Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Mother of All Parliaments

Gorbals Mick

The amusement caused by the discomfort of the Speaker in allowing the Police to roam freely throughout the Palace of Westminster searching for God knows what is only a partial hoot when compared to all the other commonly accepted nonsense regarding the Mother of Parliaments.

I wish I could find the book called, True Brit. I last read it in the 1970's. It's all about those commonly accepted (but equally commonly fallacious) ideas that British people have about their own country – the ones that are completely wrong, of course. Like, for example, the mistaken belief that the English Parliamentary system is somehow the envy of the civilised world or even a semi-sensible form of government. Neither statement is actually true or remotely sensible.

I just happened to be reading, The Victorians by A. N. Wilson when Michael Martin came a cropper at Westminster and I came across a most entertaining passage. I apologise for quoting it almost in full.

Wilson tells us, “Britain became so used to being governed (in Victorian times – my italics) by what could be called an autocratic consensus or settlement that it was years before the existence of a so-called democracy took hold of the collective political imagination. Indeed it is open to question whether an enthusiasm for democracy has ever counted for much in Britain, if by that is meant such things as a Bill of Rights, a democratically chosen judiciary or an elected head of state. Prime Ministers, Cabinets, civil servants continue to govern Britain with only nominal reference to the results of ballot box or polls. The exclusion of adults from the voting process on grounds of income or gender would now be abhorred by all but a few manic die-hards. But, the electorate, being given the right to chose its government, has seldom shown any enthusiasm for changing the Constitution, the method of dividing power between the two Houses of Parliament, or the composition of the Cabinet, the actual decision-making political body.
Until very recently,the hereditary peers of England sat in the upper chamber as of right; a proportion, at the time of writing, still do so. Their rights and privileges were removed, not as a result of some populist movement, but by modern-minded politicians who felt for whatever reason that enough of that particular system was enough. All the same, whatever happens to the House of Lords in our own day or in the future, we can say that the way Britain was governed remained substantially unaltered from the time of Disraeli to the premiership of John Major and Tony Blair. The electorate has been extended, but elections still take place in roughly the same manner. Thereafter, parliamentary members claim to represent, not a political faction but a place – members are not announced as “The Labour Member” or “The Conservative who has just spoken”, but as (until very recently) “The Honourable Member for Scunthorpe” - just as might have been the case at any time since the reign of Edward III. The Cabinet and the government are still referred to as administrations, their task being primarily to administer the business of the government on behalf of the Crown.
In a sense, Britain retains a largely aristocratic (or perhaps oligarchic would be more accurate) form of government, even though the prime minister and his or her team do not come from the landed section of society. The parties do not, as in other parts of the world (or as in one specific part of the United Kingdom to this day, Northern Ireland), represent single sections of society or single interests. Only very seldom in British history – the most obvious example is the General Strike of 1926 – does the populace appear to divide along purely class lines.”

So, the True Brit idea of a Parliament which is the envy of the world and the basis for all civilised government is really just balderdash. What is truly surprising is that the British voters are so thick as to presume they really matter at all. That's why, for example, we get a neo-fascist “New Labour” government which makes the Tories look like a bunch of left wing loonies.

This system also produces some outstandingly bad polices and politicians. One is almost tempted to say that is it's real purpose.

A. N. Wilson again: “Any observer of the English scene over the last two hundred years knows that . . . the political history of Britain is one of chancellors of the Exchequers who know nothing about money, education ministers who can't spell, bishops with little or no religious faith.”

This is precisely the type of government Parliament is designed to produce. A bunch of boundlessly hopeless amateurs who are supposed to be, in some respects, guided and in others rescued by the Mandarins of the Civil Service – the real government of the country. No wonder Yes Minister remains one of the most popular sit-coms ever made.

Seen in this light, the Speaker's present predicament is as predictable as it is sad.

To Wilson again (regarding the electoral reforms of 1884): . . . how much of a true political shift took place as a result of the electoral reforms of 1884. Did the granting of the vote to 4,376,916 male adults (as opposed to (2.619,435) before the Representation of the People Act appreciably change the way Great Britain was governed over the next few decades? Believers in Parliament might see British history as an unfolding progression of freedoms which, as general election followed general election, more and more people -first the urban males, then the entire working class (males), then all adults, male and female – were empowered. But empowered to do what? To elect representatives who for the most part perpetuated the system that placed them there. . . . If the majority of the population was working class, how did it come about that until the twentieth century there were next to no working class parliamentarians thrown up by this supposedly democratic system?”

Which brings us neatly to the archetypical working class hero, Gorbals Mick and his particular brand of parliamentary oversight.

I think I hear Speaker Lenthall's bones shrieking.

May it please your majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as this house is pleased to direct me whose servant I am here; and humbly beg your majesty’s pardon that I cannot give any other answer than this. Are you listening, Mick?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Acts of God

An important part of our culture has disappeared. Exactly when, I'm not sure; but it now seems no longer possible to attribute disasters to that convient catch-all category of Acts of God. No. Someone must be blamed.

This is, in many cases, a backward step.

Nothing so gut-wrenchingly demonstrates this as the murder of Baby P at the hands of those who should have been caring for him. Already much of what has been written about this case is at best well-meaning clap-trap and at worst diabolically unhelpful recommendations masquerading as potential explanations.

The facts are horribly unavoidable. Baby P was tortured and murdered by adults whose actions cannot be accounted for rationally. Biologically we are programmed to protect and nurture babies. Our own off-spring certainly, but in a wider sense we are drawn to see every baby as something to be cherished. That's why we find these cases so alarming. We have no comprehension or understanding of the motives or actions of the perpetrators and this makes us rightly disturbed.

When the Director of Children's Services in Haringey seemed to say that this tragedy was chiefly the fault of the adults who killed the baby, she was pilloried in the media and, I expect, in many living rooms across the country. But, in some respects, she was right.

In a gentler more accepting time this tragedy might have been termed (no matter how obscene it may sound) as an Act of God.

Traditionally this terminology has been used when tragedies happen without the direct cause being some human action. We walk to the shop to get a newspaper. The pilot of a light aircraft flying overhead opens the window and, as he leans out, accidentally drops his clipboard. The clipboard hurtles earthward and strikes us on the back of the neck as we stop to tie our shoe – decapitating us in the process. An Act of God because the process by which we become an ex-person is only casually related to the acts of the people involved. Traditionally, society would adjudge that no-one is to blame. It is an Act of God.

Unfortunately, now-a-days our surviving spouse would be encouraged to ring Injury Lawyers For You and sue the pilot (he should have followed Health and Safety Guidelines and had the clipboard on a string tied around his neck), the aircraft manufacturer (they should have made it impossible to open the aircraft window sufficiently to drop a clipboard out of it), the CAA (they should never have certified such an aircraft in the first place), Uncle Tom Cobley and all. It's the compensation culture gone mad.

