Open Letter to Mike Ashley

Sport,unstupidity 6 March 2016 Tell me what you think

Mike Ashley,
Owner,
Newcastle United Football Club,
St James’s Park,
Newcastle Upon Tyne

 

Dear Mike,

In light of the disappointing performances of Newcastle United Football Club in the current season, I hereby offer my services to take over from the lovable bumbling rogue you have in charge at the moment.

I will freely admit that my knowledge of football management has been recently untested, since they started putting copy protection on Football Manager, so allow me to briefly establish my doctrine and approach.

I have noticed that we get more points from a game (on the league table) when we have a higher number beside our team name than the other team, when the referee blows his whistle for a long time at the end of the match.  I do not believe this is coincidental, and I believe there is a cause-and effect. I have also noticed that when the little dashed line on the league is somewhere below our team name, fewer people in Newcastle try to set fire to Sports Direct adverts.

I favour placing players who aren’t very good either on loan or on the bench.  I favour putting players who seem to know one side of a boot from another on the field, wearing a football kit, and playing the game.  I know this is a bit different from the general scheme over the last few months, but bear with me, as I think it’s a strategy which could pay dividends in the future.

Further in terms of squad selection, I favour putting shirts with the numbers 9 or 10 on people who enjoy running toward the opposition goal, passing it to one another and then eventually, when there’s not much pitch to go, hoofing the ball into the net, past the goalkeeper.  Now, I’m aware of the excitement caused when a player simply kicks the ball to the side of the pitch, or passes it gently into the warm arms of the opposition goalkeeper, or, as in the last few games, tries to send the ball up to Tim Peake in the International Space Station; but imagine the excitement if we actually employed some people to do some of the passy-passy, kicky-kicky stuff that some of the other teams do?  Their fans seem to like it.

Moving on – if we were to consider putting some people in the middle to keep a formation, intercept opposition players who have the ball and pass forward to the people with 9 or 10 on their backs, that could be helpful.

I favour putting surly, ill-tempered people in shirts with lower numbers and keeping them to the back of the field, with an occasional lunge forward when they have possession of the ball and see a space on the pitch from which they could pass the ball forward.   The recent trend within Newcastle United of having people at the back apparently paid to observe the opposition players running past them towards our goal is actually an unwelcome one and I would like to see us try something different.  What if some of them (obviously not all) tracked back, watched the space and prepared, with insight into the probable next steps of the attacking players, to intercept them before the box?  It seems to work in Ladies’ football, and I see Leicester City using an similar approach to their advantage.  If I was the manager, I’d at least give that a go.  I could draw diagrams for the players.

Finally in terms of squad selection, I would put a big player who seems to understand the flight characteristics of a near-sphere in a shirt with the number 1 on it.  I’d have him stand near our goal to stop the opposition team from kicking the ball into our goal, either by catching it in some gloves, or punching it away from the goal, or by kicking it away, or, like I did when I played in goals in the quad at school, blocking the ball with my face.  Again – controversial strategy but imagine if it worked.

In conclusion, Mike, I have in the past bought shoes from you and I trust you.  You could repay my trust by hiring me – for £30/hr (not a penny less) on match days and training days to apply some of the strategies I have outlined above to help out our football team.  It may be, of course, that you thought you were buying a Formula One racing team when you hired Steve McClaren, and that this really isn’t your fault.  In that case, feel free to direct him to this page to help him.

Yours sincerely,

Ben ‘Glory Hunter’ Archibald

 

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Fonts screwed

Uncategorized 23 February 2016 Tell me what you think

If you’re looking at this on a Mac, it looks like shit, and you paid far too much for your computer to be looking at something this fucked. If you’re looking at this on a PC, it’s not much better, but at least you aren’t a hipster fuck.

I screwed up the fonts and I’m working on it.

