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

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A quiet day

As planned, today was laundry day. I went out in the morning with a bag of washing, rather than my camera backpack. I was apprehensive about having the right coins and so forth, but remarkably the local laundrette had central wireless control for all its services, complete with contactless payment. The elderly proprietor helpfully talked me through the process in clear and elegant French. 

Every product and device had a number. I typed in the one for washing powder, held up my phone and it dropped from the dispenser. I loaded the washing machine, selected my programme, typed in its number, flashed my phone and was ready to go.

Armed with clean clothes for another six days I returned to the hotel via my favourite Metz brunch spot where I had just one meal for the day.

Back at the hotel I checked my roaming minutes and was happy to find I have many to spare, despite streaming TV shows of an evening. Reassured, I settled down on a rainy afternoon to watch the latest episode of Welcome to Wrexham.

When I was a teenage boy my mum, worried I wasn’t getting on with dad, made him agree to take me to the football. I was a Liverpool fan but he refused to take me there saying that, at 30 miles away in North Wales;

My car’s already parked too close to bloody Anfield!

Rather than pay Scouse scallies running parking protection rackets, he bought season tickets for Wrexham. So I was a fan before it was fashionable. Dad and I followed the club from the old fourth division to the second — during what I now know from the documentary were its glory days. Then I went to university never to return.

Mum’s idea was a good one. Dad got into it and we made happy memories together but once I was off the scene he stopped going. In later years I suggested taking him to a Boxing Day match for old times sake but he replied; 

Wrexham?! I’m better now thanks

He was bemused by the club becoming a global phenomenon because of the documentary. I showed him an episode and it did nothing for him. I however am oddly moved by it and by the the theme song an American fan has written for it;

Don't forget where you came from
Don't forget what you're made of
The ones who were there
When no one else would care
I guess my memories affect me differently. It was a chore for Dad, but I am grateful I was worth it. I may well go to a match when visiting my mum sometime and surprise the locals with my emotion. For now I just enjoy the show and the odd familiarity of the featured fans I’ve never met who are quite probably the children or grandchildren of schoolmates!
This, the newspapers and some text exchanges passed a quiet afternoon until my clothes were aired enough to be packed.
Tomorrow, deo volenti, the tour continues. I don’t expect to hear from the garage today as the work will continue into the evening. However Speranza’s security systems reported to me that she was moved quite early today, so work has begun as planned. Wish me luck, gentle readers. 

Apollo in transit

I am a practical man and a problem-solver by nature. Some say I lack emotional intelligence. Perhaps I do. It's an attribute I find hard to take seriously. When someone claims it, in my experience, it can often be translated as "Hey! I'm dumb but I'm nice". 

That's not to say that I don't have emotions. In the months since last November, I've had too many of them – or perhaps just too much of the same one. Either way, it hurts and doesn't achieve much.

I made a new friend online in recent months. We volunteer together on a trivial pastime project entirely unworthy of our skills and experience. We are both widowers, both retired and of the same generation. He was an engineer. I was a lawyer. We have nothing much in common but get along well. I was excited when he told me his name appears in the NASA Apollo Lunar Surface Journal. Like me, he was a boy at the time, so didn't work on Apollo itself. His credit is for a later technical contribution.

Earthrise, by Bill Anders | Image Credit: NASA

Those who worked on the Apollo Program are among the few government employees I have ever admired.  The astronauts were (and still are) my heroes. My new friend gave me access to the operating manual for the Saturn V rocket and other such wonderful documents. It's hard to explain how much pleasure I took in looking through them. Suddenly it was Christmas 1968 again and I was an 11 year old boy waiting anxiously for AOS (acquisition of signal) from Apollo 8 to confirm that the SPS (service propulsion system) had ignited to achieve TEI (trans-Earth injection).

NASA alway did the best TLAs (three letter acronyms).

My new friend also recommended From the Earth to the Moon, a late-nineties TV series (currently available on Amazon Prime). At the time of its original release on HBO, I was working crazy hours in a demanding career. Any TV I saw was chosen by a wife and daughters with no interest in such stuff. When I organised a trip to Cape Canaveral during a Florida family holiday, they ganged up on me as we were about to set off and told me I was going alone. I was upset but, hey, I had one of the best days of my life.

