Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

The Old Comrades:

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Friday, January 19, 2007
Still busy. But there's always time to smirk when one is mentioned in the Times.

True, in this instance one was mentioned on November 19 2005, but one's mention was quoted again by the mentioner today. Which is the only reason one mentions it, to be sure.

One has to toddle off now and practise counting to two.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007
"I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours." Unfortunately I have to do it. Light-to-zero blogging for a while.

Monday, January 08, 2007
I don't want you to notice me, because if you do notice me, you might expect me to post things and I haven't time today. So I want it clearly understood that I am not really here. But the 99th Britblog roundup is really here. There. Go.

Thursday, January 04, 2007
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes like stars start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part,
And each particular hair to stand on end
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine.

But this isn't it.

Despite being in the "crime" section of yesterday's Times I think this one will leave your knotted locks knotted*, like quills upon a porpentine who has not a care in the world: 'Text-pest doctor harassed patient'

First a few caveats. This case is ongoing; we don't yet know the verdict. The story as given here may be incomplete or wrong. I am not seeking here to judge between the two sides of the case described. My interest is purely in the sociological or political questions it brings to prominence.

The facts as related by the Times are these. A doctor did a biopsy on a woman. He asked her for a phone number so he could communicate the result of the biopsy. Whether he did actually do so is subject to dispute: he did leave a message saying she was clear, but there seems some reason to believe that when he did so he could not yet have known the result. What is not in dispute is that he used this phone number to send four text messages asking her for a date.

Now the charge that he purported to tell her medical facts when he did not yet know them is a serious breach of medical ethics, if it turns out that is what happened. But it raises no political issue and I don't want to blog about it. What did strike me as worthy of comment was that all parties plus the reporter seem agreed that his four requests for "a drink, coffee, dinner, whatever you like, pleeeezz" were a sort of twenty-first century equivalent of the famous Victorian scandal of Colonel Valentine Baker.

As the doctor would say, pleeeezz.

The sections of the messages quoted display no lewdness. He literally asks her out for a coffee or dinner. I have nothing but sympathy for those people, either men or women, who find themselves in the terrifying position of being stalked. But in this case the woman was not even propositioned. The fact that there were four messages over two days smacks of pestering, but it could partly be explained by the fact that she did not reply; the third three messages seem at least 50% taken up with pleading for a reply, and much of the rest is apologising ("m sory 2 contact u like dat").

Sheesh, I've gone and done what I said I didn't want to do and got tied up with this specific case. Look, tone and circumstances can be everything in these cases and I don't know what they were. The age ratio of the two parties could make a difference, as could the level of apprehension the woman was under concerning her state of health. There is also the issue of the allegation that he made a medical statement that pretended to certainty he did not have: as I said, that is a serious charge. The same goes for his allegedly obtaining the phone number under a medical pretext and then using it for personal reasons. All in all, I definitely want to leave it to the General Medical Council hearing to decide which of these two parties is in the right.

However I do have an opinion on this: we have adopted a stricter code than ever the Victorians knew if for a doctor to ask a patient for a date (not sex, a date) in itself constitutes a career-destroying offence. And this is not the only case I've seen recently where something like that does seem to be the unspoken assumption. This standard is unsustainable. The situation of a doctor vis-à-vis his or her patient is not like that of a teacher and a pupil, in which one party is under the authority of the other, even assuming the pupil is above the age of consent. I read a touching little paragraph of local news a while ago concerning the golden wedding celebrations of a couple consisting of a doctor who met his wife-to-be when she was his patient. Is this to be forbidden? This all seems designed to force doctors into celibacy; a high proportion of all the people a doctor ever meets must surely be made up of his or her patients.

*Buy a comb, willya? I can't solve all your problems.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007
It was indecorous to taunt Saddam Hussein at his execution. I take failures of decorum seriously; they are ominous at any time and the omens are specially bad for a country that is trying to evolve new customs, as Iraq is. So far, so bad, but let's keep it in proportion. A lesser dictator also killed by his own people, Benito Mussolini, had his body hung upside down in the Piazzale Loreto, with his mistress Clara Petacci and the rest of his entourage swinging in a line beside him.

Why do people behave in this indecorous way? The answer is obvious - because their family, friends or countrymen have been murdered by the dictator. They offer the dead their living throats to make one last cry of rage.

No need to ask why do victims behave as they do towards murderers. Why did the murderers behave as they did towards their victims in the first place? Not so easy. What shall we do about it? Harder yet.

I shall probably be taken to task for my own lack of decorum, but when I heard the indrawn breaths of outrage at Saddam hearing bad words in his last minutes, I thought of all the same people praising poor Reg Keys for denouncing Tony Blair to his face. Mr Keys' son Tom was a military policeman killed by a mob in Iraq. Reg Keys became a protestor against the war and stood against Blair in Blair's own constituency. Naturally he lost, but having stood, was entitled to the traditional post election speech. So he had his say, burning with emotion, and Blair had to stand a yard away and take it, knowing the cameras were on him all the time. And the papers purred with pleasure, calling it an iconic moment. As far as I was concerned it was understandable behaviour from a grieving father towards the man he blamed for his son's death - understandable but indecorous.

OK, so there's a difference. Tony Blair wasn't about to be killed. Then again, Tony Blair did not kill Tom Keys (a fact that the elder Mr Keys seems to have forgotten in his anger), whereas Saddam Hussein did kill his victims. So I see the behaviour of some of the relatives of those victims, who seized their last chance for a fractional revenge, as understandable. I also wish it had been prevented. But the concepts of "world outrage" and "Saddam Hussein" really ought to have intersected before last Saturday.

A merry dance. Sean Gabb defends the right to free speech of members of the British National Party - i.e. he defends the right to free speech of any of us five years earlier than he might otherwise have to.
Take his [Inayat Bunglawala's] statement that people have a right to their private political views. That may be the case in some benevolent oriental despotism. In England, it has long been accepted that we have a right to express our political views in public. Such, at least, has always been my understanding.
So far as I can tell from the Guardian story that started this latest round, most of the people Inayat Bunglawala is denouncing, such as Simone Clarke, principal dancer with the English National Ballet, had held their views in private - and had made strenuous efforts to keep them private - until they were forcibly made public by the Guardian.

This post from Dancerdance, which I think may be a blog about dance, discusses the implications.

Incidentally, not long ago someone from Mr Bunglawala's own workplace expressed his or her political views in the form of a death threat to a critic of one of Mr Bunglawala's columns. That too was intended to be private but ended up in the public realm.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Now, where was I? Happy New Year to all, made all the happier by the return of the Ablution.