Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Pools-uh Panel-ah update

Apologies for slightly misleading you all. Mark E Smith did not read the results on Radio Five Live. I've just found out that, instead, it was on BBCi digital. You can see it here (a Real Media file).

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Monday, November 28, 2005

Navel gazing

Very flattered to be included in Tim Worstall’s ‘Blogged 2005’ anthology.

It’s a very good read. And a fantastic piece of pyramid selling. This explains why it was published before Xmas – every blogger published in it will probably buy half-a-dozen copies as stocking fillers.

Yet, whenever I talk to someone else who runs a blog, I get a puzzling cynicism. Comrade Rubbish says:

“….7 percent of online adults have blogs and 27 percent read them... mostly their own.”

So why do we bother?

Well, I reviewed a 'Five Corners Quintet' gig a while ago, and the band concerned referred to it approvingly. I’ve seen things defined in Wikipedia that were either lifted from articles I’ve written or show evidence that other people believe the same things that I do using the same words.

A while ago, I posted on how the Smoking ban in Ireland was getting smokers laid a lot more. This idea arose on a drunken night with some Dubliner friends, but it seems to have grown legs.

Now, I’m sure this meme didn’t spring from this blog, but it is one of its tributaries.

But most of all, I don’t know what I think until I read what I’ve written. And I write more carefully if I’m writing for an audience. And I'm even more unbearable in the pub now - I've actually got my arguments prepared in advance.

So I’m glad I started this blog, even if you’re not…

Memory Lane

Rullsenberg links to a great guide to The Pride of The Midlands / Cock of The North (note to self; redouble efforts to move back to Nottingham).

The elitism of Selectadisc and The Playhouse Bar of the early 1980s is spot on. I was back at The Playhouse last Saturday (taking the kids to see Jack and the Beanstalk). The Blitz Kids aren’t there any more.

Past glories:great photos – and the original Rock City opening schedule.

The bouncers wouldn’t let me in to the opener Undertones gig – said I didn’t look eighteen (I was sixteen and looked fourteen). They relaxed after the opening night though.


Thursday, November 24, 2005


For Nutty Boys and Modettes everywhere:

"She's gorgeous now," says Lee of his now grown-up niece. "Intelligent, attractive, you wouldn't want to change a thing."

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Shame of Channel Four

The trailer prior to tonight's (UK) Channel 4 Dispatches programme ‘America’s Secret Shame’ (part of a series of programmes about the war in Iraq) featured the series’ money quote. It was spoken to camera by one of the more right-wing correspondants on the Westminster beat (can't remember his name). He said:

“Iraq is the worst foreign policy disaster since Munich.”

(update 23.11.05: It was Peter Oborne of The Spectator)

What a great juxtaposition. Munich - a capitulation in the face of Fascist aggression. Surely Rwanda or Darfur could provide a more obvious comparison?

Hitchens says this better than I can
of course. But back to tonight’s Dispatches. It offered a largely one-sided narrative that focussed upon US casualties and used them to amplify calls for such a withdrawal from the grieving parents. It didn’t bother with any of the issues around the war - the controversy around it’s instigation, the weighing of the positive and negative consequences for the Iraqi people.

It ignored the consequences of withdrawal almost entirely. It’s only focus was upon how far America was achieving it’s own security goals and what the cost was in American body bags. Given the complexity of the arguments, it was the most one-sided agenda-led programme I've ever seen on TV in the UK.

Not only was It the very cheapest of journalistic currency, it offered an argument that can only ever make the case for isolationism and a rejection of any Internationalism. In short, it made exactly the same shameful case that Neville Chamberlain and the guilty men of Munich made.

And if the moral consequences of this unholy alliance between the ‘anti-imperialists’ of the left and the isolationists of the right is not enough, the practical political consequences of doing nothing - or it’s latest incarnation - unconditional withdrawal of Coalition forces from Iraq - are equally worrying. As Norm points out,

“Is it now the case that the Western democracies cannot fight wars unless these are short and very sparing of the lives of their own soldiers? That any war that becomes too long and too costly in these terms will quickly lose support within an electorate whose impulses become more self-centred (in the national sense) the more badly the war goes? If so, then the outlook is not at all good for the future of humanitarian military interventions where the circumstances are difficult.”

Channel Four should be ashamed of themselves.

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Saturday, November 19, 2005

Friday, November 18, 2005

Blackmailing your child

Norm, he say:

"It is an unwritten, though binding, law of life that one does not change one's boyhood sporting allegiances..."

