Sunday, 31 July 2011

Sportsmen

People have differing ideas as to exactly what sportsmanship entails. Does it simply mean the ability to take a shellacking and say "jolly well played old chap?" immediately afterwards or is it a word that describes something a little deeper than that? To this bunny, the concept of 'the Sportsman' involves three factors - getting the most out of one's ability through dedication to their game of choice and hard work, being able to accept when a rival has been that bit better than you on the day, and performing in a manner that is competitive, refusing to give a millimetre to the opposition while acknowledging both the rules of the sport and their spirit. By withdrawing his run out appeal against Ian Bell at Trent Bridge on Sunday, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has shown himself to be a true sportsman not just by the definition applied by Etonian amateurs, but in every modern and professional sense of the word.

England were marginal outsiders going into that fourth day, having surrendered a 67 run first innings lead in a low scoring first innings, then lost the wicket of Alistair Cook early on and closed at 24-1, still 43 runs behind. When Andrew Strauss soon perished with India still in the lead, the odds on an away win became even shorter, but then a fightback of epic proportions was led by Ian Bell, first in partnership with Kevin Pietersen and then while the exciting strokeplay of Eoin Morgan accelerated the scoring in an afternoon session where 124 runs were scored for the loss of a solitary wicket. With a match they had been in control of only a couple of hours earlier rapidly sliding away from them, India were desparate. So what happened off that final ball before tea is something that could be understood on all sides.

Morgan strikes the ball off his pads square of the wicket on the on-side, where Praveen Kumar, perhaps tired from his long spell of bowling, gives a fairly sluggish chase. He makes contact with the ball near the boundary, but only appears to knock it closer to the rope if anything. However, the ball travels in an arc that keeps it millimetres from going for four while the two batsmen take a comfortable three runs. Bell believes the ball to have crossed the rope, and/or that Kumar's casual lob back towards Dhoni indicates time and the tea interval. As the bails are removed, it suddenly dawns on everyone that neither 'four' nor 'time' was actually called and Dhoni is asked if he would like to appeal. In a session where his side has been battered, you can forgive the Indian captain and wicket keeper for seeking a breakthrough from absolutely anywhere. The appeal is lodged, and there is no doubt that by the letter of the law, Bell had been naive in not playing to the whistle and was out.

I have never heard jeering at a cricket match on the scale of that which accompanied the flashing of the word 'OUT' on the giant video screen. Naturally it continued when the umpires made their way out to the middle after the break and indeed grew louder as the visitors followed the officials down the pavilion steps. However, the sight of the England players applauding them from the balcony suggested that something had happened during the interval, and indeed this was proved to be the case. Walking out to bat with Morgan at the start of the evening session was Ian Bell, who had been re-instated after Dhoni had withdrawn his appeal for the run out. The boos turned to applause for both sides and all was right with the world once again. Resuming on 137, Bell added a further 22 runs before being dismissed without controversy by a sharp catch at slip.

The ICC's statement on what was a brilliant moment is worth reading, "On appeal, after consultation with television umpire Billy Bowden, Bell was given run out, which was the technically correct decision under the letter of the law of the game. Absolute credit must go to Team India, the England team and the match officials - Ranjan Madugalle, Asad Rauf and Marais Erasmus as well as the off-field umpires Billy Bowden and Tim Robinson - for the superb way that they all handled a tricky situation. While the initial appeal and umpire decision may have been acceptable to the letter of the law, the decision by India captain MS Dhoni and his team - as well as the Team India coaching staff - to withdraw the appeal shows great maturity. To see players and officials uphold the Great Spirit of cricket, which has underpinned the game for more than a century, is very special. I am indeed grateful for the way that the teams and match officials handled what was clearly a difficult situation and their behaviour reflects well on everyone."

All you can really add to that is - spot on and well said.

There are a few very good reasons why we should be both grateful for and touched by the brilliant sportsmanship of the Indian team. They were in a hole and badly needed to break a partnership that was taking the game away from them. Had they stood by their original appeal, there was absolutely nothing that anybody could have done since as the ICC statement clearly points out, they were right according to the letter of the law. Perhaps they recognised that as well as being a series that has thus far produced some quality cricket from both of the two best sides in the world, it has been played in the right spirit without losing any sort of competitive edge. These incidents have the potential to ruin such an atmosphere, so it speaks volumes about Dhoni and his team-mates that he was prepared to weigh this up against the potential advantage gained by dismissing Ian Bell.