I'm enjoying the show – including the appearance in the story of my namesake Thomas Paine, the NASA administrator who oversaw the first seven Apollo missions. It's pre-woke and tells the story straight. Yes it portrays the society of the time in which an astronaut could say affectionately to his worried wife (without her flying off the handle, or even looking miffed); 

You take care of the custard. I'll take care of the flying 

But it doesn't use the phrase "toxic masculinity" once.

The costs of this epic endeavour were not just the billions extorted from American taxpayers or the strains put on the astronauts' families. Three men: Command Pilot Gus Grissom, Senior Pilot Ed White, and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee laid down their lives in grisly fashion on the launchpad during a routine test. As so often in such epic tales, it's not the fallen heroes who are remembered. The glory goes to the ones who come home in triumph. In my book, those men are among the greatest heroes Mankind has ever known. 

One particular scene in the show may (time will tell) help me to gain some perspective on my woes. Two characters – Harrison Storms, an executive at North American Aviation and Joseph Shea from NASA – walk in a park and discuss their fates. Both had been scapegoated for the Apollo 1 tragedy. The script puts these words into Storm's mouth;

You know in my years in flight tests I saw a number of crews slam into the desert floor. Too many. I loved those guys and each time that happened I wanted to die. But I’ve learned that you’ve got to let go of the "what ifs". They’re meaningless and they’ll kill you

In the next episode the script attributes these words to Wally Schirra, commander of Apollo 7, when asked by a documentary-maker how he felt about the Apollo 1 disaster; 

You mourn the loss but you don't wear the black armband for ever.

Maybe Captain Schirra lacked emotional intelligence too. Or maybe he was just wise enough to play the cards life dealt him and not waste it on regret. 

By the standards of most humans, let alone real heroes, I don't have a problem worthy of the name. Someone I love stopped loving me. It happens. It seems to have happened to me a lot, so perhaps there's something wrong with me. If there is, I can't identify it and – at 65 – it's unlikely I can change it. So it may be time to let go of of the "what ifs" and stop wearing the black armband.

I'm not sure the Apollo 1 story would have given me that insight if it were not for the fact that it also woke memories of my young self – a boy full of hopes and dreams – quite a few of which came true.

Book Review – In Focus: The case for Privatising the BBC

In Focus: The Case for Privatising the BBC – Institute of Economic Affairs.

I have been reading another of the books I snagged at the recent Think! conference organised by the IEA. You can read it too, online for free. It's a well-researched, well-reasoned piece of work. It won't please those on the Right or Left who rage at Auntie's perceived bias because it reaches a nuanced conclusion. Yes, the BBC has a bias but it's not a crudely political one. It's the predictable bias of the kind of middle class professional person who chooses to work in a public service broadcaster. In the chapter "Why is the BBC biased?" written by Stephen Davies of the IEA, he explains why people with views as radically divergent as, say, Owen Jones and I all feel that the BBC is against us;

