Monday, December 17, 2007

Darwin Awards

The Bad and the Ugly

News that John Darwin, seemingly the architect of a scam to extract money from an insurance company by pretending to be dead, has been remanded in custody should come as no surprise to enlightened observers of the English legal system.

Quick recap. John and his wife have swindled an insurance company and the government out of a considerable sum of money. On the plus side – no-one has been seriously hurt. No-one is dead. No-one is ill, destitute or dying as a result of what is, at the bottom line, a fairly amateur attempt to perpetrate fraud.

John should appear very soon on the Darwin Awards web site.

The Darwin Awards are given to folks who generously remove themselves from the gene pool in order to help promulgate the rest of the species – who are, by definition, nowhere near as stupid as the recipients.

In the meantime his case neatly demonstrates two important points regarding the English judicial system. Point one: if you are accused of a crime which involves allegations of stealing money from the state, you will be persecuted to the rigour of the law. Point two: if you are so accused, your chances of obtaining bail are nil.

Neither of these points are very sensible or very fair.

If we contrast Darwin's misdemeanors with some other of society's miscreants, it might prove instructional. For example, get drunk, mow down a few innocent pedestrians and attempt to evade arrest and you will get into trouble. How much? Depends. You might get a jail term of a few years. With good behaviour you could be out in 18 months. Most certainly you will not be remanded in custody whilst the police make inquiries.

Lose the entire DHSS data base by posting it to your granny in Inverness and you will not even be named, much less blamed. “Systemic failure” in the system will probably pick up the tab for that one.

The English have a curious ambivalence towards a “fiddle” Whilst deploring it in public, in private everyone secretly loves a rogue. Robin Hood. Alfie. John Stonehouse. George Best. The list is long.

But, when the rogue in question defrauds the state, it's another story. Just a s likely, after a long period on remand, a short trial and a swift sentence, you will find your self examining the Scrubs – from the inside and for a fairly long time.

Not only is this not very fair, it's a waste of police time, court time, my time and your time, not to mention our money. Mr Darwin, if convicted, should not go to jail. He should have to pay back the money. Turning what is a crazy human interest story into a cause celelbre' is silly – if not downright criminal.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bury Your Tomahawks

Banged-Up Chiefs retire not so gracefully!

The K.C. Chiefs have self-destructed. Despite my early season predictions of a revival, they are in danger of sinking.

Local Kansas City newspaper pundits have already buried this season and are concentrating on the college draft next February. By all accounts what was a decent team have self-destructed and sunk.

They appear to be right.

So, where did it all go wrong?

First, the franchise running back, Larry Johnson, is out and has been out for a number of weeks with a mysterious foot injury. Actually, the injury is not so mysterious. You could see his foot change into a hitherto non-existent human configuration live on TV if you are so inclined to watch such horrific footage. I, I regret, can not. Every time the replay shows someone's ankle being mangled, I turn away. Sorry, I'm just too squeamish and have had too many ankle injuries myself.

Larry injury is only mysterious because he doesn't seem to be getting any better. He may not play again this year. This may not be an altogether bad thing – provided he comes back strong. His dyed-in-the-wool dream successor, Priest Holmes, took one too many shots to the head and retired. Can't blame him for that!

Consequence? We have no running game.

Oh, did I mention? We have no offensive line either.

Prudence might dictate that these factors are related, but the commentators who are supposed to know just won't have it. They seem crazily capable of divorcing the two. It remains to be seen if the relationship improves when Johnson returns.

Consequence: the rookie QB has to throw the ball too much and there is functionally no offence.

This is bad. Now the defence has malfunctioned as well. What was the strength of the team is tired and worn out. Recipe: take one offence that can't score and one defence that can't defend and what have you got? Pretty much nothing.

So the local KC press have given up on the team and are busy planning how the team can best benefit from a series of high picks in the draft.

One hopes that the players are going to play for their roster spot next year and surprise someone down the stretch.

The only other area of interest left is whether or not New England can go undefeated throughout the season. I bet not.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Monroe Doctrine

Fleet Street Numpties

This week saw the conclusion, well a kind of conclusion at least, to the saga of the Nat West Three. They plead guilty to a number of charges relating to the collapse of Enron. They will serve some time in jail. They were very naughty financiers who got caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

Today the Sunday Times has forgotten what this story was about. When they were extradited to the U.S to face charges relating to fraudulently obtaining lots of money, the press were outraged. This, better than most, exemplifies the prurient jingoism which colours the popular press in the U.K. Nothing quite like a good spell of “Johnnie foreigner bashing” is so eloquently therapeutic to the Fleet Street hacks.

I find this very odd.

In America we love foreigners. Most of our families, you will remember, started out as immigrants and, by definition, foreigners. There are no more hospitable people in the world than Americans. Even Borat was welcomed with open arms!

One reason is because we seldom meet one. Except for Canadians (who are really Americans in disguise – though if you tell them that you will likely get a punch in the nose for your trouble!) and Mexicans (who increasingly have many relatives in the U.S.!) Americans do not see, speak to, or know any foreigners. Down in Texas they think foreigners are people who live north of Dallas. This explains old Dubbya a lot!

It's not surprising, then, that when Americans do meet someone genuinely from another country, particularly an English-speaking country, they fall over themselves to be welcoming and hospitable. Ask anyone who visits. Even in Florida, where no self-respecting American would vacation in the summer and in New York, which I would gladly give back to the Indians for the 24 dollars in beads, Americans are universally glad to see you.

It's strange to find that the Sunday Times, in what can only be an attempt to “cover-up” the fact that these dudes were guilty as hell and deserve to be in prison, has decided to shift the ground to kidnapping. Apparently, it is still legal for the U.S. to kidnap people, drag them back to America and put them on trial. Outrageous!

Actually, it seems a good idea to me. The hacks who are so staggered by Enron and rendition are the same bods who are apoplectic at the arrest of a British teacher in Sudan.” Crickey what will those nig-nogs do next!!”, and the poor girl who may have been killed by a Dago in Perusia. Honestly!

The Mornroe Doctrine is almost 200 years old. President James Monroe pointed out, rather arrogantly at the time, that the American continent was no longer available for European colonisation. And, he made it stick. He wanted to stop European countries from interfering with North and South America. In the process, he made it clear that the Americans had no interest in the affairs of Europe.

This was fine in the early 1800's – when travel was the province of the super-rich.

Then along came two world wars.

Now, the skies are filled with sun-seeking Brits, and global business interests respect no doctrines.

An updated Monroe Doctrine is needed. It should go something like this: we respect the rights of all citizens of all nations. but, if you commit a crime in our country we reserve the right to find you, bring you back to America and put you on trial. Unless you agree to this, do not visit America or do business with us. Simple.

Britain should do the same. Don't forget – it is Britain who routinely lock up the wrong people for many years and refuse bail to just about everybody.

I'm thinking stones and glass houses here. The Nat West guys got a fair trial. They got off light. I hope they've got their money well hidden. Seems a small price to pay for a few years in jail!!

Blogged with Flock

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Football Flunkies

And the dust has settled on England's ignominious exit from the European Championships – just in time for them to be drawn against Croatia again in the forthcoming World Cup campaign.

Just excellent!

My abiding memory of the match last week was right at the end. As a dejected, and shortly to be unemployed, Steve McClaren walked towards the tunnel, the camera followed him and then swung around to show the England substitutes coming down from the stand to commiserate with their defeated colleagues.

