Saturday, December 18, 2010

More Than Rough Justice

Skidmore style.

I am a law-abiding citizen. Always have been – mostly. Better get that one out of the way first.

This case raises some interesting scenarios.

“A father whose daughter was knocked down and killed by a failed Iraqi asylum seeker slammed British justice today after the asylum seeker was allowed to permanently stay in the UK.

Banned driver Aso Mohammed Ibrahim, 33, left Amy Houston, 12, to die under the wheels of his Rover car and fled the scene following the accident.

But the Iraqi Kurd was today told he can stay in Britain after judges said deporting the dad of two would breach HIS human rights following a seven-year legal battle.

They ruled that as Ibrahim has married an English woman and had two children since the 2003 accident, his right to family life under the Human Rights Act meant he must stay in the UK — despite having a string of criminal convictions.

Today Amy's furious dad Paul slammed the decision as "perverse" and a "joke".

Engineer Paul, 41, from Darwen, Lancs, said: "What do you have to do to be deported? For seven years he has fought it and used every trick in the book to stay in the UK.

I'm really furious. I don't understand how he can be allowed to stay here after killing my daughter. He shouldn't be allowed to stay.

It shows what a sad state of affairs the country is in.

I've been battling for justice on my own for years now and what for? It has been for nothing. This is a perversity of our society. The whole country should be disgusted.

Basically what the judges are saying is that it doesn't matter how you act when you come here. You can kill, break the laws of the land but so long as you have a child when in the UK you can stay.

I work hard, play by the rules, pay my taxes and this is how I get treated. What does that say about politicians, our leaders and the legal system? It's a joke."

Judges sitting at the Upper Tribunal of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber in Manchester rejected a final appeal by the UK Border Agency to have Ibrahim deported.

Ibrahim, who has convictions for drugs possession, burglary, harassment, criminal damage and theft along with a string of driving convictions, killed Amy in November 2003 after running off from the scene of the accident while she was stuck under the wheels of his car.

She was rushed to hospital but her dad was forced to turn off her life support machine after doctors told him she would never recover.

Since then Paul has campaigned for Ibrahim to be kicked out the country and begged judges at a recent deportation hearing to bring "my seven years of hell to an end" by sending the monster back to Iraq.

He added: "All he is is a criminal. He was before he killed Amy and he will continue to be one.

The Human Rights Act is for everybody, not just asylum seekers and terrorists. It just seems to be used to allow people to get what they want.

He says if he was deported he would be deprived of his right to a family life?

The only person deprived of a family life is me. Amy was my only family. He took that from me."

In a final plea to two senior immigration judges, Paul, who is divorced from Amy's mother, wrote: "Amy was my only child... due to medical reasons I am unable to have any more children.

Amy was and is my family, so my point is, it is my right to a family life that has been deprived and not Mr Ibrahim's.”

"Mr Ibrahim claims to be a family man but if it's your actions that define who you are and not your words, then offences for possession of drugs, burglary, harassment, damage to property and theft as well as driving convictions and my daughter's death, you could argue that Mr Ibrahim is a negative influence as a role model as a father.

"I cannot understand by letting Mr Ibrahim remain in the UK what benefits he could bring to society.

"Had he shown some real remorse for what he had done and not committed any more crimes, I could accept that this was just an accident.

"On the evening of November 23 2003 Mr Ibrahim struck Amy, he didn't kill her outright, she was still conscious.

"She was fully aware what was happening around her even though she had the full weight of the engine block of the car on top of her, she was crying because she was frightened and in a lot of pain ... he could have at least tried to help.

"Amy suffered for six hours before the doctors advised me to switch off the life support machine ... it was highly unlikely she would survive and if she was to live would be a 'cabbage'.

"The image of Amy taking her final breath, dying a foot away from me as I sat by her bedside holding her hand praying for a miracle will stay with me till the day I die.

"If the Human Rights Act is about fairness, then it must have balance. What about Amy's right to life under the act?

"Today you have the power to bring my seven years of hell to an end; you can bring closure and justice.

"You can stop Mr Ibrahim from destroying anybody else's life as he destroyed mine but most of all you can bring balance to the Human Rights Act.

"You can show the world that this act is not just for criminals, failed asylum seekers and terrorists but for everybody in society because without balance there is no justice."

Lawyers for Ibrahim argued that his human rights would be impinged if he was sent back to Iraq.”

On the surface, it is very difficult not to be sympathetic with the family of this little girl. I am sympathetic. But, things are not as easy or as straight-forward in this case – as in life.

My first reaction was to consider this famous case:

Human nature being what it is, the idea of revenge against someone who has decimated your family is understandable. Sympathy for the victims of crime is understandable. Amy's Dad's frustrations and anger is understandable. His desire for some sort of retribution is understandable.

Crucially, these two scenarios, whist seemingly parallel, are not. On the one hand a foolish, irresponsible, negligent driver has run over a little girl. This is a human tragedy – made seemingly worse by his subsequent attempts to evade responsibility by failing to stop at the scene. This is deplorable. But, is it criminal? Yes. Is it murder, as in the Skidmore case? No, it is not.

Our sympathies for Amy's family should not extend to retribution simply because the perpetrator is an Iraqi asylum-seeker. Depriving his family of their husband/father is not going to bring Amy back. Dad's call for punishment does not, on examination, fit the crime.

However, should Ibrahim's situation change then the law should look at the changes in circumstances and act accordingly – to the point of throwing him out if that is warranted.

In Missouri, justice is sometimes easier to judge. There but for the grace go I. I think I might have cheerfully joined in with the Skidmore vigilantes. I would be very tempted to tell the media that despite rulings otherwise I would definitely kill anyone who did such to any of mine.

It's a fine line.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Parachute Payments

Wierdo MP's are the norm when parachuted into safe seats.

There is with regularity entertainment to be had in the media when they document the various affairs of elected representatives. For sheer entertainment value it's had to beat.

When Joe Public learns that his local MP is variously a serial womaniser, a Russian spy, a bi-sexual adulterer or just plain odd in the head, should they be surprised? I think not for the system is designed to produce just the sort of folk who think any of the above afflictions is really par for the course.

The examples from the last 20 to 30 years are legendary. I distinctly remember that dope who unseated Michael Portillo ( not my favourite guy, but certainly a serious politician ) standing on the platform looking completely bewildered when the result was announced. Not surprising as even he was amazed that he won. After all I'm sure the party only put him forward as a candidate to annoy some local politician who should have got the nod but was blocked because he was simply too safe and sane. The look on this guys face ( Stephen Twigg was his name and he is still an MP I was amazed to learn ) was incredulity bordering on insanity. Priceless.

Why does this happen so often. Are the electorate so stupid as to vote for any ass the party might put up? Actually, pretty much the answer is yes.

The other answer is that the system is designed to produce the most unctuous toady possible and rewards the loser with the most stamina.

How do I know this?


My prime example is Michael Carttiss. Wikipedia tell us “Michael Reginald Harry Carttiss (born 11 March 1938) is a British Conservative Party politician. He was Member of Parliament (MP) for Great Yarmouth from 1983 until his defeat in 1997 by Labour's Anthony Wright.

Carttiss was born and brought up in his future constituency and worked as a teacher in a local secondary school. He was the full time agent for Anthony Fell from 1969, and was elected to Norfolk County Council in 1966. In 1973 Carttiss was elected to Great Yarmouth Borough Council and became its Leader from 1980 to 1982.

In Parliament Carttiss allied with the right and was a loyal supporter of Margaret Thatcher. During the debate on a motion of no confidence a few hours after Thatcher had announced her resignation as Prime Minister on 22 November 1990, his loud shout of encouragement to her to cancel her decision because "You can wipe the floor with these people!" was clearly audible and is recorded in Hansard. Indeed, immediately after the remark, on television, Thatcher is seen to acknowledge him by looking back at him and bowing.

