THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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July 2012

That way, madness lies

It is such a cliché to tell a policeman engaged on trivia that he should be catching burglars that - though we all think it - only the least educated of us now say it out loud. Yet what else, really, is one to say to the Dorset Police? They have arrested a young Twit known as @Rileyy_69 for his unpleasant tweet to an Olympic diver. Is Dorset really so peaceful a shire that this is an honest-to-God arrestable offence?

I have been repeatedly burgled. I lost a ring and my first good watch from my parent's home (they lost much more). Mrs Paine and I had all our wedding gifts stolen from our first home. Even in the home that has not (yet) been robbed, I pay insurance premiums that make me a victim of crime. Not one person has ever been arrested in connection with tangible harms done to me. Yet a foolish boy makes a stupid remark on Twitter and the full majesty of the law descends.

That mere words are now criminal in the land that pioneered the rule of law and once prided itself on the forthrightness of its yeomen is beyond me. Yet my fellow citizens seem - for the most part - unconcerned or even approving. Theirs is the ethic of the afternoon TV show, where sentiment rules the head and fists fly for imagined slights. More athletes have been dropped from their teams for racist tweets than for blood doping and otherwise sensible people say "Of course these ejections are justified..." It's a running and jumping contest, boys, not a vicar's tea party. Who cares what sports people think? That they think at all is a pleasant surprise.

Goodness knows I am in no mood to defend someone who taunts a young chap who lost his father to cancer. Yet his nasty words were just that. Words. They were the dark but logical corollary of the sentimentality that held him out as honouring his late father by his athletic achievements. Have he and his coaches not motivated him by the fear of doing precisely what @Rileyy_69 nastily accused him of; letting his late father down?

I do hope his name is not published. This young fool's life should not be rendered even more unpromising because he said something nasty and silly. As a boy of his age I was exhorting everyone who would listen to rise up and slaughter the bourgeoisie in the name of "the masses." This, to the approval of my leftist teachers who thought my murderousness showed my heart to be in the right place. And to the amusement of everyone else, because my words were of no consequence. Have we lost that common sense?

@Rileyy_69 is no worse than I was. I venture to guess, gentle reader, that you were foolish yourself in your youth and have said things that would have sounded as bad on Twitter as they looked on the wall of the bike shed. These new technologies allow us to disseminate our foolishness more widely than before, but that's really no reason to take it more seriously.

Love the show, troubled by the message

I watched the Olympic Opening Ceremony from start to finish on French channel TF1. It's fair to say that much of it bemused the French commentators, but reading around this morning I see that - as the BBC used sports commentators for a cultural event - it was just as puzzling to the native presenters.

I loved the show. The theme was taken from the greatest Englishman who ever lived, but there was little (apart from several impressive coups de theatre) that would have resonated with our Bill. The glorification of the ordinary is a contradiction in terms, a paradox. Yet Tolkien did it with his noble provincials, the hobbits. And Danny Boyle did it too.

Was it political? Yes. Were the races represented proportionally? No. Did that matter? Not much. Nor are they in sport. If it's racist to observe that black people make better athletes, then I am racist.That sort of stuff doesn't bother me. They were young, enthusiastic and well-drilled. They were a credit to us, so I don't give a damn about their skin pigmentation.

The only real tragedy is that Britain's greatest mistake - the NHS - was given massive prominence. Its hospitals an archipelago of filth, generating new diseases. Its staff forming a producer cooperative on Soviet lines, above all criticism and routinely killing patients without fear of disciplinary action or even much by way of rebuke. Yet, it is a sacred cow. It is supported by all parties, including those that should know better. So it was sort of inevitable. Having lived in other countries where people are mystified by Britain's attachment to so obviously deficient a model of health care, I guess they just smiled at our eccentricity.

All in all I was relieved that we did not disgrace ourselves. My French/Swiss hosts in Mauritius congratulated me and told me to be proud, so I guess we pulled it off. Spent as we are in so many ways, we are still - it seems - a cultural superpower. At least in terms of popular culture. So to carp about the message is, in the end, a waste of time.

As I really don't care about the sport, and as I am safely away from the disruption of London life for the duration, I have nothing more to worry about now the ceremony is over - apart from paying for the costs through my council tax for the rest of my life.

Drivers to have 10-year health checks

Drivers to have 10-year health checks under driver licence reforms - Telegraph.

