoming like us. That's something for everyone to get worried about.
Of course, in The Tartanissmo's Scotland every problem will be solved, every tear wiped away, with a wee dram and a folk song, backed up as ever by the Scottish iron fist, developed from Calvinist authoritarianism and toned over half a millenium by constant and willing exercise. It'll be like 'Demolition Man', but with fewer good-looking women of the type who don't look as if they consider the cubic metre to be a measurement of underwear size, and with very much higher annual average rainfall.
Sorry, I'm having a wee Denis Leary moment. It'll pass. But not yet.
It's gratifying to see that the Tory psychos have been out in force. I keep saying on this blog, and have been saying for many years now, that there is a deeply sadistic strain in Conservative thought that likes punishing people, not because it's necessary but because they like doing it. That it should always be right-wingers who are the most prolific S & M spankers is not a coincidence. It is a perfectly natural of extension of their public views into the private sphere. Danny Kruger, a former Conservative candidate for Parliament who was sacked for calling for 'a period of creative destruction in the public services' has echoed the call of Tim Montgomerie, the Tory, er, blogger in chief that the police should (this is a classic!) 'baton charge the yobs'.
Let's go one better! Let's handcuff them to railings and birch their naked buttocks! Let's plant explosive devices in their skulls that we can set off when we catch them writing graffiti! Or even if we just suspect them of doing it! These are of course merely the soft options! What we should be doing is decapitating them on the spot, sticking their heads on railings and hanging signs around them saying 'This Is What Happens To Looters Round Here'!
The previous paragraph was, of course, intended to be satirical. Looting is theft, and deserves to be treated seriously, if only because it went unpunished everyone would be at it. Over the past few days, very many people were. The frothing bloviations of Montgomerie and Kruger, both of whom might run a mile from any looter to whom they might feel inclined to quote Schumpeter under normal circumstances and who is in the act of perpetrating their own kind of creative destruction, are a marked contrast to the dignity displayed by Tariq Jahan when discussing the murder of his son. If anything, the composure of Mr. Jahan in the face of such violence and its consequences is a standing rebuke to every figure of authority in the society in which he lives, from its invisible queen and her invisible heir downwards. Over the past week, Mr. Jahan has given them all what for him was I'm sure was a most unwanted lesson in the nature of authority. For right-wing ideologues, the answer is always for the police to baton charge the yobs, to stick the boot in. Mr. Jahan just told them to go home. They probably did. Last week, he did a better job than the Home Secretary.
But the nutter right still wants those relatively few public services enjoyed by many of the looters to be cut. It's the best case I've seen for closing SETI, because first contact has clearly already been made.
The expression 'gang violence' is a redundancy in the context of much of the criminal activity now taking place in the UK. As I mentioned on this blog in both June and December of 2008, these entities are instead barbarian war bands of the type described by Arnold J. Toynbee in his 'A Study of History', marauders who appear on the periphery of every civilisation on the slide.
For what my opinion's worth, David Cameron's hiring of Bill Bratton is a panic measure designed to give him good press. Not good press on the BBC or Sky News, but on Fox News, the majority of whose viewers will be very much more aware of Mr. Bratton's name than the majority of the BBC's. It is probably something he's wanted to do for a while, but didn't have a good reason for doing so before. He now thinks he has. Good luck to them both, and I hope they're very happy together.
One thing that Mr. Bratton might suggest was not such a good idea was to broadcast in advance that you're tripling police numbers in one area. One can only wonder just how much property was stolen across England for no other reason that the local cat was away, and the local mice thought they'd come out to play.

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

My Apologies For The Typos In The Post Below

I was doing fine, had performed the necessary katas and quadrilles to make sure that I could get the words down, then - Boom! - the 'Save Now' button froze when I went back in to edit the post. It jumped out at me from nowehere, like Burt Kwouk jumping out at Peter Sellers from the cupboard.
The boys in California should put down their skinny lattes, stop stroking their creative facial hair and start dealing with this. It is a pain. I try to write literate English, and the impact of one piece of technology upon another is making me sound like an embittered middle aged man with Tourette Syndrome. I can't do this alone. Perhaps because my own is so screwed up, I can't write software, I only expect to be able to use it. Right now I can't, and it's annoying.