What's worse, this kind of culture colours how we look at the tragedy of Baby P.

Now, of course, the aircraft and Baby P are not exactly the same. No matter how rapacious the solicitors for the wife of our unfortunate late newspaper buying friend it seems unlikely that the court would award damages. Unlikely, perhaps – but not unheard of.

Example: “A teacher collected £14,000 in compensation for injuries suffered when she toppled off a toilet seat at a primary school.

The woman dislocated her hip when she fell off the under-sized bowl that was designed for use by children aged under eleven.
Liverpool City Council paid £12,958 to settle out of court her claim for compensation that was back by the National Union of Teachers and details emerged in the union's annual report.”
“Lancashire education bosses have been hit by more than a hundred compensation claims after children were injured in the playground.

A catalogue of accidents such as youngsters slipping or falling in the school-yard, trapping fingers or being hit by swinging doors have led to 114 claims against Lancashire County Council over the past five years.

In total, 24 were successful, with County Hall paying out £105,596 in compensation. It is estimated that much more has been paid out in legal fees to "ambulance chasing" lawyers.

Headteachers told the Evening Post pupils suffering injuries during a football match, staff walking into doors and youngsters scraping their knees in the school playground have all led to claims being made.

Fractures after falling off school walls, or injuries from slipping in canteens have also led to claims.

But one MP said the startling figures suggest many of the claims are spurious, with little or no evidence to back them up.

And today community leaders and teachers predicted the growing "no win, no fee" compensation culture would spark an explosion in future claims.”

Perhaps there is more hope for our now husband-less wifely clipboard survivor than you thought.

Before you switch off, dear reader, I confess that the Baby P case is not much like the supersonic clipboard. Paby P was killed by adults who (and you may find this hard to believe) were convicted of “causing or allowing his death”. That is to say they were not even tried for or convicted of murder. The implication here is clear: there are some features of this case that we just don't know about. Some features that may move the case uncomfortably more towards the Act of God than the murder of a toddler.

However uncomfortable, this needs to be addressed.
Last word to the Telegraph – who report:
The mother of Baby P, the toddler who died after a catalogue of horrific abuse, has given birth to another child in jail and wants access to the baby, according to reports.

This is not normal and certainly Baby P's mother should not be allowed to have any children with her. Ever.

Don't go down that road!

Finally. A win, and even better, a win over the Raiders. Praise be the Lord!

Already (and very unfortunately) the KC media have started overplaying their hand – like the poker player who has just drawn a card to the inside of a straight, the pundits are talking up a Chiefs revival led by Tyler Thigpen.

This is a distraction and we've been here before. Last year it was Brodie Croyle who would lead the tribe of the chosen people to the promised land. After his season-ending injury it was anyone who could stand up and throw the ball. Now it's Tyler.

This has got to stop.

If not, we go to the next training camp with a QB controversy. Tyler or Brodie. The scenario is well-known and well-scripted. These two battle it out for the starting job – distracting the team and the coaches from the real business of winning football matches. You end up with a starter who is always looking over his shoulder. There are examples of how disastrous this is and you don't have far to go. Just look at the Bears and the Bills. Both teams decided to swap horses in a fast-flowing stream this week and got so wet they nearly sank out of sight. The Chiefs must not go down that road.

The management must get smart. Draft a high-profile QB who will start next season. Decide to keep either Tyler or Brodie as backup. Get a franchise QB who will lead the team for the next decade. That is the only way.

Just look at the QB's taken this year. Joe Flacco is doing very well thank you in Baltimore. True, he has a good team to work with; but for a QB taken relatively low in the draft, he is making all the right moves. Over in Atlanta Matt Ryan is leading a poor team steeped in soul-destroying self doubt by the Vick saga to a play-off berth. And, according to the experts this was a poor year for QBs. The brave choice is to take the top QB in the draft – particularly as the Chiefs are likely to be picking in the 3,4,5 slot again.

In the Tyler Thigpen hype we are suffering from at the moment, it is forgotten that last April the Chiefs could have drafted either Ryan or Flacco. Certainly, they could have had Flacco easily He was taken 18th when the Chiefs had already had two picks. To get Ryan, taken at three, might have involved a trade, but it could have been done.

Next year looks a good one for QBs. Pundits are listing two in the top three picks, Bradford of Oklahoma and Stafford of Georgia – one of whom will probably be available when the Chief's turn comes.

The Chiefs must get off the fence and grab one. Fans are rightly getting fed up with the “build through the draft” scenario. This only works if you truly build in all positions. It's time to take a risk. Pay the big bucks. Go for broke. Grab the best QB that fits and give him the team.

If not, five years of mediocrity is almost ensured.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

November 12th

What a bumper news day. Every page of the EDP has a story worth commenting on. And, here they are:

Page one

Banner headline, How Could It Happen Again - 17 month old baby murdered by parent and others? Social workers and health professionals mess up big time. Impossible to comment on adequately without resorting to cliché.

Page two

Man found guilty of a stab attack in dispute over debt - Norwich low-lifes get in a knife fight over 400 quid and nearly kill each other. Such a lovely, peaceful place, Norwich.

Page three

Cheaper bus fares to hospital - Visitors to the N&N hospital can get a pound off tickets in the mornings and afternoons. Why we have to pay to park to be ill or visit a dying relative is not, as usual, discussed.

Page four

Dog justice - Man (presumably) described as “pervert”makes an obscene gesture to woman whose dog promptly attacks the culprit. Well done Fido.

Page five

Two monkeys stolen from wildlife park - Two female squirrel monkeys are stolen from their pen at a Cotswold wildlife park. Some randy male squirrel monkeys on the lose?

Page six

Dead babies no joke - Facebook removes the group, Dead Babies Make Me Laugh for the second time. See page one for a possible explanation for the murder of the 17 month old baby.

Page seven

Jury sworn in to try mother of Shannon - Just when you thought the saga of the Dewsbury Chavs could not get any worse, it appears that Fat Karen had aided in the drugging of Shannon to collect the 50 000 reward. Nothing these people get up to is a surprise any more. Must visit Dewsbury some day.

Page eight

Everyone's talking about the tax cuts – so what's the catch. EDP devotes a whole page to analysing the fall out from the credit crunch and decides that we're all doomed. Tell me something I didn't know, please.

Page nine

A sobering thought as you lift your beer glass - Messages about death and dying could go on beer mats, the government's cancer czar suggested yesterday. Fatuous – or perhaps even beyond fatuous!

Page ten

Armistice day round up - Cromer was closed off by police for a short service at 11:00 – the silence was broken by the barking of a dog. Could it have been the same dog that was on page four?