Most impressively, it tells you a lot about Dhoni as an individual. His relaxed, personable and engaging style does not hide a will to win that was most evident when he led his country to World Cup glory earlier in the year. Yet as another senior Indian player Rahul Dravid pointed out, "we didn't feel that was the right way to take his wicket" - ie of course I want to beat you, but certainly not like that. There have been instances of great sportsmen in the past whose determination to get a result at all costs has led to incidents that have tarnished their legacy, if only slightly - Michael Schumacher's shunting of Damon Hill at the 1994 Australian Grand Prix - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmKbGW7OmVg and Maradona's hand of God http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eZhBCqh8l8 to name but two. At least el Diego finally admitted that he punched the ball some years later, whereas Schumy has always insisted that his collision with Hill was a complete accident, despite the video evidence suggesting a quite deliberate act of 'Demolition Derby' having gone off and back onto the track.

What Schumy and Diego did was just not cricket, but then the nation that themselves coined the phrase during the Bodyline series were perhaps guilty of one of the most appalling breaches of the game's spirit during a One Day International with New Zealand in 1981. For those who do not know what is coming, prepare to be horrified, and ask whether you would want your side to win a match in this fashion or not - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K65_spUU05s&feature=fvst.

I can say with utter certainty that I wouldn't - as if the LBW against the legend that is Hadlee wasn't bad enough...

As regular Rabbit readers will know, I follow the sport of boxing closely. A book I remember reading was 'the Journeyman', written by Michael Murray. A Heavyweight who had shown promise in his early career, Murray had later turned to becoming an 'opponent' for new prospects in order to continue making a living from the sport. One of these foes was Michael Sprott, who some will know for his fights with Danny Williams and Audley Harrison. Their 1998 contest was one in which both boxers appeared to agree that the wrong man had got the nod, and that Murray had been 'mugged' by the referee who had scored the fight. When they were together in a gym shortly afterwards, a third party asked who had won their fight, to which Sprott tentatively answered, "I got the decision". This appeared to rankle with the 'defeated' Murray, who saw his opponent's take on events as something resembling the truth, but not the whole truth.

Later that year, Murray watched the all-British WBC SuperMiddleweight title bout between Richie Woodhall (making his first defence) and Glenn Catley, who was a late replacement for mandatory challenger Vincenzo Nardiello. In what was a competitive fight, the widely held view was that Bristol's Catman had done more than enough to take the title away from the Telford technician, so the majority verdict announced in Woodhall's favour was at best surprising and to Catley and his supporters, manifestly unfair. How many times have we seen a 'victorious' fighter, after receiving a controversial decision, explain to an interviewer how it was the correct one since they clearly won the fight? To his great credit, Richie refused to lie to Catley, the sport that was in his blood and most importantly, himself.

He acknowledged that the two judges who declared him the winner were wrong, that his performance had been sub-standard and praised his opponent, who would prove to be a much harder proposition than the face-pulling theatrics of the #1 contender (a flabby Nardiello was promptly battered in six rounds when he and Woodhall finally met). Murray comments in his book that upon hearing the post-fight interviews, Richie became "my hero - he was the first boxer I'd ever known to get a decision and admit 'I lost that fight'." It should be said that it very, very rarely happens, perhaps because fighters take these lucky breaks knowing they might get a rough verdict themselves next time out.

Catley didn't receive an immediate rematch due to Nardiello's recovery from the injury that gave him his first shot at the belt, but would eventually get a crack at Woodhall's conqueror, Markus Beyer. Facing not only an awkward counter-punching southpaw but a hostile German crowd, Catman flattened the home favourite with a sensational flurry of punches in the twelfth and final round to claim a shock victory and the WBC title. You could say that this provides a sense of completion to the chain of events, because although he immediately lost the strap himself under strange circumstances in South Africa (his opponent, Dingaan Thobela, appeared to have something resembling an ashtray buried in one of his gloves), Catley had earned his mark on mortality and the nice windfall that WBC title fights had provided him with. Like Woodhall, he was a nice guy outside the ring who possessed the heart of a lion while between the ropes. Both were sportsmen in the purest sense.

