Oscar Wilde on journalism

The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing. Journalism, conscious of this, and having tradesman-like habits, supplies their demands.’



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Funny right up to the end

What a great epithet!

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Slavery and the US Constitution 1787-1860

…all slaves of a particular state are to be counted as three-fifths of a white person.1

the States were divided into different interests not by their…size…but principally from their having or not having slaves.2 Future President Madison

lavery caused mayhem for the Founding Fathers as they wrote the constitution in 1787. What sort of people are slaves? The intellectually tortured answer was the infamous three-fifths compromise declaring that five slaves equated to three ‘people’. A further insidious compromise was formulated in Missouri, 1820. This dealt with slaves returning from non-slave states where they were temporarily free. The Missouri Compromise proclaimed ‘once free, always free’. The Dred Scott case came about when Scott wasn’t freed after returning to Missouri. His case reached the Supreme Court in 1857. They ruled no black, free or slave, could ever be a citizen and therefore couldn’t petition the Supreme Court. This dissolved the distinction between slave and non-slave states in the New Territories in the west. Slave-owners could bring slaves with them as ‘property’.

Writing the constitution was a huge endeavour. Slavery was contentious. The southern states said slavery was essential whilst the northern states denounced it as odious. Southern delegates wanted slaves counted as ‘people’, one-for-one. This was dismissed by northern delegates fearing slave states would get a permanent majority in the House of Representatives. Future president and slave-owner, James Madison proposed the three-fifths compromise where five slaves equated to three people. Madison’s proposal got unanimous support and the constitution was ratified in 1787.3 Additionally a balance was created with eleven slave states matched by non-slave states. The balance led inexorably to the Missouri Compromise in 1820.

The Missouri Compromise meant slaves taken to non-slave New Territories states became free and remained free after their return to their home state. (The compromise didn’t apply to slaves who escaped their bondage. They could be pursued and forcibly returned.4) Scott’s claim was that his rights had been breached as he hadn’t been freed on his return. He therefore began court proceedings. His case wound its way through Missouri’s court system finally reaching the Supreme Court in 1857.

The Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Taney,5 shocked everyone. The 7-2 majority verdict threw out Scott’s case by saying Missouri had exceeded their powers in creating the compromise in the first place. Property rights trumped state rights and Scott had no status in the USA at all as he wasn’t, and never could be, a citizen.

…A free negro of the African race, whose ancestors were brought to this country and sold as slaves, is not a “citizen” within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States…..he [Dred Scott] is not a citizen of the State of Missouri according to the Constitution of the United States..6

Taney extended slavery to the New Territories in the west by adjudicating that Every citizen has a right to take with him into the Territory any article of property which the Constitution of the United States recognises as property.7

The implications of this were profound. It altered the status quo ante for every black-American whether enslaved or not. Taney, wittingly or not, destroyed the constitutional balances built up since 1787. After this judgement the tectonic plates of mutual distaste led to civil war three years later. The Dred Scott case was a contributory factor leading to civil war.

1 https://constitution.laws.com/three-fifths-compromise

2 https://blackpast.org/aah/three-fifths-clause-united-states-constitution-1787

3 The three-fifths compromise altered the demography of representation. “The Southern states, if represented equally, would have accounted for 33 of the seats in the House of Representatives. However, because of the Three-Fifths Compromise, the Southern states accounted for 47 seats in the House of Representatives of the first United States Congress of 1790.” https://constitution.laws.com/three-fifths-compromise

Paragraph 4 Section 8 is the key to this point

That in all that territory ceded by France to the United States, under the name of Louisiana, which lies north of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes north latitude, not included within the limits of the state, contemplated by this act, slavery and involuntary servitude, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes, whereof the parties shall have been duly convicted, shall be, and is hereby, forever prohibited: Provided always, That any person escaping into the same, from whom labour or service is lawfully claimed, in any state or territory of the United States, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labour or service as aforesaid


4 The 1772 Mansfield Judgement, in England, drew no distinction as to how a slave entered the country. All slaves were automatically freed once they landed. However slaves arriving in England did so by ship, which was a major barrier for an escape plan.

5 Taney wasn’t a slave-owner but his parents had owned slaves and he grew up in an atmosphere where slavery was normal. He was also a fervent believer in limiting federal rights on internal state policies.