There was John Terry, first choice centre-back along with his friend, and co-centre-back, Rio Ferdinand nicely wrapped up against the cold. They were injured. So, apparently was most of the first choice team. Poor McClaren must have thought the entire, proverbial latrine composed of layers of compressed and fired clay had fallen on top of him - to have lost – and to have lost because almost his entire first-choice team was unavailable.

Has anyone noticed these players made a swift recovery and were playing for their clubs within a week?

The club v. country argument is the crux of this failure. McClaren couldn't say so and jeopardise his massive payout from the FA, but he must have thought it. As long as England allow the clubs to manage their best players they will never manage to qualify for anything.

Rocket science it ain't!

Imagine this scenario – McClaren takes his players for training three weeks before the crunch match. This does not, of course, guarantee that no-one will be injured in training, but it does, at least, give him a fighting chance!

Makes sense? Good, but it is unlikely ever to happen. As long as the Premier League run English football they will put their interests first. Don't forget it was the FA, who supposedly are in charge, who allowed the Premier League to break away from the rest of football in the first place! Shame on them for abrogating their responsibility. Now, they are stuck – they can neither influence significantly the monster they have allowed in their midst nor get rid of it. They are doomed to institutionally facile snipings around the edges whist the clubs merrily do whatever suits them best.

Since most of the successful managers, Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, are all foreigners, what makes anyone think they will spend time and effort insuring that their England players remain injury free and match ready for the important occasions!

It's insane.

For all we know, Abraovich's puppet at Chelsea might be told to declare key players unfit so Russia has a better chance to qualify. Did it happen? Who know, but it can't be ruled out!!

Mr Barwick may entice another manager – but unless the FA really want to take control of English football, nothing will change,

Blogged with Flock

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Drop your tomahawk

Looking at my recent record in predicting the fortunes of the Kansas City Chiefs, readers can be forgiven for ignoring the rest of this article.

Actually, if anyone is still reading, my record is worse than abysmal – particularly when predicting the outcome of games against tomorrow's opponents, the Indianapolis Colts.

This season I have been particularly upbeat. Back in October I waxed lyrical about the talents of our new wide receiver, Dwayne Bowe. I explained that with his pass-catching ability to contend with opponents would not be able to load the box to stop the run and, therefore, Larry Johnson would find running room and the Chiefs passing attack would be revitalised.

Some of this has happened!

Young Mr Bowe is leading the rookie wide receivers in the NFL. Whilst he is not putting up planetary-orbiting numbers, he is certainly providing the deep threat I was so enthusiastic about. He is progressing very nicely.

I confidently predicted that the Chief's defence would be much better. Lot's of quality players had been recruited through the draft and free agency. With an adequate defence the Chiefs would be a real threat and a shoo-in for the play-offs.

The defence is better. In fact, it is actually quite good. Stats don't tell the whole story, but there is no arguing with the fact that opponents are not scoring at a great rate. The Chiefs defence, once the notoriously “Red Sieve”, has firmed up to become more than adequate.

So, Mr Clever-Clogs (I can hear you screaming), kindly explain how the Chiefs reach this point of the season with a 4-5 record and find themselves with an away game at the Colts this week to try to get the season back on track.

Fair enough.

I'll give it a try.

1) Quarterback. The Chiefs don't have one. It was obvious in the pre-season that Coach Herm Edwards wanted to trade Trent Green and install young Brodie Croyle as his number one guy. He managed to unload Green to Miami (where Trent promptly received a career-ending re-occurrence of a smash to the head – which goes to show how dangerous this game can be and how smart Edwards was to unsentimentally unload Green); but, despite his best efforts, he could not convince even himself to install Croyle as number one. The job went to Damon Huard who has just been benched and Croyle will take over. This is nine weeks too late. Coach Edwards should have started the season with Brodie and said, in effect, we'll lose some with this guy now – but later on he'll get us to the playoffs. Now young Croyle has no chance. He may get murdered by the Colts defence and face crucial games against San Diego and Denver with zero confidence. Coach got this one wrong. Big time.
2) Running back. Chiefs are now down to one. The Priest Holmes pre-season saga was as interesting as it was educational. Priest, a franchise running back, was forced to (in effect) try out for the team and he made it. Just when Chiefs fans were mopping up the little bit of mouth-watering dribble that was on their chins, ecstatic at the prospect of Holmes and Larry Johnson teaming up in the back-field and terrorising the opponents' defence; Johnson gets injured, is out for some time and Priest is left on his own to carry the load with an offensive scheme that is tailored for another, very different, type of running back. What was one of the real strengths of the team has disappeared. Chiefs can't run the ball effectively. Ergo – young Brodie, barring a miracle, will have to throw. Unless the running backs produce, Croyle may spend the afternoon picking nylon threads (the RCA Dome in Indianapolis is an artificial surface) from his teeth and wishing Larry Johnson were healthy.
3) Offensive line. Gone south. Or, at least, so far over the hill that they are three blocks south of the line of scrimmage. This is really disheartening and disappointing. Chiefs have had outstanding offensive linemen for a decade. They have protected the QB when there was functionally no running threat. They have opened holes for (first) Holmes and (later) Johnson to post big numbers from the running back slot. Now, seemingly, it is all gone. It's a balancing act – coaching and finding the right players, but the Chiefs have spent so much time, effort and money on improving the defence and the receivers somebody forgot that without an O-line you are not going very far in the NFL. This will take some time to fix.

That just about sums it up. In these three vital area, the Chiefs are well-short of either expectations or predictions.

It is just possible that the Chiefs will win this week in Indianapolis. Unless someone is giving you say 10-1 or a 20 point spread, I wouldn't bet on it.

With the season half-gone the Chiefs are just about half-crocked. As Shakespeare said, “If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Get your Christmas drink in - now!!

Gordo's after your wallet again!

Yesterday's news was dominated by the concerns expressed about binge drinking and the effects it is having on the nation's health.

Health chiefs are queueing up to recount the dangers of binge drinking among the young. The Centre for Public Health at John Moores University surveyed young people and found that they regularly “pre-loaded” up on drink at home before spending the rest of the evening necking pints.

Professor Mark Bellis concludes that while city centre pubs and clubs are making efforts to control binge drinking – nothing is being done to reduce the sales in off-licences and supermarkets. This, he contends, is the real problem. Drinkers are already pickled before they embark on an evening out. He points to the “ridiculously cheap” price of alcohol in supermarkets as the prime cause of drunks populating our city centres in the evening.

I say: hang on to your wallets! A big rise in the duty on alcohol is right over the horizon.

The logic is not hard to follow. Good Old Gordo has just about sucked the life out of the duty on petrol and diesel. There is no room for manoeuvre on income tax or national insurance. The economy is slowing and house prices (chief arbiter of the nation's feel-good factor) are falling. (It's enough to drive anyone to the bottle!) To cap his day, England are about the be knocked out of the European Cup before they even get there – and by Abramovic's Russia no less!

It's not a good time to be PM. You can almost visualise the scenario where Gordo quits and begs Tony to come back and fact the music – the music for which he wrote the notes!

So, searching for some way to balance (only figuratively) the books, GOG needs a scapegoat. Cheap booze for the masses may be it. At least, he thinks so.

Wait a minute! Isn't this the bean-counter who has kept the duty on booze below inflation for the last ten years? Isn't, then, GOG the one to blame if booze is too cheap and fuelling a “let's get it down our necks fast” culture!