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Geoffrey Robertson QC – mendacious or just rushed?

stupidity,WikiLeaks 5 February 2016 Tell me what you think

Geoffrey Robertson today stated on television that the ruling on Julian Assange’s ‘detention’ was arrived at by five  ‘distinguished judges’.  In fact, the WGAD website indicates that none of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is a judge in any sense.  The chairman is a lecturer, a conciliator and a campaigner on human rights.  If any of the members of the Working Group is a judge, it is not mentioned on the WGAD website.
Of the rest, one is a former civil servant and academic and three are essentially ‘just’ academics.  I don’t seek to argue that they are not experts in the field, nor do I seek to argue against their judgment (I shall do that with an entirely different argument), but I do seek to draw attention to Geoffrey Robertson QC acting today as a PR agent and shill on national television whilst apparently not in possession of the facts.  By inflating the qualifications of the panel, he seeks to establish in the minds of the viewer the idea that they cannot possibly be wrong. Perhaps they are not – but the use of a bare-faced lie is jury-baiting sophistry and can’t be allowed to go unchallenged by the BBC.

Perhaps Robertson was just rushed today. Hardly a diamond standard excuse.

In any case, argument from authority is a defining logical fallacy. I hold that the British Government is right to ignore the ‘ruling, and to consider if, really, the WGAD procedure is one to which it really ought be attached.

Incidentally, Joanna Gosling was brilliant in questioning Roberston today, quite excellent, but his bravado and bluster was so blatant as to possibly confuse any viewer.

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Was it for posters?

#WasItForThis,Ireland Election 2016 4 February 2016 Tell me what you think

And so it begins. Lampposts across Ireland are today festooned (or infested, depending on your preference) with the smiling and not-so-smiling faces of our modern day gladiators, vying for a connection with our ballot-booth pencils.

As usual, most look like they should be holding a number board, and as always, the men look worse than the women.

In most cases this year, at least in Dublin Bay South and Dublin South, most of the inhabitants of the corrie-boards look alive at the time the photo was taken, although Jim O’Callaghan for Fianna Fáil looks fairly disturbing against a foreboding Dublin sky. Posters of leaders have been spotted. Joan Burton, leader of the Labour Party, is smiling the smile only a Tánaiste can. Micheál Martin, leader of Fianna Fáil, leaves us wanting the wider shot, so we can see what his ventriloquist’s dummy looks like.

As usual, people will soon start giving off about people giving appraisals of the personal appearance of candidates – saying that personal appearance doesn’t matter and that we should focus on the policies and what they’re saying, not the photo on the poster.

In that case, gentle (and not so gentle – I know who reads this blog) reader, may I gently suggest that if they didn’t want to be appraised on how they look, they wouldn’t have spent so much time getting cleaned up for the photo, and they would put some policies on the posters too.  I’ve seen Eoghan Murphy close up, and his photo on the poster is only semi-recognisable.

I’ll return to the theme of posters tomorrow when I’ve had a chance to properly appraise them.

 

 

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How an Irish election works

#WasItForThis,Ireland Election 2016 2 February 2016 Tell me what you think

Live footage from the dissolution of An Oireachtas. Expect this type of paddywhackery.

In the first of our unrivalled* coverage of the Irish General Election 2016, we cover the system. You don’t get this kind of coverage in the Irish Times **

Whilst I’m no Tim Roll Pickering, I am a constantly bemused observer of Irish politics, and I have come to a number of facts, conclusions and conjectures.  Before we begin, however, note the peculiarity of Ireland’s native language.  Ireland is overwhelmingly an English speaking country, but the instruments and apparatus of the state are in Irish.  Where it would be disrespectful or confusing to use the English phrase instead of the Irish, I will explain the phrase once, give an inexpert pronunciation guide and persevere with the Irish version.  Where that would be confusing in and of itself, I shall use the English version.  800 years and all that.

Dissolution of Parliament

An Oireachtas (Eh-rock-tas) is the Irish parliament, and it is divided into two parts – ‘an Dáil Éireann‘ (Dawl Ehrin) which is elected by the people in a general election and ‘an Seanad Éireann‘ (Shannad Eh-rin) which is elected through a public speaking competition, a discussion between farmers and Dumbledore’s Sorting Hat (only the Trinity Panel).

