Thursday, April 26, 2018

True Brit - the Windrush Scandal


SS Windrush

I am in the club. I am numbered among the congregation.

Watching the fulminations about the West Indian generation who came to Britain in the 1950’s and subsequently found that they were not as welcome as they either thought or were promised, brings to mind some experiences of mine.

For, I have the same bit of paper one of the victims was proudly clutching on TV last evening. It resides in my passport and except for its size it is identical. It’s dated 9 June 1975. It’s almost exactly like the TV one – except it is on A5 paper, not A4 (saving money in 1975?)

I dug out my old passport. On 8 June 1974 I entered the UK having debarked from the QE II at Southampton. My passport stamp says I have leave to enter the UK for two months. On 16 July I have another stamp which says my leave to remain will expire on 8 June 1975 – I confess I do not remember how I got that stamp. Finally I have a stamp from the Home Office on 9 Jun 1975 saying that the time limit to enter the UK is hereby removed.

Am I of the Windrush generation? No. I am neither black nor West Indian. The cut-off date for Windrush migrants, as reported in the press is 1974. I’m just a “legal” immigrant.

How did all this happen?

Well, in 1974 I graduated from Central Missouri State University and wanted to begin my teaching career. At the same time my wife was pregnant with our oldest son – now over 40. We decided to return to her country of origin. So, we did. At about that time there was a furore in the press regarding wives of British men who had come to the UK to join their husbands.

Was not what’s good for the goose, good for the gander? Eventually the government agreed and therefore husbands of British women were accorded the same rights. Hence my 9 June 75 passport stamp. Clear?

In the intervening years I had no problems citizenship-wise. I had vacations in the USA. I traveled on the continent. I went through immigration and customs without problems.

Once I lost my Home Office letter. Luckily, I arrived back at Heathrow from the US on the first plane to land that morning. Happy Days! I grabbed my luggage and rocked up to Immigration with no queue in sight! Very Happy Days! Because it was so early, I half expected to be waved on my way. No. The immigration officer quizzed me: where are you going? Norwich. Why? I live there. How long? 20-odd years. How am I supposed t know that? Damn it I lost my letter (soto voce) BTW- We had an Australian lady here who was stuck for weeks! Come on, give me a break, please? Okay, on your way. Lucky. I wonder how I might have fared if I had a black face? (I found the letter eventually and it is now safe again in my passport)

Is it stretching it to assume that the Windrush migrants were/are having so many problems because they are black? I don’t think so.

This is a result of government policy and TRUE BRIT. We must guard our borders! Why? We must be wary of strangers/foreigners. The WOGS start at Calais. This government – and to be fair – previous governments of all parties - have created an atmosphere where the Windrush migrants became easy targets. Immigration Officers believed they were carrying out government policy by making it as difficult as possible for black people to enter the homeland. What TOSH.

In his grave, and celebrating the Rivers of Blood speech he made 50 years ago, Enoch Powell must be having a good laugh at the mess he helped to create. The sooner the government and the people move on from the completely ridiculous idea that the whole world is laying siege to Britain the sooner we might get some compassion and sense into the problem. 

Two chances: fat and slim.


Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Economics 101


A wealth plan for the ages and for all

Now, I am the first to admit that I am functionally economically illiterate. I must point out that this in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. After all even though there is a loud and boisterous group who like to pretend that economics is a science, most people recognize that economics is to science as bookmaking is to wealth. The systems involved in each are, at best, enlightened guesswork and at worse ill-informed charlatanism.

I have long had an economic plan. This plan has been the subject of ridicule and approbation from all sides.

By way of illustration: it resembles my famous cherry-pie mathematics theory. Cherry-pie maths postulates what happens when you apply some mathematical principles to a cherry pie. For example, if you add one cherry pie to another cherry pie you get two cherry pies. OK?

Now if your multiply instead of add you get something different, so the mathematicians tell us. Where I come from, adding is like multiplying. Add two things together you get more. Multiply two things together you get more. (Like rabbits for example or cherry pies)

Therefore when the mathematicians tell you that 1x1 = 1 – hey! not where I come from! IF you multiply 1 cherry pie x another cherry pie – the maths genii say you get one cherry pie. Crazy – what ever happened to the law of conservation of mass and energy? Where did the rest of the pie go to?

No, multiplying one cherry pie by another cherry pie means you get two pies – not one!

Similarly, if you ask maths guys they will tell you that multiplying two negative numbers together creates a positive sum. So -10 x -10 = 100. Yeah, right.

In the real world if I go to Barclays bank and borrow £1000 pounds – go next door to HSBC borrow another £1000 and then ask them to multiply my borrowings together and send me the cheque for 1 000 000, they just won’t do it! (Go ahead, try it and see, but be prepared to be laughed at!)

Result: my cherry-pie maths is rooted in the real world. Economics is rooted in the mathematical world. And, the two rarely meet - and if they do it is usually with an earth-shattering collision.

How does this fit with my plan to exploit the economists? Simples.

Take as an example the National Lottery. Since it’s inception in November of 1994, the National Lottery has produced more than 4,750 millionaires. Gosh, that seems a lot – especially since I’m not one of them! Not only is it a lot of winners: it is also a lot of money. And, here is the important point: it (apparently) does not cause inflation – or indeed any other blip in the economic life of the nation. This could be because it is essentially self-financing – indeed there is money left over to give to good causes. In actuality the National Lottery is a wealth redistribution vehicle. It takes money from millions of citizens and gives it to a few.

I propose something similar. But, why not just cut out the middle man and give money directly to the public. There are about 27 million households in the UK.

For 2015/16, the overall NHS budget was around £116.4 billion. That’s about 5000 per year per household. The government seems content to fund this.. Of course, they could just give every household £ 5 000 and say you get your own healthcare – use it to buy health insurance for example. By way of comparison: How much does the US spend on healthcare per person?
$10,345 per person.