Answer? Yes!

Best case – in the next budget the duty on alcohol will be raised substantially. Worse case – GOG will find a way to raise the duty now – before the Christmas rush so he can really rake in the cash!

Remember, you heard it here first.

I wonder if it's possible to bet on an above-inflation rise in the duty on beer, wine and spirits in the next budget?

Can't stop, bit short of readies, must get down to William Hills before it closes – there is some easy money to be made if they will take the bet.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Fourth Estate


Continual amazement best describes the press statements “released” by members of victims' families.

I just don't understand.

In this troubled world, a world of 24 hour news coverage populated by the inane and inept reporters such coverage engenders, I simply cannot understand the statements attributed to the families of the victims of tragedies.

Imagine – if you can – the scenario. A member of your family (heaven forbid!) is the victim of an accident/terrible crime. The press turn up on your door. They ask for a statement. What do you say?

I know what you don't say: no-one ever says, “He was a pain in the bum, and we are glad he's gone”. Fair enough. You wouldn't expect anyone to say this, even if it were true. You'd be amazed if anyone did say they were totally nonplussed by the absence of a loved-one. It just isn't an appropriate response.

So, why bother to ask?

Does the family's “eulogy” actually add anything to the story? Is the coverage worthy of a Bafta just for doing the asking? Do the viewers really need to see the auntie/uncle/family friend spouting the same shock/horror/amazement in order to be able to empathise with the family? I think not.

So, why is it done?

It must be simply to pander to the prurient interest of the masses.

Part of what makes us human is our unique ability to empathise with others of our species. We, alone in the animal world (seemingly), are able to imagine what others of our kind are doing, suffering and thinking. Therefore, we can imagine how someone else is feeling. Most animals can not do this.

For example, on the African plain, when the lions have managed to snare a zebra after a long chase, the rest of the zebra herd never, ever stop running and imagine what it feels like to have your leg bitten off by a lion. We would and we do. It's part of what makes us what we are.

So, the viewers are imagining how they might feel if a member of their family or friends were a victim. They don't need someone to tell them how to feel. It comes natural. The rest is just superfluous.

I almost feel sorry for the reporters who have to ask these silly, insensitive questions.

Blogged with Flock

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Moore Steaks Seared

Sicko Slams the NHS

Michael Moore is rarely out of the news. His particular brand of docu-drama has a following, not just in North America, but around the English-speaking world. He does what he does very well.

He has turned his own particular brand of hostile indignation on the American system of healthcare. His film is called Sicko and he has made more than a few this side of the pond feel a little sicko at his thesis. He contends that the European system of publicly-funded heathcare is so rosy and so superior no-one but a fool could stop himself from copying it. He may be right, but he also may be being economical with the truth.

Writing in the Sunday Times, columnist Minette Marrin is scathing about Moore's methods in painting such a gloriously white picture of the N.H.S. She rightly points out that there are big problems in the National Health and the tons of money thrown at it by Messrs Blair and Brown have hardly produced a system worthy of unreserved envy.

She's missed the point.

Michael Moore is not producing a critique of the NHS, he's proposing improvements in the American healthcare system. He is wondering why some system of publicly financed healthcare would not better than the shambolic, wasteful and expensive system Americans are saddled with at present. This is the criterion upon which his work should be judged – not whether the NHS is all-delightful, all-delicious, all-conquering and all-munificent. Obviously it is not. Equally it is manifestly better than what's on offer in most other countries.

It's not surprising that American politicians are not queueing up to adopt an NHS-type solution to America's healthcare problems. Assuming they speak to their UK counter-parts they must know that the real down-side to the NHS runs deeper than concerns about day-to-day running difficulties (GP's inflated salaries, wards infected with C. dificile and MRSA, nurses leaving faster than they can be trained, crazy bureaucratic decisions that compromise patient care – to mention just a few). No. The real problem with the NHS is that politicians are seen to be responsible for the healthcare of the nation.

Any American politician wanting to commit suicide, please form an orderly queue.

For; if the USA were to adopt any version of a national health service, the blame for every mistake, every short-coming, every poor clinical judgement would move miraculously from the doctors to the politicians. That's the NHS.

Michael Moore's particular talent is unashamedly finding those parts of American society that need improvement and ruthlessly exposing them. He's probably not the person to put in charge of fixing anything. He's not a very good analyst. He sometimes pretends to have all the answers when he doesn't.

That doesn't mean his ideas are dishonest or naïve. It just means that he is making documentaries and not policy.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Benefiting from a bouncing, dead cat

What a difference a few weeks makes! Watched Norwich City against QPR on TV a few weeks ago and they were beyond awful. Since then they have dispensed with a manager, been criticised by all and sundry, lost a few more games and generally brought the fans to the brink of complete apprehension.

Imagine the trepidation they must have felt when faced with the Old Farm Derby on Sunday against Ipswich! At least they got a new manager, Mr Glen Roeder – lately of West Ham, Newcastle and who knows where else.

Even a dead cat will bounce.

Certainly in the first half they played better and should have scored. Predictably, they found themselves 2 down instead.

Grim is not the word!

Two good goals saved them in the second half – and it could have been even better. With a little luck they could have easily won. Never mind, the local press is full of praise and full match reports if that is what you require.

Here we will discuss dead cats.

Or, dead ducks, if you prefer. Mr Peter (Gruntie) Grant is the duck in question. There is no doubt that seeing the team's performance on Sunday must have made Gruntie throw up his roast beef and two veg! These were essentially the same players who couldn't kick a ball for him. They surrendered at every opportunity. They were dreadful, and worse.

How must he have felt when they came storming back to grab equalizing goals? Betrayed? Banjaxed? Bemused? Befuddled? Or, just plain buggered!

It is now clear where the blame should go for the perilous state of the team: right in Delia's meat pie. Will the board own up to having to it all wrong in the Gruntie era?

Not likely. They will do the usual. Sing the praises of the new manager and hope the fans will forget what a mess they have presided over.

Good luck to Mr Roeder. Hopefully he will do more than just benefit from the dead cat bounce. If so, it will be despite the mad management of the board.

Blogged with Flock

Monday, October 29, 2007


Moore Steaks Seared

Michael Moore is rarely out of the news. His particular brand of docu-drama has a following, not just in North America, but around the English-speaking world. He does what he does very well.

He has turned his own particular brand of hostile indignation on the American system of healthcare. His film is called Sicko and he has made more than a few this side of the pond feel a little sicko at his thesis. He contends that the European system of publicly-funded heathcare is so rosy and so superior no-one but a fool could stop himself from copying it. He may be right, but he also may be being economical with the truth.

Writing in the Sunday Times, columnist Minette Marrin is scathing about Moore's methods in painting such a gloriously white picture of the N.H.S. She rightly points out that there are big problems in the National Health and the tons of money thrown at it by Messrs Blair and Brown have hardly produced a system worthy of unreserved envy.

She's missed the point.

Michael Moore is not producing a critique of the NHS, he's proposing improvements in the American healthcare system. He is wondering why some system of publicly financed healthcare would not better than the shambolic, wasteful and expensive system Americans are saddled with at present. This is the criterion upon which his work should be judged – not whether the NHS is all-delightful, all-delicious, all-conquering and all-munificent. Obviously it is not. Equally it is manifestly better than what's on offer in most other countries.