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On Benefits And Evictions

After finishing writing 'The Lord Of The Rings', Tolkien felt it necessary to rewrite it backwards, while Carlyle had to rewrite his history of the French Revolution from memory after Macaulay's maid had used the original manuscript to light the fire. That story put me off ever lending a book to anyone.
After the sheer hassle I've been having trying to get Blogger to work with IE9, I can understand the frustration both of them must have felt.
OK, let's boil down two hours's worth of prose into a few sentence.
The public enemas currently parading through the courts on charges relating to their involvement in rioting are undeserving of sympathy. The worst of the bunch are the middle-class ones living in good houses. They are not common or garden slum-dwellers, but the worse kind, slum-dwellers of the mind, people who will turn any area they live in into a slum.
The nutter right is currently having a jolly time lodging e-petitions demanding that any benefits being paid to persons convicted of riot-related charges be removed from them. To do this would be contrary to law and the rule of law. It would be the equivalent of a Bill of Attainder being passed to permit the confiscation of the pension being paid to Fred Goodwin, the most financially destructive incompetent in British corporate history, an issue over which the nutter right got its knickers in a twist two years ago. It would be correct to say that Goodwin has not been charged with any crime. However, those charged with riot-related offences have presumably not been charged with any offences alleging they have misrepresented their eligibility to claim benefits. If sanctity of contract and the rule of law hold good for financially destructive incompetents reponsible for enormous burdens on the public purse, they presumably also hold good for rioting benefit claimants who are also responsible for enormous burdens being placed on the public purse. In time, it will be interesting to review the numbers, if they are ever made available, and see whether the uninsured losses occasioned by these riots are equivalent to the sums which have been spent propping up the Royal Bank of Scotland. For all we know, The Shred might still be ahead on points.
If benefits were to be removed from convicts in this way, it would be a landslide occasioned by the ongoing erosion of British civic life. The nutter right hates paying tax. This is unfortunate, but also too bad. They must come to realise that they have obligations to the people around them. It would be interesting to see the numbers, if they are ever made available, to see whether uninsured losses occasioned by the recent riots are equivalent in value to, or greater in value than, the amount lost to the British economy every year through perfectly legitimate tax avoidance. It is hard to see how you can demand the right not to pay your share and then demand that others pay for your property to be protected. This is infantile logic, the screams of infants at the breast. If you want police, you have to pay them. In their minds, the blameless poor are equally as guilty as the shameless poor, their mutual crime being their common poverty. If this becomes law, people will stand to lose their benefits if convicted of failing to have a television licence, that most piddling and much-prosecuted of crimes which, to the best of my limited knowledge and earnest belief, is still the crime for which a single mother living on benefits in England and Wales is most likely to appear before the courts.
But they're poor, so they can get stuffed. Its only effect would be to increase property crime, as the poor would become desperate and turn to illegal money-lenders whose primary concerns do not conform to the goals of the Big Society. But they're poor, so they can get stuffed.
The proposed eviction of social housing tenants who have family members residing with them who have been convicted of riot-related offences goes one step further. The permanent exclusion of these people from social housing would not merely create, or enlarge, an underclass of desperate people. It would create a permanent vagabond class, permanent outsiders. Where are these people going to live? We tried this once. Some of them ended up living in Sherwood Forest, and engaged in a notorious course of ideologically-motivated property crime borne of desperation. It didn't work then, and it's not going to work now. As for the local authorities, they would do well to remember that their tenants are their tenants and not their serfs. If tenants are compelled to keep their families under lock and key to ensure their good behaviour, they are also entitled to have tenancies that are warm and dry in areas which are properly maintained and policed and where the bins are collected regularly. The sword that is the law of landlord and tenant is one that cuts both ways.
You would think that these proposals would have Shami Chakrabarti, the Director of Liberty, shouting in rage from the rooftops. Sadly, and once again when she should be out front and centre - you know, when the going's getting tough for civil liberties of the poor, the sick and the weak - Her Shaminess once again seems to have ridden off into the sunset, possibly on Shergar while accompanied by Lord Lucan, and is nowhere to be seen, a recurring and disappointing theme of her career. She may be exercising some influence over policy at the moment; possibly even a gnostic one.
Their abuse of the phrase 'on their watch' has shown that our political class seems to have no regard for the unsuitable deployment of inappropriate and out-of-conext maritime metaphors. With the very honourable exception of Lord Prescott, I would doubt whether any of them have ever served on a ship bigger than a rowing boat. However, I'm afraid I have to use an inappropriate metaphor of my own, one derived from American football, that slowest and most incomprehensible of games.
David Cameron's Monday morning quarterbacking of police performance during the riots will have made him no friends among senior police ranks. I hope that one of them remembers that the Prime Minister has been remarkably coy about his own history of drug use. He could be doing with making friends in those circles, not alienating them. The sound of a multi-millionaire saying that social housing tenants are receiving a service at a massive discount was revolting, particularly when his party gave much of the stock away at massive discounts and at enormous cost to the public purse. It would be interesting to see the numbers, if they are ever made available, to see whether uninsured losses occasioned by the recent riots are equivalent to, or greater in value than, the cost to the public purse in capital lossesand interest charges occasioned by the 'Right To Buy' policy. As if they'd ever let us know.
And That was about it, I think.

