Banned Book Week 2014

In 1988 Hustler Magazine and Larry C. Flynt, Petitioners v. Jerry Falwell was about the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and the invasion of an individual’s privacy. It is debatable whether or not Larry Flynt would have won his ruling from the Supreme Court if the ethos of those Founding Fathers still prevailed. If the Hollywood movie industry is any guide to a nations ethos, it would seem that moral outrage would have prevented someone like Larry Flynt from even publishing his Hustler magazine at an earlier time. Not only would this make the case before the Supreme Court moot but suggests, perhaps, that a nation’s ethos does not necessarily reflect the literal intentions of its Constitution. Read more of this post

Chasing Shadows

Detective Sergeant Sean Stone (DS Stone), is one of the main characters in ITV’s new four part crime drama Chasing Shadows. DS Stone is ‘not normal’, something only implied at the outset when he spoke out of turn at a press conference, arranged by his Chief Superintendent (CS Drayton) to announce the solving of a major crime. In doing so, the plaudits CS Drayton expected to receive from the assembled press reporters became recriminations. This incurred the wrath of the CS Drayton who told Stone that he was ‘finished’ and immediately transferred him to a missing persons charity as their liaison officer. Given the following portrayal of DS Stone’s ‘abnormal behaviour’ in this opening episode, it can hardly have gone unnoticed before, especially by CS Drayton. This created a highly improbable exposition, it being simply a contrivance to introduce the theme of a neurotypical person’s relationship with someone having Asperger’s syndrome. Read more of this post

Anti Terrorist Legislation

On 1st September 2014 the Prime Minister argued that there may need to be an enhancing of the Government’s power to exclude individuals from certain areas whilst re-introducing the ability to move subjects without their consent. He announced a series of new measures to assist with combating terrorist threats, declaring that the Government would “introduce new powers to add” to the current system of Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIMs). Specifically, that this would involve expanding them to include “enhanced” exclusion zones and a reintroduction of relocation orders. Looking specifically at the ability to exclude individuals from certain areas, it is difficult to see what new powers the Government requires. Read more of this post


The dramatic irony of the outrage expressed that Iraq may possess weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was compounded by the that facts the UK possessed WMD, is one of the ‘Big Six’ arms exporters and is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. A professional media portrayed Saddam Hussein as a brutal megalomaniac who oppressed his people. Political duplicity gave voice to exhortations that ‘we must do something to end this oppression’ and join with the USA in the Coalition of the Willing. Read more of this post

Friend me now!

A recent incident prompted me to recount the following anecdote, one that I intended to post with the title The Diary Of A Silly Old Fart’. However, I immediately came upon a problem that I knew would jar with those who, like me, comprise the less erudite readership of My Telegraph. That is; the use of the words ‘friend and unfriend’ as verbs. Finding an apodictic verb usage was difficult but thanks to Megan Garber, an article that she wrote for The Atlantic settled this for me (and perhaps a few others). As Megan writes in her (brief) article ‘friend,’ as a Verb, Is 800 Years Old adding, its use as verb is not the construction of FaceBook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. One day a new verb ‘to zucker’ may be added to the SOED and those falling prey to a social network scam can be said to have been ‘zuckered’. Read more of this post

On The Death Of Robin Williams

The world will miss you Robin Williams.
You brightened up the lives of millions.
Now that world in tweets of grief
Twitters on, thank God they’re brief.

The Final Curtain Call

In A Tribute in Words and Pictures (a collection of reviews by those closely associated with Margaret Thatcher) its editor, Iain Dale, has included an amusing anecdote by John Whittingdale about Margaret Thatcher and Monty Python. As Whittingdale recounts, in 1990, the Conservative Party Conference speech was particularly important and the hardest part of the speech to write were the jokes, especially for someone who was not a natural joke teller. The people brought in to write this part of Margaret Thatcher’s speech frequently needed to persuade her that what they had written was funny. Read more of this post

The Patriot

Samuel Johnson was not indicting patriotism when he said in 1775: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”. As James Boswell wrote: ‘He (Johnson) was at all times indignant against that false patriotism, that pretended love of freedom, that unruly restlessness, which is inconsistent with the stable authority of any good government’ – Boswell’s Life Of Johnson. Neither was Stephen Decatur giving support to those patriots that Johnson railed against, when he said in 1820: “But right or wrong, our country!”. Decatur, often misquoted as saying my country right or wrong, actually said: “Our Country! in her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right, but right or wrong, our country!”.  By 1872 the misquotation of Decatur was clearly in the nation’s psyche when used to criticize the views of Carl Schurz, eliciting the response: My country, right or wrong, if right, to be kept right; and if wrong to be set right.”. However, what is needed to set right a country has always – and will always – create dissent, especially amongst those who would be a patriot. Read more of this post

Lessons in Mandarin

Very occasionally as a Civil Servant I was required to provide a technical contribution to Parliamentary Questions (PQs), at a time when PQs really did allow Members of Parliament to hold the Government to account. The only role my contribution had to a PQ was to complement the response being prepared by a Mandarin. Anything that I may have written would have been lost in the revisions they underwent before reaching the likes of a Bernard Woolley or a Sir Humphrey Appelby. I was reminded of this when I revisited an old paper on Civil Service Mandarin. Read more of this post

Context & Abstractions

Of all the ills that human hearts endure,
How small that part which laws may cause or cure.

The above introduces T.E. Utley’s 1968 essay ‘What laws may cure’, writing: ‘Those lines, widely and falsely attributed to Samuel Johnson and in fact written by Oliver Goldsmith‘, which I’m sure was an apodictic addition. In 1968 he would have relied on hard copy references to validate the source of his quote. Even so, both hard copy and the global resources of internet now available, can make any research a circuitous task. At best, the originator of a quote may be found but this does not necessarily validate its source, as may be the case with Johnson and Goldsmith. Read more of this post

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