However, Carttiss found life under her successor John Major less easy. He was a strong eurosceptic and disliked the provisions of the Maastricht Treaty, voting against them frequently in early 1993. When he voted against the European Communities (Finance) Bill in November 1994, he was one of eight Conservative MPs to have the Conservative whip withdrawn. It was restored in April 1995.

Following his defeat Carttiss went back onto Norfolk County Council from 2001, and was made Vice-Chairman of the Council in 2006. He represents the West Flegg division.”

What this fails to mention is that: 1) he was the worst teacher in the world according to anyone who knew him during his time at the Oriel High School in Gorleston - 2) that he spent his formative parliamentary years as Conservative agent for Sir Anthony Fell – and 3) that he was a complete pain to the Conservatives after the demise of Maggie Thatcher by becoming an arch-rebel.

What Wikipedia doesn't mention is that Carttiss spent 20 odd years “stalking” the Yarmouth seat, has no real experience of real life and is still ponceing around as a local politician. And whilst he is no doubt not the worst parliamentarian ever he is a classic role model for anyone who aspires to a political career and is fairly much divorced from real life.

He is, in short, the very quintessential politician.

There is no doubt that in the higher echelons of Parliament there are some excellent and fairly normal fellows. The other 4 or 5 hundred are mostly Michael Carttiss behave-a-likes. That is what the system is designed to produce.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Royal Weddings

Cameron Smacks Lips!

A real cynic (me included) could hardly contain themselves - as David Cameron could hardly contain himself when announcing the forth-coming royal nuptials.

He must have thought all his Christmases had come, and come very early!

A real cynic might even have wondered if their wasn't some Prime-Ministerial connivance with the interested parties? After all, this joyous occasion could not only bury any bad news the government wishes, but also provide a much needed kick start to the economy and a rise in the feel-good factor by a factor of mucho!

Nobody does it better. When it comes to a royal occasion England just can't be beaten. And, the sequence is getting more and more interesting and crowded. Summer 2011, Royal Wedding, Summer 2012, London Olympics. Summer 2012, Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Bonanza for whoever is in government at the time. Cammi-knickers must be licking his lips at the prospect – remember what a fine job the Falklands War did of securing a Conservative majority for beyond a decade. All that's missing is a resurgent NUM for the Tories to persecute and it just could not get better!


I'm not one for indiscriminate betting, but the bookies may have taken a pasting on the date – it's in April whereas they had August as the favourite.


Everybody and their uncle will be trying to find out the details. And, the bookies will take a bet on anything!


One bishop has already resigned for suggesting the marriage won't last. My bets on the Archbishop of Canterbury.


Prince Harry is a certainty – even though he is the spiting image of Hewitt.


News is that the Middletons are involved in the cost – I expect they will provide the dress (perhaps with a donation from Wills.


Odds on a nine-month pregnancy and a baby in January 2012 must be very short – get your bets down now. I expect the Queen's gyno will have already certified the ladies fitness for child-bearing, though expecting her to be a virgin is definitely out.

King Wills?

Not a starter. Despite all the polls saying he'd be better than Charlie, it is not something even remotely possible – barring an early Alzheimers onset for the old Prince of Wales.

Overall Verdict

A cracker. We may all need cheering up as the cuts bite hard. Excellent timing for the Government.


Thursday, November 18, 2010


Not long ago, ah, if I could measure time in my present condition,

I was meandering along with millions of other incomplete incubi

Pretty much looking for romance

And not finding it.

I found the other half and tried tantalisingly to get in

But with little success

For the competition was fierce

And there was no way to sort the wheat from the chaff

It was all a bit of a lottery

Darwin's crap about survival of the fittest

Just doesn't work down at this level

Where a chance encounter with an egg is all that matters

The window is small in time and space

The reward seems infinite and immortal

To the winner a life well worth living

To the loser a quick wipe followed by a flush to oblivion

A lot of trouble to make a chromosome

Thursday, October 28, 2010

South of Thickthorn - again

South of Thickthorn – the end is nigh – or is it?

The most entertaining anecdote in Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island occurs when he discusses the English preoccupation with roads and their preoccupation with the best way to get from one place to another. For anyone who has ever been regaled by the locals encyclopedic knowledge of the road network this is a must read. It reminds me of the apocryphal Irish story of the local Paddy who when asked how to get to Carrickfergus replied, “Sure, I wouldn't start from here.”

In a self-congratulatory wave of over optimistic balderdash, the EDP announced that the government had at last agreed that despite the desperate economic times, the remaining stretch of the A11 south of Thickthorn would be dualled; thereby finally linking Norwich with the rest of the world. Whiskey, foxtrot, zulu!

Let us leave for a moment the drip drip drip of irony so thick it makes molasses in January seem positively runny and rejoice!

Wait a minute – let's not crack the champagne quite just yet.

With considerably less fanfare and with a complete lack of journalistic integrity, the EDP soon announces that the construction work is unlikely to start before 2012-13. Ministers, when quizzed, confirm that the money to dual is definitely committed, but not quite so committed that it is actually available. Confused? You ought not be. Governments are very good at dissembling information with enough caveats to make the average football manager seem positively erudite and the epitome of linguistic elegance.

Amidst all the balderdash has anyone actually noticed that this “battle” was lost over 30 years ago when some eejit decided that the M11 should go from London to Cambridge – despite the fact that the A11 goes from London to Norwich. With a stroke of the bureaucratic pen, Norwich was condemned to sit on the side lines and wait for a government hand out in order to get a descent road link. Hello – we're still waiting!! To add insult to injury Look East reports on a new link road to provide fast access from a Cambridge business park to the M11!! Where are the reporters asking how money can be found for this, yet the A11 will have to wait? Call themselves journalists?

I can see Rivers of Blood as the A11 money (yes, it's definitely committed says the Minister over and over again and again) is pushed further and further into the future – perhaps till after the next general election when, low and behold, certain facts will have come to light which were not available when the original decision was taken and must be investigated thoroughly with another public inquiry which can not possibly report until 2014-15 – but the money is definitely committed, says the Minister. Ad nauseum.

So, where do we go from here?

Probably nowhere, slowly.

Suggest you get Bill Bryson's book and have a good read.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Winning isn't everything - it's the only thing!

Chiefs must get offence untracked soon!!

Chiefs 3-0 – and ugly. And probably lucky as well. Defence excellent – special teams awesome – offence almost non-existent.

Rookie tight-end Tony Moeaki is the leading receiver. Running game is very good to excellent.

So, where's the problem?

Simple – one word (actually two) QB. Unless the Chiefs can get the passing game untracked, their good start will be for nought! You can't win in the NFL unless you can pass the football - unless you are the Baltimore Ravens and your QB is Trent Dilfer.

Where do we go from here?

It's unpopular, but it's probably more to due with the coaches than the players. Chiefs QB, Matt Cassell, is not making plays – that's for sure. But, what plays are being sent in? Is he failing to execute, or is he just not getting the right calls from the side-lines? Reading his comments on the Chiefs web site you'd be excused for thinking he's putting up all-pro numbers. He's all smiles and all enthusiastic. What he needs now is a good game with big numbers.

So, after all the gloom the Chiefs run into the Colts and actually do quite well, but they lose. Why? See above. With the defence making Manning look almost ordinary and the running game operating well it only took some spark from Cassell and a famous victory would have been there for the taking.

So, what went wrong? Cassell. Cassell. Cassell. Although he didn't get much help from his receivers (surely they can't keep dropping easy catches forever, can they?), the truth is commentators are already questioning his ability to be an NFL quarterback. The Brodie Croyle mob will be unpacking their knives and sharpening them in the garage soon.