Page eleven

. . . and while you're about it, try slowing down - Children from Pakefield Primary School joined PC Barton on the busy road outside to school gates yesterday morning to highlight traffic problems. Yes, that's really what it says?

Page twelve

Nothing here – I draw breath!

Page thirteen

Man quizzed on jewels shop raid - Arrest of a man possibly involved in a robbery in Yarmouth. Question: what's a jewels shop?” Jewellery perhaps?Where are the sub-editors?

Page fourteen

Warning to landlords over cold housing - Dozens of privately owned flats in Norwich are so cold the tenants are freezing to death. A spokesman for the managing agents reports that they have upgraded one of the 84 flats to show what could be done. Well done, lads.

Page fifteen

Norwich still a safe place says Minister - Despite the death of an innocent passer-by recently, a Govt. Minister thinks Norwich is fine. Suggest he stands around until a fight breaks out and then tries to break it up.

Page sixteen

Drink-drive landlord may have to close village pub - Darren Bond, of The Ploughshare in Beeston is looking for sympathy. Because he was banned from driving for being drunk – he cannot do his other job – taxi driver. Let's all have a whip-round for poor Darren – not. This one is right up their vying for my favourite story of the day.

Page seventeen

City striker's brother may be facing jail - What should be a simple story about an attack by some minor celebrity's brother out on the booze is ruined because the EDP run the story next to a photo of a crazy-looking guy with two knives in his hand – who is in the adjacent story about an Army chef. Journalism at its best!

Page eighteen

Even on the editorial page – a triumph for the EDP. Under the scariest photo ever of the Dark Lord, Peter Mandelson, the paper starts the caption with: NOT SO BAD. Another journalistic triumph!

Page nineteen

Diplomat praises 400 million paper mill investment - Unbelievably important news story – should be on page one.

Page twenty and twenty-one

We make it to the middle of the paper, hanging on to sanity by a thread. In the letters, Derek Gibbs of Ludham writes, “Just wondering if it's common to see three swallows flying together at this time of year. I saw three this morning flying over fields in Ludham. And the EDP printed this along with the continuing saga of whether a stoat can be killed by a rabbit or a pheasant. Pass the aspirin, please.

Page twenty-two

On the Announcements page is reported the birth of a baby girl at 10:43 and her death at 12:15. This is directly above an announcement of the safe arrival of another baby girl. I'm not sure who most to be annoyed with: the parents who have lost an infant and still feel it necessary to broadcast this tragedy to the world or the idiot who set the two announcements so close together? Absolutely unbelievable!

Page twenty-three

Attractions raring to help save lives - Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary, Bressingham Steam Museum and the Blakeney Hotel are being equipped with defibrillators to save victims of sudden heart attacks. I know which hotel I'm saying at if in Blakeney.

Page twenty-four

Friends do the write thing to mark milestone - Were it not for the appalling attempt at using a homonym, this tale of middle age ladies trying to make a buck by getting some free advert time for their book might just be excusable. These gals are giving writers a bad name.

Page twenty-five

Carnage? No, just good-natured fun - 1500 kids go on a pub crawl in Norwich organised by Carnage UK – who's slogan is, “it's going to get messy!” Apparently the only thing that got messy was the party-goers, who embraced the porn theme by wearing hot pants, suspenders and bras on show. Another quiet night in Norwich – and I missed it!!

Page twenty-six

Till receipts to help victims of domestic abuse - A supermarket in Lowestoft is putting anti-domestic violence help line information on their till receipts. A break-through for community action and law enforcement.

Pages 27-32

Classifieds - I am resisting the temptation to comment on the EDP Farmer's Market.

Page 33

Sport - Did you know there are 72 teams in the Norwich and District Table Tennis League? Neither did I.

Page 34

Sport – Fishing - My favourite columnist, Roy Webster, outdoes himself this week as he reports that a British record barbel has been hauled out of the River Wensum. “The superb specimen, locally know as 'the beast'” beat the previous record by those numpties from the Great Ouse near Bedford by nearly one ounce. I just can't tell you how excited I am!

Page 35

Sport – Miscellaneous - Tonight's greyhound card. This paper is going to the dogs.

Page 36

Sport – Cricket - England are sentenced to extra net sessions after falling to a second or possibly third rate Indian team in their warm-up match. Not much change from the Stanford Super Series then.

Page thirty-seven

Sport – Football - PFA to oppose home drugs testing. Apparently the PFA do not want footballers to be tested for drugs in their own home because it would be an invasion of privacy. Maybe they should test the WAGS instead – if they are using, then you can bet the players won't be missing out.

Page thirty-eight

Sport – More Football - In the Dolphin Autos Anglian Combination, Division One, Kirkley and Pakefield Reserves lost to Sole Bay 1-2. I'm distraught. Honest.

Page thirty-nine

Sport – Yet more football - Under-fire Norwich City manager, Glenn Roeder, asserts that ,”It's very difficult to sign quality players on contracts.” Funny, I thought it only took money?

Page forty

Sport – Delia bites back - Delia Smith reveals she has recruited a “takeover king” Keith Harris to find new buyers for Norwich City. How low can this old trout sink? When nothing comes of this clap-trap – where does she go then?


The Creature Feature cartoon had me stumped for two days. This is more than annoying and may be the first sign of a deteriorating brain. In the first pane, two of the little snakes are pictured in a restaurant setting. One is cooking and one has on a bow tie (obviously the waiter). The waiter creature says, “The customer at table four is complaining about his egg. I didn't quite catch what he said . . .” In pane two he continues by saying, “Something about it being too runny.” I finally worked it out – the witticism is in two parts – first the “didn't quite catch” (because the egg is runny) and second (and I only just noticed this) there is an egg, complete with egg cup, scooting off stage right with little legs sticking out from it. This is far too subtle for Norfolk.

Happy days.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Banged up and barely standing

I got to watch most of last week's KC Chiefs game. This was surprising in itself as the season is going so poorly I was amazed they made it to the Sky coverage. It was the alternative game, yet it did, at least, give me an opportunity to have a look at the problems for my self. When you're one and eight there are no shortage of problems to look at.

Injuries are killing us. Of course, injuries are a part of the game and every team suffers, but the Chiefs seem to have suffered more than most. They signed some guys off the street last week and they played on Sunday. It doesn't get much worse than that!

The QB situation has been a pleasant surprise. Tyler Thigpen, after a disastrous debut, has played well – actually very well! Some credit must go to the coaches who have given him the kind of game plan he is comfortable with, but some credit must go to him. He has not thrown an interception for a long time. That's a good enough record for where the Chiefs are now. I still expect to see the Chiefs go for a quality QB in the draft. Thigpen would make an ideal Number Two. My prediction: the next time Brodie Croyle gets hurt – he's history.

Running backs have been injured almost as much as QB's. LJ (Larry Johnson) is back this week and none too soon. Chiefs are lightweight at this position and must address this during the draft.

