Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Ties That Bind (Pubs).

An overlooked story of 2014, overlooked by me at least, is the decision by MPs to partially untie pub landlords from the pub companies. This will allow landlords to buy beer at the market rate and to have their rents assessed independently. It seems like a good idea but there are more fundamental problems for the pub industry, namely:
  • The smoking ban- it won't be reversed and it hasn't been bad for all pubs but for the spit & sawdust type backstreet boozer it remains a problem.
  • The pubcos overinvestment in property. When property prices were shooting up from the 1990s to the 2008 crash it didn't matter too much whether pubs were profitable because the value of the properties was rising fast enough to ensure that on paper the pub companies were loaded. After the crash they realised the flaw in that plan.
  • The quality of people becoming landlords is not great, mostly because hardly anyone who understands what's involved would want to to do it. It's almost impossible to make money as a tenant so only fools rush in to take them over. Also going to the pub a lot does not mean you are well suited to running one.
  • The quality of people running pubcos isn't great- the firms aren't rapacious capitalist exploiters, but edifices that are teetering on the brink of collapse who can't afford to take long term decisions without having serious cash flow problems today.
  • Tax on beer, even during the midst of the great recession the tax on beer has reason inexorably.
Until all that is sorted out then it will remain a very risky business to get involved in.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Communism Pretty Much Sucks

A couple of statistics about Germany:

Among more than 600 members of management and supervisory boards at Germany’s 30 largest companies, fewer than a dozen lived in the German Democratic Republic when the Berlin Wall fell on Nov. 9, 1989. Many of them are politicians or labor union officials, not executives.
That is 2% of the nation's executives from an area that makes up around 20% of the population.
The rapid productivity gains eastern workers made after reunification have stalled: they are still only 76% as productive as western ones. That is partly because the east German economy is concentrated in less productive industries, like construction and agriculture. But even in others, like finance, eastern workers have made smaller productivity gains than westerners.
Unless there were major regional economic  differences between the east and west of Germany before World War 2, and as far as I'm aware the east wasn't considered notably poorer, it illustrates just how much an atrocious political idea can deplete the human capital of a country. That the legacy of communism is still so pronounced more than 25 years after it collapsed is a pretty damning indictment of the system.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Who Believes This Crap?

Perhaps we should get Sabrina Rubin Erdely to investigate these claims:

Detectives are investigating three alleged murders as part of an inquiry into historical child abuse, the Met Police has said.
Officers made a public appeal for information relating to Dolphin Square estate in Pimlico, south-west London.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse said no confirmed identities or bodies of victims had been found.

I will actually astonished if this doesn't turn out to be another baseless scare story like the satanic abuse mania in the 1980s or the campus rape obsession that's sweeping across the USA at the moment.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Quote Of The Day

In the comments under an article about Russia's economic collapse, one commentator writes:

Stuck for a present for the Nashi in your life? Why not not him one of these stylish new Russian wallets?

Bahrain Folly

Britain's new military base being built in Bahrain seems like a complete waste of money. We are unlikely that we will be intervening in the Middle East on our own, without the USA, any time in the medium term future so it is fairly pointless. I suppose if we get more in arms sales to Bahrain than it costs to set up the base it may be worth it, but when people talk about the base being "symbolic" it's probably a euphemism for waste of money.

In our last two wars east of Suez, Iraq and Afghanistan, the British Army was overstretched and achieved little, as this review* from the LRB puts it:

The September 2004 draft of Fry’s plan for the switch from Iraq to Afghanistan featured a graph showing British troop numbers in Basra smoothly falling away as numbers in Helmand gradually rose. There was a cross on the chart where the two lines met. This would have been fine if Basra had stayed quiet, but as the time approached when the first troops were due to land in Helmand, it became more and more evident that the British had failed to bring anything resembling order and justice to southern Iraq. Even before the Helmand operation started, it was obvious Britain needed more troops in both theatres. But it didn’t have enough even for one.

By 2005 British forces were well on the way to ceding Basra and the surrounding area to armed Shia groups; they would end up hunkered down and isolated behind the ramparts of their main base at the city’s airport. ‘To rectify the situation in Basra, the British would have to send more troops,’ Fairweather writes. ‘And yet their pivot to Afghanistan required them to do the exact opposite and withdraw. Rather than confront this gaping hole in their strategy, the British opted to carry on regardless.’

The beginning of Britain’s deployment in Helmand coincided with the belated realisation by British high command that their American patrons considered them to have been beaten in Iraq. Their much vaunted light-touch counter-insurgency skills had failed and the US was going to have to bail them out.
Since then the armed forces have undergone further cuts, so  pretending that we are a significant independent player in Middle East doesn't seem like a good way to use scarce resources, especially if the status that goes with it tempts our illustrious and wise leaders into further missions in the region that are testing our capacity. Either fund the military well or cut back what it is expected to do.

* Via iSteve.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Will Get Fooled Again

There was a big Rolling Stone article about a woman who was horrifically gang raped by a student fraternity as part of an initiation ritual. There appears to be one small problem with the article- it is complete horseshit.It wouldn't be so bad if it was the first time the press had fallen for obviously bogus claims about being gang raped by "privileged" white male college students but it isn't, as anyone who can remember the Duke Lacrosse case a few years ago can say.

If the boy who cried wolf lived today he would never run out of dupes willing to believe his lies.

Fake victimhood appears to be particularly common among left wing activists on college campuses though certainly not exclusively - there have been conservative activists who've faked attacks by violent mobs of Obama supporters as well as a Jewish activist who was the victim of a phony neo-nazi assault. This site documents almost 200 hate crime hoaxes in the USA alone.

Fake criminal attacks are only one aspect of bogus victimhood. As long time readers will know, misery memoirs are wildly popular, WH Smiths used to have a whole section devoted to "Tragic Life Stories". Quite a lot of these turned out to be fraudulent as well- there's a hilarious and brutal takedown of one of the most successful misery memoirs "A Million Little Pieces" by James Frey, here. The reviewer, John Dolan, was calling "bullshit" years before it was actually exposed as a fake.