It's not surprising that American politicians are not queueing up to adopt an NHS-type solution to America's healthcare problems. Assuming they speak to their UK counter-parts they must know that the real down-side to the NHS runs deeper than concerns about day-to-day running difficulties (GP's inflated salaries, wards infected with C. dificile and MRSA, nurses leaving faster than they can be trained, crazy bureaucratic decisions that compromise patient care – to mention just a few). No. The real problem with the NHS is that politicians are seen to be responsible for the healthcare of the nation.

Any American politician wanting to commit suicide, please form an orderly queue.

For; if the USA were to adopt any version of a national health service, the blame for every mistake, every short-coming, every poor clinical judgement would move miraculously from the doctors to the politicians. That's the NHS.

Michael Moore's particular talent is unashamedly finding those parts of American society that need improvement and ruthlessly exposing them. He's probably not the person to put in charge of fixing anything. He's not a very good analyst. He sometimes pretends to have all the answers when he doesn't.

That doesn't mean his ideas are dishonest or naïve. It just means that he is making documentaries and not policy.

Blogged with Flock

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Where are our heroes?

In the week where England almost certainly lost whatever chance they had of qualifying for the European Football Championships, the Sunday Times makes the running on a topic which should focus the mind on the problems, but, unfortunately, miss-kicks the ball and falls flat on the face instead.

Analysing the 32 teams contesting the Champions League matches on October 2-3 columnist Jonathan Northcroft reveals that 12 players who are qualified to play for England were in action. The Scots had 13. Germany had 20. That takes care of most of the old enemies. Oh, sorry, forgot France. They had 34. Caesar's all-conquering legions had 30. Jonathan concludes, quite rightly, that England are shooting themselves in the foot by not having enough top-quality players being honed in the top club competitions.

It's a shame that in a long and well-thought-out article, he misses the point.

He tells us that there were 53 Brazilians, 15 Turks, and 11 Ivorians (or whatever people from the Ivory Coast are called?). He neglects to tell the reader that none of these people has any right to live or work in Europe.

He bemoans the fact that of the 53 Brazilians present only a few are of international stature. So, why are they here? He railes at the thought that Michel Platini might get his way and cut the number of English clubs in the Champions League without any analysis as to why Platini has also questioned why so may “foreigners” are playing in Europe.

Northcroft falls neatly into the trap of identifying a problem, yet posing no solution. That's easy – anyone can do that! Finding problems routinely causes no difficulty. Finding answers plagues us all.

England have no real ambition to do well in the World Cup or European Championships. If they did, the F.A. would be leading the charge towards more English players playing for the top clubs in England. They would be actively pursuing foreign owners, like Abramovich, who routinely turn up to cheer his country (Russia) on at England's expense in the major competitions; yet allow him to field a flotilla of foreign imports in the domestic competitions.

A little enlightened self-interest would not go amiss at HQ.

Until these sort of problems are addressed at the highest levels England will only pay lip-service to ambition. Until the interests of clubs are subordinated to what's good for England no progress will be made. Until the people who administer English football wake up to the danger of putting club before county – no progress is possible.

Blogged with Flock

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Built-In Crap Detectors

All red-blooded males like Playboy magazine. It's full of very pretty and very alluring girls artfully posing with little or no clothes on. How could you be against that?

What is not so well-know is that Playboy, in the early days at least, was a leader in journalism. The Playboy Interviews featured such luminaries as Malcolm X, John Lennon, Ayn Rand, Bill Gates and Sir Paul McCartney – to name just a few.

One of my favourite interviews was with Ernest Hemingway, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature – and one-time cub reporter on the Kansas City Star. In the course of the interview, Papa Hemingway was asked a very serious question – something like “what is the most important quality you need to be a great writer?”.

Hemingway's reply has stuck with me for at least forty years. He simply replied, “a built-in, foolproof, crap detector.” Sounds injudiciously flippant for a Noble laureate but think about it. What he meant is that you need to be able to cut through all the nonsense and get right to what is important. Pretty good advice in anybody's game.

Which brings us neatly to the crisis at Norwich City Football Club. Peter Grant, erstwhile saviour and all-round Scots twit had gone. The results have gone completely pear-shaped. In their televised game against bottom side QPR Norwich were worse than dreadful. The gossip lines are full of the fans frustrations and remedies. A lot of nonsense is being peddled as gospel when, listen to Hemingway, the truth is actually staring fans, board and journalists in the face. Fact is: NCFC are not very good and not likely to be very good for the foreseeable future. The question is: why?

Only one journalist has adopted the Hemingway approach. Applying his “built-in, foolproof crap detector” he concluded that the Board leave a lot to be desired. In particular, he questioned whether the whole-hearted and well-meaning support of the majority shareholders, St Delia and Sir Michael, is sufficient to take the club forward. His thesis: it's not good enough being passionate and committed – you also have to be good at the job.

This makes sense. Lots of people are passionate in their support for the local football team, but not many of them would make good members of the board, managers or chief executives. Passion and hard work can only take you so far – then you need to be good at the job. No-one could doubt the passion Gruntie Grantie brought to the manager's desk. problem was – he just wasn't good enough. It's not a crime. It's just the truth.

Now, the board should adopt the same approach. They should ask themselves whether their avowed and heart-felt passion for the club is really going to turn things around – or is it just not enough. Already, we have stories erupting telling us that Delia might sell. How the idiots who think she is better than sliced bread can square that circle is quite beyond me.

If the board are honest they would get rid of Numptie Neil Doncaster and fall on their own swords. What the fans want is a winning team. They are not interested in “prudence” - whatever that means. If NCFC are going to sink – they might as well go out in a blaze of debt. At least it will be interesting!

It is, after all, the board's “prudence” that is the cause of the present predicament. After trousering the 25 million for achieving Premiership status, they refused to spend bit money on players whilst the parachute payments were in place. Now, having wasted the two years and run out of money from lucrative land deals, they have only themselves to blame.

Norwich need to ditch Delia and get a major shareholder with real ambition and real cash. How about another one of the Glazers? Worked well enough for Man Utd. If I were Delia, I'd advertise. Football Club for sale. Lots of potential. Massive crowds every week despite terrible results. Solvent. Apply Carrow Road.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Crimson Tide

A particularly un-noteworthy film starring Gene Hackman and Denzil Washington features an allusion entirely lost on UK audiences. The star of the film is the fictional submarine USS Alabama – a nuclear powered ballistic missile boat whose mission is to counter a fictional Russian megalomaniac who is threatening to launch an attack against the USA. Because the University of Alabama's football team is known as the Crimson Tide, the title of the film makes perfect sense to audiences in America – and is lost to the rest of the world.

Most of the excitement in the film concerns the conflict between Hackman and Washington, who cannot agree on what course of action to take when communications are garbled, Hackman believing they must launch a strike to take out the Russians before they can launch, Washington holding that they must re-establish communications so as to be sure they are not starting a nuclear war by mistake. Quite a good idea not to start a nuclear holocaust by mistake one would imagine.

What the audience doesn't realise is that, while this is a work of fiction, it is also is a fairly accurate depiction of naval communications.

Navies operate a different system than the rest of the forces – or the rest of the world for that matter. Because, they say, their ships are always manned and always listening, they simply broadcast messages over and over, hoping that the ships will eventually get the ones meant for them. The senders have no way of knowing if a message is received and read or not. They just assume that if they keep sending the messages, eventually they will all get read by the folks that need to. Interesting system – especially if you are carrying enough nuclear warheads to destroy most of the known world. Touch a large piece of wood – it has worked for the last 40 years, let's hope it continues!!