Catley was your classic puncher - capable of unloading TNT with both hands but vulnerable round the whiskers himself. This made his fights exciting and unpredictable affairs where putting the kettle on was an exercise strictly to be done between rounds. I've attached a video containing some of his best and most explosive moments, with the Beyer knockout appearing around 55 seconds in. Take it easy, and I'll catch you soon.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypGUY23vTJ4

FYI

An important blogpost on LPUK from our friends at Libertarian Home - well worth checking out

http://libertarianhome.co.uk/2011/07/the-gang-of-four/

Money for Nothing

First up, apologies for the absence of any RabbitTalk yesterday - I'm looking to get two Sunday instalments done as a means of evening things up.

On Friday I got a text which I'm sure many of you will also have received, "Due to a new legislation, those struggling with debt can apply to have it written off. For free information reply INFO or to opt out text STOP. Free Text!". Now the obvious grammar and syntax errors, along with the fact that it came from a private mobile number, should immediately alert any intelligent person to the fact that there is a potential scam at work. More to the point, can someone please define 'struggling?'. Like a lot of people I have an existing bank loan and overdraft that I would naturally rather not be burdened with. I 'struggle' with them in the sense that they reduce my day-to-day material quality of life. However, the payments are not unaffordable and as I borrowed the money in the first instance, so the repayment of that amount plus interest is entirely my responsibility.

I appreciate that there are instances where an individual's circumstances will change suddenly, and the means that they had when taking out a loan or overdraft in good faith no longer exist through no fault of their own. However, are there not already mechanisms in place whereby such debt can be restructured, frozen or written off, even if an IVA or bankruptcy bring certain problems with them? I had enormous difficulty understanding exactly what this text advertisement was suggesting - maybe if you just don't feel like repaying the bank, building society or loans company you can have it written off, no questions asked and no strings attached?

Along with many of you, I've also been bombarded with texts containing an invitation to collect the £300,000 I've won, or to cash in on a personal injury - "you still haven't claimed for the accident you had". Well of course I haven't, probably because no such accident took place, certainly not one that left me with a serious injury. A few years ago, a mate of mine asked over a beer if I'd like to take part as a passenger in what is widely known as a 'Crash for Cash' - ie a staged 'accident' engineered to extract as much money as possible from the insurance of another driver. Apparently, he knew a "well dodgy lawyer" who specialised in this sort of thing, and could work the system in such a way that would deliver the maximum payout. Of course I don't need money that badly. Panorama's programme on the subject appears here - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b012s1xj. This is one of Auntie's better efforts, getting as it does to the centre of a criminal gang involved in the scam, while detailing the knock-on effect it has on the insurance premiums of law-abiding motorists.

Something I never discussed with my friend was whether this 'accident' involved setting up an innocent motorist for a fall, or would simply be an outright fraud that never took place in reality. Of course, genuine accidents happen every day on the roads and in people's places of work. Most are intelligent enough to make a distinction between an unfortunate occurrence that was 'one of those things' and an honest mistake or act of carelessness on the part of a motorist, employer or employee that may still require certain costs to be covered. However, the 'compensation culture' that has crept into British society in the last decade (thanks very much to our friends across the pond for that) is now rampant. The notion of a genuine accident for which there was no blame and no resultant claim (on a no-win, no-fee basis it should be added) does not seem to compute with a large section of the population, and it's worth exploring why that is.

We've all got ourselves into a hurry, fed by perfectly rational drives for more money and everything to be bigger and faster. Moreover, we want it all now, and this seems to have broken important pieces of the chain that defined exactly what money is and how it is made. At least hypothetically, money is the by-product of having goods or services for which people are prepared to pay a real value in the marketplace. Naturally this tends to involve patience and hard work, the first of which appears to be in particularly short supply these days. Against this backdrop, it is perhaps unsurprising that many have succumbed to the offers of money for nothing from claims specialists and ambulance-chasing lawyers. Genuine costs incurred in real accidents where one party was clearly to blame should of course be met, and unlike some Libertarians, I don't go in for removing all health and safety laws at work, just most of them. Like motorists, people who employ other people are responsible for their actions, and should not be allowed to set death-traps with impunity.

However, just like trashy 'reality television' has broken the link between fame and actually being quite good at something, the compensation and 'no win, no fee' culture has offered a convenient means by which the unscrupulous and greedy can make a fast buck while not producing anything of real market value. One of the side effects of this is the growth of scams that deliberately play on those chasing a slice of the action. I've never had the famous phone call from Nigeria offering to make me a billionaire in exchange for handing over my bank account number, card details and an 'interim payment' to facilitate the transaction, but the natural response of any sane person who receives such a call or text is of course to laugh, then hang up or delete the message. With that in mind, I struggle to find any sympathy at all for those who fall victim to such swindles, since they only exploit a cocktail of greed and idleness that clearly exists in anyone who answers the text or takes the call seriously.

