Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Football - Abolish Offside

Last weekend I skipped the FA Cup Final to watch something else.  In June it is likely that European International Cup games may not attract viewing.   How come after so long, the footie on TV is gone from a must to a might to a miss?  Is it me or them?

It might be that squads of gym pumped big men who run faster for longer and be highly organised in tactics and especially defence may have made the game far more predictable and less of a joy. Also, watching petulant millionaires is different from players of the past in terms of identifying with a team.

So if more people come to feel like this could the soccer boom start to go down instead of ever upwards?  Big money may have been an attraction in the past, but in the future may the effect on the game of creating squads of lookalike from anywhere players playing to order and the book put it beyond the interest of many?

One answer might be to increase the size of pitches requiring players to cover much more ground.  There is one small snag.  That is that virtually all the stadia around the world are built to the existing size.  What about reducing the number of players, say to nine a side?  Possible, but again may not do that much to help.

Which brings us to the rules of the game.  At present the highly organised defensive systems mean that half, or even less than that, of the pitch at any time is available for effective play.  Abolish the offside rule and you completely change the opportunities for attack and require the defences to be more widely spread.

A secondary amendment might be to limit the goal keeper to stay within the goal area rather than the penalty area for handling.  This might be useful but is relatively marginal.  What matters is opening up the game to more movement and changed tactics for attack.

There are other issues.  The "professional fouling" that is now common place, tolerated if not expected, is a game spoiler in many ways.  Also the theatricals that go with it.  Were referees to be allowed and supported in cracking down on this and sending more off would certainly open up the game for the good.

Would a cleaner, faster and more open game with the full pitch potential for movement and attack be the better way of bringing back the spirit of the game into the football being played?

The picture above is Sheffield FC of 1857, the first established football club in the world.  The club has played to rules that have changed or altered many times in the past.  In 2017 at 160 years young they should have no trouble with another.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Seventy Years On

The trouble with reading history books about a period that you recall is that you may learn some things that you did not know but on the other hand you see the things either missed or left out that you may think were important or relevant.

No, this is not another post on the Roman Empire but about the early 1940's.  I rarely read books about my own times but this was on offer and alleged "Secret History Of The Blitz" by Joshua Levine.  Perhaps there may be some secrets but often this means things left out or forgotten or thought to be unimportant.

There was one part of the book that did catch the eye.  I was not aware that early in the War when oil was critical and supply mattered more than cost there had been over a hundred "nodding donkeys" installed in the Sherwood Forest of Nottinghamshire and district.  Oil men from Texas were brought in to get them up and fast and this was before the USA entered the War.

Not only did the amount extracted matter, it was of high quality.  This allowed high octane aviation fuel to be produced, higher than that of German supplies.  The Battle of Britain was won by the skills and courage of the airmen and by quality engineering such as the Merlin engines, as well as the other support systems but they were helped by that extra bit of boost when full power was needed.

The chapters suggesting that this period allowed something of a sexual revolution and other behaviour raised the eyebrows and not for the usual reasons.  If anything what developed seemed to be a reversion to what had gone on in the Victorian age and beyond that had been curtailed by laws, organised policing, social controls and more settled employment etc.

The War disrupted this on a major scale very quickly. Afterwards for a period the established norms of family life etc of the early 20th Century seemed to return, but that may have been the product of the then housing, welfare, law and order and employment policies of that period. When that began to change in the sixties and seventies people simply reverted to old habits.

But there is one major omission.  The book deals with prejudice and does mention the then relatively small numbers of the minority groups affected, Jews, West Indians, Italians and Chinese.  This relates to our recent issues over race.  What is not mentioned is that a lot of this was down to ignorance in an era with limited education for the masses and at a time when someone from another town a few miles away was regarded as a "stranger" and often with suspicion.

It makes passing mention of class and snobbery but without explaining the extent and nature of this, but this might need a book on its own.  However, one major source of division I recall in that period was religious and the nature and effect of the differences between the Anglicans, the Dissenting groups and the Roman Catholics.

For the RC's the essence of the problem was the strong prejudice of many against The Irish.  Where the Irish were in larger numbers there could be trouble; where they were small they would be discriminated against in many places.  They were not helped by the IRA planting bombs in 1940 or the Irish Republic extending courtesies to The Third Reich when the Irish economy depended so much on UK remittance money.

In the case of the Dissenting Congregations and the Anglicans it turned on local politics and the ongoing struggles for power in many communities at a time when local authorities had control over major services.  This may seem a small matter in these days of central control but not then.