So, here in the UK we are content to let the government redistribute wealth through the NHS.

Why not let the government do this on an industrial scale?

My plan: the Chancellor writes to all 27 million households and tells them that on January 1, 2019 he is going to deposit 1 million pounds in their bank account. He explains that if asked he will, of course, deny this. All you have to do is provide the Inland Revenue with your bank account details and on Jan first the money will be deposited. The only proviso, if you haven’t spent the money by Jan 5 he will take it back.

I figure that 5-10 million households will think it’s a hoax and do nothing. Another 5-10 million will lose the letter, or forget or be so drunk after New Year they just fail to do anything. So, 10 million folks will get the million and spend it (oh, yeah, one more proviso). You can spend it either to pay off your debts or buy stocks, shares or bonds. Or a combination of either.

The result: the total cost to the exchequer will be about the same as the annual spend on the NHS. 
 
10 million households will no longer have a mortgage payment to find every month. Those 10 million will also own most of the shares in VW, GM, US Steel and South Africa’s diamond industry.

And, here’s the best bit, they will have paid for these non-perishable assets with mostly worthless paper currency, for the pound will sink like a rock. No real matter – that’s why only non-perishable assets are allowed. Makes no difference if the pound in your pocket is worthless, if you own real assets. Works for me. Also, the best bit is the economists will hate it!

From where I’m standing it looks like winning..

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

True Brit Part Two


No shortage of nonsense

If nothing else, Brexit has provided endless opportunities for examining the concept of True Brit.

For those with short memories let me explain. The True Brit believers hold these truths to be self-evident: Britain is the greatest country in the world; the rest of the world is both envious of Britain and at the same time plotting our downfall (Johnny Foreigner can not be trusted and WOGS begin at Calais); the British system of Parliamentary democracy (I'll say democracy though it is really an autocracy) is the best form of government and the envy of the world; British justice is far better than any other (only in the USA would the people elect their judges and in the EU the Court of Human Rights is to be mistrusted – if not downright dismissed as a plot to foil British ambitions); The NHS is the nearest thing to a national religion and provides not only universal healthcare but also the force that unifies the nation; and Britain’ s armed forces are the envy of the world and far superior to those of any other nation.

There’s a good place to start. Britain does have an enviable historical record on the military front. But, the key word here is “historical”. The fact is: not since about 1943 has Britain been able to hold its own against another world power. And that was chiefly because of the finance provided by the USA. Unfortunately, no-one in Britain believes this and politicians and population cling hysterically to the notion of Britain’s military might. Except in the realm of nuclear warheads, Britain is a third or fourth rate military force. Were it not for the stubbornness of the UK establishment this fact would be more widely accepted and some tangible benefits could be accrued on the defence front which might go a long way to solving some other, more pressing problems.

Take Trident for example. Governments of all persuasions have clung dogmatically to the idea of a British independent nuclear deterrent. This is in spite of the fact that it is a myth. Firstly is there a scenario where the UK could launch a nuclear strike on its own against an aggressor? Beyond unlikely!

Secondly, whilst the warheads may indeed be British, the submarine’s missiles are not. They are American. Would the US stand by and allow its missiles to be used against its wishes? Sorry, it’s Suez all over again! Conclusion: there is no real independent UK nuclear deterrent. So, why persist with the myth? Simples – it just reinforces the True Brit myth.

What about the conventional forces? Again it soothes the British psyche to imagine that they have the best Army, Navy and Air Force. True Brit is alive and well as long as the politicians can con the public into believing this for it makes the public happy to cough up billions on the wasted and useless defence mechanism that is Trident. (Actually, more and more mainstream politicians and commentators are beginning to see this and speak publicly about this waste of national resources. )

Just this week we find that the Royal Marines, current size 7020, is set to shrink by another 2000 marines.. The current size of the Army is about 80 000. The RAF has about 35 000 personnel. The Navy has 33 000 with 20 of the commissioned vessels being major surface combatants (six guided missile destroyers, 13 frigates and one aircraft carrier) and 10 are nuclear-powered submarines (four ballistic missile submarines and six fleet submarines). The fact is the UK has forces totally inadequate for the very small tasks they might be expected to do.

The really interesting part of this sorry saga is that the newspapers are full of stories like this. The one they particularly “like” is the “plan” by the EU to form a European Army. The media, politicians and the public are aghast and horrified! Why? True Brit strikes again. Pointing out that the UK has been co-operating with other EU counties in NATO for a very long time does nothing to assuage True Brit. Equating this long-standing co-operation with the foundation of an EU Army brings gasps of incredulity.

Moving on to another True Brit maxim: the NHS, of course, even causes Donald Trump to get in the news – and he doesn’t need much of an excuse to seek news opportunities I hear you say! The Donald jumped on the bandwagon by insisting the problems in the NHS are caused by the ideological wedding of a socialistic healthcare system to the failing British economy.

Notwithstanding the usual hyperbolic balderdash pedalled by the Donald, there is no doubt that the NHS is the nearest thing the UK has to a national religion any more (even though there is a real national religion in the Church of England). It is a True Brit maxim that the NHS is the envy of the world.

Then we have to add gun control to the list. The UK in general and the media in particular are obsessed by guns and gun control. They have no real understanding of the issues involved and the difficulties which need to be overcome. So, when POTUS finally moves a bit towards some rational, achievable measures to help, the outcry barely abates. It’s the truth that everyone says they like to mind their own business but no-one really means it. They would much rather everyone simply adopt their prejudices. True Brit loves to tell everyone else what to do. True Brit has all the answers. Blah. Blah, blah!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Facebook


How the internet gets it way wrong sometimes

A letter to a friend:

People (including me) sometimes sit at their computers and merrily type comments which seem innocuous or possibly humorous to them – but to other people they may be very thoughtless, offensive or downright silly. For that reason, I almost never use Facebook to express opinions on controversial topics – especially politics.