There have always been schemers and liars and that will never change, what feeds them is other people swallowing their claims wholesale. The college fakers do it because there is a large pool of people who want to believe that white, male college students are running amok and getting away with murder, the misery memoirs abound because the appetite for such melodramatic nonsense  exceeds what reality has left us with.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

How Does He Know?

Nick Cohen writes about public complacency about government surveillance of internet users:

“It won’t be me,” I hear you say. And, of course, I accept you are not a criminal, after all. The worst you do online is post stupid comments when you are drunk and masturbate to porn when you think no one is watching.

To be honest it sounds like He's already monitoring my internet usage personally.

Friday, November 28, 2014


The former Chief Whip, Andrew Mitchell, has lost his libel action against the newspaper that claimed he called a police officer a pleb. It isn't obvious why he went ahead with the libel action after Michael Crick's documentary on the incident demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that corrupt police officers stitched him up. At that point he could have declared victory and gone ahead with his life, instead he put his reputation in the hands of Britain's libel courts.

The verdict seems perverse but by taking the matter to court he has empowered a judge make whatever flight of fancy he finds most agreeable the official version.

In all likelihood Andrew Mitchell did not call the policeman a pleb and the verdict is wrong but libel courts reward the likes of Jeffrey Archer, George Galloway and other chancers, putting your faith in such a court is a desperate and unwise move.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

"Shut Up" They Explained

There are two great articles on the assault on free speech on campuses, Heather Mac Donald how American universities capitulate to the intolerant bullies from marxoid halfwits while Brendan O'Neill tackles Britain's authoritarian student body and their enablers in authority:

The ‘no platform’ policy of various student unions is forever being expanded to keep off campus pretty much anyone whose views don’t chime perfectly with the prevailing groupthink. Where once it was only far-right rabble-rousers who were no-platformed, now everyone from Zionists to feminists who hold the wrong opinions on transgender issues to ‘rape deniers’ (anyone who questions the idea that modern Britain is in the grip of a ‘rape culture’) has found themselves shunned from the uni-sphere. My Oxford experience suggests pro-life societies could be next. In September the students’ union at Dundee banned the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children from the freshers’ fair on the basis that its campaign material is ‘highly offensive’.
I realise the student activists are not typical students but an unrepresentative fringe of obsessives but why do the officials allow them to intimidate opponents? Perhaps they agree with them or maybe they are acting out of self interest- feeding the crocodile with a sacrificial victim in order to give themselves a quieter life.

Personally I have never felt the urge to "win" a debate by shutting down opposing views but I can see why the activists, Social Justice Warriors and the like do it- because it works.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Muslims Discovered America

According to Turkey's Islamist president Recap Erdogan anyway.

Muslims discovered the Americas more than three centuries before Christopher Columbus, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.

He made the claim during a conference of Latin American Muslim leaders in Istanbul, pointing to a diary entry in which Columbus mentioned a mosque on a hill in Cuba.

Mr Erdogan also said "Muslim sailors arrived in America in 1178".

He said he was willing to build a mosque at the site Columbus identified.

The Turkish president - whose AK Party is rooted in political Islam - gave no further evidence to back up his theory, instead stating: "Contacts between Latin America and Islam date back to the 12th Century."
There's actually quite a long list of supposed examples of pre-Columbian contact between the Old and New World, the Vikings are the only ones who've been confirmed but the Welsh, Irish, Basques, Romans, English, Egyptians, Africans, Chinese, Polynesians and Japanese have all had claims. Some of them are vaguely plausible- though probably still wrong- but most are not.

The Muslim discovery of America is not one of the more convincing theories but like a lot of psuedo-history appeals to the pride of a culture whose actual accomplishments have been rather modest since the Mongols sacked Baghdad. The former Chinese President Hu Jintao did something similar when he informed the Australian parliament that the Chinese discovered Australia back in 1421- a claim based on the ridiculous book by Gavin Menzies. Again it appealed to the pride of a culture that while once great, has lagged the West for centuries.

My favourite example of Islamists hijacking Western accomplishments is the widely believed story in the Middle East about Neil Armstrong hearing the Islamic call to prayer when he first set foot on the moon. In comparison reaching the Americas is lacking ambition.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

What's In A Word?

Female celebrities including Katy Perry, Megan Traynor and Salma Hayek often get criticised by self proclaimed feminists for refusing to identify themselves as feminists. Here is the Observer's Barbara Ellen on Hayek's recent disavowal of the term:

You have to wonder – what’s with these women and their seemingly all-consuming need to distance themselves from feminism? An unworthy thought crawls through my brain: is this a man-pleasing exercise – are they afraid that men might find even the slightest whiff of feminism a turn-off, so they bang on about “equality” to keep everything safely gender-neutral and “sexy”?

Or does it go yet deeper, darker, than that, into the realms of female self-hatred? Where the cause of womankind in itself is just not good enough, interesting enough and so men must be prominently included, feted and appeased, even at a female-celebrating event? While I’m all for inclusivity, something has to explain why some women seem to feel that good instincts to support other females have to be disguised and reframed for public consumption.
 I'm going to go out on a limb and have a guess as to what the actual reason for not associating with the word "feminism". The people who most prominently embrace the term are unfortunately often like Barbara Ellen whose views are rather anti male- see this piece in which she fulminates against men using equality legislation to challenge cases of sexual discrimination.

If people use "feminism" as a cover for politically sectional and rather outlandish views on sex they should no be surprised when others don't use the term to describe all those who believe in equal treatment and freedom from discrimination. 

If every other self proclaimed patriot demonstrated that they were in actual fact rabid xenophobes then patriotism would suffer a similar fate- with people who are thoroughly patriotic shying away from the word itself.