Which brings us neatly to emails. Email operates pretty much like naval communications. Lots and lots of messages are floating around out in cyberspace and we, the consumers, just trust that someone is listening – and hopefully that someone is the someone we sent the message to! We assume this works quite well, but we have no real way of knowing. Some people add tags that are supposed to flag when the recipient reads the message, but these are few and far between and most people simply assume if the message isn't bounced back by the recipient's mail server – it must have got there. So, when you send an email and get no reply, it may be because it hasn't been read yet, or it has got lost in the system, or whoever you sent it to just can't be bothered to reply! How to tell which?

You can't really.

Therefore, email is a very imperfect system. So, as a matter of fact, is snail mail. While the mail strike is on – people will expect delays. So far – so good. Even in ordinary times some mail doesn't make it to the destination. Some gets lost in the system and turns up years later; some the lazy, irresponsible postman throws in the bin (yes, it happens, but fortunately not very often); some goes to the wrong house and your neighbours can't resist opening it to see what you're up to and then are too embarrassed to hand it on. The list is long. We assume when we post a letter it will get there, A dangerous assumption!

Where does this lead us? Back to the phone, Never mind the paper-less office, the technocrats who drive the communication revolution, the internet gurus who drive us to the computer to cure every ill – facts are - if you want to be sure that someone gets your message – you better get them on the phone and speak to them.

Everything else is problematical.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Waterloo Road

I think I done seen 'bout everything, when I see an elephant fly!

Great song – great lyrics – from Disney's Dumbo – as I recall.

Even better, Waterloo Road is back next week on the small screen. I'm an addict. Can't get enough of it. It reminds me of that old saying, “It hurts so good!” Yes, it is really that bad.

Today's EDP carried an interview with one of the stars of the show, Denise Welch, who plays French teacher Steph Haydock in the series. She's the one described as a “man-eater”. She is forever chasing the Head, Jack and never quite getting him.

She provides much of the compulsive nature of the viewing. Great scenes where she is in her classroom and berating the kids for their obsessive interest in personality instead of substance, their lack of real passion for French, rather than their real passion for each other. Honest, it's so substantive and so real. Happens every day in real schools. Honest.

Any road, the actress who play Steph is interviewed about her role in the series. She spouts the obligatory clap-trap about wishing she had more challenging roles, etc. Denise reveals that she once thought of becoming a drama teacher for real, but she was persuaded by her parents not to. Well done, Mom and Dad!!

She goes on to express her admiration for real teachers and reckons that, “they have a harder job than ever before, mostly because of the lack of respect they get from the pupils”. She comments, “ Kids are completely taking over the asylum. Teachers have absolutely no powers of discipline, and unfortunately the parents of these horrible children don't support the teachers at all. I'm not in the hang 'em high brigade, but I certainly don't think that being pulled out by the ear and being slapped over the knuckles with a ruler did any of us any harm.”

I think I done seen 'bout everything!

Let's see if I have this straight. This actress reckons that discipline in schools and the role of teachers in the system is becoming more challenging. She thinks that parents aren't supporting the teachers and a bit of corporal punishment would be a good thing.

Everything she does in her career on television is designed to make sure this does not happen. Can she really be this inane? The programme of which she is so proud of her role in works diligently to present the antithesis of good practice and good discipline in schools. Children watching the antics of the teachers at Waterloo Road can only be brain-washed to believe that teachers are unsupportive, sex-crazed morons who spend all day every day ignoring the learning needs of the children and focussing entirely on their own moronic adolescent imaginations and libidos. Teachers spend all their time gossiping about each other or speculating on who's having a relations ship with whom.

So like real life.

I love watching Waterloo Road because it's so bad. I think it might now be time to ban it in order to improve discipline in schools.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Settled in to watch the NFL on Sunday night after a hard day's gardening. Cut the grass; trimmed some hedges; did some weeding - it is almost never-ending!

Chiefs were playing out on the coast against San Diego. I presumed that this would be a very late game and not feature in the television coverage here in the UK. I was watching Denver get thumped by Indianapolis - always entertaining to see Denver lose! - when the score from San Diego started to appear on the ticker. Must have been an early kick-off.

By half-time the score was 16-6 in favour of the home team and I could see that: A) LT (LaDainian Tomlinson) had already rushed for over 100 yards and B) the Chiefs had failed to mount much of an offence (again!). i was tired after working all day, so I went to bed, secure in the knowledge that when I checked on the final score on Monday I would find that the Chiefs would be 1-3 and KC coach, Herm Edwards, would have benched quarterback Damon Huard at half-time and gone with Brodie Croyle at QB for the second half - all in vain of course.

I was pleasantly wrong!

Damon Huard played the whole game and completed 17 of 29 passes for 284 yards, comfortably eclipsing Sand Diego QB, Philip Rivers. LT did rush for 132 yards, but most of them were in the first half. After the break, the Chiefs effectively closed him down. But, the real story was the performance of first year wide receiver, Dwayne Bowe, who grabbed 8 Huard passes for 164 yards and a TD. His yardage was the second best this week by a receiver in the NFL. This is only his fourth game.

More impressively, the Chiefs defence did not allow a score in the second half.

Back to Bowe. He has after only four games shown that he is the pass threat the Chiefs have been missing for some time. When things go wrong; it's the QB who get the blame. Bowe is the QB's best friend! He is the deep threat the Chiefs haven't had for some time. He is the "go over the middle, jump high, catch the ball and get hit" kind of receiver that all teams need. He can make yards after the catch. What started out as likely to be a rebuilding year now looks very different. Bowe has almost done this single-handed.

Lest we get carried away, it's well to remember that he is a rookie - and, therefore, likely to make mistakes. But, if he stays healthy, he could turn an average season into something else.

For example: I remember foolishly forecasting that the Chiefs would massacre the Indianapolis Colts in the play-offs when they last met at Arrowhead - say two seasons ago. After all, at that time the Colts game was entirely based on Peyton Manning being able to read defenses and changing the calls at the line of scrimmage. This, I was convinced, he would not be able to do at Arrowhead with the loudest crowd in the NFL baying for his blood. Unfortunately, I was wrong and the Colts won.

So, when the Chiefs went to Indy to play then again in the first round of the play-offs last year, again I foolishly forecast a Chiefs win. I reasoned: the Colts have the worst run defense in the NFL. Chiefs have 2000 yard tailback, Larry Johnson. Therefore, the Chiefs will run the ball at will and all day. The high-powered Colts offense will never get the ball. Chiefs win. Wrong again. In the post season the Colts suddenly, and mysteriously, managed to shut down the run - full stop. The mystery? They put nine men in the box, because they didn't think the Chiefs could throw. They were right.

That makes me 0-2 in forecasting Chiefs play-off games.

It's a bit early to start predicting, but Dwayne Bowe could be a large part of the answer to the Chiefs problems. For, while they have had Johnson to run the ball, they have had almost no-one to catch it! And, almost no defense.

Now, with running lanes opened up because the opposition cannot put nine men in the box, ala Indy, if they hope to cover Bowe adequately; thereby allowing Johnson to be more effective on the ground; and, with Bowe's threat opening space for some other receivers (Tony Gonzales for one!) - the Chiefs might have some balance in their offence.

Suddenly they have discovered a defense to boot!

No points allowed in the second half of the last two games. One swallow does not a summer make - but it's looking good!