For some reason, it is important to me that my seven-year-old son should follow in his father's footsteps. I don't care if we live in London. I can't face him nagging me to go to White Hart Lane.

It will be hard for the boy to obey his father on this. Following Forest was easy for me. For one thing, I lived in Nottingham. And I was ten years old when God appeared to many at the City Ground. I still wonder if what followed really happened. I sometimes expect to wake up and find my teenage years ahead of me.

It would be fair to say that no other British team has ever enjoyed the kind of fairytale that Forest enjoyed in the late 1970s.

Living in London, with the temptations of Chelsea and Arsenal (technically, Arsenal are the Forest B-Team), I've placed a heavy burden on the little lad's shoulders.

I've had to take drastic steps. He needed to be lied to. Lie after lie after lie. The first step was to seize on the wonderful news that my namesake had been signed. Then, when the tooth fairy made his first visit, he didn't bring a sixpence. He brought a kit instead. With 'Evans - 8' on the back. For a while, the poor boy actually heard radio reports in which his dad played - and scored - for Forest.

The gap left by the tooth that was swapped for a shirt (that he's wearing)

Obviously, this wouldn't be enough. A carefully chosen introduction to the City Ground backfired. Cardiff were inept opposition as expected, but Forest failed even to match them. The rest of last season was spent explaining that the Championship was upside down and Forest were to be promoted with Rotherham - to the First Division!

Relegation was followed by defeats to Woking and Yeovil. A near miss at Weymouth, and now, my namesake is training with Rotherham awaiting a permanent move there.

Still, the boy tells the kids in his school that he's a Forest fan. But I wonder how long it will be before it he's old enough to read the papers. How long before he learns that his dad is a liar?

So there's no time to waste. With a tape recorder, I now have all of the blackmail material I will ever need. Tomorrow morning he will be told that he is on The Internet - singing. He'll be so proud of himself. Here it is (you'll need your PC's speakers on).

But for the rest of his life, he will know that he has sealed a pact with cyberspace. There is no going back. He will never be able to pretend that he always followed Arsenal.

Maybe I should have gone the whole hog and named him Sue?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

French rigidity, Italian corruption, British probity...

.... all bad things.

Samizdata found this in either Time or Newsweek (not clear which)

“An Italian analyst argued that riots were far less likely to occur in Italy as the country was too corrupt and everyone was working in the black economy. Whereas the French state prevented immigrants from making any money at all and destroyed their aspirations, Italian graft was far more amenable to the hard graft of immigrants.”

The comments on the site bring the subject home to the UK to discuss whether British officialdom’s reputation for probity is a good thing.

Henry says:“I don't think every single state employee is trying to swindle me out of the services I've paid for with my taxes, but the system does nothing to weed out inefficiency and obstructionism.”

I expect that we all pay for Italian corruption though...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Ruffled dreams

One night, about fifteen years ago, I went to sleep with the radio on (BBC World Service) and was awoken by a piece of music that was so striking that IÂ’ve never really had it out of my head for very long ever since. It was called ‘My Lord My Lord by a Transylvanian band called Musikas.

The other night, the same thing happened. This time, it was a track called Shrewd Woman from a CD called Journey to the Centre of an Egg by a Lebanese Oud player called Rabih Abou Khalil.

It's marvelous. I'd get a copy if I were you.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Bunfight revisited

I've said before, I can't understand why anyone takes the SWP seriously - or gets involved in the bottom end of the dialogue of the deaf between 'stoppers' and 'revisionists.'

But, while looking through the higher end of that discussion - a bunfight between Norman Geras and Ken MacLeod - Ken said:

"During the Cold War, the Communist Party had, as was often remarked, an influence out of all proportion to its size. The same could be said today of the Socialist Workers Party, but in reverse. Its influence is smaller than its membership."

It's certainly true that, if you are involved in a campaign, and the SWP decide to support it, your campaign is truly fucked from that point on.

Interesting times

I've had a few digs aimed at me for my support for the Swedish safety net the other day (buried in this post).

Observations like "if the place is such a frozen paradise, why is the suicide rate so high?" and "only a truly sick national character could create IKEA - no wonder they all kill themselves" etc.