6 https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=false&doc=29&page=transcript section I paras 4 and 12

7 ibid section IV para 4


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Very bad news

Doctor: I have some bad news and some very bad news.

Patient: Well, I might as well have the bad news first.

Doctor: The lab called with your test results. They said you had 24 hours to live.

Patient: 24 HOURS! That’s terrible!! WHAT could be WORSE? What’s the very bad news?

Doctor: I’ve been trying to reach you since yesterday.


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Film Review: Stan and Ollie (Steve Coogan and John C Reilly)

This film resonated on so many levels that it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why I was bowled over. The final scene in Ireland showed the debt that Morecambe and Wise owed to them but there was so much more.

The pathos of comedians who’ve had their day but still retain the love and affection of an audience is famously spelt out with Harry H Corbett and Wilfrid Bramble’s disastrous tour of Australia. Tony Hancock’s desire to prove he wasn’t just a vehicle for Ray Galton and Alan Simpson’s genius hastened the end of his career. John Osborne’s fictional character Archie Rice in the Entertainer further underlines the point.

Stan and Ollie however isn’t just this: it’s more, much more. The fragility of relying utterly on the ability of a partner produces an intensity only known inside marriage. They couldn’t live together and they couldn’t live apart. Their situation-specific humour depended entirely on rapport, empathy and shared beliefs. The film brilliantly explores their genius. Coogan and Reilly create the ultimate fiction that they are Stan and Ollie. Their film-wives are magnificent. As are the malign Hal Roach (Danny Huston) and the reptilian Bernard Delfont (Rufus Jones). Together they are supporting actors who give a canvass for Coogan and Reilly.

Stan and Ollie has everything you need for a wonderful cinema experience.

Why you should see this film: Laurel and Hardy is more than a biopic and it’s also fun

Why you shouldn’t see this film: The beginning is slow and there are elements of pathos which are a bit clunky.

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Sub-editor needed urgently

Richard M

Oh dear: part two


Oh dear!

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Yes Doctor, no Doctor, three bags full Doctor

I’ve been confined in hospital just five times in the last fifty years. Firstly in Hackney’s German hospital, then Hackney General followed by Romford’s Oldchurch. My final hospitalisation was in the new Queen’s  Hospital, Romford. As a consequence, I’ve made it a general rule to avoid my GP unless at deaths door.  Unfortunately, after my last imposed incarceration, in the Queen’s Hospital, I had a minor stroke. However, as with all stroke issues, I had to get my GP’s agreement that I was still fit enough to drive.

That wasn’t too difficult, but was subsequently put on a regime of daily pills – another enforced imposition, that I’ve endured since 2014. Some two years later, I received a letter from my GP, saying he wanted me to make an appointment to see him at his surgery. I did no more than put the letter straight in our bin, but a few days later, the Doctor rang me at home. He was very resolute, that I must make an appointment. I started to refuse when he gently, but firmly, told me that as I had been on repeat prescription for some considerable time, I either saw him or: no more medication. I’d have been happy to do without the tablets but my wife was scathing about my selfish attitude.

So like the good little underdog that I am, I went to the Doctors. The consultation wasn’t as bad as I had expected and we both agreed that I would go to see him at least twice a year.  That was eighteen months ago but today, I think I must have upset him, when he asked if I had had the flu jab.

“No!” I emphatically replied.

He then asked if “I would like a one off injection against ‘shingles’.”

“No, thank you,” I replied.

He said, “Very well. Your blood pressure readings are fine.” And he handed me back my blood pressure readings which I’d printed out at home.

As I got up to leave, I said, “See you again in July then, Doctor”.

He then dropped the bombshell, “No, I want you to have a blood sample taken and return here in April or early May”.

What is it with Doctors? The last thing I want is a needle shoved into me and my blood tested. I quickly weighed up my chances to either refuse or convince him that a blood test was really not necessary. His resolute look though, made me keep silent. He typed out the blood application on his computer and handed the form to me. “Nothing but a little water on the morning when you take the test” he said. I then left to go home.

On reflection, I suppose I am being a bit of a baby in my attitude towards the National Health Service and would feel very affronted if all health care was held from me unless I had private health insurance or something like that. So, I will attend the local clinic, where Dracula will extract my precious blood.


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