I was telling you about those two characters in my family, my nephew Brent (Ruthanne’s boy) and my nephew Rusty (son of my cousin Virginia). They are from the same general gene pool - but Brent is a bit to the right of Adolf Hitler, Barry Goldwater (remember both you and I supported him in 64!) and Attila the Hun. Rusty, on the other hand, makes Bernie Sanders, Che Guevara and Karl Marx look like arch-conservatives. Needless to say when these two nutters get to arguing (and I use the term “arguing” very loosely) on Facebook it is very ugly – but at the same time entertaining – if you like watching train wrecks that is. Me, I just watch what they age doing and occasionally chip in with something like – “hey, the answers are not usually to be found in black and white – it’s the shades of grey where you are more likely to find some sense”.

Needless to say, they ignore me, mostly.

I think it’s a product of age. When you get old youngsters just think you have lost it and should shuffle off the mortal coil quietly and shut up. (Perhaps, they are right)

My tactic is to use Facebook to look at photos of friends, family (particularly grandchildren) and keep track of the Chiefs and the Royals. (Interestingly, you can have a good, quality discussion with both Brent and Rusty about sport, Chiefs and Royals style – a topic we all agree on!!)

If I find the urge to spout off I use my blog. That way if anyone is actually interested in my opinion they have to navigate to the blog – i.e. it’s not on Facebook where almost anyone can see it. Seems sensible to me.

Regarding our President. I absolutely agree that every President belongs to the whole country, not just those who voted for him or only to those who share his opinions. We are all free to agree with him on matters of policy or to take another stance. Therefore the office of President deserves respect – not the actual office-holder.

Take “fake news”. This seems to be a favourite of the President. And, he is in many ways correct to point out that not everything has equal value out in cyberspace. The problem is many folks now-a-days are getting their “news” from Facebook and other non-verifiable sources.

The fact is there are some facts!

For example you can find people who believe Kennedy was shot by someone other than Lee Harvey Oswald. (Polls often show that a majority of American people support this idea) Most of the conspiracy theories are wrong, but entertaining. So, should we stop folks from blogging about the Kennedy assassination? No, of course not, everyone is entitled to take a view and express an opinion.

A better example: did the Russians try to influence the election of President Trump? There seems to be some evidence, but is it conclusive. No, not yet. And if they did, so what? Is it likely that significant numbers of voters could be swayed by Russian propaganda? Not likely. But and this is the important point – just like the Kennedy assassination, if you think they did you are perfectly entitled to do so and it is un-American to insist that those who hold that view are stupid, vile, or trying to subvert the electoral process. What opponents should be doing is finding facts to support their position, Same for the other side. Here’s where “fake news” comes in – it seems that a number of folks are not able to differentiate between some old bovine faeces on Facebook and even the semblance of a reliable fact.

This is a big problem.

I remember having an argument not long ago with James (you know, tall guy – father of Noam and Maya) about the Dutch Tulip Bulb speculation in the 17th century. Most people think they know vaguely about this and use it as an example of how things can get out of hand by speculation (particularly in stocks and shares). To my chagrin, James turned out to be more right than I. A classic example of “the problem ain’t that folks are ignorant, it’s just that they know so damn much that ain’t true”.

(By the way this is another classic – most folks think it was Mark Twain who came up with this – no it was Josh Billings – you can look it up its a FACT)

Back to the bulbs. It turns out that the speculation in tulips was greatly over-estimated and many other factors led to the collapse of this particular market, Again, there is a lot of stuff on Facebook and the internet about Tulips – but you have to wade through the Bull dust to find out any real facts.

Most folks seem to have lost either the time or inclination to do this.

Likewise, folks can easily find information which reinforces their crazy, mistaken ideas. That don’t make it so!

Over this side of the pond we have the Brexiteers and the Remoaners. They argue, bicker and threaten each other with relish. They muster facts or pseudo-facts with abandon. But, of course, they never get any closer to agreement or understanding. Perhaps this penchant for self-centred preoccupation is just in our genes?


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Chips on Yarmouth Market


Competition - Ha!  Ha!

I am a member of a very small, very exclusive club – I like Gt Yarmouth, always have. It has always seemed to me to be more a large village, rather than a small town. (It is, actually, the third largest town in Norfolk) When I lived near Yarmouth in the 1970’s the shopping trips were always to Yarmouth and no shopping trip was ever complete without the purchase of some chips from Yarmouth market. It’s good to know that the market is still alive and well and the chip stalls remain open (https://www.great-yarmouth.co.uk/shopping/market.aspx)

However, after only a few months of shopping in Yarmouth I noticed a really odd thing about the chip stalls on the market. They all sold their chips at the same price. I expect they still do so today. It just seemed odd that not one of the 10 or so chip stalls would cut their price to try and get more custom.

Then again, Yarmouth folk are funny, they will swear that the chips from their particular favourite stall are the best. I was never hung up on this, I’d just go for the one with the smallest queue.

But, where was the competition? It was explained to me (dummy foreigner) that the Yarmouth chips stalls, or more precisely the permits to run the chip stalls, were like the Yarmouth version of Standard Oil, the American Tobacco Company, the International Mercantile Marine Company, and the match companies controlled by Ivar Kreuger, the Match King. De Beers had a dominant role in the supply of diamonds.