The receiving corps looks good. New guy (off the street) Mark Bradley looks a real find and a nice complement to Dwayne Bowe. Tony Gonzales is having a pro-bowl season – despite having his wish to be traded to a contender turned down – a real professional.

The O-line is looking just about adequate. New boy, Branden Albert, is doing well at tackle. The rest of the boys are in danger of becoming a “no-name” line. They just don't stand out. I expect the Chiefs to draft here again.

Even considering injuries – the defence is poor. Glenn Dorsey was the number four pick in the draft and from what I saw on Sunday he was over-rated. About the best you can say is he did “Ok”. Run defence is patchy. Pass defence is poor – mostly because the pass rush is non-existent. Linebackers are invisible. Secondary is so beat up it's hard to judge their progress.

Let the Chief's website put it into perspective:

As of Tuesday and over the first 10 weeks of the season, the team had already had 70 players on their active roster of 53 players. Of that group, 63 have stepped on the playing field and played in at least one of the nine games so far this year. Throw in quarterbacks Ingle Martin and Quinn Gray who have been active backup quarterbacks but did not play, and that’s 65 of the 70.

This week the Chiefs are talking up their chances against the Saints on Sunday. It's a home game. The team is definitely getting better. LJ is back and should provide some running game. Everyone has had a week to recover. I'm waiting to be convinced.

Chiefs might be better to win the last two and go 3 and 13. Use the draft. That's supposed to be the plan.

A Darker Shade of Pale

Home Truths from Abroad.

I'm sure I have seen Steve Jones on TV. I'm sure he is the “expert” regularly trotted out when matters concerning genetics are hot topics. He is, according to the Times, “The leading geneticist Steve Jones”.

Good enough for me.

Steve is explaining this week “how the world's population is blending into a single shade”. What's he's not explaining is how the world's population got to be so many different shades in the first place. This is probably a wise move as it might lead him into speculating on the origins of race in human populations. This, as you know, is mostly a taboo subject - for many, and sometimes good, reasons.

Steve explains how because of today's modern lifestyle with its almost limitless opportunities for travel and intercourse (in the sense of interaction) with people from all over the globe, we are all becoming a bit browner and much more racially homogeneous. From his tone you can conclude that he thinks this is a generally good thing.

Me too.

My own family are a fairly cosmopolitan lot. I have grandparents with English, Norwegian, Scottish and German genes. My children can add an infusion of more English and some Irish. Their children are shortly to add some South American and Jewish (via Ecuador) genetic material.

We are certainly getting about.

This exchange of genetic material is good for us. Nature loves diversity. It keeps us moving forward in the survival of the fittest stakes. Our browner children will be better equipped to deal with life's problems caused by genetic deficiencies – like my skin problems owing to my very fair, mostly northern European skin.

Things are looking up – evolution-wise.

Three paragraphs from the end of the article, Steve gets really interesting. He reminds us that “most readers will see on their way to work tomorrow more people than the average member of the human species would, until recently, have seen in a lifetime”.

I'm tempted to type that again – it's so profound.

He goes on to explain that, “For 99% of our past we were hunters and gatherers – rare and not particularly successful primates that gathered berries, hunted wild animals (and were hunted by them – Steve forgets to mention this important point) and flirted with extinction.” He goes on, “. . . . for most of history we lived in tiny, isolated groups, married the boy – or girl next door and lost diversity as a result. If the few hunter-gatherer tribes still left a few decades ago were any guide, any attempt to join another group, let alone exchange genes with it, was likely to be met by death”.

The implication here is easy to see.

The racial characteristics that we see today must have been present in the human population when we were very small in number. Steve asserts, though he doesn't explicitly state it, that we stayed in small very genetically homogeneous groups for most of human history. Therefore if racial characteristics are recent – they simply wouldn't exist. He, therefore, prescribes a mechanism to explain race in human populations – remembering that no matter which race we belong to we are all almost genetically identical. Steve says that we just didn't move around from group to group. We stayed put and interbred with our “home” population.

Thanks, Steve for that brilliant insight.

So, can you tell us how we managed to populate the planet in a very short space of time?

Just imagine: somehow we have to explain how we got from a small bunch of evolutionarily-challenged apes who disliked others of their own species for the purpose of breeding so much that we avoided them at all costs. Does this make any sense to you?

Me neither.

One thing that we do know about humans is that they would rather procreate than do almost anything - except run away from hungry lions. Given the chance, hunter-gatherers spying a loose female on the horizon will do what comes naturally.

Steve says no.

Somehow we need to explain how these “home-loving” HG's (hunter gatherers) managed to populate an entire planet in less than 2500 generations.

Computer says crap.

We are getting to the point where some very respectable scientific theories need to be either explained better, challenged or discarded.

Lest , dear reader, you assume I am making this up – or have lost what little marbles I ever had; I suggest you have a look at:

and then try to explain how such a racially diverse population of humans developed in so short a time; and how a tiny number of people whose very existence was challenged on a daily basis by predation, disease and starvation could possibly fill the earth in so short a time? Some part of this has to be wrong.

Either the DNA evidence is puppy-plop or the archaeological evidence is dog-dung.

Think about it Steve (as I hope you are reading this ) and let me know.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Let us cross the river and sit under the trees

We've hit a Stonewall

And then there were three.

Someone once said to lose one parent is careless to lose two is downright unlucky, or words to that effect. Clearly they were thinking of the Chiefs who have carelessly lost three quarterbacks without too much difficulty.

First, Brodie Croyle (the great white hope) departed with a knee that will require extensive surgery and may well put paid to a not very promising NFL career. To be blunt, when he did play he did not win. Ever. He did not even move the offence regularly. Ever. He may return. Whatever.

So, it was back to Damon Huard. He didn't last long either. He “thumbed” his way onto the injured list and was promptly replaced by Tyler Thigpen – the rookie who had one disastrous outing earlier in the season. Damon is gone for the season as well. Scratch one journeyman QB who never figured to be the Chiefs starter in anything but an emergency but who was, at least, an experienced player.

Tyler is still with us and will start on Sunday against the Jets.

Who is number three? Trent Green.

I'm counting him in this equation, because someone, somewhere is surely wishing they hadn't got rid of him quite so soon. Keeping Trent on contract would have allowed Croyle to start, Huard to back-up and Green as emergency cover. Perhaps, of course, this did not suit Green and so he went to Miami. Still, to have as backups Gray Quinn – a few games of NFL experience – and Ingle Martin (who?) is beyond careless and leaves King Carl and Herm (the Squirm) Edwards lurching into the realms of complete incompetence.

What we know is that without a decent QB in the NFL you are going to get creamed week after week. The defence is going to load up on the run ( not too much of a problem at the moment since that bad boy Larry Johnson is in trouble with the league and will not play this week) and dare you to pass. If you don't have a QB that can beat them, you are stuffed. That's just about where the Chiefs are now.: looking like a Christmas turkey.