Hopefully the proposal currently on the table of taking the 'zero risk, high reward' element out of accident claims will lead to a reduction in the quantity of nonsense or fraudulent cases making their way into the courtroom. Until then I should probably expect a further string of messages inviting this bunny to cash in on an 'accident' that never actually happened or collect his winnings from one lottery or another. Then again, the fact that I don't play the 'poor man's tax' in the Uk or elsewhere should probably be a clue that something isn't quite right. Take care and I'll catch you again this evening.

Friday, 29 July 2011

No I'm Not in Denial

You told me I was self-absorbed
So I spent the night
thinking about it
I said "I think that I'm ignored"
You turned and asked me
"what did you just say?"

Life
is an ongoing mishap
It's a kick in the balls
followed by a massive bitchslap
And no I'm not in denial
I'm just waiting for a gorgeous smile
to break the chain

You told me I was over-stressed
So I went and slashed
my wrists over it
I said "I think that I'm repressed"
You turned and told me
"please be fucking quiet"

Life
is an ongoing mishap
It's a kick in the balls
followed by a massive bitchslap
And no I'm not in denial
I'm just waiting for a gorgeous smile
to break the chain

Life is so much easier
when you don't have feelings
those things that leave you reeling
lying on the floor and squealing

You told me I must be in lurv
So I went and had
a cry about it
I lied "I just don't do that stuff"
And you just laughed
"with that face I'm not surprised"

Life
is an ongoing mishap
It's a kick in the balls
followed by a massive bitchslap
And no I'm not in denial
I'm just waiting for a gorgeous smile
to break the chain

To break the chain...

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Something About Immigration...

Ok it's not my favourite topic, but I did promise something on the subject over the weekend, so here it is. Immigration is probably the most heated area of discussion in British political life, probably because its effects transcend the chatter of the Westminster Village more than those of any other issue, and impact on the real lives of real people. Whether it's the availability of housing, school places, healthcare, employment or an assortment of other things, it is these everyday experiences that make immigration a topic on which most people have an opinion.

Looking at a survey carried out in February this year, it would appear that there is a clear majority that hold some sort of 'anti-immigration' sentiment. 59% of those polled believed that there were 'too many immigrants' in the Uk, which is interesting when one considers that this figure was only 27% in Germany and Holland, two countries with higher immigrant populations in percentage terms. 23% regarded the question of immigration as the single biggest issue in British life at the moment - more important than over 2 million unemployed, NHS reform, education, transport etc. It is clearly an emotive subject, perhaps illustrated by the fact that a clear majority also supported the recruitment of more doctors and nurses from overseas - so some of this 59% who want either significantly less immigration or none at all in the forseeable future would also like more immigration when it suits.

What this appears to demonstrate is the capacity of most people to make a clear distinction between what they see as 'good immigration' and 'bad immigration'. In the 1960s, the Conservative government had actively recruited health professionals from the West Indies in order to staff the NHS. The Health Minister who had overseen the training and hiring of those born in Jamaica amongst other places was none other than Enoch Powell, who is now seen as something of a poster boy for 'close the door' sentiments. Many a YouTube clip, Blog or forum thread has appeared under the heading 'Enoch Powell was Right', while his 'Rivers of Blood' speech from 1968, one of the most divisive pieces of rhetoric ever produced on these isles, still chimes with a great many to this day - there is no point denying it. I'll attach an except from a documentary on the man and, as ever, invite you to make up your own mind http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJQMz-fZzC0&feature=related

Those 59% who wish to see less or no immigration would naturally fall into two categories, and there is no doubt that those seeking a complete halt and a 'No Entry' sign held up at Dover are more vocally represented and almost certainly stronger in number than they were even a few years ago. It would be arrogant and churlish to simply dismiss those wishing to 'close the door' as racists, nutters and fruitcakes. Not only have I met perfectly reasonable and intelligent people expressing such sentiments, but there is actually something profoundly anti-racist about saying 'no immigration at all for say, five years' as there is no attempt made to distinguish between one ethnic group or nationality and another. Many of course use the word 'immigrants' as code for 'Muslims' in order to express an entirely different sense of unease (probably a subject worthy of a fresh post all of its own), but if those arguing for an end to overseas migration are as sincere about locking out Canadians and New Zealanders as their stated position would indicate, then one can hardly accuse them of 'playing the race card' on the issue.