Other trusts were formed by several companies, such as the Motion Picture Patents Company or Edison Trust which controlled the movie patents. Patents were also important to the Bell Telephone Company, as indicated by the massive litigation that came to be known as The Telephone Cases. - Wikipedia

The Yarmouth chip stalls were handed down within the family. No-one else could start a chip stall or buy a chip stall and therefore provide some healthy competition. Is it any wonder that all chips were the same price?


What’s the connection?

Back to Yarmouth. In the 80’s the Gt Yarmouth Borough Council built the Marina Centre. In a prime location on the sea front it was supposed to breathe new life into the town and provide somewhere for the beleaguered holiday-makers to go when it rained. It had a swimming pool (with a wave machine), an indoor sports area and eateries all under one roof. It cost some millions to build and the council provided the money, or they borrowed it I can’t remember which. In any event, instead of using the council’s own personnel to manage the Marina Centre (they have a perfectly good Tourism and Leisure section to this day), in their wisdom the GYBC (Gt Yarmouth Borough Council) employed a management company (like Carillion?) to manage the Marina Centre. The local paper, the Yarmouth Mercury, then ran stories every week for years about how the Marina Centre lost money – and lots of money – every year.

Strangely, it never occurred to them to find out why the fee paid to the management company almost exactly equalled the Marina Centre deficit.

It was easy really. When the GYBC or any government body actually manages something there is nowhere to pass the buck.

Yarmouth rate-payers who had a poor Marina Centre experience would ring their borough councillor and complain. The councillor would pick up the phone and speak to the management company, The councillor would then be able to tell his constituent that he had made the appropriate inquiries. Nothing got done but the council could pass the buck. That’s what they paid the management company for.

Sound familiar? It ought to for that’s what has been happening since the 80’s – not just in Yarmouth but everywhere. Companies like Carillion have been paid to take the flak. The government talks and talks about competition being a good thing, but works like hell to make sure it doesn’t happen.

Only the NHS escapes the management company malaise.  But, for how long?  I'm sure the government would love to unload the NHS on to Carillion, and they would if they thought they could get away with it!

The government talks and talks about how small businesses are the life-blood of the economy, yet they dish out multi-million pound contracts to very large companies which are no better than the robber-barons of old. For Carillion read Standard Oil.

Take the ill-fated and doomed NDR (the road to nowhere). When the Norfolk County Council were looking for someone to build this white elephant, their choice was limited at best. The contract was worth over 200 million pounds. Now me, you and Paddy with a few shovels and spades cannot build the NDR. Only a few companies have the resources which enable them to bid for the contract. Where’s the competition? There is no practical competition.

Eventually Balfour Beatty got the contract – though they were a lot smarter than Carillion (or maybe the NCC were a lot more stupid than the national government?)

The point is competition for these type of contracts is just a myth designed to reassure the public and assuage the mega-morons in the Tory shires (and line a fair amount of Tory pockets at the same time through dividends and pension companies).

Only large companies have the resources to take on large building projects. Only the government has the resources to finance large building projects. Only the government itself can provide competition for Carilllion or Serco or uncle Tom Cobley and all.

This is now in vogue. “Let’s bring it back in house! Is the cry.”

From the same folks who sent it out in the first place.

Flying elephants are more likely to be spotted.

Laugh? I thought I’d cry!



Monday, January 08, 2018

One and Done - Minus the One



Chiefs Blow it Big Time

An historic loss and I watched the whole thing live courtesy of Sky Sports. Happy Days. I almost wish I had had the flu and only had to read about it the next day!

But no – like the live-streaming of a train wreck – you just have to watch even when you know the outcome is going to be a disaster.

UGLY: What was that call?

Marcus Mariota fumbled the football on the play, which Justin Houston recovered, but it was ruled a stoppage of forward progress, which cannot be challenged. This was the first of two questionable forward progress calls on the evening.

The Titans kicked a field goal to get on the board.
"Anyway that aside, I have to say that these rules now a days are getting very complicated and they are starting to pull at the fabric of the game. The forward progress call where Mariota fumbled was egregious and atrocious. The quarterback was standing still - the impact of the hit jarred the football loose and the referee decided to call his forward progress stopped - even though he was standing still looking downfield - negating an obvious fumble. The definition of a sack fumble has now been called into question. Calls like this should never happen and yet are becoming routine and familiar. These calls are absurd and way overcomplicated. So I wanted to open a discussion and see what people think should be done to stop this lunacy of calls. Instead of a rant I thought it may be constructive to have a discussion about solutions to a problem rather than being pissed that we follow the biggest choke artists in sports. Hence this post.”

“The odd thing was – at half time with the score 21-3 and I was thinking that if we can get a touchdown on the next possession maybe we can rest some of the starters for next week’s encounter with the Steelers. (Talk about some rose-coloured lenses).

Then the wheels not only came off but went rolling off indifferent directions. The running the ball plan was abandoned (it wasn’t working anyway). The injuries piled up (two were extremely critical – Travis Kelce and Chris Jones). The defense began to show their true form (the Greeks have a word for it “pathos”). Finally, Alex Smith (in what will surely be his last game in red) began to look confused and shell-shocked, as if “surely this can’t happen again!” Oh, yes it can and it did, Alex.

At the end of the day the truth is the Chiefs lost because they did not make enough good plays on either offence or defence. This self-evident analysis is only useful going forward if it forms the basis for progress.