If actual feminists, in the sense of people who believe in sexual equality, no longer like the word "feminism" then the likes of Ellen should really look at themselves.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Unclean Unclean

During the Black Death, while plague killed a huge proportion of the World's population there were some places that managed to escape mass outbreaks all together- Poland and Milan most notably. Milan adopted a rather brutal but effective strategy of walling up the homes of anyone infected with the disease with the occupants inside, there seems to be less clarity over how Poland avoided it, but one theory is that they pretty much close the borders as well as a medieval state could.

The most effective strategies for countering the plague were the most offensive to individual rights and personal liberty. A major outbreak of an infectious disease is one of the few times where it is justifiable to put the collective good above individual rights. The outcry over a relatively minor quarantine period for those people who have been at the heart of the Ebola infected region of West Africa is not based on "the science" which is contentious, but on knee jerk ethical preening.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Europe Does Not Equal The EU.

Will Hutton writes in support of the European Union:

Moreover, geographical proximity has always given Europe its special character, if doing no more than offering a nearby bolthole or new ideas that could simply cross a frontier. Without Protestant Holland, William Tyndale would have had no home to print the Bible in English; the Industrial Revolution was fuelled by exiled scientists and entrepreneurs from all over Europe. The Ukip/Tory story that Britain’s greatness was built on independence from Europe is a fairytale. We are as much part of our continent’s history and evolution, and share its values, as any other European country. Arguably, we are the quintessential Europeans.
What he says about the influence of Europe on Britain's development is true but rather undercuts his argument.

William Tyndale fled to the Netherlands because he would have been executed on the orders of the crazed zealot Thomas More, had he remained in England, at the time the Dutch were more tolerant.

Imagine if the EU had existed in the 16th century- all that would have been needed would have been for Thomas More to issue an EU arrest warrant, and he'd have been executed within the month.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Cowards Have Beaten The Idiots

Or to put it another way, Scotland voted "No" to independence. So now we are all back to normal as a United Kingdom with a broken constitution.


Saturday, September 13, 2014


It is my hope that Scotland votes to keep Britain together next week, partly for emotional reasons- I'm half Scottish and much of my family is from there and I feel a sense of nationhood that doesn't stop at Berwick. It also seems to me that Britain is a stronger and more formidable country than merely England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Having said that I do think the 'No' campaign are wrong to concede nationalist demands on control of the welfare system in North Britain. Single currency areas like the UK require transfer payments from rich to poor areas in order to compensate for poor areas being unable to devalue their currency to compete. One of the quickest ways that an economically hard hit region to receive transfer payments is through the welfare system.

Paul Krugman (who despite his hyper partisanship is a renowned economist) explains the process with a comparison of how Spain and Florida were affected by the global recession here. Essentially when Florida's economy crashed, it automatically received more money from Washington whereas Spain did not automatically receive extra cash from Brussels leading to a much weaker fiscal position- because despite currency union Germany isn't willing to fund Spain's welfare system.

If Scotland manages it's own welfare system some of the automatic stabilisers won't work in the case of a shock to Scotland's economy.

More devolution is inevitable but welfare should remain substantially a UK wide issue.

Monday, September 08, 2014

The Rotherham Scandal- The Culture Behind It

There is an interesting piece about the Rotherham scandal and other similar cases of Pakistani sex abuse gangs by a British Pakistani woman:
Growing up in an Asian Muslim household, ever since I can remember to be like a white girl, a “gori” was a very bad thing indeed. At primary school age, we were taught how “goras” were dirty. They didn’t wash when they went to the toilet. I was told not to eat with goras, because they ate pig – only dirty people could eat such a filthy animal. 

As a teenager, I discovered there was nothing worse than acting like a gori. I was a rebellious youth, pushing all the boundaries. I didn’t want to wear a hijab and traditional Asian dress. I wanted to be in jeans. I wanted to wear my hair out. I wanted to go out and see my friends. I wanted to meet and talk about boys. I learned that these were “white things”: what white girls did, and so strictly forbidden to me by my parents. Why? Because they were seen to be against Islam and therefore shameful. There was no honour or value in girls who dressed or acted like that. Girls like that, it was made very clear to me, didn't deserve any respect. They were the lowest of the low. 


That is why I find it so infuriating in light of Rotherham that some Asian men (and women!) are still looking to blame Western culture – "the goras' culture" – and denying the part their own plays in the abuse. Gora culture, like the white girls who were targeted, is deemed to be shameless and without honour. I’ve read articles describing western culture as “pornified”, like they describe those girls as “whores” to then conclude that the abusers were somehow led astray or not fully responsible. 
On the last point about  how Western culture is "pornified" and girls wearing inappropriate clothes, that might be the justification used but I doubt it is how the victims were targeted. 

I have a female friend who worked in a heavily Pakistani part of Leicester when she was about 19/20, and there was more than one attempt to behave very inappropriately towards her- unwanted grabbing, men trying to get her in the car etc. What was interesting is that these incidents tended to happen when she was very dressed down- in baggy clothes with not much skin showing- not when she was wearing the sort of clothes that get blamed for leading men astray.

This makes sense when you think about it- the abusers target girls they perceived as vulnerable and lacking in self confidence, not those who were confident in themselves.

Rippers & Coppers

The Jack the Ripper murders seem to have been solved. The DNA evidence seems fairly conclusive and it fits in with what I said back in 2006:

I'm not sure why so many ridiculous notions about Jack the Ripper are given serious consideration, when the 'suspects' bear absolutely no relation to the sort of people who we know do commit serial killings. 

The idea that the Ripper would be a son of the Queen or a famous artist was always absurd. The killer was Aaron Kosminski- a Pole who came to Britain to escape anti-Jewish violence in his home country. One part of the story that amused me was how the crucial piece of evidence was still available in a relatively untainted state into the 21st century:
the shawl had been taken by a police officer for his wife, but she never wore it, and it was passed down through generations until it went up for sale. 
 So back in  the late 19th century there was a bobby whose first reaction upon finding a brutally murdered young woman was to steal the clothes that he thought his wife might like! Dodgy police officers aren't a new phenomenon, they were just less likely to get caught in the past.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Rotherham, Ending The Taboo On Race.