It may be defined as political but there was often the undertow of doctrinal and belief thinking.  A good many problems with local authorities doing their job was that the different groups could not agree what the real work was, never mind who should get the jobs to do them.  After 1939 this had to change and fast.

The enemy may have been at the gates but in too many towns and county offices the factions were wrangling about who should have the keys and hand them over.  It is this general confusion and old disputes taking priority over the War that explains the nature and the stridency of the propaganda of the period.

What the book does explain is that the National Health Service, the welfare state, education and other advances were born in this period with cross party support and to a great extent as a response to deal with the consequences of The Blitz.  The Attlee government confirmed and extended the peace time continuation as this clearly was the wish of the great majority of the electorate in the 1945 Election.

I have not forgotten that many of us in the 1940's, me included, regarded "Bomber" Harris and the men of Bomber Command and their American comrades, as heroes for repaying the Germans with interest.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Pick A Pocket Or Two

You are corrupt, he is corrupt, they are corrupt but I am the soul of discretion.  Ask Osballs or Camblair the EU lovers, whoever.  We need the EU to be bent to our financial will.

This longer but easy read by Ian Fraser in "Naked Capitalism" is clear in its meaning.  If you are looking for the big time classy corruption come to the UK.  They make the rest look like amateurs.

Central to all this are the finance and banking sectors, now the dominant parts of the UK economy.  Below is a long read but is as clear as possible given the subject matter.  It is from Bloomberg with hat tip to Automatic Earth.  If it is too long and intricate for the time, then skip read might be tried.

It is about banking in the world today and how it's self destructive operations that impact so much on society and the world economy might be contained and better regulated.

Mervyn King, former Governor of the Bank of England thinks that regulation might help to save the bankers from themselves in order to benefit the rest of us.

But given the level of UK corruption and its extent it is not likely to happen.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Drawing Fire

As we have seen in recent years, being a cartoonist can be a risky business.

This example turned up in the Dr. Mercola web site as an example of how some companies can react.


Rick Friday is a veteran political cartoonist for Farm News, an Iowa newspaper. That is, he was their political cartoonist up until earlier this month. After drawing more than 1,000 cartoons over his 21-year career, he was fired from the newspaper after one of its advertisers complained.

It’s true that money talks, and this is a clear example of who’s really in control of the press. The career-ending cartoon pictured two farmers talking.

One said, “I wish there was profit in farming.”  The other responded, “There is, in year 2015 the CEOs of Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer and John Deere combined made more money than 2,129 Iowa farmers.”

As for who complained, it was reportedly “a large company affiliated with one of the corporations mentioned in the cartoon,” according to a Facebook response written by Friday. The company cancelled their advertisement with the paper after the cartoon was published, leading to Friday’s termination.

Monsanto claimed it had no role in Friday’s firing, but a reported email sent by his supervisor said it was a “seed dealer” that cancelled their advertising.

Friday’s cartoon was accurate, by the way, but it doesn’t matter. When you receive advertising money from Monsanto, DuPont and other bigwigs, you have to censor what you say so they — and their products — are painted in only a positive light.

In rebuttal, Friday wrote:

“I did my research and only submitted the facts in my cartoon. That's okay, hopefully my children and my grandchildren will see that this last cartoon published by Farm News out of Fort Dodge, Iowa, will shine light on how fragile our rights to free speech and free press really are in the country.”


I wonder how much of this happens around the media in one way or another?

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

See You Later Incubator

Building,  staffing and maintaining prisons is a costly item on the law and order budget.  What is difficult is finding a place to put one.  Telling a community that they have been selected for this kind of public infrastructure investment is a very good way to lose votes.

Many of our heritage prisons originally were sited just out of town or on the edge.  A century or more later they are more in the middle.  So expanding existing ones is not easy. Some, on the other hand were put in isolated distant places and that is not popular for a variety of reasons.

It might be argued that of all those ancient castles there are some of lesser tourist interest that could be converted.  After all, many did have their dungeons.  There might be some others which could be show pieces for our caring sharing prison policy.  Windsor comes to mind.

Not so long ago in the past, we had a robust policy towards dealing with criminals who needed to be separated out.  Many were sent to the America's.  Unluckily, they had ideas above their station and became independent, then look what happened.  As for Australia, I say no more, we should never have taught them cricket.

Another outlet was the Army or Navy for many where they served their King or Queen.  We could not have built the Empire without them.  Sadly, as time wore on they probably played a part in us losing it.  As our present government intends to hand the Army and Navy over to the EU, that option is closed, the EU has enough criminals in its organisation without needing more of them.