Cassell has a few more chances – but only a few – starting today at Houston. If the rest of the team fires as it has been and he can't move the offence, then his time is running out faster than a pig with diarrhoea!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Roof Roof

Brave New World

I can't get into the lifts at the Norfolk and Norwich without saying silently to myself, “Roof, Roof.”

Sometimes I say it aloud if there is no-one with me and the doors are closed.

I'm remembering the phrase in Huxley's Brave New World where the lift reaches the top and the Epsilon minus Sub Moron opens the door and says in awe, “Roof, Roof” and the last “Roof” is measured in ecstasy.

Now-a-days we have canned voices instead of Epsilon minus Sub Morons, but the effect is the same. When the metallic voice says, “Going up” it is mimicking Huxley and commenting, no matter how incapable of thought, on the futility of man and his machines. Huxley would surely approve.

Lifts, or elevators, can be funny things. At the N&N we have two lifts side by side just outside the ward. Strangely, they don't act the same, as you might expect from inanimate objects. They have, instead, minds of their own. The one on the right (as you face them) is much quicker than the other one. It even responds to the buttons on the control panel. You can get in, hit the door close button and the floor required, and it speeds off in the correct direction – without so much as a “Roof, Roof”.

The one on the left, by contrast does none of these things. You press the buttons and it just sits there as if it is saying, “Sod off, I ain't ready!” Eventually it goes, when it gets good and ready. It also makes mistakes. These can be quite disconcerting.

You get in. You press the button for floor three. It eventually goes, but (and I have heard and seen this, honest) when it gets to the third floor, the voices says, “Second Floor!”


I didn't like the lifts at the Sears Tower in Chicago. They have an express lift that takes you to the 88th floor in about 30 seconds. And, there is no real sense of acceleration. I'm thinking Twilight Zone.

Oh, Brave New World!

Chiefs Prospects 2010

The season officially got under way yesterday when the Chiefs took on the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Score: 20-10 to the Falcons.

The important thing is how have the Chiefs strengthened their team in the off-season and what are the prospects for some improvement this year?

Looking at the game in some detail and comparing the performances with the areas that need improvement should give us an indication of any progress.

At QB, Matt Cassel fumbled once. Brodie Croyle led one good 70 yard drive, but also had an interception. Tyler Palko was intercepted, but went on to lead a fourth quarter scoring drive. Verdict: not much to cheer about.

At running back Jamal Charles and rookie Dexter McCluster both had productive games.

Javier Arenas, rookie, had two excellent punt and kick off returns.

Defence held it's own.

Should we start to plan a Super Bowl Party? Bit early to say but the indications are positive (from very little evidence). Advice: don't book any hotel rooms just yet!

So, what is the purpose of the pre-season games? In one word – 53.

Players will be evaluated now on game performances not just practice. For example, Rookie free agent Jeremy Horne apparently got open deep twice but the QB's were unable to find him. For a rookie free agent this is a disaster! Maybe the coaches will see the fact that he got open as making him worthy of a roster spot. Maybe not. He should be paying the QB's to throw him the ball! That's the only way he makes the team – unless he's dynamite on special teams!

The pre-season is all about making the team, and it's not just the rookies. Some veteran players are sure to be released as well.

After just one game the players return to practice, knowing that one of their chances to get an NFL pay day is gone. This should focus the attention.

Next game – 21 Aug at Tampa Bay. Expect the coaches to go all out to win. Losing becomes a habit and they will want to stop losing. Expect some starters to play almost a half. For rookies, the time to impress is running out.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Neander Chavs

I had a good plan last Sunday. I needed to go to Tesco and get the things for the cricket tea and, using my valuable 5p off voucher, get some petrol at the same time.

Tesco actually open at 10:00 on Sunday to abide by the trading laws, but they allow you to enter the store at 09:30 to fill your trolley. The check-outs don't function till 10.

So, off I went.

I got to Tesco about 10 to 10. I thought I'd get the petrol first.

Petrol stations are un-nerving places – particularly Tesco's. First you have to choose your queue having mind which side of the car the filler cap is on. I can never really remember. Then you have to guess which queue is likely to progress soonest. It's hard to guess. The people are inevitably un-helpful. That's the customers I'm talking about; I'll get to the staff later.

I suggest you get down to your local Tesco petrol station and make a short documentary film. You could call it “Anti-Social Dimwits”. Quite catchy I think. People are in front of you in the queue. I accept that. But, often the car in front is populated by idiots. Watch them and see if I'm exaggerating. They dawdle, oblivious to anyone else. They fill the tank. They saunter off towards the shop. They see their mate and stop for a chat. They pick up a bottle of coke and a Mars bar. They finally get in the queue. They reach the front. They seem genuinely amazed that they have to pay for the petrol. They fumble for their wallet/purse. They can't find their Tesco Club Card. The decide they need a bag of crisps as well and go back and get one.

And what are the people in the queue doing? Nothing. Sorry, not nothing – they are wondering where Dippy is!

Eventually they appear and, after a momentary pause whilst they wipe the drool from their lip, they start towards their car. Sometimes they go to the wrong car and gormlessly grin, excuse themselves and make their way to the clapped out Mini they came in.

Then the real fun begins. They stow their provisions on the front seat. They adjust their mirrors. They roll up (or down) the window. They exchange words with any passengers. You see the rear stop light come on as they switch on the ignition with their foot firmly on the brake pedal – as if they are afraid the beast will leap off all on its own. Finally, they start the car. You'd expect it to move; often it doesn't. They switch off and go back to the shop. They have forgotten to buy breath mints. Finally they leave.

Sometimes the car at the front pump has already left and, if you can, you manoeuvre past the troglodytes to the other pump. These are satisfyingly rare moments. I almost managed this on Sunday – except Dippy had parked too far from the pump and just as I was about to set off for the front pump Dopey pulls up to the pump on he left in his van. Not enough room.

I put in petrol. I pay for it. I leave. It really is quite simple.

It's now about 10:10. Tesco's car park is full. Can someone tell me what these Drongos are doing in Tesco's on Sunday morning at 10? Are they insane? I'm just trying to get some stuff for the cricket tea!

I find a spot half a mile from the store. I manage to get a trolley. I make it to the front of the store. Neander-Chav has beaten me by three paces.

There he is. The sun is shining for the first time this spring. It's actually pleasantly warm. Neander-Chav has taken it upon himself to declare UDD – Unilateral Dumbo Day. He got his tank top on so the tasteless tattoos on his arms and shoulders are impossible to ignore. He's got his best Bermuda shorts on – you know – the ones he always wears on holiday at Clacton. Mrs Neander Chav and the little 'uns are with him.

You have to see Mrs Neander Chav to believe her. Her make-up is an inch thick. Her blue eye shadow tastefully matches her skimpy blue dress, which rides up when she reaches for the bag of Mars Bars so you can see the thong strap between her bum cheeks. You feel the need to throw up! (Recent scientific discoveries seem to support the idea that early man did, indeed, mate with Neanderthals and some Neanderthal genes are still in the human gene pool – it is certainly possible that one might jump on Mrs Neander Chav, but some sort of pre-historic drugs would be necessary first!)

Whilst the kids run about the shop causing mayhem, Neander and Mrs Chav split up so they can shop in a dually obnoxious manner.

I rush about Tesco and fill my trolley with the essentials for cricket tea.

I make it to the check-out.

A fairly normal-looking chap is in front of me buying vast quantities of drink – among other things. The check-out assistant reaches the last item, which is some sort of Gillette razor in one of those packs that have a security tag attached. Razor blades? Crown Jewels? No, razor blades?