I have absolutely no desire to survive my driving licence. Life without driving a car is unthinkable to me. It's bad enough that the government claims the right to decide who may operate this particular type of machine at all, but imagine the scope this will give the nanny statists given their constant redefinition of the word "health".

Do you drink more than their made-up safe limit per week? Do you smoke? Are you (like most of the England rugby team) in excess of their stupid BMI ratio? Do you believe the British state your greatest foe? You are clearly unhealthy in body, mind or both.

Dear government, please go and do something useful. Like finding ways to stop bankrupting our nation.

Blogger on his hols

I am not sure it means a break in blogging but my sojourn on the beautiful island of Mauritius may well change the tone of my posts. My only worry right now, truly a first world problem, is as to whether my friends' French satellite TV package includes a channel showing today's German Grand Prix.

Meanwhile, as I sit in the sunshine after breakfast, I wonder why G4S's chairman should have to worry about losing £1 billion per year of government contracts over his company's Olympic cock-up, while governments which always cock everything up, and rarely on such a small scale, never lose their contract with the taxpayer.

Blogger on his hols

Another ethical dilemma. Maybe I am just confused?

'Circumcision ban makes Ger... JPost - Jewish World - Jewish News.

I am troubled by the German court decision on circumcision (and relieved that the Bundestag is apparently going to over-rule it). Yet I don't really understand why? My libertarian principles certainly don't allow parents a free hand to mutilate their children on any pretext, yet there's something unsettling about prohibiting the practice. The Jewish friend I asked about it didn't help me much. He just said the hygienic reasons for male circumcision were long gone and had sympathy with the court's view. If Jewish men want to be circumcised when they are adult and able to make their own choice, then so be it, but he wasn't sure it was right to impose it in childhood. HIs reaction doesn't seem to be very typical, judging by press reports.

What, gentle readers, is your view?

Is LOCOG restricting free speech?

Terms of use 2012 Olympics | London 2012.

There is some kerfuffle about the London Organising Committee of the Olympic games restricting free speech by its linking policy. Some are asking how, by linking to the site, you could be said to be using it. Therefore they argue, even by the site's own terms and conditions, there is no contract to enforce.

I think they can afford better lawyers than that boys. The contract is formed (as are so many others) by electronic means. Thus;

BY USING THE SITE, YOU INDICATE YOUR AGREEMENT TO BE LEGALLY BOUND BY THESE TERMS OF USE, by our Privacy Policy, our guidelines on Use of the Games' Marks, the terms and conditions governing use of the London 2012 eTendering service (“eTendering User Agreement”) and any other notices, guidelines and rules published by us on the Site from time to time ... [etc.]

If this doesn't work, internet commerce doesn't work either. I only qualify that by saying it's clearly unreasonable for the conditions to bind you until you have had chance to read them (whether you take that chance or not). Once you have read them and found them unacceptable (or visited without checking them) you should leave the site immediately and not return. No court will hold you to them if you do that.

I do have quibbles about specifics of the Links Policy (below) however;

a. Links to the Site. You may create your own link to the Site, provided that your link is in a text-only format. You may not use any link to the Site as a method of creating an unauthorised association between an organisation, business, goods or services and London 2012, and agree that no such link shall portray us or any other official London 2012 organisations ... in a false, misleading, derogatory or otherwise objectionable manner. The use of our logo or any other Olympic or London 2012 Mark(s) as a link to the Site is not permitted....

It's fair enough (pace the anti-capitalists who irrationally object to companies getting what they paid for, rather than blaming the IOC, LOCOG and others for selling out in the first place) to restrict commercial uses and the display of their logos and brands. It's pointless as by and large they are protected by general law, but it's hardly something to complain about.

I am also not sure they even need to restrict portraying them in a "false or misleading manner" as that's covered by defamation law. I doubt they will get more than token damages (and no costs) for claims on grounds less serious than those for defamation, which would make enforcement a waste of time and money. I guess they are just helpfully warning that they will get shirty-at-law if you do. Thanks, guys.

What about the "derogatory or otherwise objectionable" bit, however? Maybe the protesters have a point there? My dictionary says "derogatory" means "showing a critical or disrespectful attitude." I am highly critical and utterly disrespectful of the IOC (which has a long history of corruption) and LOCOG (which is incompetent when it comes to PR for a much-loved sporting event and has overrun its budget shamefully). If I link to their site when pointing that out, do they really think an English jury will award them damages?