Much of the concern about mass immigration centres around a notion that I will admit to never quite understanding - namely that of English or British identity. What does it mean to be English or British, and how exactly does that differ to the sense of say, French or German-ness that an inhabitant of either of those nations would feel equally entitled to? Like most, I'll follow England at football or cricket, while supporting British participants in athletics, tennis or boxing. Beyond that, if we're talking about having a pint on a Sunday afternoon, or going to the match and returning home to fish and chips with a mug of tea, I struggle to see exactly how these things have been taken away from people in the way that some would suggest.

Perhaps the people you will encounter while taking in such innocent pleasures will be a different colour, from another country, or believe in a faith that is alien to you and I, but if one wishes to pursue this quintessentially 'British way of Life' then I'm running short on reasons why this cannot still be done. Technology, innovation and the information boom have left so many choices out there to people that were of course not available even two decades ago, and I'd suggest this has had as much and possibly more to do with people's diverse lifestyles today as immigration. The churches are empty when compared with those of a generation ago as organised religion is continually 'sussed' by many, British television has (rightly or wrongly) looked to America for inspiration while the world is just getting smaller in terms of what you can see or read, and who you can talk to. To blame all of these changes on those who have come here from overseas is at best simplistic and, if we're being more honest, plain wrong.

However, there are real anxieties with real day-to-day consequences. Towns and Cities segregated into white and non-white areas, with racial tensions and the rise of political extremism as a result. White working-class males have felt left out, forgotten and ignored by the political elite as they compete with newcomers for jobs, housing and access to local services. There is an understandable sense of frustration that someone can come to these shores from overseas and enjoy the same access to welfare as an individual who has lived, worked and paid tax here for decades. The political slimeballs of the British National Party and their street operation, the English Defence League, have naturally exploited this angst to their own advantage. This bunny's view that we should generally ignore and laugh at the BNP as a bunch of wackos and pseudo-Nazis is tempered by the reality that in 2009 they won their first ever seats in the European Parliament. People are actually voting for them, in fact 1 million did at that election.

This brings us neatly onto the next point, which is that a thousand discussions on the topic of immigration will mean precisely nothing until Britain leaves the European Union and returns full control of our border policy to London, where it belongs. There are so many reasons for seeking an amicable divorce from the EUSSR, and the ability of Parliament to decide its own policy on immigration is just another to add to the extensive list. With some 80% of our overseas influx coming from EU states, rhetoric on the subject from domestic politicians means the square root of nothing while we remain members of this crooked champagne socialist club. The current government's policy of quotas and limits is profoundly dishonest, designed as it is to give the impression of 'doing something' while skating over the fact that it can only 'control' a marginal slice of the action.

As I've stated previously, I'm instinctively pro-immigration, support open borders. and have taken the step on previous occasions of defending those who have travelled here to work hard and contribute. With so many workshy among the 'indigenous population', we need someone to prop them up and pay the taxes that they refuse to, and I'm keen to point this out to anyone who applies a blanket rule of indigenous = good, immigrant = bad in the context of this discussion. That said, I understand that a combination of high welfare and open border immigration are potentially ruinous, and would naturally be eager to resolve it. Where this bunny and the anti-immigration lobby invariably part company is on this point - it is welfare, not immigration, that is the problem.

Many issues that have been attributed to immigration are actually brought about by an over-generous welfare state and its unintended consequences. Over-Population? Welfare not Immigration, and as someone else has already said it better than I could, check out Malpoet's observations on this subject - http://malpoet.wordpress.com/2011/06/30/population-growth-welfare-not-immigration/. If you incentivise people to have more children by increasing welfare and benefit provision, the inevitable consequence is more people having more children they could not otherwise afford. A cap on the number of kids covered by child benefit would go a long way towards resolving this situation, although I'm fairly relaxed when it comes to the 'one child or two' argument, since it's people having seven children and existing eternally on the efforts of others who the policy would be aimed at. Health tourism? Thank the 'sacred cow' of the NHS for that. Foreign scroungers? Perhaps inspired by our own, or tempted by the sweeties on offer that they couldn't get elsewhere. The quantity of welfare on offer will inevitably drive the quality of immigrant who wishes to live in your country.

