Irregular Thoughts

Exposing a lack of clarity in conventional thinking

In 2009, I started writing comment pieces for this website and (since 2021) for my associated newsletter. Examples range from the offside rule in football () to banning people from social media (); from Prince Harry’s bottom () to politicians battling with lawyers over human rights ().

The full range of topics includes:

I have also written extensively for the national press and professional journals.

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Is Covid-19 making us irrational?

I don’t want to start a panic, but I do wonder whether Covid is making people less able to think properly. I’m not talking about those poor individuals who have actually had the disease. I’m talking about (almost) everyone.

Football’s gone away again

When I get nervous watching football on TV, I usually turn to the match statistics in the hope of some succour. Last night I was very nervous. And from very early in the game. At first, the statistics seemed to be a real help until … well, until I realised that the BBC were showing Italy in the “home” team column, despite the match being at Wembley. (The Beeb obviously thought football wasn’t coming home last night.)

The bitter taste of victory

Reading the Times newspaper yesterday, I was somewhat gobsmacked to see Sean O’Neill, the paper’s chief reporter, complaining that “The UK has no constitutional protection for a free press and no real cap on costs for libel actions.” These two facts formed the centrepiece of his argument that abuse of British courts is killing free speech. But, after years of campaigning against these protections, is the Times now regretting its success?

The “good grief” project

In January of this year, Covid-19’s second wave was getting going. The vaccine program was just starting. And recently retired doctors wanted to return to work in order to help out. Famously, the reaction of the bureaucrats at the Department of health was to provide applicants with a tidal wave of online modules to complete. The Times reported one doctor complaining that she was only a quarter of the way through after six hours of form-filling.

Should social media be allowed to ban users?

Earlier this month, Facebook’s Oversight Board upheld the decision to ban someone from its site. The “someone” in question happened to be Donald Trump, but that has no bearing on this article. I want to examine the debate that rages over the principle of social media sites being able to ban anyone at all from their platforms.

One moment in time

As a lifelong supporter of Queens Park Rangers, it is second nature to revel when local rivals, Chelsea, are on the wrong end of a result. So yesterday’s Cup Final result should have been a time of great joy for me. But the decision by VAR (the Video Assistant Referee) to rule out Chelsea’s equaliser as offside was, frankly, absurd.

New home for Comment & Analysis

As an experiment, I am relocating these Comment and Analysis articles to a new website called Irregular Thoughts. Clicking on any of the “Read More” links on the Comment & Analysis page will take you directly to the relevant article on that site. If you are not already a subscriber, you can subscribe from that site. Emails (including the initial registration acknowledgement) will be sent from simoncarne@substack.com. If you don’t see the emails, please check your junk folder and mark the sender’s address as “not spam”.

If the experiment goes well, the move will be made permanent.

Submission to BEIS

In 2016, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) issued a regulation known as TAS 100, which governs certain activities that are open to anyone to undertake. But the regulation applies only when the activity is carried out by an actuary. This has created the anomalous position that:

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Yes, but who was the wee donkey?

In Hollywood, there is a story-writing guru, Robert McKee. After listening to one of his talks, many years ago, I gained the abiding impression that the most powerful story endings are those that you didn’t see coming and yet, with hindsight, the narrative had been building to that all along. One of McKee’s favourite examples – and mine – is Casablanca

BBC’s Line of Duty cried out for an ending of such proportions. After all, this latest series had been deemed important enough to feature in news broadcasts. (And not just the BBC News. If you haven’t seen the final episode yet, stay away from today’s newsstands: several of the papers have a prime plot point plastered all over their front pages.)

But the writer, Jed Mercurio, seemed to have long ago abandoned any attempt at such a climax.

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Should social media regulation be aiming at a different goal?

This weekend, the professional football community in the UK will boycott social media. The “gesture”, initiated by the anti-racism charity, Kick It Out, and others, is a call to “those with power [within social media] … to do more and to act faster … to make their platforms a hostile environment for trolls”. At the time of writing, British rugby and British cricket has announced that they will join the boycott.

I wish them all luck. Something is needed to deliver major change.

A good place to start might be improved clarity around the nature of social media and the responsibility its providers take for the words and images that appear on their forums. At the moment, much of the thinking is confused and confusing.

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