Tag Archives: Richard Snow

Should you be allowed to name your kid Adolph Hitler?

According to media stories,  a couple have named their baby girl, born 24 November 2012,  “Hashtag Jameson.”  The media stories about this are mostly British, so I’m guessing the baby was born there.  An Egyptian man has supposedly named his baby “Facebook” in memory of the role Facebook played in mobilizing people  in the revolution that overview the Mubarak regime last February. And in the 2005 book “Freakonomics,” Steven Levitt told of an American couple who allegedly named their kids Orangejello and Lemonjello.

Adolph Hitler – from Wikimedia Commons

Others have disputed that these children ever existed. Levitt’s study of how names move around America suggests that names start off in affluent areas gradually “trickle down” to become popular in the middle class, like Madison. But one LA Times  writer several years ago pointed out an academic study showing that the more unusual a child’s name, the more likely they were to end up in the juvenile justice system. It may not be the name that does it, tho.  The lower the educational and social status of the parents, the more likely they are to give their kids strange names.  And lower socioeconomic groups are over represented in the crime statistics.

Last year, a New Jersey couple who named  one child Adolph Hitler , and another Aryan Nation,  had all three of their children taken off them, immediately after the birth of the third. The authorities say it’s because of child abuse and violence, but the couple say it’s because of the names.

So what do people think? Do parents have a right to name their kid anything they like? Does the state have a right to protect a child from ridicule and abuse that it may get from having an offensive or ridiculous name? Does it have a right to prevent parents from giving the child a name that would offend many people (like Hitler).  Does a child have a right not to have a name that exposes them to ridicule or abuse, and if so, who sticks up for the child?

I’d love to hear what you think.

Note: this is my blog site. For information about my novel, click here. For information about editing an academic thesis, click here.

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Knowing you could have prevented your sister’s death.

Today I released my new novel, Fire Damage, on Amazon Kindle.

How do you get over knowing that you could have prevented your sister’s murder?
Cameron Oakwood is an intelligence analyst whose sister and nephew were killed in a car bomb explosion outside a politician’s office.  Cameron knew terrorists had made death threats against the politician. His family blames him for not warning his sister to stay away from that building. The case was never solved. Three years after her death, his family has cut him off. Consumed by guilt, Cameron obsessively re-reads documents he has hoarded to do with the case. He is becoming addicted to alcohol and tranquilizers.
Cameron is assigned to work with FBI agent Jodie Finch on threat by a Japanese doomsday cult to release a genetically engineered virus at an international sporting event in Melbourne, Australia. She is attracted to his intelligence, his humor and his honesty, but she worries about his addictions and his obsessions about his sister’s death. She wonders if he is ready for a new relationship.
As they work together, the terrorists take hostages to a remote country house in the path of oncoming forest fires. Cameron and Jodie have only hours left to prevent the biological attack. As they  race to rescue the hostages, they make a stunning discovery about the identity of the bomb maker who killed Cameron’s sister. But they make their discovery in the most frightening possible circumstances, when all their lives hang in the balance.

If you’d like to visit the site, and possibly buy a copy, you can see it here.  If you want to down the kindle app to read kindle books on your computer, you can get it here.

A blast from the past…

I could almost believe in re-incarnation after what I’ve just come from. Well, Ok, I haven’t had a real religious experience – just a short but vivid trip back to my youth. Remember the Swedish pop group Abba? Of course you do. Even if you weren’t born when they were around. They performed in Melbourne when I was 23, and I jumped the fence at the Myer Music Bowl and got in without paying.  Well in Melbourne Australia there is an Abba tribute group called “BABBA” – except their posters print the middle B backwards, just like some of ABBA’s did. I just had a blast. This morning I noticed there was a street festival at Ivanhoe, a few suburbs from where I live. I went along and found the band performing at one end of the street was… BABBA!  They did “I do I do I do I do,” “ When I kissed the teacher,” (I’d forgotten that song even existed), “Dancing Queen,” and on and on. They just look and sound SO MUCH like Abba it was like being back in 1977.