What makes this all so more annoying is that the Chiefs passed up on drafting a QB early to get Branden Albert and Glenn Dorsey. They could have got Joe Flacco who is starting for the Ravens and doing more that Ok or Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons - currently the NFL rookie of the week. Albert and Dorsey are getting no mentions other than negative ones.

Bottom line? Chiefs may do well to win three games this season.

They will get top draft choices in 2009.

They will take a QB in round one.

You heard it hear first.

Oh, yes. My title for this blog entry is the last words of Stonewall Jackson. Seems appropriate.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Terrific Tendulkar

[The Little Master]

News that Sachin has become the highest scoring test batsman ever should not be a surprise;for, he has long been the best batman in the world. And, yes, I'm including Brian Lara in this as well.

As good as Lara is, he can not really challenge the Little Master.

What Lara is is a great entertainer - in the West Indian tradition.

What Tendulkar is is technically the best batsman for many a moon - perhaps since Bradman.

The stats don't lie. Long may he reign. Many congratulations!

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Modest Proposal Concerning Percentages

Cherry-Pie Maths

First a confession: my mathematical ability is legendarily non-existent. An example: since I distinctly remember being taught that addition and multiplication are similar processes and subtraction is akin to division: it has never made sense to me that (according to one set of mathematical principles) one half divided by one half equals one quarter.

This is an example of what I fondly refer to as Cherry Pie Maths. If, in the above, you think of a half of something real, like a cherry pie, and multiply that by another half of something real, say another cherry pie, it is obvious that some of the pie has disappeared – with complete disregard for the Law of Conservation of Mass and Energy.

In my mathematical model one half times one half equals one. The cherry pie remains intact. Simple.

Mathematicians rant on about how, in this case, it is really one half of one half which equals one quarter. Interesting point – but I remain unconvinced. Perhaps this is why my conventional mathematical understanding is so legendarily suspect.

Which bring s me neatly to percentages. In the moment when the stock market is plunging like a herd of hippopotamuses , the credit crisis is biting like a cloud of ravenous mosquitoes and the inflation rate has assumed the stance of an early Chinese firework, each of the above being expressed as a percentage has become both misleading and in many cases downright unhelpful.


Consider this hypothetical situation: the rate of inflation in Zimbabwe suddenly comes under control. The price of a Zimbabwean loaf of bread at that moment is 1 million zimbabs (or whatever the currency in Harare is called). The new rate of inflation as measured as a percentage drops from 1000% to just one percent. Hooray!! Except that one percent of one million is 10 thousand. So the loaf of bread now costs one million ten thousand zimbabs. Sound like a bargain to you?

This fairly farcical example shows why percentages can be so misleading. So it is in the real work – discounting imaginary Zimbabwean currencies.

When you read that inflation has risen to 5% but is expected to fall back to 3% you may rejoice. You are being mislead. 5% of a large number is still a large number. That's my simple mathematical knowledge in action. When you read that the police have accepted a 2.5% pay rise it sounds small, but if the police are making 50,000 pounds a year, that 2.5% equals 1250 pounds or more than 100 pounds a month. If the dustmen, by contrast, manage to negotiate a 5% rise but only make 25,000 a year their actual cash benefit is exactly the same. The media would present the above as: Police Accept Moderate Pay-Rise and Bonanza on the Dustcarts – respectfully.

My first modest proposal. All pay rises are to be expressed in real terms, i.e. how much actual money is being earned.

My second modest proposal. Percentages will be banned from inflation figures. Inflation is only allowed to be expressed in real terms, I.e. last year the price of petrol was X and this year it is Y – the percentage increase is both misleading and irrelevant, so just leave it out.

My third modest proposal. Having achieved the above, we work diligently to eliminate percentages from the rest of society. No more 50% Off sales. If your TV used to be 1000 pounds (allegedly) and is now 500 just rejoice you bought it and ask yourself, “Should I pity the oick who actually paid 1000 for it?”

No more Reduced by 30% signs – 30% of what?

The possibilities are almost endless and actually rather satisfying!

Think about it. You know it makes sense. I'm sure Del Boy would approve.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Diss, Diss, Diss - lexia


I compulsively sort out my papers. I find it relaxing. I take a pile of papers on my desk and go through them methodically and, maybe, find one or two I can throw away. Lest I be accused of some un-natural vice, I confess that this urge only happens occasionally.

Somehow I had mis-placed a very interesting article, “Dyslexia: a label to get you off the hook?” for about 18 months. Shame really. It's quite an interesting article and theory. Shuffling my papers reunited us.

I thought I would try to remember when I first heard the term, dyslexic. I think it might be in the 80's – maybe late 80's. I tried looking this up on Google but got nowhere. I did find that there are a lot of good folks trying to sell you aids guaranteed to help you overcome this affliction. There's clearly money to be made in dyslexia.

Not only money but also a lot of kudos. This is the main thesis of the article in question: dyslexia has become the educational lexicon replacement term for lazy, bone-idle, inattentive, gormless little nerk chiefly because it allows parents to medicalise Little Jimmy or Joanie's lack of academic progress and, therefore, gain extra advantages in the exam system.

I know this doesn't sound exactly earth-shattering and probably doesn't rival nuclear proliferation or climate change (another perhaps equally spurious label) as a threat to Western democratic society, but it does highlight an important sociological trend I have long identified and often regretted.

A few academics, St John-like, assert that dyslexia as a medical or psychological condition just doesn't exist. The insist that some children just don't read very well and for a variety of reasons, many of which are their own fault. The difficulty here is that parents believe that reading is an inherent pointer of native intelligence and, ergo, if their child is having difficulty reading they cannot be unintelligent, so they must have some medical problem.

Wrong on both counts.

Reading is not really allied to intelligence. Understanding and being able to make out what is read needs a lot of intelligence, just reading the words does not. Likewise, unless there is a problem with eyesight or some other physiological difficulty, there is no reason any child cannot learn to read adequately.

But, reading requires concentration and application. In my experience, these are what are lacking in “poor readers”. Children who have never been exposed to reading rather dislike it. Children who would rather watch television than read a book are in the majority. Children who clutch at the dyslexic straw are really quite clever.

At a stroke, they have satisfied Mum and Dad that it isn't really their fault that they are not doing very well in school, gained a life-long advantage over the rest of the population and ensured that they will be looked on with pity and sympathy for the remainder of their days. Good call.

I spent some time working for a Social Worker who was dyslexic. Most of what she wrote was gibberish, but her reading was really very good.

You figure.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Any Given Sunday

Chiefs pound Broncos

Avid readers waiting for me to comment on the “progress” of the K.C. Chiefs have been sorely disappointed so far this season.

