(but not necessarily in the right order)
21 April 2019
I wrote last summer about assisted dying and euthanasia. This week Jonathan Sumption QC, a former supreme court judge, said in his opening speech in this year’s Reith lectures that there is “no moral obligation to obey the law”. When asked about changing the law to legalise assistance for people with a terminal illness, he said that his view is that legalising assisted dying might put vulnerable people at risk.
But he then went further when he replied to a question from a woman whose husband had recently died at a Swiss clinic by saying “I think the law should continue to criminalise assisted suicide and I think that the law should be broken from time to time”. I’m not sure I agree but it’s an interesting perspective which would leave judgement in the hands of top lawyers, who are professionally trained to make dispassionate and objective decisions.
Also this week, as Notre Dame was burning, Donald ‘America First (and sod everybody else)’ Trump thought it would help to offer the French his advice, based on many years of pissing in his sandpit, on how to put the fire out. He told them to act quickly and suggested dropping water on it from the flying water tankers. Well, it helped with California’s forest fires.
French and British firefighters both described his advice as risible because he obviously hadn’t worked out that the water would have landed like three tonnes of concrete hitting the cathedral at 180 mph at quite a low angle, which would probably have flattened the whole thing and probably quite a few other buildings nearby
In the event, the fire was brought under control just in time with the towers still standing and, as many others have pointed out, a large number of publicity-conscious companies and billionaires immediately pledged huge sums of money to help with its reconstruction, a sad contrast to the reaction of similar donors in Britain who didn’t see Grenfell Tower as quite the same marketing opportunity.
Does anybody else immediately think of Charles Laughton’s Quasimodo when they see Notre Dame’s bell towers? The 1939 film of Victor Hugo’s novel has never been surpassed although they gave it the happy ending that the book didn’t have and the ugly but gentle and compassionate Quasimodo lived happily ever after with Esmeralda.
I always saw comparisons between Quasimodo and Mary Shelley’s home-made monster: both were basically kind people but people were frightened by their looks and tormented them, with the latter finally resenting Frankenstein for having made him. (Would it have been different if either of them had been a woman do you think?)
For reasons that don’t matter, I once borrowed a skeleton that I named Esmeralda (without conscious connection to Victor Hugo) and, so she didn’t get tangled up, kept her hanging in the loft space behind a door at the end of my attic bedroom. When I walked in there to get something one evening, I’d forgotten she was there and jumped out of my skin thinking somebody was in there, then I realised it was just Esmeralda.
June Brown who has played Dot Cotton in ‘Coronation Street’ for 34 years, said this week that she won’t be giving up wine, Guinness or cigarettes because, at 92, she reckons she’ll die of something fairly soon so she might as well continue to enjoy herself rather than spend her few remaining years going cold turkey. Good on yer June.
There was good news from America with the release of Mueller’s report (albeit heavily redacted). It was also good to see the professionalism applied to the writing of the report and that American lawyers have the same ability to condemn somebody with exquisitely courteous legal language and double-negatives.
A prime example is the section that said “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state … However, we are unable to reach that judgment.” What this actually says is: “We are not convinced that the President is innocent”.