Let’s start with the offence: where, at least, there were some bright sparks.
Alex Smith has been a great servant to the franchise, but next year he is just trade bait. Patrick Mahomes will be the QB and the Chiefs cannot afford to have Alex as a back-up. He goes for either high draft picks or a quality player which fills a need. We have the rushing leader in Kareem Hunt. That should be enough! No, it is not. In he Titans game, he was generally ineffective, whilst a much leas talented back got the glory for the Titans by pounding the Chiefs D-line. We could use a real pounder as compliment to Hunt. At Tight end we have Travis Kelce and when he got injured the game was lost. Demetrius Harris and Orson Charles are poor, and very poor respectively substitutes. The much talked-about Chiefs three tight end offence was shown to be nonsense. We need another proven tight end via the draft or free agency. The O-line has been poor all season. Some good games have only masked the inadequacies. Upgrades are required across the board. You simply cannot have a rookie QB with a poor O-line and a one-dimensional running game. The core of the problem is the receiving corps. Alex has been hampered all season by a lack of quality receivers to throw to. Mahomes will need proven NFL receivers and some top draft picks to come in and challenge for starting spots. The Chiefs have been making do with Tyreek Hill – who is not really a wide-receiver at all! Getting in some real big-bodied wide-outs who can catch the ball is the number one priority!

Moving on to Special Teams. What a disappointment. In the most critical game of the season they made one play – a fumble recovery on a punt. Result: no points. The Butt Kicker missed a chip shot. Shame to blame him but it comes with the job. He makes it and we probably win. Shame because he is very good and will have the job next season. Dustin Colquitt will be a free agent and may go. I can see a low draft pick being used on the next Chiefs career punter.

The Chiefs defense is overall graded at about D or C- at best. D-line needs help and players who could help are not on the roster. LB’s are D at best. Help! Help! The secondary is solid but needs another quality cornerback and a safety (even if Eric Berry returns and is in his old form.)

There are no mysteries here. You can call it a rebuilding year or a revamping year or a treading water exercise, call it what you will. Problem is almost every other team will be looking for the same things!

Still, until these issues are addressed and solved the next play-off win is a mirage in the distance.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Mad - Mad - Mad World of the Sunday Times



What a bumper week! I’m sure the Sunday Times Editor has become a speed addict?

In the news, and in no particular order, we have:
Brexit Divorce Bill to be Kept Secret
Partying BA crews “knackered” on job
Kungfu Mandarins get set for Brexit brawls
Tube Panic Fight misheard as fire
Dear Santa Claus: Fido wants cologne an beer this year
Inmates become Top Chefs from doing porridge
DNA test curbs news’ power to stop new homes
Trump rejects being man of the year – probably
Rod Liddle Editorial
Hell Toupee: mothers cause male baldness
Stick to Pretty Fish, Sir Attenborough, and stop blubbing about dead whales

Stick to Pretty Fish, Sir Attenborough, and stop blubbing about dead whales

Let’s start at the end. Jeremy Clarkson is nothing if not controversial and somewhat amusing. So,when he picks on that icon, Sir David Attenborough, he must be on shaky ground. Now throw in some whales (everybody loves whales) and he on the proverbial hiding to nothing, surely? Not quite. His point is that David is making some very beautiful programmes about the sea and he need not take every opportunity to enhance his Eco-warrior credentials. Jeremy’s credo: “I don’t want to sell my Range Rover because some coral is picky about sea temperatures”.

He’s so amazingly wrong it takes the breath away that he is allowed a mouthpiece to spout such drivel. The sea is at our mercy and we are not doing it very much good at the moment. Come to think of it we have been exploiting the sea for so many generations it is has become just part of the Homo sapiens culture. No amount of Attenborough is likely to stop it, either. Find another topic, Clarkson.

Hell Toupee: mothers cause male baldness

Crikey, I’ve been saying this for years! it’s all in the female hormones. A study has found that the most important genes controlling hair loss are on the X chromosome – which men get from their mothers. The real bad news: baldness is linked to a higher risk of heart disease. (Mal says, if that’s so how come bald men have not died out of the gene pool by natural selection?)

It’s time to concrete over Oxfordshire or we could just curb immigration

Ron Liddle’s “editorial” (and I use the term very loosely), makes for entertaining, if not enlightening, reading. His point is that if only we stopped immigration (no guessing from where we would get staff for the NHS – just as an example) letting in the number of immigrants each year equal to a city the size of Newcastle; we would have no housing shortage or problem at all.

This is one of those simplistic analyses that some folks are so fond of (Journalists mostly – and bloggers). I was surprised to see that Ron had joined the ranks of the NIMBY BRIGADE.

Ron explains: “. . . the government had identified an area ripe for development: the Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Oxford corridor. Up to a million homes there. I was unaware there was a corridor between Cambridge and Oxford. I thought between the two cities lay Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and a bit of Buckinghamshire. . . but to the government it’s just a corridor.”

Ron misses the point. This corridor is not just green and pleasant land, it’s the heart of England (at least the South-east) it’s where people would like to live – if only they could afford to.

Which brings me neatly to the lack of affordable housing. I’ll just use Wroxham as the example. Here we have about 1000 new homes being built within a five mile radius. Go as far as Rackheath and you can add another 2000. What no-one ever explains is - who are the people who are buying these homes? They are the the product of “of our uncontrolled and unsustainable immigration, which the government vowed to sort out but has been useless in doing so.” That’s what Ron says.

OK, so very poor, unskilled, rapacious and probably dirty immigrants are buying up our new homes in Wroxham.

Yea, right!

The more usual explanation is that people who are moving out of London fuel the East Anglian house price inflation. There is some truth in this. But a million? Year on year? Balderdash!

This time the government is right. More homes have to be built. Now. And lots of them. Ron is full of it. And it smells.

Trump rejects being Man of the Year – probably

No edition of the Sunday Times would be complete, of course, without a lets-take-the-piss-out-of-Donald-Trump story. This one is just too funny!

Apparently tennis star Andy Murray took to Twitter to claim that the BBC was PROBABLY going to name him as Sports Personality of the Year mimicking Trump’s refusal to commit to the idea that Time Magazine might name bestow upon him the title of Man of the Year.