...certain views are marginalised and either misrepresented or even ignored. It is not a straightforward matter of either left or right views being treated in this way. Rather, all views that are not in the conventional wisdom are slighted, even if they are widely held among the public. Examples from the right would be support for radical reform of the welfare system or the NHS; from the left, it could be the popularity of public ownership of utilities ... Certain views are clearly represented as being uninformed or exotic, such as scepticism about man-made climate change, hostility to immigration or doubts about the benefits of formal education. Sometimes this judgement may be true, but to simply ignore and disregard a view is actually counterproductive if your aim is to inform. 
In addition there is an intensification of the structural tendency of the modern media to see political and intellectual divisions in binary terms. This leads to many perspectives being simply ignored or misrepresented. In the last 30 years for example, it has become part of the conventional BBC view that opposition to the EU is definitively located on the right. This means that the continuing and at one time prominent socialist critique of the EU is simply not represented. On the other side, opposition to immigration is thought to be associated with other views conventionally placed on the right, so that left-wing opposition to labour migration is airbrushed out, despite being common among many Labour voters. At the same time, the strong support of most free-market advocates for freer immigration is ignored and glossed over. In other words, the very existence of certain kinds of combinations of views is simply ruled out, and they are not even considered, despite being perfectly coherent intellectually and widely held.
The last discussion I had on immigration, for example, was just this week with a new friend who is an active member of the Labour Party. He is of the same vintage as myself and is a "Old Labour" socialist from the provincial working class that founded the Party. He is uncomfortable with the "Metropolitan elite" now in charge and is more scathing about identity politics than any Tory I know. He is firmly in favour of restricting immigration; believing that it has reduced working class wages. I, on the other hand, would be in favour of open borders if we could first abolish the welfare system that distorts the labour market and attracts unproductive immigrants. For so long as that system exists, I favour a liberal immigration policy that actively encourages skilled workers to come here, regardless of their origins, but offers no welfare benefits to first generation immigrants unless and until they have paid a minimum contribution into the system.
Neither of us fit the simplistic right/left BBC narrative, so our views never feature. He and I haven't talked about the BBC yet, but it would be perfectly understandable if we both thought it was biased. That wouldn't matter so much if the BBC was not (a) funded by state force and (b) the provider of 75% of all television news viewed in the UK. Though the internet is undermining its near-monopoly it still shapes the views of most voters, who rarely ignore its narrative. Hence Auntie's conniptions at the result of the EU Referendum. A decision was made on the basis of opinions outwith her conventional wisdom. It's from "out of left field" as our cousins across the pond say and must be wrong, or mad, or both.
So who are these people who choose to work for a public service broadcaster, bringing their unconscious biases with them? 
The initial factor is the very narrow and restricted background of BBC staff, both of presenters and producers. The proportion who are privately-educated (and, by extension, upper-middle class) is several times the national average (Milburn 2014). Generally they come from professional backgrounds rather than commerce or business, much less from working-class households. Much of the critical comment on the narrow base from which the BBC draws its senior staff emphasises the lack of ethnic or gender diversity; but, while there is undoubtedly something to this, it is swamped by the social origins phenomenon. The women and ethnic minorities who do work for the BBC in roles such as producer, presenter and senior manager are likely to come [my emphasis] from the same kind of educational and social background as their white, male colleagues.
What this naturally leads to is a common shared set of beliefs and attitudes, deriving from common or shared experience. In a very real sense the conventional wisdom referred to earlier is the shared outlook of a specific social group or formation. The problem, of course, is that, in the absence of challenges or dissent from people from a different background, all kinds of beliefs remain unquestioned, with the status of 'obvious truth' or 'common sense' attached to them. These kind of unexamined assumptions exist at the level of general principles rather than particular issues. Examples might be that it is always good to help the less fortunate or that most social problems should be understood as having structural causes rather than being explicable through individual agency or action, or that business activity is a zero sum game. Moreover, once a particular set of attitudes becomes widely shared within any organisation, it tends to attract people who share them, and so the situation becomes self-perpetuating and reinforcing. 
Then there is the fact that no-one who disapproves of an organisation funded by force would dream of applying for a job there. This is a problem for all state organisations, not just the BBC. I could not live with knowing that every penny I "earned" had been taken by force from my fellow men. I would be as ashamed of working for the Government or the BBC as I would be to work for the Mafia – and for the same moral reasons. I derive my self-respect from taking care of myself and my family and from being a burden to no-one. I am proud of the fact that every penny I have earned came from voluntary transactions with clients who had plenty of other choices. That is why it's difficult to get classical liberals of any stripe into Parliament, Whitehall or the BBC. The self-selected political and administrative classes comprise people who have no moral objection to living parasitically on their fellow-men. We can't expect such people to favour a smaller government, privatisation of the BBC or less state intervention in private life. If they did, they wouldn't be there.
Some may go into politics, the Civil Service or the Beeb with the honourable goal of relieving the burdens of oppressed taxpayers. Few stick to that objective. They will find most of their colleagues bemused by them while they are junior, fearful when they are senior and downright hostile if they come near the levers of power. If not independently wealthy (and why would they work in such mundane roles if they are) they will find themselves under financial as well as social pressure to conform. Their advancement is very likely to depend upon the approval of people who share the conventional wisdom.
This is an interesting book and worth a read. I would love to hear your views on it, gentles all. 