In calling prisons possible incubators of reformed and dutiful citizens it is tempting to make a bad or even distasteful joke on the subject of incubators can make you an incubus, but this should be passed by in order to make a more important point.  Why do some people allow themselves to be caught or even risk prison?

It is possible that criminals may have a mind pattern that makes them take risk, or not see a right from a wrong or are chancers who will always take the chance.  Also, there do seem to be some who have no concept of right and wrong.  Not least, there are some who are by nature vicious and destructive.

What we are really looking at is a short term policy fudge, which with some figures manipulation and public relations fibs, will persuade us that something is being done, please look the other way.  If this is not going to work and some serious problems are building up what are we in for?

The answer is trouble and a lot of it.  The population demographics together with income and employment patterns indicate that the potential groups more likely to be active in crime and at the margins are going to increase, perhaps greater than the mean.  If the policing is not up to it on the ground, the courts avoiding prison sentences and indeed prisons run down for cost savings, then we could have much more crime.

In a way it could almost take us back to the time before police, before many of our prisons were built when criminality was endemic and it was every household for themselves.  It is possible.  It is happening elsewhere.  It happens too easily when the structure of dealing with crime disintegrates under the pressures.

But by then our present politicians will be long gone with their loot and with their payoffs.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Glory Days Are Here Again

There has been a great deal of puffing and huffing over Europe recently, because all is not well.  Feelings, if you can call them that, are running high.  Our Prime Minister talks of World War 3.

This is because there will be winners and losers.  As ever in history, those who see themselves as potential losers are often the ones to start a war or two.  With the PM looking like a loser he can only hope.

This jolly five minutes from Youtube will give an indication of some examples from history of what we might expect if the pessimists are correct.

Can't wait, now where did I put my old army boots?

In the meantime there are various booms and potential busts we might have.  This is one that is little known and discussed in The Spectator.  It could be coming soon to a town near you.

Which University could be the first to go bankrupt?

Friday, 13 May 2016

Falsehoods For Sale

On 23 June we are asked to vote in a Referendum to indicate if we want to leave the European Union or to stay as a paid up junior member.  In a real life world, there might be several types of association or membership to chose from, but we are simply asked yes or no, Remain or Leave.

Then hot, perhaps very hot, on the heels of this event will come the long awaited Chilcot Report on the Iraq War of 2003, an inquiry that began in 2009.  The date for this is 6 July, that is thirteen days after.  The obvious question in my mind is what items might be in the report that could relate to the Referendum vote, especially who done what.

By coincidence in the debate on Europe former main men of the Labour Party who led us into the Iraq War are at the forefront of the Remain campaign baring their souls or perhaps selling them for the Euro.  There is a lot of money in this, maybe mine and yours, but theirs if they can get it.

If Cameron and his Tory Remainers want to win and stay in the EU they need this New Labour Prominente on their side, in a way a marriage of convenience.  Another question, which Chilcot may or may not answer, is who in the Tory Party may have been among the warmongers of 2003 and what did they do in the far from great war?

In 2003, the spiel was that the UK was the buddy boy of the USA doing its Special Relationship bit for all those photo-opportunities in the White House with the next election in mind.  What we do not know is how far the USA saw us and how far we were with Brussels, in effect the EU troops.

Inevitably, this raises other questions about NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, our bulwark during the Cold War.  After 1990 it might have been redundant with the demise of the Soviet Union and had to find a new role.  So did it then become in effect a quasi defence ministry for the EU, but under the direction of the USA?

My thinking about this kind of thing is governed by the fact that a good deal of what was important, even critical, at times in the past is not known or may not emerge for many decades.

In the 50's I was involved in matters to do with the Suez Crisis and other things not all of which have yet emerged, if they ever will.  Not long after that during my degree course, I suggested to my tutor that the events of the early 1880's in relation to Egypt were a puzzle.  By luck, she had been given rare access then to the Royal Archive at Windsor and discovered that they told a different story to that in the usual sources.

We have little or no real idea of what has been going on between the UK government, the White House or Brussels and NATO, or what the effective working and liaison arrangements are and have been.  These could be critical to any open discussion about Remaining or Leaving.  The strange and almost manic way that Prime Minister Cameron is reacting to the Brexit debate may tell a tale.

But buried in the more obscure passages of text in Chilcot, or in the small print, or in clauses of weighty annexes there might be clues that all is not what it seems or has seemed to be.  If that is the case then the EU debate is being based on falsehoods.

If we do not know the truth about our present engagement with the EU and it, our government and supposed allies are not willing to tell us or what they intend the future to be then we are being sold a false deal to Remain.

Buyer beware.