So I took some photos. The first one below shows  Bjorn on the guitar, Agnetha in the white and yellow, Anni-Frid (Freda) in the white and blue dress, and Benny on the Piano. Then costumes are copies from a 1976 photo on youtube. Even the drummer had fun. See the last photo. Have you ever had an experience that took you back to a time that made you feel fantastic for an hour or two? A what was it? Leave a post. I’d love to hear from you.

Why is John le Carre such a good spy / thriller writer?

I first came across John Le Carre’s novels 30 years ago. The first book of his I read was “The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.” It dealt with a theme that recurs constantly through the remainder of le Carres’s books: betrayal, and the way intelligence services use and the dispose of people. The main character is sent on a mission where he risks his life going into East Germany during the cold war. He makes a shocking discovery at the end of the novel: a central belief he has held all the through the book, something he based his whole actions on, is in fact a lie. And the people who sent him into East Germany knew it, and used him to spread that lie, at the risk of his own life and that of his girlfriend. The book doesn’t have a happy ending.

In real life, le Carre (real name John Cornwall) was a spy.

He worked for the British Army’s Intelligence Corp in Germany in 1950, returned to England in 1952 where he spied on suspected communists for MI5 at Oxford, and he became a full time MI5 officer in 1958. In 1960, he transferred to MI6, and left the service in 1964 after ‘The Spy Who Came In From The Cold” became a success. By this time, Cornwall’s cover as an MI6 agent had been blown by the real-life Kim Philby, a British agent secretly working for the Soviet Union.

What makes le Carre’s characters so interesting is that they often very flawed people. His own life experience gives him ample justification for books based on secrets, deceit and betrayal. Perhaps his best ever book was written in  1986. The cold war was still on. Le Carre writes  “A Perfect Spy”. It tells the story of a young man who has a conman for a father. The conman father is based on le Carre’s own father, who went bankrupt several times and ended up in jail for insurance fraud.

The main character (Magnus Pym) is a British intelligence officer who forms a relationship with a Czechoslovak intelligence officer in which they exchange documents so each can claim to have a valuable mole on the other side. The book contains a line that struck me as brilliant. When Magnus leaves home to hand over his first batch of documents, le Carre writes “…and Magnus stepped out into the night and became his father.”

And let’s be realistic: what do  intelligence agencies like MI6 and MI5 do? They get people from other countries to betray their countries. They burgle, they bug, and they spy on their own colleagues. Just read Spycatcher , the autobiography of MI5 officer peter Wright, who spied on his own boss in an attempt to discover if the boss was a soviet mole.

In the world of James Bond, good is good and evil is evil and James Bond never stabs anyone in the back. In le Carre’s world, intelligence agencies are prepared to cut people loose after they used them. The interests of your country matter more than the life of some informant.

In some ways, le Carre’s books remind me of the American film “Fair Game” (see here, and here ) about real life CIA agent Valerie Plame, who was exposed as a covert CIA agent by the White House when her ex-Diplomat husband criticised intelligence suggesting that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy yellow cake from Niger. Plame had scientists ready to defect from Iraq to the US, and they were left high and dry when Plame was exposed. (Gordon Libby got a jail sentence of two and a half years for exposing Plame, but George. W. Bush commuted his sentence.) Which just goes to show you what murky world intelligence can be. And le Carre takes through that murkiness in all its sordid detail. That’s one reason why his books are so compelling. There’s something fascinating about people who lie, burgle and bug for a living, and do it with the blessing of their country. Most of them believe that that they’re doing it for a “good” purpose, because “my country” is a good country. Don’t most of us think that? I’ll be sad when le Carre dies. I wonder who’ll take his place?

Any thoughts on why spy novels continue to be popular? Please, leave a comment!!!

Richard Snow

twitter: Richard_A_Snow