He's got a coupon for a few pence off the razor blades. He give it to the assistant. She informs him that it's the wrong blades for the coupon. If he wants to save a few pence he needs to get another kind of Gillette blade. Absolute magic!

So, he says to the check-out pillock that he will pay for his groceries, go to the customer services and get the correct Gillette item and use his coupon there.

Unbelievably she says, “Oh no, just go back and get the right one and bring it here.”

Right. We're in check-out aisle 27 and the razor blades are on aisle 2. The store has filled up to bursting point with more Neander Chavs and their drooling kids. Super Numptie heads off. We, in the queue, amazed, just stand there staring at the check-out operator.

More than a few minutes go by.

We stand and wait.

He returns with correct Gillette packet, pays, mumbles some kind of “sorry” and leaves.

Check-out operator gives us a cheerful, “Sorry you had to wait” and starts on my bit of the conveyor.

I pay. I head for the car. I get out of Tesco car park as fast as practicable.

I'm having a bad day – a really bad day. We lose the cricket match.

I'm not surprised.

Monday, May 17, 2010

In the News

From Manchester to Barbados to Arrowhead

Down at Arrowhead the troops arrived to begin OTA's (organised team activities). For those not in the know, the difference between OTA's and training camp is only on the calendar. Although OTA's are officially voluntary, almost everyone turns up in some form or another. The Chief's rookies because they have to convince the coaches they are worth a spot on the roster and the veterans because they have to convince the coaches they are worth a spot on the roster. Simple!

Meanwhile, before football takes over completely, the round-ball experts from Manchester United will be visiting the re-vamped stadium to play the KC Wizards on 25 July. Tickets are from 10 bucks to 200. I suspect the paying public of KC don't realise that in a World Cup year it is very unlikely MU will bring anything like a full squad. In particular, the England World Cup players will be on holiday, no matter how well they do in South Africa. Still, it is a chance to show the KC public what they are missing. Answer? Not a lot.

Back at Arrowhead there are some interesting battles looming for starting positions. In the DB's it seems very unlikely that Number One pick Eric Berry will not get one of the starting safety spots – barring injury of course. You don't draft a top player to sit him on the bench and play special teams. There will be pressure on the others to step up and secure one of the other three starting spots. Suddenly the Chiefs looks solid at this ultra-important position!

Down at my target position, wide receiver, Dexter McCluster seems destined to be a big-time player – or a complete flop. I expect the KC sports writers are drooling over the prospect that he is another Reggie Bush. If he is then it's happy days! Remember, he's a rookie. The running backs look good and solid. With Colin Brown returning from injury there should be real competition in the O-line.

So, where are the problems? Line-backers. Chiefs have too many and they are not all well-versed in the 3-4. Noises are being made to shift Glen Dorsey to nose-tackle. I'm against it. Actually, I'm not a great Dorsey fan full stop. I expect the Chiefs to keep close tabs on any line-backers, well-versed in the 3-4, who may become available – either as un-drafted or released rookies or available veterans.

Also, believe it or not, at QB. This is the year Todd Haley and Co. must see some improvement from Matt Cassel. They passed up on some promising QB's coming out of college. They have banked on Cassel doing his bit. Given a better offensive line and some receivers who can catch the ball and run with it and an improved running game – it's going to be hard to pin losses anywhere else. It's pay-back time for Matt – or it's Adios!

Finally, England finally won a one-day trophy and smashed the Aussies in the process! Looks like the umpires (chiefly that clown Doctrove) got some things wrong to the detriment of Australia, but that's the breaks. England's decision to bowl first was inspired. The old adage that first you think about batting first, then you think again, then you bat clearly didn't apply this time. By putting the Aussie openers under pressure, England were always in the driving seat. It's always good to win, but lets not get carried away. 20-20 is not really cricket as we know it. But, it's always good to win. Can England use Kieswetter and Eoin Morgan in a “real” game? Why not? Time will tell.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Hung Out to Dry

Gordo, Cammy, Cleggie

The people have spoken. Unfortunately, they have spoken with a forked tongue.

Gordo has probably had it. Cammy is on the phone to the removal folks, but can't give them a date to get his stuff. Clegg with the extra leg is morosely holding the wolf by the ears and dare not let go.

Analysis. Gordo will have to go. Why? Nobody except Gordo thinks he can do a deal that leaves him occupying Number 10. Nobody except Gordo even wants him to. He's finished, but does that mean that the Labour Party under another leader is also finished? That's not clear. It's possible that another Labour leader could emerge who could work with the Lib Dems. It's possible, but it would have to happen very fast. Like now.

Cammy looks like he's in a good spot. He's not. He didn't win. There was a big swing to the Tories but not big enough. He can make a case for almost enough MP's but, as the old saying goes, “Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” Some commentators even keep repeating the falsehood that he won the popular vote. He didn't. More people voted for other parties than voted for him. He also must get into government at almost any price. Anything less and his days are numbered, and the number is very small.

Clegg with the extra leg looks like he in the strongest position of the three. He's actually in the worst! His vote may have held up but he lost a crucial number MP's in the election. He's not even holding a convincing balance of power. His shibboleth of proportional representation looks as far away as it ever was. His room for manoeuvre is very small.

So, where do we go from here?

That, as they say, is the 64,000 dollar question.

Pundits are adamant that a Lib Dem/Conservative is most likely. I think the pundits are wrong. Clegg has only one chance to get some sort of proportional representation and this is it. If he bottles it now – he's had it for the opportunity may never arise again. The Tories will never agree to PR. They know it would mean a permanent Lib/Lab majority. Cammy could not agree. If the Labour Party can ditch Gordo fast, and are serious about offering PR Clegg could not resist the temptation to have a go. If it all went pear-shaped he could at least say, “I tried.” It's hard to see any other win-win situation for him. A deal with the Tories without something akin to PR will so anger the activists that he might have to resign.

Get to the bookies and bet on a Lab/Lib Dem deal.

That's my best bet.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Picking the Right Stuff

Hang on to your tomahawk!

As we approach the annual slug-fest that is the NFL draft, the KC Chiefs appear to be sitting pretty with the number five pick.

Would that it were so easy.

For months I've been willing the Chiefs to draft the top line-backer available at number five. None of the the professional scenarios are with me on that one.

Thomas Jones, Casey Wiegmann and Ryan Lilja all arrived on the offensive side of the ball in free agency. This is a departure from usual Chief's tactics and has pleased the fans no end. But, with the offence being strengthened will the folks who are supposed to know (Coach and GM) then go for a defensive player in Round One?

Early in the process it was mooted that Eric Berry – Safety from Tennessee was a sure fire pick for the Chiefs at five. Now, nobody is quite sure. Apparently the draft is deep and some very good players (including safeties) might be still on the board in round two. Chiefs might pass on making a rookie safety a number one pick. With only four linebackers in the top 32 picks it may be that the Chiefs will not go with my choice for that reason alone.

Where else might they go on offense? Tackles? With two in the frame to go in the first few picks there may be none available.

Then again, on defense have the Chiefs given up on the Tackles they have, specifically Glenn Dorsey? If so, and there is quality still on the board when the five pick rolls around the pick may go that way.

All the mock drafts highlight one immutable dilemma.

Do you pick the top player left on your team draft board – or go for the top player at the position you are most in need of? I expect the latter.

Why? Some area are already sown up. Matt Cassell will be the QB in 2010. Scott Pioli has a record of grabbing good QB's in the late rounds. He won't hesitate to do the same this time if the opportunity presents itself. RB's look full with the addition of Jones. O-line has already been strengthened – but youth might tempt Scott at center, guard or tackle. D-line may need improvement, but at what cost? You can't have too many good CB's but the Chiefs look strong here.

