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I wonder how Robbie Burns would have made out as a slave driver. The farmer turned poet and high society darling was planning to head out to Jamaica to work on the Port Antonio slave plantation in 1786 and probably would have if his scribbling hadn't started to pay off. Supporters sometimes point out that his job description was "book keeper". But Burns himself admitted he was going out to become a "poor negro driver".  Part of Burns's popularity is his supposed egalitarian leanings. All men may have been brothers in Burns's eyes but the ones with the darkest skin tones obviously were less equal than their lighter skinned brethren. Of course, Burns was not the only Scot who had no apparent objection to slavery in the West Indies. Thanks to Americans' self obsession, when most whites think of slavery they think of Dixieland and the Land of Cotton. The truth is that slavery in the West Indies was often far more cruel and brutal than anything happening south of the Mason-Dixon line. It had to be. There were far fewer whites in the West Indies per head of population than there were in the southern states of the USA. Any slave rebellion would have far more serious consequences. Something like three-quarters of slave overseers in the British West Indies were Scots and the greatest concentration of British-based slave owners in the 1820s were in the Glasgow area. An estimated one-third of the white population of Jamaica at the time was Scots or of Scots descent. One of the reasons Kingston in Jamaica remains so lawless is that the police force on the island was never intended to tackle crime but to cow the majority of the population and prevent a racial bloodbath. To this day, the force has never really shaken free of its roots. Only now the exploiters they serve are black instead of white - a not uncommon state of affairs in today's Commonwealth. 

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I remember the "good" Blue Peter. The one with John Noakes, helped out by Peter Purves and Valerie Singleton. Noakes was an apparently ordinary bloke in amongst the still cut-glass accents of the BBC. I don't think that it was just because I got older that some of the later presenters, including if I remember correctly a guy who used to make porn movies, irritated me more than somewhat. The presenters moved from being Uncle or Aunt figures to trendy and annoying older siblings. But throughout the programme's history I would never have entered one of the artistic competitions. What was the point? The overall winner was nearly always the top entry in the youngest age group. So, the Post Office ended up issuing a stamp of a stick-man going to moon or something. It could be that this foolishness, which discouraged talented teenagers, sent out the kind of wrong message that in turn accelerated Britain's decline? Bad Auntie Beeb.

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It used to be that journalism on both sides of the Atlantic offered a good path out of the ghetto for working class kids who did not excel at professional sport. Of course, not all journalists were products of the mean streets but the ones that weren't usually wrote for papers hardly anyone read. Then came Watergate and journalism became sexy. Rich and privileged kids, especially in the United States, decided they wanted to bring down governments too. And being rich and privileged, these kids got what they wanted. All the President's Men became their talisman and bible. I read the book while I was working in Newcastle upon Tyne. A lot of it didn't make much sense. But, I thought, maybe journalism works differently in North America. I now know the operating procedures for good journalism are the same on both sides of the Atlantic. But thanks to All the Presidents Men, there isn't so much good journalism around nowadays. What we've ended up with is a bunch of so-called journalists who didn't see Trump or Brexit coming because the lives of ordinary people are as alien to them as the Queen would find life in Cranhill, Pilton, Wester Hailes or Easterhouse. Horses for courses and fewer blue bloods in the reporters' room, I say. A good newspaper has staff from a wide variety of backgrounds. Right now, on both sides of the Atlantic (I can't comment on the Antipodes), there are too many who have basically been able to buy their berths thanks to an accident of birth.

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A very senior detective told me once that a person had two choices if they found an intruder in their home - a) Nothing b) Kill the intruder and take his body to the town dump. His point was that capturing the intruder and calling in the police was not really a good option. The bad guy, and his buddies, obviously knew where you lived as a result of his visit and it was highly unlikely that you would be testifying in court against him. Criminal prosecutions often rely on witnesses. No witnesses, no conviction. Even the dumbest of thugs can work this out. And if they can't, their lawyers can. Believe it or not there are lawyers out there who only care about getting their clients off. Where I went to high school it was widely believed that some local lawyers contrived to make sure that the local thugs got to know the addresses at the top of witness statements. Eventually, many witnesses contact addresses were given as care of the local police force. But the fact is that the local thugs or their families went to high school with the witnesses or their families and already knew where to find them. One of the biggest problems was that the lawyers and Sheriffs or Judges tended to live in nicer areas than the rest of us and didn't have to survive having the thugs as neighbours. I've always found that the communities where these thugs live are far less understanding and forgiving than the courts tend to be. They have equally shitty lives but don't steal and maim. I can only imagine the disappointment of all involved when the cops did persuade some people to stand-up to one of the most notorious thugs only for the Sheriff to suspend sentence so that the bad guy could pursue a supposedly promising music career. I would have been a little happier if the Sheriff had offered to let the thug move into his home until the music career took off. Why should only the thug's neighbours be put in jeopardy because the Sheriff wanted to take a risk? And did I mention that I think that lawyers whose clients are arrested for offences committed while on bail should share a cell with them until the case is dealt with? I would anticipate a drop in both bail applications and crime.

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So, the BBC World Service has started talking about Aung San Suu Ky again. Sadly it can't make its mind up as to whether she supports the Burmese Army's burning the Muslim minority Rohingya out of their homes or whether she simply cannot control her military. Either way, this is not good. On one hand it suggests that her only real interest in "human rights" was her own political birthright as the daughter of one of the country's founders. Or the whole supposed democratization of Burma, or Myanmar as the former military dictatorship rebranded the country, is a con job. I can't help feeling the time has come for the BBC to stop giving this woman an easy ride and start to treat her like the head of any other regime bent on genocide. 

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