The simple answer for why the Rotherham sex abuse scandal happened- and why similar cases have occurred in other towns and cities in the UK- is that no one knows for sure although educated guesses can be made.

This is because race has become such a taboo that the problem was not officially acknowledged for a decade and even now most* respectable media outlets start from the assumption that "it is has nothing to do with race" and then work backwards to support their predetermined conclusion.

The reasons for the taboo about prominently discussing ethnic issues exists for reasons that are somewhat understandable. No one doubts that in the past sweeping generalisations about racial groups have been employed by demagogues to whip up racial pogroms or justify treating people as second class citizens because of who they are.

There are more cynical reasons too- politicians wanting votes from ethnic minorities and "community leaders" wanting grants but the aversion to talking about race is sincere in most cases.

There are two kinds of problems with this approach, it is morally wrong and it doesn't work. The truth has a habit of coming out eventually. The strenuous efforts by Rotherham Council, South Yorkshire Police and others to conceal the fact that Pakistanigangs were systematically targeting vulnerable young girls has to put it mildly backfired in a spectacular manner.

Honesty is the only way of discussing race that has a chance of succeeding in the long term. In this case it has to be acknowledged that there is a specifically Pakistani (not "Asian" or "Muslim" but Pakistani) problem that needs to be identified and ended.

* Some media outlets deserve praise, the Times's Andrew Norfolk exposed the problem years ago but was ignored.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Luckily Rotherham Had A Campaigning MP

Throughout almost the entire period of the Rotherham Asian paedophile gangs running amok the town's MP was Denis Macshane. Two of the areas where he was an active campaigner were racism and criminal gangs sexually exploiting people. Yet when up to 1400 young girls were sexually abused by Pakistani gangs preying to a large extent on white girls he managed not to notice it at all.

Another triumph for the worst MP of the last fifty years.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Sincerest Form Of Flattery

Plagiarism is an even greater form of flattery than mere imitation. Here's a list of the top 100 jokes from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival that includes such gags as:

10. I had an argument with one of the seven dwarfs.  He wasn’t happy. – Rebecca Humphries

 69. Why don't Africans go on cruises? That's exactly how they got us the last time.- Athena Kugblenu
77. Whats the difference between inlaws and outlaws... Outlaws are wanted.- Joe Bains

92. I believe in gay marriage so that gay people can be as miserable as straight people. – Tom Allen
 All of which I heard years ago, so either professional comedians are stealing jokes from other, better comics or they're recycling material from years ago. In this case I'm pretty sure they're just passing off other people's materials as their own.

Comedians have always plagiarised older material, when Robin Williams died recently, news coverage ignored his inglorious habit of stealing other comedians material. Still it's a bit lame that so many of the "best jokes" at the Edinburgh Fringe are stolen.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Nations Without States

There is a magnificent blog article by Sean Thomas about the Yezidi people of Iraq at the Telegraph and their plight at the hands of the hateful bigot of ISIS.

The current plight of religious minorities in the Middle East* isn't restricted to the Yezidi, Christians have suffered terrible persecution too partly as a result of the Iraq War. If those peoples had a nation that could defend them and provide a refuge they wouldn't be looking at annihilation. Which is one reason Israel will do it's utmost to remain a Jewish state that is strong enough to defend itself against all its neighbours.

* While the Middle East is the current heartland of violent bigotry almost every region on Earth has periods where belonging to a stateless minority has been very dangerous.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

100 Years On

The centenary commemorations for World War One are a chilling reminder of how quickly a continent can slip from a long peace to industrial slaughter. I'm inclined to agree with the current orthodoxy on the causes of the war- that it was a result of German military expansionism.

Whether the UK should have entered the war is harder to say- if the Asquith government had stayed out, Germany would likely have won and an unrestrained aggressive nation could well have threatened Britain- with no France or the Low Countries between Germany and the UK. Yet it's hard to imagine any greater damage would have been inflicted than hundreds of thousands dead that were inflicted.

An awful even but one that offers no easy lessons.

Darling You Were Wonderful!

Alistair Darling seems to have come out on top in the Scottish independence debate against Alec Salmond. Back in 2010 during the Labour leadership contest I wrote:

Who should have stood: Alastair Darling, he is a much more substantive figure than any of the candidates. The economic woes were largely the result of his predecessor as Chancellor and he appears to be an honourable individual (resisted pressure from Brown & Balls to cook the books according to Mandleson's memoirs) apart from a bit of flipping. 

Now, as well as his existing strengths he would be able to portray himself as the saviour of the Union. I suspect that if he were the Labour leader they'd currently be heading for government. Labour supporters must be pulling their hair out when they see how effective Darling can be compared to Ed Miliband.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


I've updated my bloglist for the first time in years- there were blogs there that hadn't been updated in half a decade. There's more to do though.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Better Than You

With so many people obsessed by money, it's good to see that there are still saintly individuals who simply don't care about little things like that.

Take Chelsea Clinton for example:

“I was curious if I could care about (money) on some fundamental level, and I couldn’t,” she told Fast Company in an interview that ran in the magazine's May edition, explaining why she gave up lucrative gigs to join her family’s philanthropic foundation.

The Clinton name likely opened doors for the political heiress, including an eye-popping $600,000 annual salary for an irregular stint as an NBC special correspondent, but Chelsea insists her work speaks for itself.

“I will just always work harder (than anybody else) and hopefully perform better,” said Clinton, who along with former banker husband Marc Mezvinsky, purchased a $10.5-million Gramercy Park apartment in 2013. “And hopefully, over time, I preempt and erase whatever expectations people have of me not having a good work ethic, or not being smart, or not being motivated.”