The Parliament is dissolved by the President of Ireland, whose Irish title is ‘an Uachtarán‘ (Ooktarawn) is advised on the matter by ‘an Taoiseach‘ (Teeshuck), who is the Prime Minister.

In any case, as I write this apparently it’s about to be done.  An Taoiseach is driven to Áras an Uachtaráin (Awrus an Ooktarawn), which, amusingly, is the old Viceregal Lodge in the enormous and gorgeous Phoenix Park.  He (it has always been a he) meets an Uachtarán, I presume they have a cup of tea, and an Taoiseach advises an Uachtarán to dissolve an Oireachtas.

By decree, an Oireachtas is dissolved and Leinster House (wherein an Oireachtas is situated) becomes 100% more useful.

The election period

This election will be the shortest in the history of the state (which was arguably formed in 1921, or more philosophically, 1937).  The election was called on Wednesday 3 February 2016 and polling will take place on Friday 26 February.  Three weeks and two days, yet something tells me it’s going to drag by.

The method of election

Ireland elects an Dáil Éireann through a multi-member constituency proportional representation system called Single Transferable Vote.  This system is dull to its core, except to people who geek out on these things. Here are the details such people find interesting.

Le geek, c’est chic!  Geek out!

A voter ranks the candidates in order of their preference with a pen or pencil on the ballot paper, where a number 1 signifies their political BFF and a high number (or no number at all) signifies the sort of support a right-thinking person gives to this hallion.

The vote is cast.

The vote is counted. In the first instance, first preference votes are sorted.  This gives a ‘first count’, and a ‘total valid poll’. Invalid votes include funny faces (LOL), rants (LMAO), marks which could personally identify the voter (ROFL) and political statements against water charges (LOLCANO).

Once you have your ‘total valid poll’, you can calculate your quota for each seat.

Each constituency has between 3 and 5 seats.  The quota is based on a simple formula:

Quota = (Number of Valid Votes / (Number of seats + 1)) rounded up to two decimal places.

If there was a three seat constituency with 1000 votes cast, the quota for a seat would be (1000/4), so – 250.45 votes.  Since votes tend to occur as whole numbers (duh), the quota is really 251 votes, no matter what a mathematician tells you.

Surpluses, or why people with clipboards should be avoided

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE.  Say in that election, the candidate receives more votes than they need. In that case their surplus is redistributed, if the redistribution of that surplus could in theory result in another candidate also being elected.

This is what’s dull about PR-STV elections and it’s why people who support the system should be treated with deep suspicion. When sensible people would sooner have a fast count of a single seat first-past-the-post election and get to the pub, Irish political geeks like to stand around speculating about outcomes with tea.

More disturbingly, some of these people stand about with clip boards, claiming to know how the election will pan out – and they are, by and large, lying, and probably trying to woo academics or party activists. Treat these people with disdain.  In an Irish election, nobody knows what’s going to happen other than a sometimes pretty accurate prediction of first preferences and pattern of redistribution.

Shrinking Dáil

An Dáil Éireann will be smaller than before, because people have emigrated. Where last time there were 166 members, there will now be 158 members. I advocated for a long time that this could have meant the election be unnecessary, and the make-up of the next Dáil simply be decided by Musical Chairs. This is why I am not a member of the Dáil.

What happens next?

When the votes are counted and people are deemed elected, eventually the Dáil will return and elect from their number a person to serve as an Taoiseach. That’s the theory.  In reality, there will be political horse-trading between the parties and a coalition will be formed.  We expect a number of independents to be elected this year (as last year) and for Sinn Féin to gain some seats, whilst it’s expected the Labour Party will struggle.  The big issue will be whether Micheal Martin, leader of Fianna Fáil (Feeanna Fawl) has done enough to decontaminate his party.  They’re expected to gain a few.

Fine Gael (Finna Gale) will probably be the largest party, but will more than likely lose a few and will not be able to form a majority on their own.  Their coalition party last time was Labour – this arithmetic may not on its own provide for a majority and we could see another ‘Rainbow Coalition’ made up of multiple parties and independents.  Truly, Ireland’s cup of woe runneth over.

What happens next next?