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Terrible Problems Cutting And Pasting Into Blogger On IE8 And IE9

This is very frustrating, as it significantly diminishes both the utility of the package and the pleasure one derives from using it.
I also find that I now can't paste a post's URL on to the 'Link' bar, and that to publish a post I have to save it, go into 'Edit Posts', select the item and post from there. The 'Publish Post' button is about as useful as a padlock in Clapham Junction.
Sory to seem a bit pissed off about this, but I've just come within a hair's breadth of losing a 1,600 word post it's taken me two hours to write.
Any suggestions?

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Scarman, Interrupted

Thirty years on, it now seems clear that Lord Scarman was in many ways a prophet. The people who engaged in the rioting he reported on seemed to have very many of the same problems as some of those who have been making their presences felt over the past few days; indeed, they might even be related. It is the fate of some prophets to spend their days shouting to themselves in the wilderness. Scarman may have been one of them.
When in doubt, you can always trust the Tories to play to that psychopathic element in their own ranks who live for the idea of doing violence to those weaker than themselves, but most of all to their neighbours' children. The Prime Minister has uttered the words 'water cannon', something of a spastic reversion to type to get the bastards back into line. I don't think even Baroness Thatcher ever went that far. But then again, she wasn't a Bullingdonian. Probably a bit too soft for her own good.
The absence of any kind of introspection from David Cameron as to why this situation should have come about probably means that references to the Big Society will become few and far between. This would be a pity, if only because the riots have been a wonderful example of a Big Society type of project. People have got off their backsides, taken the initiative, done things in their communities and made an enormous impact.
We have a coalition government consisting of two parties. I don't think I've seen or heard any comment from Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister. He must be having a hell of a hard time. It must be embarrassing to be the first Liberal leader in 80 years to have a place in government and then having the poor on whose behalf you're supposed to be liberal going and messing the place up, and that's even without images of the police taking the truncheons to them. How Clegg reacts to this will dictate whether he faces a leadership challenge later this year, one that could seal the fate of the coalition. The fact that Cameron has gone in mob-handed, so to speak, and authorised the iron fist in the iron glove suggests to me that he did not consult Clegg prior to his displays of bravura from behind his bodyguards. This in turn suggests that the working relationship between the Prime Minister and his deputy is poor, or that Cameron has no regard for the niceties of coalition government (which probably wouldn't surprise me), or that Clegg doesn't want to be contacted. These are all very disturbing possibilities, and none of them reflect well on Clegg. Though Scripture tells us that the lion shall lie down with the lamb and the leopard with the kid, when it comes to making bedfellows most bootboys don't usually appreciate the sight of sandals in the hallway. Having gone right on cuts, it will be very hard for him to go even further right on law and order. If he did that, he'd be accused of imitating Tony Blair. Ouch!
One wonders how many of those on the streets were raised in homes that didn't have stable father figures who were in constant employment. My guess would be most. But we are told that no fault divorce is a good thing. Having practiced family law for some years I never saw much evidence of that myself - indeed it mostly seemed to be about finding fault - but what would I know?
It would be disappointing if the advances made in consequence of the Scarman Report were to be undone as a result of these events. I wouldn't put anything past these guys.
Mr. Tariq Jahan is one of the most dignified and composed people I've ever seen. My condolences.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2011