Narcos season 3 - real life lessons to be learned?

Narcos season 3 finally gets a frustrating show on track - Vox.

I enjoyed the first two seasons of Narcos dealing with the rise and fall of the Medellin cartel and its charismatic leader Pablo Escobar. I found myself on the side of the CIA and DEA, as the writers intend, even though in a sense they are the real bad guys. After all it's hard to sympathise with the murderous scum to whom Drug Prohibition, just like Liquor Prohibition before it, has delivered control of the narcotics business.
So often though in such matters it's not the story that we can see that matters. It's the one we can't. Like the story of the respectable businesses who would replace the scum in a heartbeat if Prohibition ended. How many customers of criminals would be alive today if they could have bought from, say, Boots the Chemist — making clean and reliable cocaine of consistent quality? How many addicts could be helped if cocaine were sin taxed like other potentially harmful products?
I don't use myself but then I don't smoke and drink little. I love my life. It's comfortable inside my head and I have no desire to get out of it. But I know for sure that many of my friends and former colleagues use and I think no less of them. I am happy to have friends who make different choices in all aspects of their life, and love living in a world that permits them to do so. I don't even think myself particularly virtuous in this respect. I doubt anyone reading this would end a friendship because the friend used drugs. They might worry about them, counsel them, even nag them a little. But dump them? No. Yet they certainly would not smile indulgently on a friend they found out as a murderer, robber or rapist. Why? Because those are real crimes; crimes against morality. I think it's a useful libertarian rule of thumb to say that nothing should be a crime that would not lose a decent person's friendship if known. 
I think it was Jonathan Ross who observed that everyone in Britain who wants drugs has them. Swabs taken in the lavatories at the Houses of Parliament suggest many of our political leaders are users. Yet those leaders and the forces they command are at "war" on drugs. Was any war ever more comprehensively lost? So why does it continue? There's a clue to that in episode 1 of series 3, which turns its attention from the destroyed Medellin Cartel to the Cali Cartel that (in collusion with the authorities) assisted in that destruction. The show is based on the true story and the DEA hero mentions that Cali had a budget of $1 billion per annum at the time it's set (during the Clinton presidencies) just for bribes to government officials, police and others. Also to telecommunications staff intercepting phone calls for them, hoteliers and taxi drivers helping them to track their enemies — the so called Cali KGB
I resist conspiracy theories. Conspiracies happen but cock ups happen more (and are easier to cover up). Most government types are too incompetent to keep a crime secret, but it's natural for such mediocrities to cover their mistakes — and necessary for them to cover their corruption. If your prosperity depends on persuading voters to entrust more and more decisions to you, you're instinctively going to cover up the big dirty secret of government as an institution; that state employees are no more honest, noble, intelligent or competent than the people they claim to be protecting. 
Maybe Prohibition began as a sincere attempt to protect the weak from error. Maybe. But the most powerful question for arriving at truth — Cui bono? — must lead us to suspect that the direct corruption of bribery and the indirect corruption of jobs and pensions that depend on the "war" continuing have something to do with the refusal to acknowledge not only that the war is lost but that the only people dying in its trenches are the weaklings it's supposed to protect. Theodore Dalrymple suggests that addiction itself is largely a fiction promoted by the public servants providing "support" to addicts. He says addiction support employees depend far more on the addicts than the addicts depend on them. That's surely just as true of the officials in law enforcement whose mortgages are paid and families raised on the back of the drug trade and whose lives would be wrecked if it were legalised. 

Comrade Detective: Channing Tatum's weird new show

Comrade Detective: Channing Tatum's hidden gem of Romanian TV | Television & radio | The Guardian

I link above to the Guardian review of Comrade Detective without approval. The completely modern, American-written and produced show is, as it says: astonishingly high-concept Amazon comedy; a detective spoof written in English, then filmed in Romania with real Romanian actors speaking Romanian, then dubbed back into English...

....and it's cleverly hilarious.