That only leaves Wide Receivers. How I would love it if the management grabbed the top receiver at five! Problem is Des Bryant, Oklahoma State is the top mock prospect – but he has personal issues! After losing WR Dwayne Bowe to a bout of “inappropriate activity” and finally getting rid of Larry Johnson, the Chiefs are unlikely to take a flyer on Bryant. Next up is Arrelious Benn from Illinois and they are the only two in the top 32 mock picks. Despite my efforts to upgrade the receivers it looks like real talent is lacking in round one.

My final take. It's most important for the Chiefs not to make a mistake at number five. They may well try to trade out of this high pick. If they have to choose, I expect them to take the top player, whatever the position, at number five. My gut feeling is it will be Berry – but one of the top quality offensive tackles, if available, might just trump him.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I love to tell the story about Versailles. It perfectly sums up some of the more esoteric attitudes towards language. It also provides an opportunity to laugh at yourself, which is generally a good and therapeutic thing. I always included it in English lessons.

In addition to being a rather famous palace in France, Versailles is also a small town in Missouri. It's almost smack in the middle of the state and has one abiding claim to fame. Well, apparently, two - as I just found out that Bud Walton, one of the founders of Wal-Mart is a native son. The other one is the fact that Versailles is not pronounced like its more famous French namesake but, rather, as it is spelled. Ver Sales.

This is not uncommon is the U.S.A. Many foreign words (particularly place names) have English pronunciations. There must be a fantastic dissertation somewhere which explains this phenomenon. I am convinced that it has nothing to do with the ignorance and parochialism of the natives. It most probably has its roots in the well-documented, historical penchant for “boosting” in rural America.

Boosting was, and may still be, a common practice dating from the settlement of the west. Small towns of no consequence spring up - convinced that if only the railroad drops tracks in its direction it will be the next Chicago. In an effort to attract custom they borrow a more famous and influential name, like Versailles.

Examples abound in Missouri. We have Cap au Gris, Roubidoux, La Plata, Marquand, Terre Haute, River aux Vases, Bois D'Arc, Guiteau, Portage de Sioux, Creve Coeur, De Lisle, Duquesne, Gravois Mills, Weableau, Chouteau Springs, Bevier, Fontainbleau, Rocheport, Mirabile, De Soto, Montreal, Terre du Lac, Cape Girardeau, Lyon, Moselle, Belgique, Femme Osage, Vichy, Des Arc and Cabanage de Renaudiere – not to mention a lake, Pomme de Terre, which in what Mark Twain called “the ordinary Pike County dialect” is definitely called Pom d tar. Some of the others retain their original pronunciation. How many? I'm not sure. I know Des Arc pronounces all the consonants and Cap au Griz probably sounds the last “Z”. Not surprising to know that Missouri was part of the Louisiana Purchase.

Germany is also well represented with Kaiser, Rhineland, Stakenburg, Frankenstein, Koenig, Dresden, Westphalia, Ghermanville, Wittenburg, Kiel, Kohl and Hamburg.

Countries abound: The Phillipines, Cuba, Mexico, Sweden, Netherlands, China, Scotland and Egypt are all represented.

I personally like Gad's Hill from Henry IV.

Classics? How about Syracuse, Cairo, Cleopatra, Halcyon, Nineveh, Boaz, Troy and Avalon?

England? Eton, Worcester, Newmarket, Cambridge, Lancaster, Beaufort, Winchester and Cornwall.

We've even got Napoleon (Missouri) meeting his Waterloo (Missouri) with Wellington, Missouri in attendance.

Not to be outdone, we've got Tightwad out in Henry County, Lickskillet in Putnam and (my favourites) Jolly and Jollification in Newton County. Seldom Seen is in Pemiscot County but should be in Worth County which has only 2270 inhabitants – no wonder Worth is lacking in outstanding names!

Finally we get to the title: Odessa which is really in Ukraine (also in Texas). The Missouri Odessa is in Lafayette County and has a population of 4818 souls. It was an unremarkable place when last I visited, and that was some 40 years ago. I suspect it's fairly unremarkable still.

I was listening to WHB in Kansas City, as you do, and they had a crazy idea to walk from Higginsville (also Lafayette County) to Kansas City. About 50 miles. Sadly, I can't even remember why? Now-a-days it would be some kind of charity fund-raiser. Sorry, I can't remember. When you're only 17-18 you do a lot of dumb things. I did.

Stupidly, I convinced some others to go with me. After work at 70 Hi Drive In off we went. It was late. I think the walk started at midnight. Somehow I persuaded my Old Man to drive us to Higginsville at midnight. He dropped us off. We started off. We had no real idea how far 50 miles is. We soon learned.

Some fool was running down Interstate 70. I'm not sure how he didn't get killed. Perhaps he did and I never heard about it.

Discretion being the better part of valour, we decided to walk down Old 40 Hi-Way instead of the Interstate. Seemed safer and more scenic. Bit hillier, but safer.

We lasted about 3 or 4 hours. Not only did we get very tired but we also got very sleepy. It was dry but quite cold. We staggered into the first populated place (Odessa, Missouri) in the wee hours. I was desperately hoping to find somewhere open, like a gas station or all-night diner – anywhere with a phone. I was prepared to be mightily abused by the OM for being such a myrmidon (I'm convinced this was the word he used – though he always pronounced it as rom a dom) – usually prefaced with Goddamn!

We came over the last hill. The lights of a gas station loomed invitingly. We staggered towards it to find the OM sitting in the car at the side of the road.

He said something like, “I figured you guys would get about this far.”

We had our moments through the years, but I don't think I ever loved him more than I did outside a gas station in Odessa, Missouri in the early hours.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Cartoon Rooney

Uber-Chavs Rule!

I'm sure he is the reincarnation of a Bash Street Kid! He sure looks like it.

Nevertheless, England's hopes of lifting the World Cup in South Africa rest clearly on the shoulders of the uber-chav, Wayne Rooney.

So, how do the football authorities ensure that he is in top form, rested and well prepared enough to lead the challenge? You guessed it – they don't.

Cartoon Roon falls over and limps out of the end of Champions League game this week. The country holds its breath. Commentators and pundits are aghast, and have no real suggestions or solutions as to how this might be avoided.

Best interview I saw after the match was with a group of Red Devil supporters arriving back at the airport in Manchester. One divvie even spouted, “I don't care if he can't play for England, as long as he is able to play in the next Champions League match.” It may sound daft but the structure of football almost ensures that England could only win the World Cup if it was a complete fluke.

Never mind FIFA and their umpteen refs. Never mind the obscene scheduling which ensures that the tournament is held at the end of the domestic season so that the players are either injured or knackered. Never mind the penchant for holding it in hot, dry, inhospitable countries – usually at altitude!

The tragedy is that when the Cup gets closer people who know better will be talking up England's chances to the detriment of countries who have the sense to organise things much better.

England should insist on the release of players on Jan 1 in any World Cup year. Then it would be up to the England management to pick the club games they play in. The players should be fit and rested before any World Cup game. Clubs should be compensated for the loss of their players. Compensated, but not reimbursed. After all – if you don't want to lose your players to the national team – don't sign them in the first place.

How is is that rugby and cricket can stage important competitions without having to cancel the club games?

England football administrators are either stupid or negligent. You choose.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Bad Cat

Evolution In Action

My cat is a bit twee. It was the runt of a litter of five whose mother was called Gladys. Therefore the kits were called the Pips. Mine stuck with the name and eventually this got shorted to the sobriquet Pipster. So, it's either called Pip or The Pipster. The name fits because it is very small – except for its belly – which almost drags the ground.