There is a serious side to this. I was watching the Archbishop of Canterbury squirming when he was asked if he would meet with Trump when he visits the UK. He eventually agreed that Trump is an idiot. He then struggled to explain how Trump could possibly attract such support from avowedly Christian fundamentalists in the USA. The poor old Archbish just gave up!

Love it!

Inmates become Top Chefs from doing porridge

I honestly thought that it was April 1st.

Nope. As part of their rehabilitation, inmates at HMP Style, HMP Cardiff and HMP High Down beat 134 other restaurants to the title of best restaurant. Prisoners nearing the end of their sentences train to become chefs and produce Michelin star-rated food. Folks queue up to sample their fare.

A three course meal at HMP Style costs £34. The waitress has an NVQ Level Two in professional cookery.

No kidding.

DNA test curbs newts’ power to stop new homes

You can’t keep homes off the menu (apologies to HMP Style)

Hurray! Some bright spark has just realised that you could use a DNA test to find out if any Great Crested Newts are in a particular pond.

Fantastic, I hear you scream!

No, seriously,this is a serious problem for house builders. These newts are a protected species and all the NIMBYS have to do to clog up the house-building works is claim there might be newts in the vicinity and they must be protected.

This simple test, devised by Natural England, will show if newts are present of not. Bugger me, said a NIMBY spokesperson. (Actually, I made that last bit up!) The Home Builders Federation said it welcomed the new approach. (You bet your sweet bippy they did!)

Dear Santa Claus: Fido wants cologne an beer this year

England is a nation of dog-lovers. The pooches are catered for extensively.

(before we go on I must declare an interest – I walk the dog and I have a handy holder attached to her lead (leash) which holds small plastic bags in which to place any doggy poo that ensues. I had a great idea! Why not make, market and sell doggy-poo-bags which are recyclable? At present the doggy bins are emptied and the contents go to landfill (as far as I can ascertain). Recyclable bags would produce compost which could be sold (even if not in the UK, for heaven’s sake, surely somebody would buy it!). Yet another great Mal idea not taken up)

This year for Christmas you can purchase: Pawsecco, beer and Christmas jumpers for your dog. Tesco tells us that sales of festive stuff for pets has increased four-fold. You will be able to purchase a Luke Skywalker lead which lights up like a light-sabre. Your can buy Barbour cologne for dogs (no Mabel I am not making this up, honest!) Christmas gingerbread biscuits for dogs at Waitrose are available at £19.95. Aldi is selling candy canes to hang from the tree – made from rawhide bones.

A spokesperson said, “People who do not have pets might think this is a bit strange.” What, only a bit! (I tell you they are not saving all the best April Fools stories for April.)

Tube Panic Fight misheard as fire

In the News in Brief section we learn that the chaos in central London the other day was just a misunderstanding. A bad case of Chinese whispers on the tube platform caused the panic. Someone shouted “fight” when two lads squared up to each other and by the time it was relayed down the platform “fight” had become “fire” and someone hit the alarm. (You could not make it up – but then again perhaps you could. The most interesting part of the saga was how Sky News (a 24 hour news channel) tried desperately to make a story out for this for a full hour and seemed somewhat disappointed there was no terrorist threat in the end.)

Kungfu Mandarins get set for Brexit brawls

Maybe Sunday was a a particularly slow news day? Fears that the Brexit-loving public might cut up rough with the perceived Remoaners in Whitehall the Department for Exiting the EU is offering self-defence classes to its staff.

(any chance they might just cancel Brexit instead? I thought not -otherwise you would not need a Department for Exiting the EU at all)

Brexit Divorce Bill to be Kept Secret

On the very same topic, it appears that the final bill for getting out of the EU will not be published or even publicised. St Teresa has agreed to hand over £40 billion to get out of the EU, but not tell anyone – particularly the voters.

(I was watching the BBC’s flagship mid-day politics programme, Daily Politics, when the guest (who happened to be a female MP, whose name I either didn’t get or have forgotten) chirped up with the dichotomy of all dichotomies. MP for a staunchly Brexiting constituency, she explained how she now was a Brexit supporter who just wants a good deal for Britain. She almost let slip the old “will of the people” clap-trap, but managed to stop just short. At present, there seems to be no appetite to re-run the Brexit Referendum. Will this state of affairs last forever? Probably, unless dishonest MP (like the one above) grow some cajones (figuratively speaking for the lady MP). Political suicide, but I would love some MP (perhaps one with a terminal disease) to simply state the obvious. The voters are stupid. The voters didn’t know what they were doing. The voters are basically thick as dog-shit and were peddled a load of dog-shit by dog-shit loving Brexiteers who don’t give a monkey’s rats ass about the voters and just want to carry on regardless. That would be refreshing.)

And now we find that for the first time in 800 years the Irish have grabbed the pussy of the UK and are not going to let go! They have a veto on any eventual agreement. They want to ensure seamless commerce between Eire and NI. The UK government is in hock to the DUP, and they will never, never, never (apologies to the late Ian Paisley) agree to anything that even appears to join NI with Eire. Solution in sight? Never.

Partying BA crews “knackered” on job

I saved the best for last.

I must declare an interest here. Some of my family used to do long haul flights (not BA) and from the stories they tell this article is just about spot on.

BA bosses have reprimanded staff for unacceptable behaviour at hotels during long-haul trips. The staff have been having raucous parties an drinking heavily.

Down in Joburgh, Las Vegas, Bangkok and Singapore the parties have gotten out of hand. With more young crew on the long-hauls it more like TOWIE (The only way is Essex) than the old British Airways way.

A BA source said that crews are packing a lot in during their 24 hours down time. They sleep, drink, go on safaris (when in Johannesburg) and when they get back on the flight they are knackered.

BA cabin crew and pilots are banned from drinking alcohol for eight hours before reporting for duty and are supposed to drink only in moderation 24 hours beforehand

Good luck with that one!