Then again, incrementally rolling back the welfare state, cutting taxation as we go and cultivating the concept of self-reliance will not happen overnight, so what do we do in the meantime? Statist solutions, as ever, help nobody. A free-for-all backed by lavish welfare and state-imposed multiculturalism is dangerous, counter-productive and ultimately does as much damage to immigrants themselves as anyone else. Closing the door will only result in unfilled skills shortages, a malfunctioning economy and fewer jobs for all of us - a very high price to pay in the name of ethnic nationalism, although I've now heard a few people who have stated that it would be one worth paying. Here any attempt to show respect to my natural opponents would have to be temporarily parked - that is absolutely insane.

One of the market's many positive attributes is that it is not strangled by politically correct dogma, nor is it inherently racist in any way. This sounds like the sort of force we can trust and deal with, and therefore the best equipped to decide exactly how much immigration is absolutely necessary. First up, we need to replace EU membership with a free trade agreement, and implement a points system that applies to all would-be migrants. Then we can allow the skills requirement of each region within the Uk to weigh up what employers need against the talents and aptitudes of those looking to live and work here. Those that are successful are granted not a work permit, but full time residency and the same rights as anyone born and raised in these shores, for if you travel overseas with the clear intention of contributing in your adopted home, it is the least you deserve. Civilized countries don't do second class citizens.

Of course, if we could ever scale down the welfare state to the point where it ceased to be a magnet to the idle and phoney sick of the world, then we could open the doors to whoever wanted to come here. The chances are we would only get immigrants who had travelled for the right reasons anyway. As it is, we will have to accept that this is a difficult issue for Libertarians in general, and deal with the reality as we find it. Take care and I'll catch you soon...

The Dead Chicken Party

Zombie is a term used to denote an animated corpse brought back to life by mystical means such as witchcraft. The term is often figuratively applied to describe a hypnotised person bereft of consciousness and self-awareness, yet ambulant and able to respond to surrounding stimuli.

According to the tenets of Vodou a dead person can be revived by a bokor, or sorcerer. Zombies remain under the control of the bokor since they have no will of their own.

Zombie fiction is now a sizeable sub-genre of horror, usually describing a breakdown of civilization occurring when most of the population become flesh-eating zombies – a zombie apocalypse.

The monsters are usually hungry for human flesh, often specifically brains.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

When England Propped up the Cricketing World

For those who are not aware of the full context of England's current Test Series against India, victory for the home side by two clear matches would mean that they leap above the visitors and into first place in the World Rankings. Whatever our frustrations about an isolated result here or there, it is clear that as a power in the world of cricket, England are as strong as they have been in at least three decades and possibly more. We should probably enjoy these positive times while they last, for as is the case in most sports, the fortunes of a side, whether it competes in domestic or international competition is bound to fluctuate in a cycle between varying relative levels of performance. No team can stay at the peak of its powers forever, and there will inevitably be high and low points over time. England's absolute nadir in the modern era of cricket came in 1999.

The fatal moment unfolds as Chris Cairns, who has been the best player on either side in New Zealand's visit to these shores, runs in and bowls to Alan Mullally. Now the fact that the Leicestershire left-armer is batting at number nine in this match should tell you that something was not right with this England team from the off. In what was described at the time as 'the tail from hell', Mullally was judged to be the lesser of three evils with the willow when placed alongside two other renowned rabbits, Phil Tufnell and Ed Giddins. In England's first innings, a difficult situation at 150-7 had rapidly resolved itself negatively to the effect of 153 all out. Contrast this with the Kiwis, whose strong lower order containing Cairns and Daniel Vettori, had already rescued them from perilous positions twice in the match. 87-6 and a truly horrific 39-6 had somehow been salvaged, becoming 236 and 162 all out in their first and second digs respectively. Vettori's half-century was critical to the first recovery, while Cairns had later turned the match on its head with a brutal 80 (including four sixes) to set England a challenging 246 to win on a difficult pitch.