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Cressida Dick

As a jury is sworn in to hear the case against the Metropolitan Police, it may well be wise to reflect on the case which is at the heart of the matter.

For those who have forgotten, an innocent Brazillian was shot seven times in the head by the police - who thought he was a terrorist.

Strangely, the only course of action open to the family seems to be this action under Health and Safety Regulations.  What is even stranger is the treatment of the officer in charge of the operation on the day - the aptly named Cressida Dick.

Cressida is the heroine of Shakespeare's play, Troilus and Cressida, who abandons her duty and dallies in the enemies camp, albeit somewhat by mistake.  Sounds like a real Ms Dick to me.  She should be standing up and taking the flak for the officers she commanded that day.  Instead, we have this report in the press:

"One of the senior officers in charge on the day Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead by police is to be promoted.

Commander Cressida Dick is to become a deputy assistant commissioner, the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) announced on Tuesday.

Mr Menezes was shot eight times in the head at Stockwell Underground station.

The family of the Brazilian man said they were "absolutely disgusted and outraged at what is just one more slap in the face".

It really is beyond belief.  Commenting at the start of the trial, counsel for the de Menezes family characterised the police action that day not as just mistaken but criminally negligent.

Sounds about right.  The actual officers who did the shooting are to carry the nightmare of what happened to their grave.  Dick gets promoted.

It's a funny old world.

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Price of a Pint

Beer v. Petrol

In my previous incarnation as a children's entertainer (school teacher) I had some favourite lessons I could always trot out when things were either not going very well – or when the class was in need of some thinking practice.

To get them thinking I would pose the question: why is beer four times more expensive than petrol?

Think about it. A gallon of petrol equals about 4 litres. Petrol is about a pound a litre – or is shortly to be according to the news media. That makes the cost of a gallon of petrol as £5 – to keep to round numbers. Beer is about £2.80 a pint for lager. That's about £11 pounds a gallon. Therefore, beer is about twice as expensive as petrol. Why?

Ask children this question and they will come up with some convincing answers. Beer is taxed highly by the government. Actually, half of the price of a litre of petrol is tax, for beer the numbers are less. Beer is a luxury commodity whereas petrol is a necessity. Possibly true, but that would be a reason for taxing petrol more – after all if beer is a luxury you can just stop buying it!

Just to complicate things, I would then ask the youngsters to consider what is required to produce a litre of beer and a litre of petrol. For beer you need some water (almost free) some hops (a plant that grows naturally and is, therefore a renewable resource). A brewery – some expense here in plant, buildings and machinery. A bottling plant to make your product easy to store and move about. A transport network with lorries to transport your product to the destinations. Pubs, clubs and supermarkets to retail the product.

For petrol the scene is seemingly similar – but much more expensive. For raw materials you need oil instead of water. To get the oil you need (in the case of North Sea oil) drilling rigs and pipelines – not to mention the costs of finding the oil in the first place! Then instead of a brewery you need an oil refinery. Very expensive kit required here. Then you need the same transport system as for beer – whacking great lorries to move the stuff to petrol stations. At the station you will need staff at about the same wages as the pub staff to retail the stuff.

In short, petrol costs far more to find, refine, transport and retail than beer. It is taxed more highly. Therefore, common sense would tell you that petrol must be more expensive than beer. Wrong, as we have seen.

It's actually half the price.

At this point kids would want to know the answer. I never had it. Still don't.

If anyone does know why beer is twice as expensive as petrol, I wish they would tell me.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Plucked Canaries

Time Runs Out for Gruntie

Today is a bumper day for NCFC. After years of superciliously mouthing the “company line” the EDP finally printed some pungent criticism of the club. The press are not there yet – but at least it's a start.

Two items of particular note surfaced. In the page 10 article, “No sign of another Green, Earnshaw or Ashton yet”, reporter Steve Downes commented, “In previous times of trouble, the club has been able to pick the fruits of former chairman Robert Chase's astute property purchases by selling off chunks of land around Carrow Road for housing development”.

I'm sorry. Strike me down dead if this reporter is not actually praising the most vilified chairman in Norwich history. One wonders if he has cleared this article with the EDP editor? Certainly, no one at the paper has written anything praising Mr Chase for many years. Is this a new dawn? Probably not – but at least the truth has been acknowledged. Mr Chase, for all his shortcomings as chairman, did, at least, have the foresight to invest wisely in land. If only the present board were as astute as Mr Chase we would not have to read the tosh about finances regurgitated by reporter Downes in the first eleven paragraphs of his article. His thesis: Norwich are doomed for lack of money. His reality check “ . . . Norwich are left with a squad made up of unproven players and journeymen.”

Where Downes fails is in not laying the blame squarely on the board's shoulders. Time and again we are told that players wage demands are so extravagant that it is impossible to lure them to Norwich. What that really means is that the board will not pay the kind of wages that other clubs do. You cannot then blame the players for going somewhere else.

Gruntie Grantie is a moaner. Fans have just learned this, seemingly. More of them should read this blog. Besides enticing a bunch of Gorbals rejects to move down south and collect big wages, he had done nothing but moan about the players – mostly his own players. All the bad vibes are now coming home to roost. The press, the fans, the players and even the board are less than convinced that he is the man. If he want to remain as manager he really ought to do something to improve the situation. So, what can he do?

Some of his team selections are not very bright. Supporters expect to see an effort by the team to win every game. Too often his selection for away games seems to say, “I'm praying for a nil – nil”. That's ok if you get it, but the supporters who pay good money to follow the team expect more. There are signs that the rats are considering their Saturday afternoon options. Two letters to the EDP say if fans are not entertained, maybe they ought to vote with their feet. If that happens, Grantie's managerial career could be a very brief one, until he resurfaces in the Scottish Third Division.

The Canaries even made the lead on page one. That idiot Dopey Doncaster, gets another opportunity to explain why nothing that goes wrong at the club is either his fault or the fault of the board. It really is just too much. Where is St Delia? Has she taken to the booze again? Somewhere in the press it is reported that she has converted some of her “lendings” to the club into shares. Question: how can she lend money to a club she already owns? Can I lend money to myself and then reduce my tax burden? Not flaming likely! Only people with real money can do that – folks like Delia.

I have no problem with this – it just makes me more incredulous when the press let her get away with it!!

The supporters are just about ready for a revolt. It could be touch and go in the next few weeks. Hopefully the team will start to play well. If not, there could be blood on the carpet. Question is: will it be Grantie's (most likely) or Doncaster's (not very likely) or Delia's (Mission Impossible!)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


All summer long we have suffered with the parents of little Madeline McCann, missing in Portugal. Now, they are both suspects in the investigation. What is going on?

What is going on is that the Portuguese police seem to be going back to first principles. All police forces know as a matter of faith that the person most likely to do you harm is a member of your own family. That's just a fact. Not surprisingly they seem to have come late to this realisation. Because the McCanns are an ideal media couple - very respectable doctors, devoutly religious and photogenic, the idea that they might be responsible for Maddie's disappearance is hard to believe. But, as they say, truth is often stranger than fiction.

Fact is: there has been no concrete information about Maddie's disappearance since May. For all intents and purposes she may have been abducted by aliens. She just disappeared. That's one of the few indisputable, concrete facts we can cling to.

What seems to be swinging the investigation towards the parents is DNA evidence. However improbable, it is reported that the police have found Maddie's DNA in a car hired by the McCanns long after Maddie's disappearance. How can this be?