Monday, November 27, 2017

65 Totally Pathetic Trash


Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

After demolishing the Patriots in Foxborough in week one and smashing the high-flying Eagles (pun intended), we now find that the hapless Chiefs can beat no one – not even the struggling Giants or Bills.

What is going on?

I’m afraid Alex Smith is going on – or not going on as it happens.  I blog every season that it’s a quarter-back league and if your QB goes well then you go well.  When we beat the Pats, he was great. When we beat the Eagles he was great.  After that it has been all down hill. 

Is it all his fault?

No, of course not.  But he must take the major share of the blame. And now as we sit at 6-5 both the Charges 5-6 and the Raiders 5-6 are right on our tail.  We play them both in the next few weeks.  Lose and play-offs are a distant memory.  Win and a poor post season run is still inevitable.

Let’s get the blame game out of the way.  A team's success is not all on the QB’s.  Other parts must function as well. 

Defence is poor.  The last two games against inferior opponents have disguised this, bit it is nevertheless apparent.  The D-line can create no pressure.  The LB’s are a shadow of what they were supposed to be. The Show-Boater-in Chief, Marcus Peters, has been found out – he’s just an average corner back.  The rest of the secondary is pathetic.  (So pathetic that the Chiefs have signed Darrell Revis, whose fall from NFL grace has been spectacular, to try to shore the secondary up.)

Still they played well enough to beat both the Giants and the Bills.

The offence is beyond poor.  Notwithstanding Alex’s failures, the O-line (which should have been one of the team’s strengths) had gone from average to quite poor in a very short time.  After a spectacular start, Kareem Hunt has gone from Rookie of the Year candidate to a low draft pick with limited upside.  The receiving corps is very poor.  Losing Chris Conley to injury has exposed just how poor these receivers are.  Tyreek Hill is not really a receiver, though he made some big plays early on.  He’s very fast, but he’s also a very small target, so if he doesn’t beat you for speed, Alex can not throw him the ball.  There are no other receivers - except for the over-rated Travis Kelce.

Except for the find of the season, Harrison Butker, special teams have been disappointing.  They used to be relied upon to produce some touch-downs every other game.  They are not contributing.

What do the experts say?

"So what blueprint did the Steelers set? A passive one. Instead of attacking Smith and Co., they stayed back in soft zone coverage. They kept everything in front of them and rallied to the ball. It was a simple, but brilliant, approach."

From Sports Illustrated:  “The gadgets and gimmicks that comprise Andy Reid’s offense, the tools they had used to light up the Patriots in Foxboro on opening night, suddenly stopped working. The misdirection that had given opponents fits, with ploys like speedy Tyreek Hill racing one way and the ball optioning back another, became null. If defenders don’t match up and follow offensive players, then those gadgets and misdirections are less effective. Instead of following Hill (or any Chiefs player) and becoming out-leveraged pawns against Reid’s designs, defenders now guard an area of the field, forcing Reid to play to them.”

The solution?  “What the Chiefs must do in the here and now is punish defenses for playing zone. You do that by going for big plays. Re-establishing a sustainable ground and screen game with rookie running back Kareem Hunt is important, sure, but the threat of steady, sustained drives is not what worries defensive coordinators—especially coordinators who are playing zone. Big plays worry them. And it’s that worry that will drag defensive play-callers away from soft zones, giving Kansas City’s foundational misdirection and gadgetry a chance to start working again.

You beat zones by attacking them vertically. Instead of aligning Hill and all-world tight end Travis Kelce all over the formation and finding creative ways to get them the ball, align those two together on the same side and run them downfield against the same zone defender. In football parlance, that’s called sending “two through a zone.” It forces zone defenders to make either-or decisions.

So yes, there’s a blueprint. How do the Chiefs respond? Some are calling for first-round rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes to take over. But the only reason Reid would bench Smith is if the head coach truly believed that those gadgets and misdirection concepts can never work again. Because if Reid went with the more talented but inexperienced Mahomes, he’d have to throw out much of those concepts, along with many of his multi-progression designs. At Texas Tech, Mahomes played in a spread offense, which, notably, he ran with very little discipline. Raw sandlot play-making prowess works in college, but it does not transfer to the NFL—not as a quarterback’s foundation, anyway. It will take at least an off-season (and probably more) for Mahomes to develop the awareness and discipline to run a full-fledged NFL offense, particularly one as comprehensive as Reid’s.”

Wait a minute!  What has Andy Reid been doing?  If Sports Illustrated are right, should he not have seen this!  Very soon the spotlight is going to turn to the coach and he better have some better comments than, “we have to play better”.

The calls for Patrick Mahomes are becoming vociferous.  All the good reasons from Sports Illustrated as to why he can’t play pale into insignificance if the Chiefs can’t win with what they have. 

it’s difficult not to feel some sympathy for Smith.  Teams have got his number and the coaches have either not seen this or have not schemed better ways to get the job done.

At the bottom line it’s still a QB league.  This season is probably already over.  Time for Alex to slip gracefully into retirement (or seek a new challenge) and let youth have it’s chance.  Don’t forget Mahomes has been the back-up all season.  He must know the offence by now.

Let’s go for it.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Zibabwe Brexit - True Brit Part One



True Brit – Part One

Oxymoron - noun: oxymoron; plural noun: oxymorons

a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction (e.g. faith unfaithful kept him falsely true ).

Yes I know, Zimbabwe, and the current political crisis there, appears to have no relationship or connection to Brexit. Wrong.

In my series, True Brit, I will examine the commonly held myths about the British and how these false myths affect almost every aspect of our lives in the early 21st century.