Truly a modern saint.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Moscow's Wikiwar

An obscure Wikipedia article about a type of fighter jet has been the subject of an edit war today. Why? Because it is about a "Sukhoi Su-25", and Russia's latest propaganda claim is that a Ukrainian SU-25 was detected near the downed Malaysian flight MH17.

The problem is that the Su-25 can only fly up to 23000 feet- which is far too low to have been intercepting the passenger plane that was flying at 33000 feet. So once the physical impossibility of the Kremlin's claim was pointed out, the Putinbots began to frantically edit Wikipedia like an army of Johann Haris.

If it weren't about the slaughter of 300 civilians the amateurishness of Putin's lies would be comical.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

The World Game

Football is supposedly the world game, but it's questionable just how global it really is. For all the internationalism of the World Cup it's pretty obvious that based on the quality of the teams Asia and Africa are significantly overrepresented compared to Europe and South America. The game has always had two centres of gravity from which 75% of the best players and 100% of the best coaches come from-  the Western Europe and the cone of South America.

So far eight different teams have won the tournament- all from those core zones- and an additional  four teams have reached finals but never won- all European although in the case of Czechoslovakia and Hungary a little bit outside the core.

Of the top ten most populous nations on the planet, only 5 are at the World Cup, only 6 have been at a World Cup in the last 50 years. Most don't have sustainable professional leagues either, whatever passion they have for the game doesn't seem to extend to playing it.

Football is not yet a genuine world game even if it is closer to being so than any other sport.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Guess The Country

Over at The View From Cullingworth, Simon Cooke has a quote from a 17th Century English sailor:

"The men that are married are given much to jealousy, and will not permit any stranger to come where their wives are, much less to see them, but will keep them out of sight as much as they possibly can...all their women, both married and unmarried, go with a black veil over their heads and reaching down to their legs, all being covered except their eyes."
Can you guess where the sailor was visiting? If not, have a guess at the predominant religion in the country.

He wasn't at some port in the Ottoman Empire or on the Barbary Coast but was instead visiting Catholic Portugal. It might reflect the Moorish influence in Portugal although it must have been a few centuries since Islam held sway in the country.

It does show that while the burqa is now an Islamic garb in the past, other cultures have been equally repressive. It also shows that even in the 17th century the English regarded it as primitive and evidence of the failings of the menfolk that enforce it.

Also 17th century sailors are more insightful about the motives behind face covering garments than most modern politicians, academics and pundits- it is due to extreme sexual jealousy on the part of the menfolk.

What causes some cultures to foster such extreme sexual jealousy is the next obvious question- I don't know the answer but suspect it has something to do with clannishness and marriage structure.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Right To Nothing

Does anyone else not really understand this:

Every employee now has the right to request flexible working hours after the government extended the right previously reserved for carers and those looking after children.
As part of the right, employees can expect their request to be considered "in a reasonable manner" by employers.

In what sense do people not currently have the right to request flexible working hours? If it doesn't put any obligation on the employer other than to have to consider a request it looks a bit like a gimmick.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Chimps, War And Serfdom

I've been thinking about Chimpanzees- our (joint) closest relatives and all round evil bastards. They are far stronger than humans and when they attack are brutal- with genitals and fingers being pulled out first before they bite your face off. I'd rather be locked in a room with a tiger or a crocodile than a chimp.

They also practice warfare among themselves, in which the aim is to commit genocide of neighbouring chimp populations. They patrol their own territory and kill any rival males who encroach upon it while also making opportunistic raids into rivals' lands to kill any outnumbered males they find there.

If all this sounds familiar it's because it is what humans have done to each other all too frequently- and continue to do today in many tribal societies- which suggests it is a form of behaviour that has deep routes in our shared evolutionary past.

However in most of recorded history, simply wiping out a vanquished opponent is rare*- a lot of killing occurs but the Anglo Saxons didn't wipe out the Celts, the Normans didn't annihilate the Saxons, the fall of the Roman Empire doesn't seem to have involved genocide of the Romans. Instead elite replacement occurs.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that the tendency of civilised agricultural based societies to form complex and exploitative hierarchies- in which a self serving elite forms to control the surpluses produced and dominate society may not have been such a bad thing after all compared to the alternative.

An elite that exploits the rest of society will have very little interest in wiping out a defeated population in the way an egalitarian hunter gatherer society does- because it makes little difference whose work they are exploiting.

None of which should is an argument for the perpetuation of social elites today of course, this is just speculation about how we came to be where we are as a species.

* Wars between civilised countries are bloodier overall but not on a per capita basis.

The World Cup Is Anti Feminist Apparently

Oh no, what to do now?

In one of the passages explaining the anti-feminist nature of football Sylvia Murray Young writes:

Paul Gascoigne led a generation of males to sport the "Gazza" haircut, yet his popularity was only mildy dented by the sight of his partner Sheryl skulking past the paparazzi with a face swollen and bruised by his fists. Ched Evans was convicted for raping a drunk teenager, but incredulous fans started the #freeched hashtag and outed the victim. Football fans themselves create a demand for the trafficking of women and girls into prostitution.
The stories of a surge in trafficking of prostitutes is a factoid of dubious provenance, but it is true that some prominent footballers have treated women appallingly. However it is surely a bit of a double standard to condemn the whole of football for the actions of a handful of individuals.

When Lord Saatchi grabbed his wife round the throat did it prove that the art world is hostile to women, when the Socialist Workers Party covered up a series of rape allegations against their senior members did it prove that left wing politics is inherently misogynistic?

It seems to me that football is being singled out like this because it is largely played by working class men who are unlikely to be in the target demographic for listening to professional grievance mongers.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Decline And Fall Of The Liberal Democrats

One way or another Nick Clegg won't be Lib Dem leader for much longer, either they get rid of him now or wait until the election when he will lose his seat along with dozens of other Liberal Democrats. I do feel a little bit sorry for him because entering a coalition with the Conservatives was a brave thing to do and right for the country at the time.