None of these are too fair, but at their root, they all share the view that stable times aren't interesting ones. It reminded me of this quote (Harry Lime speaking in Greene's 'The Third Man')

" Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

And then, by chance, I saw this (via):

"Resurrection of the spirit. On the political sickbed a people is usually rejuvenated and rediscovers its spirit, after having gradually lost it in seeking and preserving power. Culture owes its peak to politically weak ages."
Nietzsche - from 'Human, all-too-human.'

Either way, it provides another sobering thought: No matter how good the case for the Swedish social model is, there is no imaginable roadmap that could get the UK (for example) to adopt it.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Martin Pipe conspiracy

I know you didn't come to this blog to read about Horse Racing. So if it bothers you, look away now. Also, bear in mind that this is my first year blogging during the National Hunt season, so there may be more to come.

Still here? OK. Do you suffer from the "(insert trainer's name here) inverse success ratio syndrome"?

I've bet my children's life savings at various times on Martin Pipe horses. If I bet on them, they rarely even finish, never mind get placed. And if I don't get to the bookie in time, they skin the field.

This never happens with any other trainers. For me anyway.

So, I was delayed on my way to the bookie to back the relatively unfancied (but triumphant)Contraband in the Arkle last year. I backed Azertuiop against Pipe's 'Well Chief' with confidence at Sandown in April only to watch it trounced.

And on Saturday, domestic duties stopped me from backing Our Vic (the disapproval in which betting is viewed in our house means I often can't fabricate circumstances that leave me unattended near a bookmakers on a Saturday morning).

This is only the tip of the iceberg. There's money to be made by anyone who can work out whether I've bet against one of Pipe's horses / not got to the bookie in time to bet on one of them.

Academic excellence

This posting officially empathises with Pootergeek about the incompetence of academic bureacracies.

What utter wankers they are. With very few exceptions.

I don't know if this will cheer PG up, but it could be worse for him. He could take his sanity into his own hands by joining me in my job as a salesman, selling to the public sector and voluntary sectors and suchlike.

If he did, he'd see the inability of these sectors to do anything with a fraction of the competence that they demand from their suppliers. And when you look at the way the public / voluntary sectors outsource their work, its always done with the maxim from Parkinson's Law in mind:

"An official wants to multiply subordinates, not rivals"

Apropos of this, here's another contribution to the 'Best Societies in the World' series that this blog is perservering with:

The best societies in the world have a high safety net. It reduces the defensiveness of bureaucracies. (I know the linked-to article appeared a few weeks ago. I missed it at the time - sorry).

I know I bang on about how the root of most of our problems is a lack of respect for representative democracy. But the question of how bureaucracies of all kinds can be motivated to do a decent job runs a close second.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Posh People's Disease - latest

From the Daily Telegraph (7/11/05)

“Political correctness, dumbing down and teachers’ worries about being charged with sexual harrasment are crippling young British ballet dancers’ chances of reaching the top.”

Come the revolution, who gets the blindfold / last fag treatment first? The prick that the Telegraph are quoting, the arsehole who wrote the peice, or the editor who commissioned it?

Let’s have a heated debate!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Does it matter if people don't vote?

I’m about to write a piece called ‘why vote?’

I reckon that it doesn’t matter if a lot of people don’t vote. I’d prefer the lazy, indecisive and fickle not to have the casting vote in elections.

What do you think?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Pools-uh Panel-ah

On the 19th of November, Mark E Smith is (allegedly) stepping into James Alexander Gordon's shoes reading the football results on BBC Radio Five Live.

*lie-dream*: "Chelsea-ah One-uh, Nottingham Forest-ah Four-uh"

*reality* "Nottingham Forest-uh Nil-ah, Southend-ah One-uh"

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Posh People's Disease (continued)

Nick Cohen is bang on the money as usual. Well almost.

In my experience, Kimberly isn't an archetypal posh bird name. It's usually the opposite.

As Nick says...

"Class hatred once provided the “Stop!” signs of the left. If you were
invited to entrust your money or your heart to someone who was rich, you would
know to make an excuse and leave, because tradition ruled that no good could
come of the relationship. The gut reaction was based on three arguments whose
wisdom had been proved by long experience.

1) Economic. Excessive wealth leads its holders to expect to get their own way whatever the rules say and whatever damage is done to others.
2) Political. No just country can be created while extremes of wealth persist. It is wrong to allow the wealthy to believe that the rest of society finds their existence desirable or even tolerable.
3) Aesthetic. The wealthy are vulgar. They waste their money on the art of the Chapman brothers or the fashions of John Galliano and use their domination of taste to silence the little boy who says the emperor has no clothes, or, rather, has gauche and ill-fitting clothes."