All sorts of theories have surfaced. The DNA came from Maddie's stuffed toy: items of her clothing were transported in the car: the parents used the car to transport Maddie's body somewhere and bury it. What is true is the case raises questions about DNA evidence that have been troubling me for some time.

Ever see the set of adverts on TV which show people acting like apes? The adverts go on to say that human DNA differs from chip DNA by considerably less than one percent. I wonder how many people actually know what this means in practical terms?

I wonder how many people know that the human genome shows almost no genetic variation. We are all remarkably closely related. At the same time, of course, we all have unique DNA sequences which set us apart from other humans. Except for identical twins, we all have a uniquely special set of DNA inherited from our parents. That's the theory anyway, and it fits the known scientific evidence quite well. But, is it foolproof?

Where the sample DNA consists of only minute quantities, or material that has suffered damage, the picture is not so clear. Nevertheless, we take the shibboleth that DNA evidence is the be all and end all of conclusiveness. If the DNA says you did it – you did it.

I've always thought this is very dangerous. Maddie's case highlights some real concerns. If there is DNA in the hire car and it is from Maddie, how did it get there? It's dangerous in the extreme to suppose it must have been deposited by the parents moving the body. Without other corroborating evidence, it should not be possible to convict anyone of a crime solely DNA evidence. If “your” DNA is found on a murder weapon and you know it wasn't you you will soon become a convert to the Scepticism Club. Probably a founder member!

The jury is out on Maddie's disappearance. It is possible the parents are involved/responsible. DNA evidence may help to clear this up. It cannot be used on its own to convict them – or, indeed, anyone else.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Chop Till You Drop 2007

Go Chiefs!

The new NFL season is almost upon us. Through the wonders of the internet I have been following the fortunes of the hometown Kansas City Chiefs – even after the season ended in January.

First we have the draft. Watching the shenanigans surrounding football transfers one cannot help but speculate that the FA and FIFA could do worse than model the movement of players from one club to another on the NFL draft. Chiefly because the purpose of the draft is to even things out – to ensure that the clubs operate on a fairly level playing field when signing players. Why this should be so alien and contentious to the FA is a mystery?

The Chiefs drafted well – even though they had none of the very top picks. They took Dwayne Bowe in the first round – a big, fast, athletic wide receiver. What Trent Green wouldn't have done for one of those in the past 3 or 4 years! Too late for Trent now – he's traded to Miami. The offensive and defensive lines were strengthened. Absolutely essential – the quarterback, the running backs and the receivers get all the column inches – but knowledgeable people know the game is usually won or lost in the trenches. Chiefs grabbed defensive end Turk McBride in Round Two. Turk looked good in the pre-season and should contribute to a solid defensive line this season. Tank Tyler, a defensive tackle was the third round pick. They should both strengthen an already good set of linemen.

So, where are the problems? In the backfield, that's where the problems are. Larry Johnson finally signed a new contract but missed most of the pre-season. He will have to be eased into the season instead of hitting the ground running. Backups look ordinary. Chiefs are trying to make a full back out of a lineman. They think it will work. It might. If not? This brings us straight to the nexus - quarterback, or lack thereof.

Coach Herm Edwards made no secret of this desire to unload Trent Green. Green had been the shining light in the Chiefs offence for many years until he got hit once too often in the head and lost confidence. Whether he can regain it in Miami is problematical. His transfer saga went on too long. It could have only unsettled the team. When he left Edwards made no secret that the job was Brodie Croyle's. Young guy, he's the future franchise quarterback. His backup was to be last season's backup, who ended up playing a lot when Green got crocked, Damon Huard. Just one problem. At the end of an uninspiring pre-season, Edwards suddenly realised Croyle was not ready and handed the job back to Huard. This could be a disaster and it's not hard to imagine the Chiefs taking some time to get untracked this season.

The fact is the Chiefs do not have an established franchise quarterback. This usually spells disaster. The season opener is at the Texans. Not exactly a powerhouse football team, thought there are no easy games in the NFL. Come Monday morning we should have a much better idea of how the season is going to pan out. Super Bowl? Not likely, but, then again, not impossible. That's Chiefs football!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

What Passing Bells?


Summer has just about had it. So far: in August vandals dug up our cricket square – no not just the pitch ala' Headingly – but the whole square; Big Tone has departed to be Middle East Peace Envoy – ok stop laughing right now; Gordo had taken over the Labour leadership and is trouncing Cammo in the polls; Ol' Dubbya has declared that we are winning in Iraq, for the umpteenth time; Norwich City have signed a bunch of nobodys, 25 jocks and a motley collection of journeymen professionals whilst professing to be ambitious – so what's new? And the England Rugby team are off to Frogland to defend the World Cup, with little prospect of getting anywhere near it. It's all depressingly familiar.

Apparently there was some aggro at a cricket match at Southtown one Sunday. We weren't playing, but the report is that Southtown were involved in an altercation with some local yobbos who were riding their mini motorbikes around the outfield whist the game was in progress. That's what I heard. Whether this is true or germane, I've no idea. So, on a Sunday night person or persons unknown dug large holes in across the whole square. First I heard, council called Monday morning to tell me we wouldn't be playing there for the rest of the season. I had a look on the Wednesday and it was horrific! If you've a strong stomach, check out:

Good news is the council managed to repair the damage (mostly) and we had a game there at the beginning of September.

People are beginning to wonder if Big Tone was just a figment of their imagination. Since he has been appointed Middle East Peace Envoy (I said stop laughing and don't mention Satan and St Joan either!) he seems to have disappeared. Am I the only one thinking he is trousering a large wad for doing nothing so he can support the family whilst he writes his very lucrative memoirs?

Gordo takes over. He has variously been described as cheerless, morose, bloody-minded, dictatorial and with all the charm of a mud skipper. His opponent, Cammo, is young, good-looking and full of new ideas. Result: the voters prefer Gordo. It's a funny old world.

Dubbya just gets worse and worse. There is no other way to say this. It's a good thing you can't be impeached for being an incompetent moron. Otherwise, he'd be on the first plane to Texas (home of steers and queers!). Where Dubbya fits into this well-know Texan epithet, you guess.

NCFC are beginning to really annoy me now. Not content with incessant bitching at the unholy unfairness of it all when their best players depart to Premiership pastures new and feeding the Norfolk numpties endless pap about how prudent the club is – they now are already tossing out plausible excuses for failure in anticipation of a terrible season. Today's EDP has a banner story about an African player (discarded by that powerhouse of international football, FC Lucerne, who is (apparently) having trial at Norwich. Someone is having a laugh!

Only the England Rugby team think they have a chance of defending the World Cup. This may be no bad thing. Maybe the good teams will take their eye off the ball, literally as well as metaphorically and they could sneak it. Personally I wouldn't be surprised if they slip up in the opener against the USA Eagles (Go Eagles !!) By the way, the Sunday Times eventually recognised that the USA has an almost endless untapped pool of rugby players in the vast majority of college football players who never make the pros. Some day this pool will be recruited. Watch out All Blacks, you head it here first!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Salaam Salman


News that Salman Rushdie is to get a knighthood has been met with mixed emotions. Some elements in the Islamic world have condemned the award outright – a spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry said that to honour “an apostate and one of the most hated figures in the Islamic world” indicated that Britain supported “the insult to Islamic values”.

I wish I knew enough about Rushdie's work to make a relevant comment. I don't.