An Seanad Éireann will be elected in the month or so following the General Election. The upper house is a debating society for people with ideas and enough time to make tray-bakes, so don’t expect it to be too exciting.

  • * piss poor
  • ** Worthy, beautifully written, excellent but boring

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Safeguarding budding politicians.

Conservatives 23 November 2015 Tell me what you think

The catastrophe of the death by suicide of a young conservative activist earlier this year has opened the Conservative Party to some disbelief and ridicule, particularly in the party’s handling of an investigation into the circumstances surrounding both the conduct of a person in contact with vulnerable young people and the conduct of the party in handling complaints.  The objective of this entirely subjective and personal post is not to dig into the circumstances of the tragedy, nor to point fingers of blame against any individuals, but to consider the issues made public, rightly or wrongly, accurately or inaccurately, in the press and in social media.  As a result, I shall not use any names in the post, other than those who retain positions of authority.

First of all, the holy grail of any investigative reporter or social media commentator, is the idea that a malfeasance or misdemeanour inside a political machine goes ‘right to the top’.  Articles featured on Guido Fawkes blog suggesting that ‘PM had [Alleged Culprit] to tea at Chequers’ are intended to create the impression that the [Alleged Culprit] performed his misdeeds at the behest of the PM, or with the PM’s knowledge.  We are intended to conclude that ‘they’re up to their necks in it’ as a cover-up.  Hence stories about prominent members of the House of Lords, members of Parliament etc, etc, are all intended to create an air of collective complicity.

This is of course bollocks.  Politics at a high level is a close quarters activity, and it is entirely likely and normal that the PM would have the leader of the highly effective Roadtrip operation to tea; the PM is the leader of a political party which vied for power, and meeting the infantry, and the infantry commanders in a general election, and afterwards, is a completely normal activity. In this case, however, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the party, when fully clued in on the alleged activities of [Alleged Culprit] took action against him.

The query around what the chairman of the party knew and when is essentially a canard as well, because it’s only possible to draw conclusions on the basis of what was known at the time through disclosure to the chairman of the party.  It has been well reported, summarised and asserted that [Alleged Culprit] was a manipulator with an high degree of acuity and capability.  It has been alleged that [Alleged Culprit] committed acts of blackmail, distortion, lies and threats.

In those circumstances it is not unlikely that the truth and [Alleged Culprit’s] involvment in the tragic incidents were obscured, most likely by [Alleged Culprit] himself.  It is unlikely, from what has been reported, that he needed any help to seek to muddy those waters.  By reputation he had every reason and capability to do so himself.

It has been clear to me for many years that CF has not taken the protection of vulnerable young people seriously enough. There are some obvious reasons for this – it’s a youth wing of a political party which prizes self-reliance and independence very highly, and interventions of the ‘touchy-feely’ sort are not likely to be welcomed.  Nevertheless, when we seek to engage young people in the very knockabout world of UK politics, we need to take safeguarding extremely seriously. Young conservatives are competitive, self promoting and serious about their politics. Whilst there is banter, there is also, I can recall only too well, bullying, one-upmanship and grief.

CF is enormously popular and Roadtrip was deeply impressive. CFers all over the country got to see other constituencies, better understand their country and whet their appetite for canvassing, politics and the party. It has serious flaws, however, which must be addressed, to avoid exposing more young people to the risks we’re finding out about now.

There are answers to all the problems extant in CF. A well-developed membership welfare plan, a considered safeguarding strategy and an effective whistleblowing protocol could all be developed under efficient staff supervision to bring it about in time for the next general election.  We owe it to our members to protect them.

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‘Mise (Saorstat) Éire’

Ireland,Northern Ireland 5 November 2015 Tell me what you think

20140406-163809.jpg

United Ireland strategy, yesterday.

Some quixotic souls in the republican movement must last night have been sitting, breath bated, in Arran sweater and Celtic jersey wearing clusters.  They were waiting, no doubt with poitín in hand, for RTÉ’s ‘Ireland’s Call’ PrimeTime Special, seeking to discover just how much more they need to do to convince the people of Ireland that an end to ‘partition’ is worthwhile or worth working towards.  Some probably tried to calculate how many more fathers, sons, brothers, sisters, daughters and grand-daughters they would have to murder, how many department stores to burn down, how many Enterprise train services to delay, to bring it about.  Had they tried too hard?  Had they not tried hard enough?