I was drawn to the show because it's set in Communist Romania and filmed mostly in modern Bucharest. That's a city I visited several times when I was based in Poland working as a lawyer on real estate finance, investment and development projects in Central & Eastern Europe. I have a Goodbye Lenin! style nostalgia for the cities of the region as they stood, in all their Socialist shabbiness, during the 80s and 90s. Some parts of them still look that way, despite the Stakhanovite efforts of my clients and me. The Central Business Districts generally look like German cities now as do the new apartment buildings and suburbs, but it will not have been too hard for the producers to clear streets of modern cars and advertising to film this show.

Tatum introduces the show, Fargo-style, as if it were for real. He and his colleague suggest that the American shows of their youth were Cold War propaganda and that it's therefore an interesting counterbalance to see one made in support of "Communist ideals". In the cod-serious introduction to a later episode they even claim Stanley Kubrick was a fan at the time. The opening titles, colour grading and 80's style semi-naturalistic acting all support this illusion and I regret that I may be spoiling it for you by writing this. It provided a lot of the humour in the first episode for me. For example, when a character proclaims "There are no corrupt policemen in Romania!" I laughed as my friends from the region would have done when they watched such stuff at the time. Or as the late Mrs Paine and I laughed with the Polish audience in our local cinema when a Russian officer in "Schindler's List" said to Auschwitz survivors

          You have been liberated by the Soviet Army.

My friends in Poland and Russia had told me – with affectionate nostalgia – about the TV programmes of their youth featuring heroic, lantern-jawed KGB men and so forth. I was happy to think I was finally going to see one, but I began to have doubts fairly quickly. The settings are accurately shabby and of course it would have made no sense for them to differ too much from reality at the time (except in the dream-sequences set in NYC) but I mused that Communist producers would have sanitised them to some extent. Well before the first (of six) episodes ended with modern credits that gave the game away, I had Googled the show and figured out I was being skilfully spoofed. My familiarity with light switches of the era and my spotting a "fuse box" that featured grubby modern circuit breakers may have tipped me off minutes before someone who didn't know the place as well.

The producers claim they wanted to work on a real show but couldn't secure the rights, but that may be another layer of spoof. I can't imagine why anyone in post-communist Romania would refuse to cash in those rights. There is no other way to exploit them in a society inoculated for a while from Socialist ideas. Back in the 90s I was briefly involved in trying to buy a set of such rights (and the associated archive) for a Western company. That effort failed on price, I believe, but there was no reserve on the seller's part about the principle.

In essence it's a cop buddy show. A cod-Marxist Starsky and Hutch. Once the illusion is broken a lot of the humour consists (and I won't say too much because – spoilers) of the stupid anti-Western schtick ramping up and up. That shark had been spectacularly jumped by half way through the series and the nature of the humour changes so it's more about our knowing (as the characters don't) just how misplaced is their confidence in winning the Cold War. We end up laughing with the producers at themselves and their kooky idea.

Is it propaganda? No. It's a parody of propaganda and essentially a healthy one. An intelligent young SJW viewer might even recognise him or herself in it at times. But s/he'll also have fun with the parody of Americans, like the obese (and very Romanian-looking) ones in the Embassy stuffing hamburgers down their throats as the heroes walk by to visit the sluttish female US Ambassador. It's a joke and a good one at that. I have seen reviews like this one which try to argue that it's up to something else, but I respectfully suggest that's the reviewer's typical leftist sense of humour deficit. 

Watch it if you can. It's on Amazon Video and if you are a Prime member it's included in your subscription. Otherwise you'll have to pay less than the cost of a latte and it will make you a lot happier and perhaps even do you more good.