However then I read things like this and stop pitying him:

"If I thought any of our real dilemmas would be addressed by changing leadership, changing strategy, changing approaches, bailing out now, changing direction, then I wouldn't hesitate advocating it,"
Listening to the interview it is clear that "our" refers to the Lib Dems, so he is saying that his approach to being a part of the government is dictated by the perceived benefit to the yellow peril, not to the country.

Opportunist maneuvering for short term gain is the major cause of Clegg's unpopularity in the first place.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Right To Be Misremembered

Suppose someone was the victim of vicious and false rumours that they were a convicted paedophile or a notorious fraudster. They could at least discredit the rumour by demanding proof- and use the absence of news reports about them as evidence that the story was false.

Except this option might not be possible anymore because of European Court ruling that people have a right to demand that search engines remove embarrassing search results about their past.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

We The Undersigned...

Is there anything more smug and off putting than group letters of the self appointed great and good to a newspaper? Take the letter criticising the Prime Minister's declaration that Britain is a Christian country, regardless of the merits of his claim is there any way that a letter signed by Polly Toynbee, Antony Grayling, Nick Ross and CJ from Eggheads* can have any effect other than boosting the PM's cause?

What is the mindset of people who sign these letters? Presumably someone like Tim Minchin has thought to himself that because he can make amusing comic routines about religion and blow up dolls, that adding his signature to a letter will somehow add weight and merit to the cause he believes in. It doesn't, it just makes him look pompous and egotistical and would do regardless of the merit of the argument being put forward. The same applies to the rest of the figures who signed the letter.

* On the subject of CJ De Mooi from Eggheads, judging by the wikipedia entry on him, he is every bit as smug as he appears on television:
He adopted the name de Mooi when modelling; he translates it as Dutch for "handsome man", though a more literal translation would be "the beautiful".
Bell end.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Majority Of Parents Want More Expensive Off-Peak Holidays.

I thought we'd heard the last of this story a few weeks ago but it turns out that some people are still very angry that holiday companies charge less when demand is lower. The actual outrage is over charging more during the school holidays when demand is sky high, but it amounts to the same thing:

Majority of parents back holiday price caps - new ITV poll
More than half of parents say inflated holiday prices should be capped so they are not forced to take their children out of school for cheaper getaways, a new survey for ITV reveals.
More than half of parents surveyed (53 per cent) believed travel companies should be forced to cap their holiday prices.
 Presumably the hotels and airline operators will charge the holiday companies less during peak demand too. This does demonstrate why political debates over the economy are so inane- even the most basic economic concept, the kind which are learned in the very first lesson of an economics course, are considered to be akin to magic by a large proportion of the population.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Women And Children First

In the New Republic an ethnic Russian writes about Putin's pledge to protect them:

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has interesting ideas about what it means to protect people. On March 4th, he articulated a doctrine of hiding Russian forces, future invaders of more of Ukraine, behind women and children: “Listen carefully. I want you to understand me clearly: if we make that decision it will only be to protect Ukrainian citizens. And let’s see those troops try to shoot their own people, with us behind them – not in the front, but behind. Let them just try to shoot at women and children! I would like to see those who would give that order in Ukraine.”

I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise given what we know about Putin's character- the German intelligence agencies knew that he was a drunken wife beater back in his KGB days, he doesn't do fair fights- but that is low even for a thieving, murdering dictator like Putin.

Via Harry's Place

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Selling The Big Issues The Brits Won't Sell.

Apparently one third of Big Issue sellers are from Romania originally. Near where I work, one of those Romanian vendors got into a fight this week with someone collecting money for teenage cancer who had "stolen" her patch. This same woman has been selling the Big Issue for at least three years and tells people in the shops nearby that she makes about £40.00 a day- not bad for untaxed income for doing fuck all. Oh and she also begs aggressively and sometimes has a shit behind the shops.

All in all a charming woman. It does raise the question about why the Big Issue- which is supposed to be helping homeless people get by- is effectively enabling beggars coming over to this country to ply their wares. It makes a mockery of the idea of charity.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Tony Benn- National Treasure

There were a lot of good things to be said of Tony Benn, but because he was a "national treasure", when he behaved appalling it gets passed on as loveable character foibles. Take this anecdote for example:

That was a more fortunate experience than a [journalist] colleague. An interview he conducted did not go to the liking of Mr Benn. So much not to his liking that he suddenly drew from a cupboard a magnetic device and waved it over the reporter's machine, erasing the tape.
This seems in character for an unrepentant admirer of Chairman Mao.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

It's Not Paranoid If They're Really Out To Get You

I've recently been reading a couple of books, one about modern day Russia and the other is about political paranoia in the USA*. I was struck by the similarity between the actions of modern FSB- the rebranded KGB- and the COINTELPRO operations of the FBI in the 1970s that the two books described.

The FSB pracitice techniques developed by East Germany called Operational Psychology:
Mafia State recounts how the KGB first became interested in "operational psychology" in the 1960s. But it was the Stasi, East Germany's sinister secret police, that perfected these psychological techniques and used them extensively against dissidents in the 1970s and 1980s. These operations were given a name, Zersetzung – literally corrosion or undermining.

According to former Stasi officers the aim was to "switch off" regime opponents by disrupting their private or family lives. Tactics included removing pictures from walls, replacing one variety of tea with another, and even sending a vibrator to a target's wife. Usually victims had no idea the Stasi were responsible. Many thought they were going mad; some suffered breakdowns; a few killed themselves.