The show was trumpeted as an opportunity to take the pulse of Ireland’s patriotism and desire for a unification and end to partition. It will have gone down today with the Tiochaídh Brothers like a cup of cold sick.

66% of people in the republic of Ireland would like to see a United Ireland in the short or medium term. Not exactly the sort of nationalistic fever one might have expected, but enough to win a referendum in a pinch.

When the idea of paying more tax (the experience of all ‘unified’ nations after partition) was brought into the thought process, patriotic fervour dies down a lot – 31% still think casting out perfidious Albion is worth the bother.  Only our rivers run free; toll roads everywhere else.

In Northern Ireland, the society isn’t as deeply divided as all that.  Fewer people there (unsurprisingly) would like to join an Éire Núa, with only 30% of the surveyed participants favouring a United Ireland in the medium or short term. 27% are undecided and 43% would sooner stick needles in their (too close together) eyes.  Absolutely no prospect for a united Ireland by border poll.

This chimes well with the attitudes I have encountered among people I meet in Ireland – they mostly say ‘yeah’ to the idea of a united Ireland, but when pressed on the matter, most people in the South are content for there to be peace and prosperity on a binary island. The Belfast Agreement has created a scenario whereby peoples’ identities are recognised and respected, whilst their political views are tamely tolerated.

Thoughts in the Free State have already turned to a rather more proximal and important referendum – with the realisation that a UK departure from the EU would result in economic turmoil for the twenty six counties.  I shall turn to the constitutional implications of provincial disparity with the mainland response to a Brexit in due course.

 

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Jeremy Corbyn wasn’t a threat to national security. He is now.

Corbyn,Corbynology,Hoons,Labour Leadership,politics 1 October 2015 Tell me what you think

When Jeremy Corbyn was elected to lead the Labour Party, Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) launched an impressive and apparently effective campaign to seize the initial narrative and establish him as a threat to the national security of the UK.  The main argument then was that he met with terrorists and seemed to be at least not discouraging of Hezbollah and Hamas.

Sweep all that aside – that stuff only makes someone a threat to citizens’ security and endangers our international diplomatic existence – it doesn’t really pose a threat to the existence of the nation.  When he said that, as Prime Minister, he would not give the order for a nuclear missile launch however, he became a real and extant threat to the whole nation. Jeremy Corbyn is in danger of comparison to Robert Lundy, the Governor of Londonderry who sought to hand over the city to Catholic forces during its storied siege.

The entire UK nuclear weapons system is referred to as Trident – a system comprising four Vanguard class submarines, their Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and their warheads.  They are an intensely powerful tool of international diplomacy and defence, patrolling undetected beneath the waves, occasionally popping up to check Northwood is still broadcasting and that Women’s Hour on Radio 4 is still there. They are our citadel’s walls.

The Prime Minister can, in consultation with the armed forces, decide whether or not to launch nuclear missiles. In the event that the UK is wiped out, it is understood that a submarine commander will open a safe and extract a secret letter written by the Prime Minister, giving instructions to the Trident fleet.  It is understood that the instructions will fall into the range:

  • Launch at predetermined targets
  • Do not launch and surrender to enemy forces
  • Seek to join up with the US Navy and receive orders from there
  • Seek to join up with the navies of Canada, Australia or New Zealand and receive orders from there

The principle of the secrecy and uncertainty approach is designed to reinforce the idea of Mutually Assured Destruction – the idea that any nation seeking to do ours harm can expect the harm to be repaid – if you wipe out London, you lose Moscow, etc – and there’s nothing you can do about it.

But if you have a potential Prime Minister whose approach is to rule out ‘Launch’, then you have a very peculiar and abrupt end to the principle of Mutually Assured Destruction.  You in effect have a clear run to invade or simply destroy.  Without the nuclear risk there is practically no risk to any nation strong enough to take on our armed forces.