Not surprising really after starting the season with three embarrassing defeats there was not much to write about. The manner of the defeats promised that a long and unfruitful season was likely to ensue.

The coaches and the management had already prepared the fans by “announcing” that this was a rebuilding year and a very much “a work in progress”. But, they didn't prepare the fans to be embarrassed or embittered. So after a respectable showing against New England the Chiefs sank without a trace against Oakland and Atlanta to move to 0-3. Carelessly they managed to lose a bunch of quarterbacks in the process. Heir apparent Brodie Croyle proved too fragile and was injured in game one. He may be back – but when is anyone's guess. Damon Huard started game two, got hurt, got his “head wrong” and refused to get back in the game – leaving rookie Tyler Thigpen to take the rap. Thigpen's reward? He got to start game three and was soon shown to be alarmingly frail and clearly not up to the job.

For game four, against the rampant Denver Broncos, it was back to Huard – with no real alternative. Denver were 3-0 and looking like sure-fire play-off contenders. The Chiefs had hit rock bottom and doubts were being expressed by the local media about Head Coach Herm Edwards' future prospects for employment Would the media and fans support him through an 0-16 season? Or, would his head have to roll to restore some credibility to the organisation?

In the event, neither scenario was needed.

The Chiefs discovered that Denver could neither run the ball or stop their opponents from doing so. They say stats don't lie and Denver were giving up shed-loads of yardage and first downs. Only their high-powered offence was prospering. Still, the supposedly infallible pundits on NFL Game Day were all in agreement – the Chiefs had no chance.

On game day the Chiefs gave the ball to running back Larry Johnson and he piled up nearly 200 yards. The defence, for once playing with the lead instead of catch-up, forced fumbles and intercepted passes. Special teams provided some field goals and respectable field position. In short, everything that had been going all wrong suddenly went all right.

From the Chiefs website:And D.J.L.J. was dancing in September thanks to his 198 yards rushing. Combined with a defensive effort that forced four turnovers and allowed the Denver offence just a single touchdown, the long nasty 12-game losing streak of the Chiefs came to an end.

The old adage, any given Sunday was proved right again.

Will the Chiefs go on to make the playoffs and post a winning season? Probably not, but in future years their resurgence will, no doubt, be clearly shown to have begun last Sunday at Arrowhead against the Broncos. We hope.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Cross of Gold

Our brows are being well and truly pressed!

I have mentioned three time very recently to some supposedly educated folks the famous “Cross of Gold” speech. I thought everyone knew about it.

As usual, I was wrong.

I am indebted to Andrew Sullivan, writing in the Sunday Times for reminding the rest of the illiterati about this most famous expression of the Populist movement in early 20th century America.

From the Sunday Times:

The result has been one of the most emphatic populist reactions in recent history. Not since the 1890s tub-thumper William Jennings Bryan have the “little people” expressed themselves so forcefully against what Bryan derided as “the few financial magnates who, in a back room, corner the money of the world”. In e-mails, faxes and phone calls, they too have told their congressmen: “You shall not press down upon the brow of labour this crown of thorns; you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”

It is worthwhile quoting Bryan more fully:

There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.

You come to us and tell us that the great cities are in favor of the gold standard. I tell you that the great cities rest upon these broad and fertile prairies. Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic. But destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.

My friends, we shall declare that this nation is able to legislate for its own people on every question without waiting for the aid or consent of any other nation on earth, and upon that issue we expect to carry every single state in the Union.

I shall not slander the fair state of Massachusetts nor the state of New York by saying that when citizens are confronted with the proposition, “Is this nation able to attend to its own business?”—I will not slander either one by saying that the people of those states will declare our helpless impotency as a nation to attend to our own business. It is the issue of 1776 over again. Our ancestors, when but 3 million, had the courage to declare their political independence of every other nation upon earth. Shall we, their descendants, when we have grown to 70 million, declare that we are less independent than our forefathers? No, my friends, it will never be the judgment of this people. Therefore, we care not upon what lines the battle is fought. If they say bimetallism is good but we cannot have it till some nation helps us, we reply that, instead of having a gold standard because England has, we shall restore bimetallism, and then let England have bimetallism because the United States have.

If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold standard as a good thing, we shall fight them to the uttermost, having behind us the producing masses of the nation and the world. Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.

Gosh, thanks – I never knew that. I'm just so glad you told me. Honest, I can hear you, dear reader, eulogising as you sip your pint.

What's this got to do with us?

Pretty much everything.

What Bryan was moaning about a hundred years ago is pretty much what the credit crunch is all about today. A bunch of merchant bankers ( and you may substitute the rhyming slang if you feel so inclined ) have stupidly, immorally, greedily and selfishly hijacked the banking system, got themselves in so deep they are having to suck air through straws and are desperate for the government, any government, to bail them out; and, preferably, in such a way so as they can keep their immoral earnings and their yachts

Now you understand the credit crunch, at least as well as most of the bankers do anyway.

Where this analysis falls down is in believing that it could be any other way. Bankers, like the rest of us, are greedy and amoral. To expect them to act like virtuous public servants in the face of massive bonus promises is like expecting St Joan to prostitute herself to hordes of English soldiers in the market place at Rouen. It just ain't going to happen and never was.

What is most refreshing is to hear the common folk of the USA berating their government for even considering a bail-out. Let them rot, or let them eat cake seems to be the vox populi.

Contrast this neatly with the spineless surrender of Gordo in dealing with the Bradford and Bingley fiasco and you have neatly added a codicil to Shaw's “two peoples divided by a common language” paradigm. My monies on the USA.

Unfortunately, the populists never win. Bryan was a serial candidate for President, but he never won and was reduced to pleading for a rejection of Evolution in the famous Scopes trial.

Likely the credit crunch will see Ol Dubbya slink off to his Presidential library having bankrupted the nation both in war and peace. Quite an achievement.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Donnie Hartman


Cyberspace is a strange world filled with unexpected and unknown thrills, excitement and, in many cases, disappointments.

I'm not a great surfer, either on the board, on the skate or on the net. I usually have a good idea of what I'm looking for and how to find it. Occasionally Google will throw up something unexpected, but I seldom flit about from site to site in classic surfing style.

I like to keep in touch with the home folks in Independence, Missouri by checking in on the Independence Examiner web site every so often. It's usually a five minute visit and a quick trawl through whatever seems interesting.

So, I was snooping about the other day and I saw one of their internet polls – you know the type – vote for your favourite local personality, singer, sports person. The Examiner were trying to find the most famous/best sports person ever from their readership. There were some nominations for professional baseball, football and other high-profile sports.

What caught my eye was the “blog” section at the bottom which asked readers to submit nominations. Someone had nominated Donald Hartman, who played basketball for Truman High School in the 1960's. I thought it odd at first that an “unknown” high school basketball player from the distant past would merit a mention in the most exalted company the Examiner readers could think of.