Meanwhile the FBI's programme to undermine peaceful opponents included tactics like this:

The special agent in charge of the FBI’s San Diego office had a plan. An antidraft activist in the area was convinced that the Bureau was watching him—he kept telling people that his phone was tapped, his home bugged, his every move observed. With “a small push in the right direction,” the agent believed, the activist would start exhibiting “obvious paranoid tendencies,” and that would “completely neutralize him in his several leadership capacities.”
So let’s make a big show of spying on the man, the investigator suggested. Maybe we could build a spooky-looking mechanism from a bicycle part and an old transistor radio, then drop it off near his front steps one night. “In the event he displayed the contraption to anyone,” the officer argued, “its crude construction would ultimately neutralize any allegation that it originated or is being utilized by the FBI.” And if the target tried to tell people it was a bugging device, they’d ridicule him.

The method used by both agencies was subtle, deniable harassment that over time could wreck someone's mental well being rather than outright thuggery. This isn't to make a facile point about the USA being no different to Russia but the important differences there are because of the strength of other institutions in reigning in the excesses of the security services and with the scale of the problem (Russia has about 20 times more FSB employees per capita than the USA has FBI agents). The difference was not in the mindset of the respective agencies themselves.

In the United States the courts, a free press and a pluralistic political system could eventually hold the FBI to account and bring it back within the norms of legal behaviour. In Russia there is no such constraints on the FSB which therefore has expanded to essentially control the country.

* The books are "The United States of Paranoia" by Jesse Walker and "Mafia State" by Luke Harding.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Book Review- Comandante:Inside Hugo Chavez's Venezuela

This is my review on Amazon of Rory Carroll's book about Hugo Chavez and his "Bolivarian Revolution":

This portrait of Venezuela & it's late leader shows the disastrous nature of Chavez's misrule but also illuminates, to an extent, why Chavez was popular with the country's poor.

The opposition at least until around 2007, comes across as hypocritical, self satisfied and generally uninterested in the slum dwellers and peasants. The account given of the 2002 coup d'etat is damning. Chavez did genuinely connect with the forgotten masses of Venezuela despite his venality and could make them proud of themselves.

However it's pretty clear that Chavez's rule has been characterised by a destruction of democratic norms- with opponents being routinely jailed, opposition media shut down and massive state surveillance. Although perhaps surprisingly he never went the whole way and abolished democracy entirely- despite his links to Cuba free elections weren't abolished and dissidents were not murdered.

This has been combined with a level of incompetence that has reduced Venezuela to beggary despite a prolonged oil boom.

Chavez's style of rule- as shown in Comandante- consisted of making grandiose announcements in public, swiftly losing interest in how things developed, allowing cronies to enrich themselves and then making a new announcement a few months later that undid whatever progress had been made towards meeting his previous one.

The highly centralised nature of his rule also ensured that his ministers were focused entirely on getting access to him rather than on their actual jobs and any subject which didn't interest him- like crime- spiralled out of control. Placing short term political goals ahead of long term development has destroyed industrial development in the country.

The Chavez portrayed in this book wasn't a monster, but his faults have caused great damage to a the fabric of the nation he professed to love.

Institutional Corruption.

The report also found that one of the detectives at the heart of the investigation into Stephen's murder was corrupt and had links with the gangster father of one of his killers.
The officer allegedly reported back to his superiors with "personal evidence" about the family and "tactical intelligence" to help brief senior figures in the Metropolitan Police. 

This revelation is  scandalous but it surely undermines the conclusion that William Macpherson's infamous report made- that the police were institutionally racist. If it is the case that one of the officers investigating the murder had links to a suspect's family then there is a more direct explanation for the failures of the initial investigation. One which has nothing to do with race.

Macpherson's methodology was shoddy- he arbitrarily attributed all failings to racism despite a lack of evidence. In doing this he made little or no effort to consider other reasons- like police corruption.

Given the numerous occasions on which police cover ups and crookedness have been uncovered over the last twenty years it seems like corruption is more of an institutional issue for the police than racism.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Family Business

The government adviser who let journalists see the classified document he was carrying while walking into 10 Downing Street was Hugh Powell. He is the son of Margaret Thatcher's foreign policy adviser, Charles Powell. Charles is the older brother of Jonathan Powell- Tony Blair's chief of staff.

No doubt they are all very talented but it does seem strange that so many key people in the British government are from the same families.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Putin Love- From The Left & Right

Something which has been obvious for some time is that any newspaper that criticises Putin will be overwhelmed with comments supportive of the Kremlin. Indeed judging from newspaper comment sections you would think that far from being one of the least trusted governments on Earth, as polls suggest, that Putin was wildly popular. Part of that is paid Russian shills as could be inferred by the tone and poor English of many comments but some of them are genuine.

These appear to people on the far left- the Seamus Milnes and George Galloways of this world- and those on the paleo right. I don't mean the strict non interventionists who have been dismayed by the disastrous result of the Iraq War but those who are actually pro-Putin. While few on the right are quite as craven as Pat Buchanan who seems to think that the USA should be run from Moscow the idea does keep coming up that Putin is a conservative.

It's true to an extent, but only because conservative is a meaningless term in an international sense. If what you're conserving is state autocracy and unchecked power you aren't exactly a political descendent of Edmond Burke. Some point to his campaign for "family values" and religion, but on that basis Mullah Omar is an ally- there is a dividing line between "Culturally conservative" and "Primitive".

Others seem to like him because he is hostile to the EU. I favour leaving the EU but to find the organisation to be worse than Putin's Russia shows a complete lack of proportion. The EU passes directives that interfere in an unwarranted manner in domestic politics, Russia invades countries who refuse to let the Kremlin decide their economic alliances. Of course he is quite useful for Europhiles in any case- who thinks the British public would vote for withdrawal from an international club while a dictator is attacking isolated countries?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

So How's That Reset Coming Along?

I'm beginning to suspect that the "reset " the Obama administration offered to Putin in 2009 might not be going so well. In this Obama's delusion was that the poor relations between Russia and the USA was due to something Bush had done because he looks at the world entirely through the prism of US domestic politics.

The real cause is that the Putin's Russia seems unable to have civil relations as equals with it's neighbours and instead tries to dominate, intimidate and control them. The USA is not unusual in being targeted by Russia, even neutral Sweden gets the threatening treatment.

It is the geo-political equivalent of the retarded kid whose been held back a couple of years and can't socialise with his class mates but can beat them up. Although even an actual retarded kid would be hard pressed to have handled the Ukrainian situation less effectively than Putin.

Appeasing Terror.

The decision by the last government to issue IRA terror suspects with de facto immunity from prosecution is sickening. At a time when Tony Blair's government was sending British soldiers to fight and die in Iraq and Afghanistan his government was colluding with those suspected of murdering British troops.

I don't really understand how a letter from the Northern Ireland Office can trump a prosecution, it looks like a political move to me. The main argument deployed by those who support what the government did is that it was a price worth paying for peace.

This isn't an argument that much merit- a better way of achieving peace is to defeat the terrorists. We are told it is impossible but pretty much all the European terrorist groups of the 1970s had been crushed and sidelined by the 21st century. They all did it without the wholesale corruption of their legal and political systems.

Even the most similar group to the IRA, the Basque separatists ETA are now beaten and trying to "negotiate" with the Spanish government. The Spanish have behaved with more courage and compassion for the victims than our government did and have refused to elevate them to more than thugs.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How To Report For The Guardian.

A row has broken out between the Daily Mail- which supported Hitler in the 1930s- and Darth Vader after the paper claimed that he was involved in the destruction of Alderaan. Mr Vader demanded an apology from the Daily Mail for what he describes as "an orchestrated campaign" against him.

Friends of Mr Vader have dismissed the newspaper's claims as being part of a concerted effort to discredit the Empire. This is not the first time that The Daily Mail- which supported Hitler in the 1930s- has been hit by controversy, with many of it's practices under scrutiny by the Leveson inquiry.

The Daily Mail- which supported Hitler in the 1930s- caused controversy earlier this year with a deeply personal attack on Palpatine's father provoking a reader backlash. .....

Sunday, February 23, 2014

My First Kindle- Hooray For Technology.

I bought my first Kindle this week and I have to say that I am quite impressed with it so far. It's the basic bog standard model, bought for £60. The battery life is extraordinary compared to mobile phones or laptops, the screen quality is more than adequate for the task in hand and the amount it can store is phenomenal.

It is true what people say about the special feeling of a real book but there are also disadvantages to paper books. For example where to put them- book cases are big, Kindles are small. When books replaced scrolls the replacement was almost total- I'm pretty sure this won't be the case for e-readers they will take a big chunk of the market.

I can also see how e-readers have potential to be very useful in a school environment- if the bulk of the textbooks children have to have can be transferred to an electronic device then they won't have to carry have their own body weight to school each day.

All in all it is already one of my favourite electronic devices.

Hatty, Patty & Jack's Friends

Personally I think the Paedophile Information Exchange were just fucking immature arseholes. I'll say one thing for them though- they don't hide behind a euphemism about what they are. Usually promoters of repulsive ideas go to a bit of trouble to muddy the waters a bit- think of the benign sounding Institute of Historical Review that is actually a front for neo-nazis for example.

Given the PIE's directness about who they were, the links between it and a number of Labour politicians- Harriet Harman, Patricia Hewitt and Jack Dromey- really do require a very good explanation or an immediate deselection.

I don't think their behaviour is an aberration but rather a part of an extreme and marginal anti-family agenda that exists on the fringes of the extreme left. At the same time as linking up with the PIE, Hewitt & Harman coauthored a pamphlet titled "The Family Way" which claimed among other things that:

'It cannot be assumed that men are bound to be an asset to family life, or that the presence of fathers in families is necessarily a means to social harmony and cohesion.'

So traditional two parent families- bad.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Mentally Ill Let Progressives Down.

Very good news to see that the suicide rate has fallen. I can only hope this becomes a trend.

 Of course it is a bit surprising, because as a regular Guardian reader I was under the impression that the government was driving people to kill themselves with cuts. For example this piece quotes irresponsible demagogues impartial experts about the impact of cuts warning that they will hurt the vulnerable. Which is why the very generous welfare states of Scandinavia have such low..... oh never mind.

Other hand wringing articles warn of the:
Or ask:
The Independent's Owen "the people's tribune whether they like it or not" Jones inevitably jumped on the ghoulish bandwagon:
But even as mental distress and the risk of suicide soar because of austerity, the support is being slashed back.
In fact this kind of voyeuristic exploitation of desperate people who had ended their lives has been very widespread on the left. There was even a website "Calum's List" devoted to them as detailed by Brendan O'Neill here.

No doubt all these people will now be revising their opinions in the face of new evidence....


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Money Is No Object.

The flooding in South West England must be awful for those living there, and the government are under pressure over the handling of it. This seems a bit unfair, considering it is the wettest winter since Noah it would be remarkable if there was not flooding.

It doesn't justify David Cameron making saying things like this though:
"Money is no object in this relief effort. Whatever money is needed we will spend it."
Money is always a limiting factor and making promises that inevitably have to be broken is foolish.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Age Is Just A Number- Just Like Braking Distances.

Yesterday I was in a crash on the A14, I was stationary in a line of traffic when someone went into the back of me at high speed writing off my car and his. No one was seriously hurt. The driver of the other vehicle somehow hadn't seen me until he was about 30 metres away despite it being a clear day on a straightish road, for reasons which soon became obvious.

He was born in 1921 and like most 92 year olds he could hardly see past the end of his car.

Had he seen me five metres later I could have been badly injured or killed which brings me to my point- people past a certain age should have to undergo medicals once in a while to make sure they are still physically capable of driving.

A ninety two year old might well have taken his test seventy five years ago- it is senseless for someone to be assumed to be competent in handling a powerful piece of machinery on the basis that they could control a much less powerful machine some time before World War 2.