Three Men in a Boat – latest 3-minute lecture/podcast on YouTube.

Here is my 3-minute lecture/microlecture/podcast on Jerome K Jerome’s classic, Three Men in a Boat.



European court rules European data retention law invalid.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) on Tuesday overturned a controversial* EU directive that allowed telephone and email providers to store private citizens’ data en masse for scrutiny by investigators in later cases of serious crime.

The Luxembourg-based court ruled that the directive – passed by bloc’s Council of Ministers in 2006, after terrorist attacks in London and Madrid – amounted to a grave intrusion into the private lives of citizens in the 28-nation bloc.

“The directive interferes in a particularly serious manner with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data,” the ECJ wrote, because it required providers to retain data and allowed national authorities to access it.

Exact data on a person’s location, travel movements and social contacts were recorded without the affected person ever being informed, the judges said.

Read more at DW.

This is a good one.

The European Union passes a law demanding governments of its member states spy on the internet and phone activity of their citizens.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ), which is the EU’s own court, rules at the time that the directive is perfectly legal.

The British government of the time, under Messrs Blair and Brown, eagerly comply, transposing the directive into British law and planning to build a British database on top of it.

The latter is only scrapped when the cash runs out, on account of Gordon Brown getting his sums wrong and creating a colossal bust.

In the UK a new administration comes in, dedicated to defending civil liberties, and promptly revives the previous government’s plans for the Brownian database.

A couple of year’s later, the ECJ decides that the directive is invalid after all.

This leaves member states in a bit of a quandary (except Germany and Belgium, who only transposed parts of the directive into their law and are thus liable to fines). What are they going to do now?

The Guardian’s take on this is predictably skewed, spinning it as a spanner in the Tory/Coalition’s works, rather than a massive cock-up by its beloved European Union.

Some of the comments below the Guardian article make for hilarious reading as various Europhiles (presumably ignorant of the source of the legislation in the first place) claim this as triumph of EU good sense.

You can read the ECJ’s judgement yourself here.

* The directive was not “controversial” – not in Britain, anyway, where the mainstream media hardly bothered to mention it.

More jaw jaw on the great war war.


KEEN GREAT WAR anniversary watchers will realise we have left the initial prim and decorous phase of the campaign, which opened with the government telling us in suitably prefect-like tones that the anniversary will be “non-judgmental” and not involve any finger-pointing (at the Germans, that is, who started it all).

Michael Gove’s barrage against left-wing academics for peddling an anti-patriotic campaign over the last five decades, involving Blackadder and a couple of poets, however, has thoroughly destroyed the possibility of such primness continuing.

In response to the Gove blast Sir Baldrick from Blackadder, or at least a balding, middle-aged man pretending to be him, accused the minister of “slagging off teachers”, which will probably be made a crime under a future socialist government. The minister, he roared, “has made a very silly mistake!”

Read on at The Fortnightly Review

Clowns against the stagnant quotidian (or Brandian Bollocks).


More than that, though, Russell wants a revolution in our consciousness. Now that’s a tricky one. How does he think we’ll manage that? Dumping hallucinogens in the water supply? Imposing daily meditation sessions on everybody? Wafting clouds of cannabis smoke into the cities? Unless he’s thinking of mass “re-education”, in which case he ought to read a bit of recent history. A lot of people had to be re-educated in the Soviet Union to redistribute all that wealth, and it didn’t end up happily. He hasn’t really thought any of this through, has he?…

Read more at The Fortnightly Review.

If you want to know more about Brand’s loopy “spirituality”, watch this: