Thursday 28 October 2010


Arguably the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century is Ludwig Wittgenstein. For some pithy tweets by the anguished genius, try

Sunday 19 September 2010

The Proms, Jerusalem and England's Green and Pleasant Land

In Britain, every September, there is a Last Night of the Proms - the end of the summer season of promenade concerts of classical music - and the tradition is to play Hubert Parry's 'Jerusalem', a setting of William Blake's poem. It is now something like an unofficial British national anthem. The poem speaks of

I will not cease from mental fight
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
'Til we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land

With an inversion - and bearing in mind, to put it mildly, the tensions and troubles in the Jerusalem of the Middle East - bearing also in mind the famed toleration of Britain - a radical muse would be that of Britain, ideally as a secular state, retrieving some authority over Jerusalem, providing a relaxed and easy home for Jews, Christians and Muslims, to
whom the city means so much, building indeed a Jerusalem of peace.

And, if we would like to speculate further, let that city in the Middle East be part of Engl
and's green and pleasant land.

True, few may support this wild speculative idea....
but wild speculative ideas may be required.

Sunday 12 September 2010

Whose money

There is much ministerial and public indignation - understandably so - at public bodies having wild and extravagant expense accounts, with higher management being taken on luxurious jaunts, staying at five-star hotels - and often receiving large salaries and larger bonuses. After all, the money is 'taxpayers' money'.

The same indignation is rightly held when confronted with certain bankers and investment managers receiving large bonuses and pay-offs.

Curiously, though, the vast number of commercial bodies escape censure. Yet, of course, many large businesses cover the expenses of directors and upper management, expenses when staying in the top hotels, taking lavish meals, travelling in luxury. Why the difference in attitude?

'Ah,' it may be said, 'the money being spent is not taxpayers' money.'

But, hold on, where does the money come from? Well, from consumers - and much of the consumption, in practice, is not optional. Further, many, many consumers are far less well-off than those with their large expenses - indirectlly being paid by - those consumers.

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Tony Judt

Tony Judt recently died. Here is a link to a splendid piece written by him, in the most adverse of conditions, about his radical days at King's College Cambridge

Tuesday 10 August 2010


Clare Hewitt produced a splendid photographic project on assisted dying, euthanasia and such. As I am in favour of euthanasia, well voluntary euthanasia - well, we could discuss others - I was involved as a figure. I see that, fitting with the topic, I am made all the more woeful and aged than even I really am (I think).

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Placebos and Paradox

In the UK, a House of Commons body has recently recommended that homeopathy no longer receive state support - for the perfectly good reason that there is no evidence that the theory behind homeopathy has any validity. However, it is recognized that it may have value as a placebo and hence helping some people to get well. One concern seems to be that patients ought not to be misled.

That, of course, leads to the paradoxical state of affairs. Placebos can work; but patients should be told that they are taking placebos - the desire for transparency and honesty - and that usually reduces their effectiveness.

I wonder how many ill patients would prefer to be informed and remain ill...or rather trivially deceived yet be made better? After all, how many patients worry about the theory behind prescriptions more than whether what is prescribed will make them better?