Further to this comes the political risk. If an enemy power could find a way to develop political influence in the UK, they would have to be quite literally mad not to seek now to support Jeremy Corbyn, the chap who decided he wouldn’t use the tools of defence at his command.

The big questions now will take a Corbynologist to answer.  Does Jeremy Corbyn simply dislike the idea of using nuclear weapons, or is he, in the manner of Robert Lundy, intent on subjecting the nation to the will of its enemies.  Is Jeremy Corbyn now not just a danger to the nation, but an enemy of it?  And which will be the first bonfire to burn him in effigy?

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Oakeshott and Ashcroft book recalled after emissions test fail

Books,politics 22 September 2015 Tell me what you think

The latest book by Lord Ashcroft, former non-dom donor to the Conservative Party, has been recalled after serialization of the tome was found to exceed emissions standards for personally held gripes and axe-grinding instruments.

The book “Call Me Dave”, in which the former member of the House of Lords details all the reasons he doesn’t like Prime Minister David Cameron in between snippets of biography trawled by former journalist Isabel Oakeshott from the minds of single sources, was allegedly partially funded by David ‘David’ Davis, the former almost-nearly-could-be leader of the Conservative Party, famously defeated by Cameron in a leadership election in 2005.

Defending the book, Ashcroft did some light tweeting, cut up a DVD of “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” and went for a nap in a hammock.

Originally conceived as a self-help therapy project with crayon-friendly inside covers for people not given jobs by David Cameron, the book has more recently been presented as a ‘balanced’ biography of the Prime Minister, at least by Isabel Oakeshott.

Speaking after the failure of the emissions test, the chief regulator for revenge books said:

“Not only is there a load of fairly noxious stuff inside the book, there’s a strong whiff of hubris, sour grapes and rotten eggs.  In addition, there seems to be a weak but diminishing scent of journalistic reputation.  It’s not really fit for consumption either by humans or pigs.”

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Corbyn gets a car and a copy of Atlas Shrugged.

politics 16 September 2015 Tell me what you think

Jeremy Corbyn has gotten a Government Car Service car and a pay increase. Why people on my side of the house are going on about it is entirely beyond me.  The leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition has important responsibilities and functions additional to the job of just leading his party.

He must attend important events with his shirt unbuttoned and his tie undone, for instance.  He must attend vigorous question-crowdsourcing meetings.  He must travel to media interviews to passive-aggressively convey his friendship for terrorists and his hankering after policies which will destroy our economy, our national defence, our way of life and the institutions of our society.

And of course, he must travel without let or hindrance to Westminster, to ask those crowdsourced questions and thank the Prime Minister for answering them. Not at all, Jeremy. The pleasure was all his.

That can’t be done on a backbench MP’s salary and it’s stupid to think of his ‘accepting’ the pay rise and car as hypocrisy.  He got himself elected leader of the second largest party.  He has to attend a lot more obligatory meetings and he has to manage a busy political life, constituency office and an expansive social engagements list which are the bain of an opposition leader’s life.  He’ll have his ear bent by every person he bumps into – and I understand he’s a fairly gregarious chap already.

I may not be a fan of the Labour Party or Jeremy Corbyn’s politics, but I am a fan of the human spirit.  He saw a Labour Party which had lost its soul and offered to help them find it – and those of that stripe overwhelmingly endorsed it.  When I see him being questioned about why he didn’t sing God Save the Queen, he has the look of someone beaten down by the insignificance of politics-as-practiced. He’s right to reject the bullshit, but he should, rather than saying ‘I will fully take part in all events’, have the courage of his convictions to say:

“You know what?  I didn’t sing ‘God Save the Queen’ or implore God to pour his choicest gifts upon her, because I don’t believe that’s important. Neither in my singing nor in my speech do I say things I don’t mean.  I have principles to which I don’t expect anybody else to adhere, and because this is a tolerant and respectful society ruled by law and reason I have a right to live by my principles.”

Ironically, this would place Jeremy Corbyn in the role of Howard Roarke and Hank Rearden. Good luck undoing that comparison in your head.

 

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