Whilst it is easy to hypothesise about how Brexit happened, one thing is clear. The Brexit wing of the Conservative party has long held the belief that the UK remains, for practical purposes, in the pre-colonial past and therefore punches far higher in the world influence league than it deserves.

This is not entirely without justification. Don’t forget, the UK has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, the UK is one of the world’s acknowledged nuclear powers and, crucially, today’s UK is the inheritor of “the sun never sets on the British Empire”.

Hence, the political situation in Zimbabwe has dominated news in the UK for the last few days. Memories of the Rhodesian UDI are still fresh in the minds of the majority of Conservative MP’s. And, the taste it leaves in their mouths is not a pleasant one. Outwardly half-accepting of Robert Mugabe, they have spent most of their political lives disparaging his regime – not without justification, but also revealing a deep-seated hostility to anyone with the temerity to challenge their world view of a Britain still basking in the wartime glory of Churchillian rhetoric.

The same scenario applies to Myanmar (Burma). The UK was the colonial power. Now news that the “Darling of the Media” Aung San Suu Kyi may be at least partly complicit in the genocide of displaced Rohingya Muslim minority has shaken the UK Foreign Office (so far as they are capable of being shaken).

Manila: Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi faced rising global pressure Tuesday to solve the crisis for her nation's displaced Rohingya Muslim minority, meeting the UN chief and America's top diplomat in the Philippines.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the Nobel laureate that hundreds of thousands of displaced Muslims who had fled to Bangladesh should be allowed to return to their homes in Myanmar.

"The Secretary-General highlighted that strengthened efforts to ensure humanitarian access, safe, dignified, voluntary and sustained returns, as well as true reconciliation between communities, would be essential," a UN statement said, summarising comments to Suu Kyi.

Guterres' comments came hours before Suu Kyi sat down with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Manila.

Washington has been cautious in its statements on the situation in Rakhine, and has avoided outright criticism of Suu Kyi.

Supporters say she must navigate a path between outrage abroad and popular feeling in a majority Buddhist country where most people believe the Rohingya are interlopers.

At a photo opportunity at the top of her meeting with Tillerson, Suu Kyi ignored a journalist who asked if the Rohingya were citizens of Myanmar.

And in Zimbabwe the demise of Robert Mugabe is seen as a justification of the British position.  His overthrow is simply another example of True Brit.

In other news this week: the EU are planning closer co-operation in the area of defence. This has shaken the Little Englanders to the core. Nothing serves to enrage them more than what seems to be an attack on the military. Or, at least on the fantasy of the military. True Brit demands that the populace sees the Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force as the nonpareil of national military might. There is, of course, little in the way of evidence to support this. (Only the British could celebrate a defeat (Dunkirk) with so much relish) The facts are: in WWI (which is the focus of Remembrance Day celebrations) it was the arrival of the American army which tipped the balance if favour of the allies, in WWII it was the Russian Army who defeated Hitler’s Third Reich and since then whilst the UK Forces have participated in numerous combat operations (Korea, The Falklands Campaign, Bosnia, Desert Storm) in each case they played a subordinate role.

If we then add the Brexit debacle into the mix, things rapidly approach the unreasonable. No other fiasco exhibits the core of True Brit like Brexit. It is the core. In fact, Brexit itself is an oxymoron. Britain is not going to leave the EU – at least not in the sense that the voters think they voted for. As the Brexit Secretary, David Davis, tries to spread the gloss on an untenable set of circumstances, he only highlights the unsolvable nature of the problems. I particularly liked the comment on the news today that for the first time in over 700 years the Irish have the UK over a barrel. Neither the Conservative and Unionist Party nor the Irish government will countenance a hard border between Eire and Northern Ireland. The EU will not countenance no border at all. The whole thing rhymes with clucking bell.

Watch this space – things can only get worse.



Friday, November 17, 2017

65 TPT


Chiefs on the run rack

I’m not really a betting man, but I did invest £50 in Sky Bet with the idea that I would back the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl in 2018.

After five weeks of wins they odds were not good. With the tribe sitting on top of the AFC West, my investment was just waiting for the odds to improve to climb on-board the Chiefs steamroller. Of course, Mr Dismay was not long in arriving. 

Starting with the loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers (who else), it became obvious that the Chiefs could not stop the run. Like all good football teams the Steelers simply kept running the ball until they were stopped. This never happened.

Half-ignoring the annoying loss to the Raiders (though once again the run game was instrumental in the debacle) against the Cowboys again the defense could not prevent simple running plays. “Smash-mouth football” had returned and it was here to stay.

So, what has happened? From my lofty position it just appears we are not good enough. Chris Jones, Bennie Logan, and Allen Bailey can not occupy their opposite numbers for long enough for the inside line-backers to make plays Sadly, Derrick Johnson and Reggie Ragland are either not good enough or so out of form they can’t tackle anyone inside. Result? Teams run with impunity against the Chiefs. They control the clock. Their O-line relishes firing out and creating holes that you or I could run through.

What’s to be done? It appears we have few options. The problem is up-front and inside. There are no available replacements waiting for their chance.

This week against the lowly Giants the short-comings may well be masked. The Chiefs will win and probably win big. If they do, all will be forgiven – or at least the short-comings will continue to be disguised.

(I am so much of a non-betting man that I foolishly took my £50 and bet it – by mistake – on the Giants to win at 7-2. I thought I was getting 7-2 on the Chiefs – fortunately I manage to bail out and preserve my stake!)

However, the return to the glory days of 65 TPT seem to have receded into the Super Bowl mists of time.

(For non-Chiefs fans 65 TPT was the play called by Hank Stram against the vaunted Minnesota Purple-People-Eaters defense which won Super Bowl IV. It was a running play and the Vikings could not stop it. No wonder Hank was so excited – like me he realised that if the Vikings could not stop a simple running play then they could not possibly win!)