Then I remembered. I saw Donnie Hartman play basketball. I didn't know him personally, but we were only one year apart at school. He played basketball for Truman H.S. the year after the reorganisation of the Independence schools. He was,simply, one the best high school basketball players I ever saw.

Another light went on upstairs. I remembered that someone told me he was killed in Vietnam. Sure enough, if you Google “Donnie Hartman Vietnam “you will get:

There is a very nice tribute there from a pal who knew him in the Army. It's what you'd expect. What struck me was the unexpected.

He was in the 101st Airborne, and he was AUS. What that means is he was drafted. AUS stands for Army of the United States. If he was a volunteer, he would be RA (Regular Army) and not AUS. So, how did he get into the Airborne, which I believe was all volunteer? And, how did he get in the Army so soon? He was only 21. A note from his friend on his memorial page alludes to his basketball ability and tells that he went to college. Where? Why did he drop out? How did he end up in the Airborne? Who was his pal, Cliff? Who else remembers Donnie as an outstanding basketball player? Who, after all this time, remembered his talent so well as to nominate him as the best all-time Independence Examiner sports person? Does he still have family in Independence?

More questions that answers.

I remember Donnie Hartman. I wish I had known him better. Google can make you sad, though it is unintentional.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008


Get Real Sports Reporting

Two days in a row this week the front page of the EDP has been taken up entirely with the saga that is the Norwich City football club.

Never mind the stories themselves. What has me wondering is how the rest of the world copes without such riveting stuff to chew over.

And, it's not just the EDP. One night this week the lead story on the 6 o'clock News was the impending departure, or otherwise, of Kevin Keegan from Newcastle United.

What I wondered was this: are there no other stories which should be front page items? Is this really such a slow news week? Or, are the media just so lazy and ill-informed as to make real reporting too difficult and too time-consuming?

This week we have seen another hurricane hit the New Orleans area; the continuing Russian/Georgian conflict in that well-known flashpoint - the Balkans, the opening of the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis; the continuing credit crunch and any number of stories about the difficulties Gordon Brown and Alastair Darling are facing over the economy. All these have appeared in the news.

What I am asking is how can the comings and goings of football managers and the financial strength of Norwich City be front page news?

I had a quick check at the local media in Kansas City. The start of the NFL season is upon us. The sports page is full of news of the Chiefs. The front page is empty of idle, gormless speculation about who's in – who's out or who's up and who's down in the Chiefs' organisation.

Why should this be so? If you listen to the average man in the street they will gleefully assert that the Americans over-hype their sport. All the razzmatazz is across the pond. I've news. The UK media have overcome our trans-Atlantic cousins in the OTT stakes, by a long margin.

It's time that we gained some perspective in what's important and what's not. Sports fans should get to read about their team. It's on the back page.

Tomorrow's headline is already written. Delia has put another 2 million into the club to cover a (perceived) shortfall caused by the departure of the Turner money. That will make three days in a week when the EDP front page consists only of NCFC stories.

No, I have no inside info. But, remember, you heard it here first.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

V8 Milk Trucks

Italian Pots and Pans

My Dad was a milkman. For more than 40 years he was a milkman. What drove him mad were the folks who "cut him up". He took it very personally. He simply could not see that a slow-moving milk truck was always going to be passed by high-octane, high-velocity motor cars, and in the process some of them would cut it a bit close. It's just part of life.

Not in his book. It was personal.

So, one summer when I was about 19 he decided that he had had enough. He had the answer to what ailed him. He was going to install a Ford V8 to replace the rather sedate and frugal 4 cylinder that was standard equipment for Ford milk trucks. Money was no object and to hell with the environment - never mind the safety issues - for himself as well as pedestrians and other road users. It was going to happen.

Problem. The milk round is a six-day-a-week-job. How to remove a four cylinder Ford truck engine and replace it with the V8 all in one day? Not easy. Probably not even possible. Even the Old man could see that. Therefore, in his wisdom he decided to borrow another milk truck to do the round and work on the V8 conversion in the evenings. Should take a day or two, he thought.

I was instantly promoted to assistant motor mechanic and all-round dogsbody. My Mum made coffee.

To make things worse, I had recently taken a new job: washing dishes in an Italian restaurant. During the day I was attending classes at University. The plan was - OM does milk round for the day, comes home, gets to work on truck. I go to school, wash a mountain of dishes then come home and help him with the V8 conversion.

Sounds simple.

I confess I was not entirely convinced, but there was no stopping him. Alert readers may have noticed that there was no time for eating or sleeping built into his plan.

Day One

OM delivered milk. I went to school. OM came home and started removing old 4-cylinder Ford truck engine. I washed a mountain of dishes caked with pasta sauce. (I'll come to the pans later). I got home about 11:00 expecting to find the old engine laying in the driveway. It wasn't.

It sounds so easy to say "remove Ford engine". It's nowhere near that easy to do. Worked all night. OM's plan was to cut corners, as usual, by unbolting the engine from the gearbox and just removing the engine, leaving the gearbox in situ.

When we did, the gearbox fell down and hit the ground with a resounding thump. Fortunately, I was not underneath it at the time. Unfortunately, neither was the OM.

Still, we almost got the engine out. End of day one.

Day Two

OM delivered milk. I went to school. OM came home and carried on removing old 4-cylinder Ford truck engine. I washed a mountain of dishes caked with pasta sauce. About mid-night we got the engine out. Success. Now, we simply had to drop the V8 in, bolt it to the gearbox (remember it was laying on the driveway at this time) and do the peripherals, like fuel and electrical systems which may, or may not be compatible. Eventually managed to shoe-horn the V8 into the space allotted for a Ford 4 cylinder. End of day two. Not been to sleep yet.

Day Three

OM delivered milk. I went to school. OM came home and carried on installing Ford V8. I washed a mountain of dishes caked with pasta sauce. When I got home, the OM had just about managed to get the V8 in place and bolted to the engine mounts. Now, for the gearbox. Yes, that's the one laying on the driveway under the truck. Well, at least it was out of the rain. OM had rigged an ingenious system of hydraulic jacks and bricks to support the gearbox as we tried to get it up into position. It was slow going, but eventually we got it quite close. Now all we had to do was align the splines of the drive shaft with the clutch (through which it must pass) and bring the two essential parts of the drive train - the engine and gearbox - together. That took two days!

Day Four

OM delivered milk. I went to school. OM came home and carried on installing Ford V8. I washed a mountain of dishes caked with pasta sauce. No matter how hard we tried we could not get the splines to pass through the clutch and into the backplate where they belonged. We tugged. We pulled. We shoved. No go.