It's quite an old cat now, as cats go. It's pushing 16. It still loves to hunt in the spring and bring its “presents” in for your morning inspection. Other than that it's fairly lazy, as is the wont for cats.

It's not been a bad cat. It has been very expensive. Early on in its career we discovered that it was prone to cystitis. You can tell when cats have cystitis – they pee in your bathtub. That's good to know. The “cure” according to the vet is special food for cystitis cats, and it costs about £120 pounds a year just to feed it some biscuits. Add to that the inevitable vets bills for check-ups and yearly injections and you have a special family pet which could bankrupt a more mercenary owner.

It almost never leaves our expansive back garden. When the house next door was empty and being renovated it did try to take over their back yard by slipping through the hedge, but with the advent of the new owners and their dog it soon gave that one up. It's a stay at home cat. It was neutered very young (female) and has no need to wander.

Some time last year is suddenly “made a friend” - or so we thought at the time. Once we caught it in the garden looking at another cat. Oddly enough this other cat is a carbon copy of Pip – only a bit larger and with a bushier tail. How sweet.

Then, one evening I happened to pass the kitchen door and glance out into the conservatory. There was Pip at her biscuit bowl. I looked again. It was not Pip; it was the other cat happily tucking into a free meal of expensive biscuits. I told the others. They all thought it was quite sweet. What's a few biscuits between cat buddies?

After not a long time this pilfering got out of hand and Pip became anxious whenever it could see or smell the other cat. Pip's behaviour changed. We decided that it might be a good idea to discourage the interlopers visits. I was rather hoping that the dog might intervene.

Sheba gets on very well with Pip because she knows that the cat is the boss. Sheba does not like other cats. At all. It's favourite walk involves going around the block in search of occasional cats. It is sees one it goes for it. I hoped that the dog might be awake and about when the other cat came in through the cat flab and scare it into revising its night-time activities. Problem. Dog is lazy in the evening and never seemed to twig to the strange cat burgling its property.

These nocturnal food raids began to be tiresome and Pip was showing signs of stress. Yes, Mabel, apparently cats can suffer from stress. I know. The vet told me so.

The cat was transformed into the not altogether affectionate pseudonym ( or perhaps nom de guerre might be better ) of “The Bad Cat”.

Conversations started with, “Anyone seen “”The Bad Cat”” lately?”

Eventually, we caught The Bad Cat in the conservatory by the simple expedient of setting the cat flap to allow cats to enter but not leave. I opened the door. The Bad Cat was at the bowl. It panicked and ran for the cat flap. In it's terror it knocked the plastic flap off its hinges and escaped. Sounds cruel but I thought, at least, the problem was solved.

I underestimated The Bad Cat by half. Locking the cat flap so that it could not enter the house only brought on wanton destruction. Somehow it got up enough speed in the cat flap tunnel to smash it's way through he locked cat flap, which we found the next morning completely destroyed. More expense – new cat flap purchased.

It's now a war. Pip has been to the vet for a stress-related bald patch on its back. The new flap did not entirely work. It simply pushed it out of the way to gain entrance.

We are now on the fall back plan. We lock the cat flap after sundown. We push a large plant pot against the outside opening. We move the Pipster's biscuits onto the dining room table and close the conservatory door.

As long as we remember to religiously apply these measures, the scourge of The Bad Cat may yet be conquered. Wish us luck.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Football Failings

Only occasionally do I intrude into the wonderful, wacky world of football. Mostly it is either too silly, too exasperating or just down right too frustrating.

Recent developments deserve a mention. I happened on an interesting programme on the BBC News channel the other evening. It was a discussion regarding some of the recent financial crises that have been plaguing the “beautiful game”.

In case you missed it, Portsmouth FC are about to enter administration and a number of other clubs are queuing up to join them. That's the story, basically.

Like the weather, lots of folk are talking about it, and no-one is actually doing anything.

The programme “identified” some areas that need discussion/amendment/improvement. Clubs are (obviously) being extremely irresponsible with their finances. Players (and their union) are milking the cow for all it's worth – despite the fact that the teats are giving no succour, for the milk has run out. Fans are in disarray because of increasing ticket prices and lack of success on the field.

Where to start?

The Clubs. Football clubs operate as if they were immune to the forces of economics and gravity. Being immune to gravity is especially good for them as they think they can avoid the drop! Yep, that's how stupid they are. The truth is only a very few clubs, either by reason of an incredibly wealthy owner or owners, or a fan base that covers the known world can possibly aspire to win the Premiership. All the others are simply treading water. Clubs can, of course, never admit this because it would upset and alienate the fans.

The Supporters. The supporters like to think that they are the backbone of the club and the most important leg of the tripod. They are chin-dribblingly deluded on both counts. Clubs make noises about how wonderful the fans are and how they are striving to win trophies and championships for them. In reality, as long as some fans ( primarily the most stupid ones ) continue to troop gaily through the turnstiles so that the TV companies can pan the cameras around the ground without encountering too many empty seats; the clubs aren't really worried about the supporters ( or cannon fodder if you prefer ). Clubs know that the real money comes from TV.

The Players. Players are easy targets. Well, those at the very top who earn obscene wages are easy targets. The PFA is charged with protecting all players and their views on wages are simple. Get you hands off! For the PFA the problems with club finances are nothing to do with them and they don't really want to discuss or negotiate any change to the status quo.

What's to be done?

The Clubs. Clubs will not regulate themselves. Leagues will not regulate clubs. FIFA, UEFA, etc. will not regulate clubs. The EU ( for once charged with doing something useful ) could regulate clubs. How? Make Europe-wide rules and regulations regarding club finances. Stipulate the amount clubs can spend on players and transfers. Clubs should only be able to spend a proportion of TV and gate receipts and bring down wages and ticket prices in order to comply. At a stroke you level the playing field and make football more competitive.

The Supporters

Supporters need educating. This will be tough for they generally make Dewsbury Chavs look like intellectuals. Deep down they know they are gormless. Commentators, managers, players and administrators must stop pandering to fans' basest instincts and explain their real strategy: i.e. stay in this league, remain solvent, introduce more home-grown players that fans can identify with, live within our means and avoid what seems to be attractive short-term fixes!

The Players

Players are their own worst enemies. They are all in the gossip columns too often because they earn obscene amounts of money and don't know how to spend it except on Chav Flash. Players must learn to sign contracts that mean something, that put most of their earning into long-term investments instead of short-term bling, and act like responsible adults instead of spoiled brats.

Incidentally, none of the above had even the remotest chance of being adopted.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Razor's Edge

Razor Addendum

How good is this! No sooner do I finish spouting off about one of my favourite gripes concerning human evolution than the scientists have come to my aid!

Researchers at Northeastern University in Boston discovered that most of us lead predictable lives. Who'd have guessed it!

Our travel arrangements are not very adventurous. By studying mobile phone data they found out that people rarely strayed from a six-mile radius. 70% of the time we can be found in our most visited location.

At Work? At a friends? Visiting John Terry's girlfriend's house?

They are hoping that the data will shed light on the spread of diseases. “We are all in one way or another boring,” said Albert-Lazlo Barabasi who co-wrote the study.

My point was and is that we are not very different (if at all) from our ancestors. What drives us would drive them.

Science may have some convincing evidence for the spread of human populations, but it has no answer to explain why people would up stakes from a sparsely populated and environmentally secure place and wander off to the freezing nether regions or worse.

This may be the Occam's Achilles. Seems like it to me.

Fancy a Close Shave?

Occam's Razor

No, this is not a Gillette commercial.