On The Images Of Our Rioting Class Currently Being Beamed Around The World

I wonder how this is playing on Libyan state TV - if it's still on air, of course. Don't forget, we're involved in that nation's affairs in order to bring about peace and prosperity. Or was it prosperity and peace? I can't remember.
The rioters whose images I've seen on TV all look as if they hail from that demographic which suffers altitude sickness if required to rise from bed before lunchtime. One can almost hear their doxies, every one a poissonarde de nos jours, all built like onions with tattooed cocktail sticks shoved into the base, their fleshy, pendulous breasts hanging in the air, horribly, like the 'Hindenburg' in flames, screaming encouragement from the sidelines. If the cops play their cards right, their examination of CCTV footage might just lead to the slashing of Disability Living Allowance claims in the worst hit areas. Who knows, that might even cover the cost of reconstruction. Not that that will do a damn thing for the price of insurance, which will soar once this is over, and that isn't even taking into account businesses that might have been torched by the owners. After all, who needs cashflow problems when you've got a riot taking place on your doorstep?
Sarajevo had an Olympics as well, and they didn't even have riots beforehand.
It would be deeply depressing if the coalition government were to use these events to crack down on us further. Police services that constantly feel the need for more powers should be given the civic equivalent of a random drugs test.
The alleged use of Twitter and other social media to fuel these events show that they have the potential to be antisocial in equal measure to their potential to be social.
Conservative government elected in 1970, industrial unrest in 1972 and 1974. Conservative government elected in 1979, riots in 1981. Conservative Prime Minister elected (sort of) in 2010, riots in 2011. The lead time seems to be going down. Without wishing to seem partisan, there seems to be something about Conservative governments that make people want to go out and smash things. Could this possibly be because they have all been insanely right-wing and have governed without regard for the sensibilities and needs of the majority of the population? Perish the thought.
Where are HM The Queen and HRH The Prince of Wales when you need them? Why isn't the heir to the throne out on the streets appealing to his future subjects for order and calm? They are national figureheads, or so we're told, so surely at times like this they should be helping to bring the nation together. If they're not national figureheads to be seen and flocked round at times like this, why do we pay for them?
This is our Katrina, folks, Expect the right-wing backlash to be long and deep. After the phone-hacking scandal and the de facto burying of Rupert Murdoch's political influence, those of our ultras at the top table will have been gagging for the chance to stick the boot in and restore what they consider to be 'discipline'. This is what the right does, everywhere, every time. After the defeat of Napoleon, the crackdown on civil liberties that occurred in the UK then took decades to unravel. It was only after that event, when the ideological competition had been crushed, that breaking your loom was made a capital crime. In Russia in 1905, the throne and altar brigade did not fail to immediately organise itself after the proclamation of the first Duma, creating the civic equivalent of a coronary blockage. After the collapse of Soviet Communism in 1989, our own right exposed what their own motivations had been all along. They were only interested in us for as long as there were Communists to oppose - once they were gone the lipservice to social democracy went out straight after them, a state of affairs which has led to our current and, as the scenes in London and elsewhere have shown, apparently insupportable gap between rich and poor. In that regard, the rioters have shown themselves to be true Thatcherites; they are not rioting for the right to vote, nor the right to wear their socks on their foreheads, but for stuff. They are doing it for the plasma TV and the smartphone. They have taken consumerism all the way round the clock and have reverted to pillage, the form of capitalism with the least expensive lawyers.
We British are so bloody hung up on property and owning stuff, concepts which did not exist at all in the early Church. Why can't we be like those saints, and live together in peace and harmony? When all is said and done, why can't we all get along?

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A Strangely Convenient Riot

My memories of the Brixton and Toxteth riots of 1981 consist of being a small boy of 11, still in short trousers, glued to the TV news in a holiday flat in Ventnor; one who was desperately hoping that the rioters weren't coming for him.
For the avoidance of doubt, in those days they did let Glaswegians into Ventnor. Who knows, they might still do (there are a hell of a lot of deaths to knife crime amongst young men in the West of Scotland, you know); but that's another story.
Hopefully without sounding like the looniest type of conspiracy theorist - although why conspiracy theories should be deemed loony per se escapes me; I know many men of stout common sense who would declaim 'It's a cock-up, not a conspiracy' as they were being herded into the gas chambers, and it was left to literature's most coldly analytical, unemotional detective to say that once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth - I must confess to being a little perturbed at the appearance of these riots when the Metropolitan Police is at the lowest ebb in its history. There's nothing like a good riot to make the British oligarchy feel that its investment in its security apparatuses has been money well spent; and we can't have the police feeling demoralised when they have to go out and fight menaces to society.
I heard one retired plod on the BBC News Channel this evening talking about how the lads on the front line will be needing their rest breaks to stop them keeling over from exhaustion. As if. I imagine that the adrenaline rush generated by taking a truncheon to a rioter is vastly greater than any generated by kettling grannies and Old Etonians.