If I get a cease and desist letter in response to this post, I will offer to pay £1 into court on account of their damages. If they are rash enough to sue, the judge (having read my eminently reasonable critique) will (at worst) smile and award them 99p, meaning they get no costs. He might well also get shirty with them for wasting his time. A shirty High Court judge is not a sight they want to see, trust me.

Their lawyers probably told them they were pushing their luck with "derogatory" and "objectionable" (defined as "arousing distaste or opposition; unpleasant or offensive"). "Objectionable" is too subjective to be sensibly used like this. A different someone somewhere will object to almost everything. There are some sad individuals on the Left who object to almost anything. Boo hoo. Don't forget in civil cases you have to prove loss, not just breach.

I suspect these elements of the policy are pointless and therefore simply another example of LOCOG's tone deaf PR ability to make the inherently lovable despicable. Ergo they have failed to restrict your freedom of speech in any meaningful way. Relax. Chill. Worry rather about the costs of the games you will be paying for years to come.

DISCLAIMER: This is my personal opinion and is not offered as legal advice. Consult your own lawyer before taking on a well-funded organisation with a track record (if not - yet- of running a successful Olympics) of prompt threats of litigation .

Is Suzanne Moore's thought maturing?

On social media the new religion is sharing. Some of that sharing may not be very nice | Suzanne Moore | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Ms Moore is one of my least favourite writers. She is of the militant busybody tendency. To put it politely (and I don't think it ever advances one's cause to be rude) she is generally (although probably a delightful friend and family member in everyday life) the sort of woolly-thinking person who got us into our current mess.

Much about the linked article is vintage Moore, but am I just indulging in pre-holiday optimism when I think I detect some positive development? Have a look and tell me what you think. There should be more joy among us, after all, over one Guardianista repenting than over a thousand of us who always knew the state is not our friend.

Is the internet as addictive as tobacco?

Is the internet as addictive as tobacco? | Anonymous | Comment is free |

Here we go. First tobacco. Then drink. Then food. Now the internet. There are literally no decisions about our own lives the true Guardianisti think we are adult enough to take. In their patronising world view we are all their children to be coddled, disciplined and protected from ideas unsafe for our childish minds.

Which leaves the question they never ask. How did they get to be the grown ups?

Pinheads dancing on angles

Rio Ferdinand: I'm not racist, I was calling Ashley Cole a fake | Football |

Is anyone else as amused as me by the confusion of the PC classes over the Ferdinand/Terry kerfuffle? For the masses, the question of whether one can call a black man a f****** black c*** in an ironic or sarcastic way, while remaining a right-on non-racist seems somewhat less-than-pressing. 

For the theologians of the Left however this is not funny. You may giggle with me at the earnest tone of the linked article in English Pravda, but this stuff really matters to them. To the rest of us, their interest in such fiddling with language while New Rome burns merely exposes their lack of substance. They need to set groups of us against each other, the better to build their power. Such is their continued focus on dividing that they fail to notice the nation they thus seek to rule is circling the economic plughole.

A society whose intellectuals agonise over the heated exchanges of the thoughtless going on mindless may truly be said to have failed. Rough young men play football. Rough young sportsmen - black and white - can be uncouth and vulgar. Their speech is not - at times - quite as delicate as your maiden aunt might wish. None of that matters. Least of all the football. If you enjoy the pomposity of the Guardian, you are going to love the self-importance of the F.A. - an organisation whose actual importance is coded into its everyday name. It will speak next on this topic and I promise you the only well-adjusted response will be to giggle.

My favourite manager would disagree of course. He once said. "Football's not a matter of life and death. It's far more important than that." Were he here today, he would give all actors in this farce a tongue-lashing that would make their expletives seem tame. And then he would get back to the game.

Relativistic Baseball and other "What ifs"

Relativistic Baseball.

I learned all my science from the back of the Economist, the late lamented Tomorrow's World, the plotlnes of Star Trek and the pages of DC Comics. That has served me well enough to bluff myself through a legal career (including a phase acting for computer scientists in Cambridge), but I have always had more of an unsatisfied holy curiosity about the subject than most arts and social sciences graduates. 


I think the linked blog is going to be a useful and amusing supplement to my other sources.