Beyond Satire

Why Britain could never make Borgen - Telegraph

I am disappointed in Michael Deacon of the Telegraph. He is that once-Conservative paper's Parliamentary sketch-writer, a profession unique to these islands. Satire exists elsewhere, of course. It was invented in Ancient Rome, so that Italian politicians have been exposed to it for millennia. This explains why modern Italian politics has evolved to be so entirely indistinguishable from it.  
Johnny Foreigner however is starved of our particular form of the art. Deacon tells us that; 
An official from the German embassy in London once told me that the very idea was unthinkable in his country. The satirical parliamentary sketch is an exclusively British curiosity upon which outsiders look with polite bafflement, as if we were proudly showing them our antique collection of Beatrix Potter-themed thimbles.
 So much the worse for Germany. It should never be unthinkable to prick the pomposity of politicians. Had some witty German devised a joke name for Adolf Hitler as good as Bernard Levin's 'Sir Reginald Bullying-Manner' (for Attorney-General Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller) we could all now think of that cultured country without the image of that tedious little Austrian popping up in our heads.
My disappointment is that Deacon shows signs of weakness. He is a fan of Miss Paine the Younger's second-favourite TV show, Borgen and is sad that no equivalent could be successfully presented in Britain. He shamefully seems to sympathise with former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith when she bleats that
Borgen is wonderful because it “portrays a leader struggling with the choices required of a position of political power, experiencing the impact of that on family and other relationships, sometimes falling short, but essentially showing politics to be the honourable profession that I believe it to be”
Yes and LA Law was an accurate presentation of life in a legal practice. 
Typical lawyers
Mr Paine and a colleague in his days as a lawyer
A profession is a self-governing body of trained specialists subject to a set of ethical rules limiting the ways in which its members can profit from their skills. Which part of that does Smith think describes her shabby, corrupt and predatory occupation? As for the word 'honourable', she displays the characteristic chutzpah of the politician in even uttering it. She should shun it as I should 'slim', 'svelte' and 'buffed'; words that if uttered by me of myself would reduce all around to helpless laughter.
To be serious for a paragraph, the job of a politician in a modern social-democratic state is essentially to seize by force more than half our earnings, blend them with obscene amounts of debt and use them to bribe us into voting for more of the same. There is no 'honour' in a task so sordid. Any decent human would feel soiled by it and thus the only such who become politicians are those once-in-a-generation-if-we-are-lucky sorts who want to get the state off our backs. These rarities are loathed and routinely defamed by the rest of the political class precisely because they threaten the fat and toothsome body politic those parasites infest.
So man up, Deacon. You perform an honourable function in ridiculing, undermining and slowing the advance of these predators. If you are really so bothered by watching Borgen with subtitles, perhaps you just need some varifocals?

How Government controls the British broadcast media

British television - a brief potted history. |

Please follow the link for an excellent history of British television. I confess that I did not know until I read it that all British TV is state controlled, not just the BBC. Amid all the fuss about regulation of the dying press, how can no-one be concerned that the electorally far more influential TV stations are all at the beck and call of the most vicious organisation in any of our lives?

Moral panics vs morality

New BBC row over Newsnight 'paedophile' politician probe - Telegraph.

I was surprised by last night's Newsnight (available here for a while on iPlayer). Not because it delighted (of course it did) in accusing a Conservative politician of the Thatcher era of being a paedophile, but because this was an old story and no new evidence was offered. The BBC knew it couldn't name the accused man for legal reasons (though it never explained that) thus putting under suspicion every male in Mrs Thatcher's government. 

Of course, the BBC itself is at the heart of a paedophilia scandal and an associated moral panic but even I would expect better of Auntie than deliberate distraction tactics. I would even have hoped better of it than to use such a non-story to mitigate the effect of two others on the same programme that cast its beloved Labour in a bad light. Sadly the relish with which it repeated "Conservative," "Tory," "Thatcher" was as evident as the care with which it played down all references to Labour in the other stories.

You may say the new story was that an old accuser (many of whose similar allegations have been challenged by the author of a book on the scandal) has demanded a meeting with David Cameron in a predictable response to the Prime Minister's silly "sweeping statement that abused people need to be believed." Those telling the truth need to be believed. The liars, bandwagon-jumpers, mass hysterics and fraudulent compensation-seekers need something else entirely. The difficult task in these cases, just as in those involving less emotive crimes, is to distinguish truth from lies. That task is not helped by emotionalism.

The middle of a moral panic is a dangerous time to make such a point. The witch-hunters are likely to look in your direction and - as you are not joining in their cries of "witch" - cry "witch" at you. Anna Raccoon has been experiencing a fair bit of that. I have never met her in person. For all I know some of the ad hominem attacks on her contain some grains of truth. Or not. Still her evidence on the subject of the alleged child abuse at the facility where she lived at the relevant time should be heard. In fact the more her enemies play the woman not the ball, the more I think what she has to say is important. Rod Liddle had some sensible observations on the subject in The Spectator (h/t Navigator for pointing me to that article).

