3 January, 2019 - 10:57 By Tony Quested

Figurative ark rests on high moral ground

In times when controversy rises to the proportions of a Biblical flood it is not uncommon to see authors’ figurative arks finding high moral ground without divine intervention.

This is unquestionably true of James Comey’s compelling best seller, ‘A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership’ in which the former FBI director sacked by Donald Trump lays out why he will die for his country but not lie for it.

Defending the constitution at all costs and eschewing compromise despite political pressures, Comey served with distinction as deputy US attorney in George W. Bush’s administration and as director of the FBI under Barack Obama – and oh so briefly under Donald Trump. Bush listened and followed his advice, Obama admired Comey’s refusal to sway in the political winds – then along came Trump!

I was riveted by his account as I chilled over Christmas.

Having dared to take on the Mafia, the Clintons and Martha Stewart and helping to change the Bush administration’s policies on torture and electronic surveillance, no-one has come forward to challenge Comey’s unstinting dedication to fighting to protect the integrity of the country he so clearly loves.

As a teenager Comey and his younger brother were held at gunpoint by a robber – and probably on-the-run rapist – in their home while their parents were out of the house.

As a student – before he had grown to his current 6 ft 8 height – Comey recounts how he was relentlessly bullied and would find the most circuitous routes round town to get home unharmed. This is not the action of a man who chooses to hide from the truth.

The FBI was already investigating reports of intervention in American politics by Russia in the summer of 2016; allegations that President Trump had been involved with Russian prostitutes had also been brought to its attention.

In what could never be described as a charm offensive, President Trump summoned Comey to a one-to-one dinner and several private meetings with no witnesses to hammer home his agenda that he had never been involved with Russian hookers.

When Comey – correctly at the time – told Trump that the FBI was not investigating him over the allegation, the President demanded his loyalty. Comey would only pledge loyalty to the United States but said he would be honest with the President.

Trump urged Comey to tell the Press that he was not being personally investigated over  any involvement in the alleged Russian hookers affair. When Comey declined to do so and  continued to refuse to swear unquestioned allegiance to the President himself, the FBI chief signed his political death warrant.

Absent on duty, he learned from a TV announcement that Trump had adopted his former Apprentice personna and screamed thorough the wires: ‘You’re fired!’

Comey lays out all the details in a matter-of-fact manner with no frills and, with almost chilling understatement, expresses his confidence that the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about Trump and Russia will emerge once special prosecutor Bob Mueller has completed his investigation. Time will tell.

The Secret Barrister

The tone and objectives of The Secret Barrister are harder for a lay observer to gauge. The junior criminal law barrister has built a huge social media following by highlighting a series of harrowing injustices in a much flawed UK legal system.

Men and women wrongly convicted; tissues of police lies, Crown Prosecution Service cover-ups; lives ruined, families and homes wrecked, fortunes expended in an often hopeless pursuit of justice.

Fans or just plain followers are assuming the writer is male but there is no clue as to gender in the barrister’s debut book which also absorbed me over the festive break.

Feminists have been swift to attribute the sex of the author as male following questions the barrister quite fairly raised about sex offender John Worboys and footballer Ched Evans who was charged with rape before being belatedly declared innocent.

Innocent until proved guilty? You can forget that as a basic premise of English and Welsh law if you accept that The Secret Barrister is genuinely battling for a more just system of investigating and prosecuting offences from the outset of a crime way before it gets to court rather than being moralistic in the pursuit of fame or future fortune.

There are too many miscarriages of justice highlighted in the book to be discounted. The Secret Barrister has exposed a whole zoo-ful of asses that pass for the law and deserves every credit.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Hardcover 

Author Yuval Noah Harari is a terrific historian and writer; this book was a gift from a previous Christmas so this was my second cover-to-cover reading but first formal review.

It is scintillating stuff; superbly researched and brilliantly written, tracing the ascent of man and the history of mankind; our achievements and shortcomings.

While he sticks to the historical and philosophical script, the author produces quite the best analysis of our race that I can ever recall reading. And then he goes and spoils it all with a dystopian epitaph that jars after what has gone before in his tight and tantalising writing.

He writes: “We are more powerful than ever before, but have very little idea what to do with all that power. Worse still, humans seem to be more irresponsible than ever.

“Self-made gods with only the laws of physics to keep us company; we are accountable to no-one. We are consequently wreaking havoc on our fellow animals and on the surrounding ecosystem, seeking little more than our own comfort and amusement yet never finding satisfaction. Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?”

Setting aside the Christian argument that we all answer to God, his remarks are grossly unfair to hundreds of thousands of people who fight injustice around the world every day of their lives; from Greenpeace to Amnesty International, from the Samaritans to Barnardo’s and hundreds more charities and other organisations dedicated to fighting the cause of others less fortunate.

Let’s hope that the author’s afterword doesn’t follow him to the afterlife. Someone pass the left over turkey!

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