Rather it is a comment on Occam's Razor: first to Wikipedia -

Occam's razor (or Ockham's razor[1]), entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem, is the principle that "entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity" and the conclusion thereof, that the simplest explanation or strategy tends to be the best one. The principle is attributed to 14th-century English logician, theologian and Franciscan friar, William of Ockham. Occam's razor may be alternatively phrased as pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate ("plurality should not be posited without necessity")[2]. The principle is often expressed in Latin as the lex parsimoniae (translating to the law of parsimony, law of economy or law of succinctness). When competing hypotheses are equal in other respects, the principle recommends selection of the hypothesis that introduces the fewest assumptions and postulates the fewest entities while still sufficiently answering the question. It is in this sense that Occam's razor is usually understood. To quote Isaac Newton, "We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances. Therefore, to the same natural effects we must, so far as possible, assign the same causes."[3]

Clear? I thought not. In layman's terms what it means is that given a choice between a simple and a complex explanation to a problem, always choose the simple one. It's probably correct.

This is fine, as far as it goes. Problem is is doesn't go very far.

Some examples. Why is there always a quantity of lost coins down the back of your settee/couch? Where do chickens roost in the desert? What did pre-historic man use for toilet paper? The list is long. The list is fairly endless.

But, is it correct?

I think not.

Let's take one of my favourite examples. One that has perplexed me since first I learned of it when I was (say) 12 or 13. Cro-Magnon man fascinated me. They were, as far as we can tell, modern humans. They would not be out of place walking down a street in London or New York. Yet for 25 to 30 thousand years they wandered about Europe and apparently achieved nothing. It took about that long to invent a wheel.

If, as we are led to believe, they were essentially us, what were they doing all that time? Back to Occam's razor. Occam would have us believe that the simplest explanation is the best and most accurate. They were just killing time. Fossil evidence says they were goofing around for thousands of years, getting nowhere. And the fossil evidence is always right. Right?


Let's back track a little. Our Cro-Frenchie pals were relative latecomers to Europe. Originally we were all Africans. The DNA tells us so. Out of Africa is all the rage.

According to both genetic and fossil evidence, archaic Homo sapiens evolved to anatomically modern humans solely in Africa, between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago, with members of one branch leaving Africa by 60,000 years ago and over time replacing earlier human populations such as Neanderthals and Homo erectus. According to this theory, around the above time frame, one of the African subpopulations went through a process of speciation, prohibiting gene flow between African and Eurasian Human populations.[citation needed] The recent single origin of modern humans in East Africa is the near-consensus position held within the scientific community.[1]

So, if Wiki says so, it must be so.

What no-one really deals with is the why. If Occam is correct and the simplest explanation is the one the Our of Africa makes sense – doesn't it?

Not really.

If our ancestors wandered out of Africa about 60 000 years ago and got as far as Australia by about 45 000 years ago, what I want to know is not how, but why.

Assuming modern humans are the same as our African ancestors then what is interesting is not whether they wandered about all over but why they would bother. Who, for example, would voluntarily “vacation” on the snowy steppes of Siberia when you could just stay put on the warm, verdant coastal strips of India and Southeast Asia?

No-one deals with this. The DNA and fossil evidence says it is so; therefore, it is so. Full stop. Occam's Razor. I'm not convinced.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Butch and Sundance

Escaping Responsibility

Butch and Sundance, two little porkers, also known as the Tamworth Two, were the ones who escaped from their lorry on the way to the abattoir and were reprieved, not turned into pork pies and chipolatas. This was in 1998 – but they are, as I read not long ago, still alive and porking on the pounds at an animal sanctuary near Ashford in Kent. Good on ya, piggies!

Seriously, they captured the nation's pity, sympathy and admiration for their flight from certain death. Their reward? A long life (for a pig) of relative ease.

Not surprising, therefore, to find that the common herd are just as sentimental and nonsensical about animals today as they were 12 years ago.

How do I know? See The cyber-fascists slaughtering a decent teacher in the Sunday Times today, 14 February.

The Head Teacher at a small school in Kent (same county as the Tamworth Two) decided to do something practical to educate children about where food comes from. Seems a worthwhile thing to me.

From the Sunday Times( with Rod Liddle's by-line):

Marcus, as a rather yummy (and fashionable) salt-marsh Romney lamb, was hand-reared by the staff and children of Lydd primary school, on Romney Marsh to show the kids where our food comes from. There was a survey out recently which showed that 10% of schoolchildren think we get cheese from rats.

Surprised? I'm not. On 29 March 09 I blogged on this very subject. Look it up on Blogspot! The Head is exactly right. Children, and many, many adults in the UK have no idea where food comes from or how it actually gets into the shrink-wrapped packets at Tesco.

More from the Rod Liddle:

There were plenty of other things the kids didn’t know about food, and where it came from, quite apart from the rat-cheese misapprehension thing. There is a general view that children these days are a bit ignorant about what they eat, divorced from the process which brings KFC Zinger Burgers and micro-chips to their plates. Lydd primary school tried to address this problem, with the help of Marcus. Which is where it all went wrong.

Right on Rod! So, what's the problem? Yep, you guessed it – it's those folks who are the worst people to have children – the parents.

Marcus was hand-fed and then there came the day when he was looking especially plump and juicy and the headmistress, Andrea Charman, decided it was time to electrocute him down at the abattoir and divide him into chops. That, after all, was the point of Marcus. To be served lightly grilled, pink inside, with asparagus spears and Jersey Royals and mint. But then all hell broke loose, even before someone — maybe mice, who knows? — had made the gravy.

The kids’ parents — or some of them — demanded that Marcus should be allowed to live, because he was a nice sheepy. Rightly, Charman refused, saying: look, this is precisely what we need the children to learn; this is how the world is, especially here on Romney Marsh. Sheep are food. So Marcus was zapped and quartered, as sheep are.

Key point: the Head was trying to show kids where lamb chops come from. This is an important bit of info to learn in life, really. It's not clear whether the Head was proposing to have said Marcus chops on the school menu.

It was at this point that the endlessly hyperactive, bone-headed online fascists got involved and last week, Charman, who had been hand-picked to turn round this hitherto failing school, felt forced to resign from her job for “personal reasons”. Some 2,500 cretins started an online petition calling for the beleaguered head teacher to be sacked. It is entirely possible that none of them whatsoever had any connection to Lydd primary school. However, the campaign of vilification and vituperation had begun.

Another Facebook site was set up by 650 similarly sad, lifeless, drongoes, demanding not merely that Charman be sacked but — and I quote — to Ban Andrea Charman From Teaching Anywhere. Can you imagine the sort of people who would associate themselves with such a cause?

I can. Maybe you can. Rod can. Can anyone else? Particularly, anyone in a position to do anything about it?

Apparently not.

It was at this point that the endlessly hyperactive, bone-headed online fascists got involved and last week, Charman, who had been hand-picked to turn round this hitherto failing school, felt forced to resign from her job for “personal reasons”.

Charman’s local MP, Michael Howard, bemoaned her departure and said that the internet campaign “had implications for the future of society”. Too right. Charman’s resignation is obviously a defeat for education and rationality, seeing that she was trying to educate the kids as to how food appears on our plates.

So, who's to blame? What's to be done? It's a tough one. There are, evidence would seem to point to, a lot of fairly stupid people in Lydd. This is (fortunately, or unfortunately) not a crime.

I'll take the unpopular view, Michael Howard should have insisted that the Head be persuaded to stay. The Head should have refused to be bullied. The “hyperactive, bone-headed on-line fascists “should have had their bluff called.

You don't expose ignorance by pretending it doesn't exist.

These people need educating. So do their children. Sounds like Lydd and the country have lost a good teacher.

Serves them right.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Super Bowl or Toilet Bowl

Before I stick my neck out and tell you who will win this year's Super Bowl, a short trip down memory lane is in order.