So, continuing this blog's 'Best Societies in the World' series, the best societies in the world don't have posh people in them. Or unearned wealth (also see the comments on this post of Shuggy's).

*Update: I've been contacted by someone very well placed to interpret Nick's article. I've been advised to re-read it, and I now see that his point was that Kimberly is a daft name. Not a posh one. Personally, I think that Kimberley is a very good name for a beer....

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Got ten minutes to spare?

Then go and have a look at Jahsonic.

I know that I've got it in the blogroll already, but last night I had to keep watching a computer that was running boring procedures (don't ask). Jahsonic is a place to learn things that you didn't realise you wanted to know.

In the meantime, someone sent me a link to American Samizdat. Is this a rationalist contempt for all religions (yay!!) or an anti-semitic blood-libel (boo)?

You tell me.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Still left wing then?

A few random peices from the arguments around the UK & US involvement in Iraq:

Hak Mao on the moral racism - the different standards that are applied to human rights issues. I made a half-hearted attempt at excusing this here a few days ago, but I shouldn't really. There's no excuse for making the wrong arguments - especially if you make them for the wrong reasons.

Related to this, in the same way, so much of what passes for protest isn't about identifying the real causes of a problem, being a victim isn't about identifying who the perpetrator is - it's identifying someone who can be sued.

Comrade Rubbish on the cost of the war. You can argue that it was done in the wrong way, or for the wrong reasons, or at the wrong time. But to argue that it shouldn't have been done at all - or to bleat about the cost - then
you lose the right to be called an Internationalist.

I can understand scepticism about the war in Iraq - I've plenty of it myself. But the way it has been opposed - and the reasons for a lot of that opposition - has helped to define a completely worthless section of the left so clearly. When the term 'left wing' lumps me in with objective allies of fascism, I'm not sure that I want to be part of it any more.

London flix

From the Film London website:

"A reader's poll was conducted alongside this industry poll. There were some rather interesting results, so we count down the top ten for you here:

1. The Long Good Friday
2. Blowup
3. Wonderland
4. Withnail & I
5. Performance / An American Werewolf in London
6. Mona Lisa
7. The Last of England
8. Naked
9. Notting Hill
10. The Ladykillers / 28 Days Later"

So. no 'Passport to Pimlico' or 'Lavender Hill Mob'? And no 'Robbery'? (if only for the scene on the terraces at Brisbane Road (Leyton Orient) where the blag is planned.

Posh People's Disease (2)

He's been outside ..... in the wain ....


What works for you

As usual, just after I've posted something, I find someone else has made a similar point and done it more effectively. Yesterday, I posted on the subject of utilitarian policymaking. This morning, I read Butterflies and Wheels (via Norm as usual). on the religious equivalent.

B&W is tilting at the view that "it may be bullshit, but it works for you, so it's fine."

Personally, I don't care what religion works for anyone - as long as they don't bring it into the street to frighten the horses.

Political realists will tell you that you should be prepared to go along with a view that has been advanced to get it's proponent over a pragmatic hurdle because "it works." This makes life very easy for people with power. It is usually calculated to stick to an electoral path of least resistance.

It also results in shoddy policymaking. There's nothing wrong with pragmatism of course; but incoherent or unprincipled pragmatism is a different matter.

As luck would have it, this was also excercising Roy Hattersley in yesterdays Guardian (via his rant on the smoking ban). He notes that we are being asked to go along with the partial ban - because it works. Well it works for the people who matter, and that's all that counts.

Again, I'm neutral on where and when people should light up. The side effects of the ban will be interesting though (I'm convinced that I'm the first person to actually write about this - The Observer appears to have picked it up now).

But I think that you either do it, or you don't. There isn't even a veneer of principle behind the fudge that is going to be sold to Parliament. An over-centralised political settlement always allows the executive to make everyone else do their work for them.

If ever you need an argument for bicameralism, this is it.

Sight Savers

On TV last night (BBC 10 o'clock news) Al-Amin, a young Bangladeshi boy, was shown before and after routine surgery was carried out to remove cateracts from his eyes.

The look of pleasure on his face as he was able to look at his mother had to be seen to be believed. He is told that he can now start going to school. "Doctor! I want to be a doctor" he said.

Have a look at the full story. And stop by the Sight Savers International website, why don't you?