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Sunday, August 07, 2011

On Heather Brooke's Allegation That Julian Assange Is A Narcissist

Apart from her apparent carelessness in appearing to have mislaid part of her previous Wikipedia entry, I have a lot of time for Heather Brooke. However I couldn't help having a bit of a laugh at the extract from her book 'The Revolution Will Be Digitised', concerning her dealings with Julian Assange, that was serialised in today's 'Mail on Sunday'. In it, she alleges that Mr. Assange is a narcissist.
It certainly provides an interesting, if sometimes uninteresting, insight into the mental workings of both Ms. Brooke and Mr. Assange ('The teenage girl in me swooned'...och, for goodness' sake!) However her allegations couldn't help but bring to mind the BBC docudrama 'On Expenses', based on her previous triumph of having been the prime mover in exposing the scandal surrounding unjustifiable expenses claimed by some Members of Parliament.
In that show she was portrayed by Anna Maxwell Martin, but when I saw it I thought there was something odd about a moment that had nothing to do with anything else in the drama. In the scene in which Michael Martin (Brian Cox) is elected Speaker, just for a second the camera suddenly cuts to a red-haired, female Labour MP clapping wildly. When I saw it, I was almost certain that the MP was being played by Ms. Brooke. I could of course be mistaken.
As any schoolboy scholar of Greek mythology could tell you, Narcissus would never had been heard of if it hadn't been for Echo.

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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

'Double If His Arms Are Broken First'

Who was Murray?

At the beginning of 'A Study in Scarlet', Watson's life is saved in Afghanistan by his orderly Murray. However, in 'J. Habakkuk Jephson's Statement', one of Conan Doyle's earliest published stories, one which, to my eyes, bears a certain, shall we say, resemblance to Herman Melville's story 'Benito Cereno', a planter named Murray saves the protagonist and narrator Jephson's life at the beginning of his career.

So who was Murray? And what was he to Conan Doyle?

The recent unpleasantness in which Duncan Bannatyne has found himself, entirely through no choice or fault of his own, does give one cause for reflection.

Mr. Bannatyne is a famous critic of smoking. In one of his books, I can't remember whether it was 'The Four Loves' or 'Mere Christianity', C.S. Lewis wrote of 'a certain type of bad man' who insists upon everyone around him pursuing their pleasures according to his tastes.

Now, I am not suggesting for a moment that Mr. Bannatyne is a bad man. After all, he is a philanthropist, in particular having supported the very worthy work undertaken by the charity 'Mary's Meals'. Although one always approaches the study of philanthropy with the suggestion made by Chesterton in 'St. Francis of Assisi', that its practice indicates nothing more than an affinity for anthropoids, at the back of one's mind, one could see why Mary's Meals would appeal to an entrepreneur like Mr. Bannatyne. They have an excellent business model for saving two birds with one stone - the children get fed, but have to be at school in order to get it. This particular charity is always worthy of support, and his support for it is praiseworthy at all times and under all circumstances.

However, writing as someone who has themself made a habit of saying stupid and boorish things in public via social media, it might have been unwise of him to follow the very commendable act of posting a reward for information about the person uttering threats against his daughter by immediately offering to double it 'if (her tormentor's) arms are broken first'. As a father, one can understand the passion any fellow father would feel at the thought of anyone threatening their child. I hope that the bugger who's threatened his girl is brought to book by the authorities, wherever in the world they might be. However, as a public figure, and a very wealthy one, Mr. Bannatyne also has certain responsibilities. For what my opinion's worth, 'Dragon's Den', the TV show through which he became a household name, is a very seedy affair, the entertainment hook of which is rich people humiliating poor people who want to be rich people. It is a good thing that he has either removed or been compelled to remove Tweets in which he could not unreasonably be said to be appearing to offer a premium on his original reward offer should violence be done to the person he is pursuing. For those Tweets to have stood unchallenged would have sent out the very unwholesome and confusing message that if you are rich you are above the law, and that the normal rules of behaviour don't apply to you; a theory which Rupert and James Murdoch have recently tested to destruction, and which is now destroyed.

This has been a very sorry episode, one as a result of which Mr. Bannatyne's public image has been tarnished when it could have become glorious. I'm sure that won't bother him very much, probably being focussed as he is on catching the person who's threatened his daughter. However it leaves a bad taste, and for some reason one is drawn back to 'A Study in Scarlet' and the words that Conan Doyle gave to Sherlock Holmes, that the most winning woman he had ever known was hanged for murdering her children for the insurance money while the greatest boor was a philanthropist who had given a quarter of a million to London's poor.

Who was Murray?

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How Limiting It Is When You Have Something To Say...

and your PC is verryy sloowwww....

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Thought For The Day

"I am under no duty whatsoever to either respect or relate to the opinions of anyone at all".
Well said, Tim.

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