The greatest betting coup in modern times was not, as is usually thought, some Irish punters gamely trying to nobble some nag at Punchestown; but, instead, my idiotic and grotesque offer of the Chiefs and 16 points versus the Vikings for Super Bowl IV in 1970. I know, because I was in Norway at the time and the queue outside my door was so long and so unruly the MP's had to be called in to keep order.

Even though it was foolhardy, I really did think the Chiefs would win. The rest is history. Except it's been 40 years and we've not been very close since!

I think it was the last time we were in the play-offs – we faced Peyton Manning and the Colts at Arrowhead about 3-4 years ago. And, I had it all figured out.

Indianapolis were running the same offence then as they bring to Super Bowl 44. Manning gets to the line of scrimmage, surveys the defence, audibles the play and they kick butt. My mistake at that time was in gleefully predicting that playing away in KC none of that nonsense was going to be in the frame.

It was so logical to me. The “chop-till-you-drop” brigade would make so much noise that the Indy offence would just not be able to function. Chiefs would win. Easy.

Needless to say my previous form in predicting a Chiefs Super Bowl win against all the odds counted for nought. My plan looked good on paper, but in reality it was pants. Manning did whatever he felt like and the Chiefs were murdered.

Of course, things move on and the Colts are not the same team. Their defence is not as good. The offence lacks a power runner. They don't dominate possession. They have some rookies that they rely on to make big plays.

Nevertheless, they will win, and win big.


Simple. Payton Manning.

It really wouldn't surprise me if he could walk on water.

The only really surprising and almost non-existent possibility for a New Orleans victory would be if he had a real stinker. Interceptions – incomplete passes – sacks – fumbles. He may well do any or all of the above, but it won't matter because he will still win. That's what he does.

It's good to see Nawlins in the big show. I'd like to think they have a chance. They do. The same chance Wild Bill had when he was dealt aces and eights.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Chill Out Chilcot

Tony Blair: veni, vidi, vici.

I may be late but I'm very near the mark. The so-called Iraq inquiry finally got a chance to question Tony Blair and they muffed it big time.

It seems amazing to me that the Chilcotters are simply unable, or unwilling, to ask the type of questions designed to bring out the real answers.

At the moment it goes something like this:

Chilcot: Welcome (three minutes of waffle ensues outlining why the inquiry is there and expressing real regret that the witnesses are inconvenienced by having to attend). Now, Prime Minister, oh sorry I meant Mr Blair, could you please, please tell us a bit about what you were doing in relation to the outbreak of hostilities in Iraq?

Tony Blair: Well, (there follows a 35 minute uninterrupted monologue by Teflon Tone).

Got the idea?

Where's Paxman when he's needed?

Actually, taking cheap shots at Chilcot, whilst it has become a sort of unofficial Olympic sport, is not entirely fair. After all he is getting a whacking great sum to do this job and has a very nice lunch everyday courtesy of the government.

How so? How about consulting the terms of reference?

Who picked the members?

The Prime Minister appointed the members of the Committee. Opposition parties were consulted. (Oh gosh, that's all right then!)

Why don’t you have politicians on the Inquiry team?
The Committee’s membership is a matter for the Government. Sir John has, however, discussed his approach to the Inquiry with the Government, leaders of Opposition parties, Chairmen of relevant House of Commons Committees and other interested Parliamentarians. The Committee will continue to discuss the Inquiry with politicians as the Inquiry progresses. (Ok, this is a joke from a dodgy internet site, isn't it?)
Will the Inquiry look into issues that are being considered by other proceedings?
There may be issues that are subject to other ongoing proceedings – for example, legal proceedings or police investigations - on which it would not be appropriate for this Inquiry to comment. We will decide that on a case-by-case basis, subject to legal advice. (And, we trust you implicitly, after all you were appointed by the very people you are supposed to be questioning and holding to account!)
How is the Government co-operating with the Inquiry?
As the Prime Minister told the House of Commons, “no British document and no British witness will be beyond the scope of the Inquiry.” The Government has assured the Inquiry of the full co-operation of the relevant Departments. (I'm so relieved!)
Will all the documentary evidence be published on the website?
The Committee intends to publish the key evidence with its report at the end of the Inquiry. It may also publish material on the website as the Inquiry progresses where this will help increase public understanding of its work. (I'm sure I read somewhere that the Road to Hell is paves with good intentions.)
Will you tell witnesses the line of questioning they will face?
In order for the evidence sessions to be as effective as possible, and in order to ensure fairness to the witnesses, the Inquiry will provide guidance on the matters that the Inquiry wishes to cover in the hearing, and any documents the Inquiry wishes to refer to. The witnesses will not be told of the precise lines of questioning they will face. (Good, they will only be asked questions they are expecting, how fair is that?)
What protection do witnesses have to speak freely?
The hearings are not covered by Parliamentary or other privilege. The Committee expects all witnesses to provide truthful, fair and accurate evidence. The Inquiry welcomes the fact that the Government and Services have extended an immunity from disciplinary action to serving officials and military personnel who give evidence or otherwise assist the Inquiry, as this will help reassure witnesses that they can provide frank and honest evidence.
Should a witness feel unable to answer questions due to a genuine fear of self-incrimination of a criminal offence, it would be open to the Inquiry Committee to consider whether, in order to secure the greatest possible openness and co-operation, it would be appropriate to seek an undertaking from the Law Officers that evidence provided to the inquiry will not be used in criminal proceedings against them, in accordance with the usual practice in inquiries. (Read this bit again please – if you can bear it.)
What will the Inquiry do if it receives evidence or information about criminal offences?
If the Inquiry receives credible evidence that criminal offences have been committed that has not previously been referred to the investigating authorities, it would be obliged to refer that evidence to the appropriate investigating authority. (I'm just so comforted.)
I would gladly give up a year's pay to get Tone, Gordo, The Man of Straw and the rest of the divots in front of a U.S. Senate Committee. Then the money spent providing this sham might be said to have been well spent.

Monday, January 11, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

Number One

Instead of making New Year's Resolutions and then forgetting about them or breaking them, I resolve to make some and try to stick to them.

Number Two

Instead of expecting the rest of the world to suddenly get smarter, I resolve to be much more tolerant of others despite their obvious mental incapabilities.

Number Three

Instead of expecting a halcyon Summer of blue skies, high temperatures and endless runs for the England cricket team, I resolve to accept whatever nature has in store for us (unless it becomes so cold that the only economic way to keep warm is to burn a few UEA climate scientists at the stake).

Number Four

Instead of sinking slowly into an Alzheimer's haze, I resolve to make the rest of the world forget things before I do.

Number Five

Instead of being entirely smug about quitting smoking years ago, I resolve to be more tolerant of those who genuinely have difficulties in stopping (with the exception of anyone in my family who really ought to get the message by now).

Number Six

Instead of following the crowd sheepishly, I resolve to stop taking the mickey out of Delia Smith and the other gormless numpties who regularly troop into Carrow Road or write complete drivel about football in the local press. Actually, I don't think I can do this one - it's just too tempting.

Number Seven

Instead of nodding when the commentators describe Kevin Pietersen as the best thing since sliced bread, I resolve to expose him for the sham he is; a one-day batsman of limited ability whose understanding of the concept of a team only makes sense to him if there actually is an I in team.

Number Eight

Instead of smiling when someone mentions something stupid (like we al should thank the bankers for looking after our money), I resolve to smack them (figuratively) in the gob.

Number Nine

Instead of keeping my mouth shut in the face of religious or political intolerance, I resolve to stand up for the rights of the innocent and minorities.

Number Ten

Instead of making New Year's Resolutions in January 2011, I resolve to keep my thoughts to myself.