Oh yes, did I mention? The only functional way to achieve this precision manoeuvre was the OM laying on his back under the truck lifting and twisting the engine (any idea what a Ford truck engine weighs – even when most of the weight is being taken by the jacks?) whilst I attempted to do the same from inside by holding the gear lever and using it as a tool to move the gearbox. Probably not in the Ford workshop manual. Eventually we got it just sufficiently on to get one of the bell-housing bolts to start in its thread, then another one, then a third, By carefully tightening them one by one, eventually we got the shaft to pop into place. Hurrah! End of day four.

Day Five

OM delivered milk. I went to school. OM came home and carried on installing Ford V8. I washed a mountain of dishes caked with pasta sauce. Did I mention no sleep in four full days? Actually I was feeling quite good. In a bit of a daze, a bit of a haze but strangely not really tired. And on the fifth day we got the engine and the gearbox in. It was in the early hours, but it was in. I freely confess I'd had it by then. I quit. OM carried on until the dawn's early light when I saw him standing by the side of the truck with a few bits of carburettor linkage in his hand. I'll never forget this scene. OM with “extra bits” in his hand. OM looks at the linkage and says, soto voce, “Now, if I put this SOB there and this SOB over there . . .” Eventually he gave up, threw the “extra” bits away and started it up. It ran. I'd like to say I was surprised but by then I just didn't care.

OM was ecstatic. As it was time to start the milk round, off he went. I went to bed and didn't surface for about 18 hours.


After some time spent barrelling around at breakneck speed and frightening the life out of anyone so timorous as to even attempt to overtake him, the OM's Ford V8 Milk truck blew up, scattering bits of metal and oil all over the tarmac.

Poetic justice I'd say.

p.s. I promised to get to the pots and pans in an Italian restaurant. I left a perfectly good job at a fast food restaurant (not McDonald's) because my sister said she could get me the dish washing job in the Italian restaurant she waitresed in. It paid another 15 cents an hour. She didn't tell me that I was the only dishwasher. So, all the dishes from lunch-time were neatly stacked for me when I got there about 4 in the afternoon. When I waded through them, I was just about ready to start on the evening dishes which had been neatly piling up. Finally I could get to the pots and pans about 9 at night By comparison, pulling back sink at KP in the Army was easy. Italian sauces stick to the bottom of pans like Teflon. And this was before Teflon had been invented! Worst job I ever had, but, at least I was able to claim membership in the Ancient Order of Pearl Divers – the unofficial trade organisation of all dishwashers.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

NCFC Shenanigans

Delia's True Colours

Fantastic shenanigans at Norwich City! Fans are finally beginning to see that the club is not being run as a kind of “Let's be having you” frolic, but rather as a money-making concern.

Meanwhile, the club still thinks that investing in players that might actually improve the team is an anathema. Brainlessly the EDP runs story after story about this player or that player who may or may not be available or may or may not sign for NCFC. Eventually they manage to get one of the minor, bit-part players from a failing Championship club and proclaim that things are looking up!

It really would make a grown man cry.

What's new is that the fans are beginning to get smart to Delia's real agenda. They are wondering how a club which cannot afford to sign any players can be worth 64 million pounds!

That's a good question.

Fans are getting tired of the Delia line as promulgated by that arch-bean counter Neil Doncaster. Either the club is being run as a local charity and St Delia is it's saviour – providing money like manna from heaven or it is really a business and able to afford to invest in assets, I.e. players. That's what this is all about.

Football is a business. So, along comes a businessman who wants to invest in the club. It's not as simple as “here's a load of money” - there are strings attached. This is not unusual, for businessmen don't often lob millions of quid around without some say in what it's going to be used for.

What's Delia's response? Nothing. Pretend it doesn't exist and maybe it will go away.

Don't look now but St Delia's halo is slipping.

In the latest development it appears that maybe Delia will meet with the potential investor after all. Why? It's not hard to figure. The hostile press and fans. Supporters are drooling at the prospect of real money to buy real players. Delia will have to deal with this.

My prediction? Delia will manage to side-step the issues and repulse any take-over bid. The question is why? The answer is money. If you doubt it just remember the furore that ensued when the list of profitable football clubs was recently published and NCFC was on it. Doncaster nearly died! Next day the press was full of his protestations of outrage that anyone should assert that Norwich City actually made money. Spin – spin – spin – his head must go round like a top by now.

In a sense he is right. As long as the morons who are now questioning Delia credentials to run the club keep trooping through the Carrow Road turnstiles not much is going to change.

That's a fact.

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Strangely Out of Touch

Somewhere along the way I got lost.

Or, the world has gone one way and I went the other – rather like the road less travelled.

The media is now and has been for some time deluging us with images and statistics about China – chiefly as a focus on issues of global warming and the worsening economic situation. We are told that the Chinese are building coal-fired power stations faster than we build houses and the entire western economic prosperity has been built on the back of cheap good imported from China.

When did the Chinese stop being coolies?

What I know about China I learned from books and other media. The Good Earth - Pearl Buck – describes vividly the life of the Chinese peasant in the 1930's and neatly encapsulates my early understanding of Chinese culture. They are a bunch of fairly cultured peasants.

Films like 30 Seconds Over Tokyo – 1944 encapsulates the Chinese integration into the Second World War. Suddenly they became “good guys”- helping the downed American pilots to evade capture by the dastardly Japs. Still, the scenes in China are very “Good Earth-ish” - full of peasants and steeped in the poverty of the people.

Moving on to The Bridges at Toko Ri (1954) we find the Chinese had also moved on into bogeyman country. Now they are the “Yellow Peril” and the faceless Communist ideologues being battled by the brave men of the US Navy. Still, the emphasis is on the backwardness of the Chinese and their powerlessness in the face of superior western technology – in the form of F86's.

Even In MASH the Chinese are seen as an afterthought and incidental to the real concerns of the stories. They are still illiterate peasants governed by Chairman Mao's Little Red Book.

In the Vietnam Era China was viewed with hostility and suspicion. It was assumed that they were supplying and encouraging other slant-eyed peasants, the Vietnamese, to enable them to attack the US on the periphery. Importantly, they are still viewed as peasants – if only by proxy.

Then I must have missed something. After Tiananman Square when the Chinese Old Guard jealously defended their right to rule the masses and the peaceful hand over of Hong Kong, China changed and nobody told me.

Everywhere you look China is rather like us. Chinese cities which were described as cess-pits in The Good Earth are now progressive, cosmopolitan and modern. The hordes of mindless, moronic, automatons aimlessly charging the massed machine guns in Korea are now driving cars on modern roads with Western infrastructure evident in every photogenic shot. Mao is now a quaint old guy whose Long March is viewed as a kind of cultural pilgrimage instead of a Communist ideologue and the architect of human rights abuses that make Sadly Insane look like a saint.

I must be getting old.

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