What is interesting is the remarks by Jack Straw and Margaret Beckett. Jack thinks Salman's books a bit too difficult to read (and he has a large Muslim population in his constituency); whilst Margaret says she is “sorry” if any offence has been caused.

I think the word I'm searching for is hypocritical. Yes, hypocritical wimps fit rather nicely.

Let's be clear. What debate there should be about an honour for Salman should be about the literary merit of his work. I'd be happy to hear reasoned argument about the quality of his writing. I'd be interested to know about his views concerning the writing process and how he communicates with readers. I'm not really interested in his views about Islam (if he has any).

It is clearly wrong and clearly ill-liberal to denounce Mr Rushdie because one of his books may offend some members of the community. That's what writers do. It's part of their job. It's probably in their job description, somewhere. If not – it ought to be.

This is not the whole story.

Media commentators have queued up to defend Rushdie. Voltaire (a very dodgy Frenchman) has been dutifully trotted out to declaim again - “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. It's all very western liberal politico-correctico. It's all very predictable.

Unfortunately, the powers that be have left out an important part of the argument. We are not free to say whatever we want to. We cannot publish anything we like. We would be extremely foolish – if not criminally insane – to insist that blaspheming against Allah is a really good thing to do. It clearly is not. Nor should it be.

Some have tried to submit that a Christian outcry against Dan Brown and The Da Vinci Code is on a par with Muslim fury over Satanic Verses. They are being foolish or disingenuous. Dan Brown's book, which I have read, is an entertaining mystery story and Jesus' divinity is not questioned by the author. Christians may think it a bit crazy – but even if Jesus did marry and father children it would not affect the basic tenets of their beliefs. My understanding is that Muslims believe that to question the divinity of the Prophet is not only blasphemous but also an act that is prescribed punishment. If that is the case, then it is patently unfair to expect Muslims to forego that part of their beliefs that the rest of us may find offensive.

In a week where the death of Bernard Manning has brought legions of critics out of the woodwork to declare that no only was he not funny but he was also a racist and a bigot, it seems oddly perverse to “defend” Rushdie simply because his racism and bigotry is aimed at people we currently don't particularly like. We are not free to preach racial hatred. We are not free to incite violence against others of a different faith or creed. Therefore; we cannot demand that everyone else follows our lead. We must allow other faiths to judge for themselves what is right and proper. Even is we don't like it.

Mr Rushdie is entitled to be honoured for his writing. He is not immune from being censured by religious leaders. Some Muslim leaders should realise that dragging up the past and re-living old wounds is counter-productive. They simply pander to the prejudices of the right-wing conspiracy theorists.

I really must read The Satanic Verses.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Premiersip Milch Cow

Dodgy Owners.

Definition: milch cow - noun - something or someone that is seen as a source of easy income or profit.

Definition: money laundering - refers to the conversion or "Laundering" of money which is illegally obtained, so as to make it appear to originate from a legitimate source.

Put these two definitions together and you have the Premiership.

The Times says:

Frauds, thieves, tax dodgers and forgers aren’t welcome here

We answer the key questions relating to the 'Fit and Proper Test' that Thaksin will have to pass before taking charge at Manchester City

The key point in the resume of the Fit and Proper Persons test is (not surprisingly) at the end – where it says:

Has anyone failed the Fit and Proper Persons Test yet?

Not yet.

So, it's all window dressing? Pretty much – in my view.

Disregarding Roman Abramovich and other big-time Russian crooks, the very dodgy Glaser family who now own (with a hefty mortgage) Manchester United and an assortment of Icelandic wide-boys and an Egyptian conspiracy theorist – what cannot be in doubt is the opportunity for money corruption in football.

Here's a plan, some bean counter says, take the money you have, go to England and buy a football club; the government will welcome you with open arms. No-one will question where the money came from, no-one will ask about dodgy-finance – as long as you appear to be a milch cow to the idiots who inhabit the terraces and you make a few (perfectly legal) contributions to political parties – you should have no problems. And, you will be welcome to stay in England as long as you like. And you can effectively launder your money – if needed – under the relatively free guise of becoming a patron of a football team. Bottom line – this is a win-win situation.

What about the Premier League? Spokesman, Dan Johnson, told BBC Radio Five Live, “We have a fit and proper person test which is based on objective criteria, there is a schedule of offences which does also reflect any offences that someone has been prosecuted for overseas as well. It is a tricky one because he hasn't been prosecuted for anything yet, and also we are a football competition.”

Translation: as long as you have not been prosecuted for wrong-doing – it's none of our business and we will do nothing.

What would happen if he was found guilty of the charges he is facing? Dan says, “That is something we would have to look at.”

Nice one, Dan. In other words, even if Mr Shinawatra is found guilty in a Thai court of wrong-doing the Premier League may decide that this does not disqualify him from owning a team. After all, I can hear them say, what sort of court is a Thai court? Can't trust those Wogs anyway! This guy is bringing in lots of money – who cares where he got it!

Somebody should. And, someone should require that all Premiership clubs are PLC's with on-one allowed to own more than 10% of the shares. Simple. No need for checks that aren't checks on Asian criminals.

Works for me.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Woeful West Indies

It's just not cricket!

Song lyrics – to the tune of “Rare Old Times”:

Raised on runs and wickets,

Heroes of renown,

The passing tales and glories,

That once was Kingston Town,

The hallowed balls and wickets,

The haunting children's' rhymes,

I remember West Indies cricket,

In the rare old times.

I was raised on the great West Indies team of the 80's. At that time it was almost impossible to imagine anybody beating them. Haynes and Greenwich to open; Richie Richardson; Sir Vivian Richards – not to mention the bowlers – Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Colin Croft, Joel Garner – the list is almost endless.

It was – and remains – almost impossible to imagine anyone beating them.

How sad to see how the mighty have fallen. England have completed a white wash, winning the test series 3-0. What is worse is the manner of the winning and, more importantly, the losing.

Facts are a good to average England team have trounced as poor a test side as can be imagined. Some of the West Indies greats must be sick at what they have witnessed. What has gone wrong?

First, the organisation and politics involved in selection have crippled the team even before a ball was bowled. It is hard not to feel sorry for Darren Ganga who came expecting to play second fiddle to the experienced and respected Sarwan, only to be thrust into the limelight with no support from the management or the rest of the team. Watching him struggle with the bat and the leadership was painful. What's worse, he seemed to get no help from his team-mates. There is an agenda there, but who knows what it was?

Except for Chanderpaul, the batsmen were just boys waiting to be slaughtered by the English pace attack. Some of them are not good enough to play in a county side, much less an international one.

The bowling was worse. Nothing appeared to be planned and no bowler attempted to do anything to trouble the English batsmen. Is there really no West Indian spinner? What, no-one? Is Ramdin really the best wicket-keeper in the Caribbean? Seems a nice lad – but cannot bat and is only adequate with the gloves. Are there no pacemen left in the West Indies? Except for Fidel Edwards the rest are all medium pace journeymen. Is this really all the West Indies can produce? Why?

There seems to be no talent coming through. What talent there is heads for American sports as fast as they can run, catch or throw. That's where the money is and who can blame them. All the Curtley Ambroses are playing basketball and the Courtney Walshes are on the baseball diamond. Any big, strong lads from the islands are at U.S. universities on football scholarships.

Can nothing be done? Probably not. The next generation of WI cricketers are already lost. We may see the day soon when they will struggle to beat anyone. In 25 years they may be playing in the ICC tournament for non-test playing nations.

What a tragedy.