The fact is that the middle of a moral panic is exactly when such points need to be made. For example, I am sure the North Wales childrens home affair involved real and serious child abuse. I am convinced that there are people who were rightly convicted of terrible crimes. But in the moral panic that attended the investigation into that case, it is possible (and I fear likely) that innocent people working in those childrens homes were wrongly accused and their lives trashed. We now know how stupid the South Ronalsday satanic ritual abuse story was, not to mention its American equivalents. Given that they were literal witch-hunts, it's hard to believe they were given credence in the modern era. Yet they were. And the reason-crushing cry of "think of the children!" went up against anyone trying to discuss them calmly.

One of the books that had the greatest influence on me as a young man was this one. It was on the reading list from my University before I started to study law and I commend it to you. I freely admit to using many of the debating tricks it mentions in my attempts to persuade people away from the current, morally-corrosive political orthodoxy. My role on this blog is advocacy, not academic study. I hope that I fall into few of the fallacies mentioned, however, and that I would be honest enough to acknowledge them if I did.

To say we need to keep our heads in the middle of the Savile affair and evaluate carefully all accusations arising from it is not to side with him. Still less, as the more rabid "moral entrepreneurs" are prone to allege, does it suggest any "agenda" in support of paedophilia. I would love to see the truth told and justice done, in so far as the guilty are in reach. Those taking part in the moral panic may see their ad hominem attacks as weapons in a crusade for justice, but they are dangerously wrong. Those they scream at as they ask them to consider the truth are not Justice's enemies. They are.

Can any Canadian reader please help?


Another video by Ezra Levant did the round of the blogs a while back. You know it; the one in which he was filmed taking an Alberta Human Rights Commission functionary apart. Now there's a new one in which he takes the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council to task for running a kangaroo court. Looking at the decision on the Council's website, and reading there how the Council is constituted, his basic points seem to be true.

Yet it's hard to believe that Canada censors private media companies while exempting the state broadcaster. It's hard to believe Canada's government is so hypocritical as to describe the Council as "voluntary" while making membership a pre-condition for a broadcasting licence. And it is extremely hard to believe that the rules of natural justice can be flouted in a Common Law jurisdiction like Canada in the way that Levant describes. Can it really be true that he can be judged without being heard? That he can be judged by his competitors and political opponents?

I don't know enough about Canada to be sure whether I can take this guy at face value. His tone is pompous, hectoring and bombastic and he sounds like - to put it mildly - a blowhard. I am not sure I like him, but he seems to be making important points. If they are true, I probably have to refine my personal stereotype of Canada as a relaxed, open, amiable free society. Can any reader help me understand please?

While I await enlightenment, I have to say - in fairness to a country that only Americans seem able to dislike - that at least Canada seems to have political diversity in its media. Nothing like Levant's Sun News segment is possible on Britain's airwaves. And nothing like his broadcast "**** your mother" to his censors is remotely imaginable. Which is - in a way - precisely why I blog.

Hammond Meets Moss

BBC - BBC Four Programmes - Hammond Meets Moss.
Hammond_crash Sw71cp
Having complained recently about the poor quality of most modern British broadcasting, let me mention an intelligent show I watched last night. I am a Top Gear fan but have always thought the Hamster (how to put this kindly...?) more charming than thoughtful. Most of his programmes apart from Top Gear have supported this theory. In this case however he surprised me.

Exchanging reminiscences with Sir Stirling Moss about their respective brain-damaging high-speed crashes, 44 years apart, he managed to shed (with the aid of a number of neurologists) a fair amount of light on the workings of the brain. It's on the iPlayer for a while and I commend it to you. I rather suspect that so personal was the subject that the production staff couldn't persuade Hammond to condescend to the viewer in Auntie's usual infuriating, Blue Petery way. Indeed, Mrs P. noticed that he didn't even have his usual laddish accent. To be precise she said, puzzled, "he sounds posh." She is more of a Hamster fan than I am, so she would know.

Ironically, since this really was - in a sense - "car crash television", I found it compelling. Listening to two interesting men intelligently discussing life-changing personal experiences in a scientific context was my idea of a good programme. What's yours?