In truth it was the depth of batting (or lack of) that had been the most evident difference between the two sides, and that England had gone into a deciding fourth match level at 1-1 was in itself somewhat unjust on the tourists. They had played the superior cricket throughout the summer, losing an opener where they had led on first innings to a freakish 99 not out from nightwatchman and home debutant Alex Tudor. The Kiwis had then bounced back to trounce England by nine wickets at Lords, and taken a 300 run lead after one dig each at Old Trafford. Only the rain and a dogged rearguard action from the recently-recalled Michael Atherton had saved the hosts from almost certain defeat. However, the cruel clarity of sport and its ability to establish who is the better team or individual on the field of play eventually tells. There are only so many reprieves or extra lives before the truth bites, and England's luck finally ran out on a fateful day at the Oval.

Alec Stewart, England's last recognised batsman, had been out at 148-6 after mis-timing a pull shot straight to square leg off the excellent bowling of Dion Nash (the fast-medium strike bowler had in fact come a whisker from winning a Test Match for New Zealand at Lords as far back as 1994). This left the task of knocking off the remaining 98 runs in with numbers seven to eleven. As well as the aformentioned bunny squad, they comprised of Ronnie Irani, an all-rounder in the true 1990s English sense, not quite up to Test standard with either bat or ball, and Andrew Caddick, who had bowled well to take 20 wickets in the series, but was in reality an international number ten batting well above his natural position. If you add up the number of runs scored and total dismissals in Test Cricket of the five men charged with saving the day for England back at the Oval in 1999 then you come out with a less than encouraging average of 8.51 (in fairness this is based on the stats of their entire career, but then Giddins and Irani never played for England again, while Caddick, Mullally and Tufnell did not noticeably change as batsmen in the period that followed).

I once read a piece in a magazine called 'the worst Test Batsmen of All Time' and both Mullally and Tufnell appeared in its top ten (check out the undisputed number one, Pommie Mbangwa, if you want to see truly inept batting at its finest - yes he's worse than the Kiwis' own Chris Martin). However, I was intrigued to find that the entry for Mullally started with the words, "should not be in this list - he can be the most wonderful striker of a cricket ball", before attributing his dreadful average to "wild rushes of blood, totally out of context with the match situation". Now there may be a grain of truth in this, given that his finest moment with the bat in international cricket had come when he clattered a rapid 16 in a test down under less than a year earlier. Given that England actually won that match by the meagre sum of twelve runs, there is a simplistic but vaguely logical line of argument that it was Mullally's genius with the Willow that enabled an unlikely victory. Perhaps that is what secured him the loft berth at seven wickets down ahead of 'the Cat' and Warwickshire's walking wicket, Giddins...


Anyway, "wild rushes of blood, totally out of context with the match situation" - here goes. With England nine down and requiring a further 84, Cairns runs in and pitches the ball up. Mullally, either not wishing to stick around or fancying his chances of an unlikely heave into row 29, drives the ball with everything he has, and sends it airborne. The shot is chronically mis-timed, does not come off the middle, and despite its executioner being a powerful man, travels further skyward than it does towards the boundary. Roger Twose, a veteran of County Cricket who had only just broken into the New Zealand side, steps in from long on and takes a comfortable catch. The match is over, with the Kiwis winning by 83 runs to also claim a deserved series victory.

And with that, England are officially the worst Test side in the world. Their opponents, who had propped up the rankings going in, had absolutely stuffed them on the field of play by a far greater margin than the 2-1 scoreline actually suggested. In fact, but for Tudor's once-in-a-lifetime impersonation of Gordon Greenidge at Edgbaston and a welcome spot of Mancunian rain, the result could very conceivably have been a 4-0 whitewash in New Zealand's favour, and this serves to underline how bad an international side England had become at that time. An ironically glorious chant of "we're the worst team in the world" rang around the Oval, while captain Nasser Hussain's attempts to defend his players and commend their effort were met by an insensitive and rather unpleasant headline of "NASSER INSANE" in 'the Sun' the next day. In reality, this was not a mess of Hussain's making, stuck as he was with a situation that had been allowed to deteriorate alarmingly for a decade.


The 1990s were a disaster zone for English cricket, bringing as they did a cocktail of poor management, negative performances, unfulfilled talent and some truly appalling results, especially on tours that descended into embarrassment. Whitewash in India, with two defeats by an innings, the famous collapse to 46 all out in Port of Spain in 1994 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmMn4bhi-KU. There was also the drawn series in Zimbabwe, with the 'flippin murdered 'em' test in Bulawayo, and as for the ashes, well they became a non-contest and a formality throughout the period of 1989-2003. The summer of 1993, which was the first England-Australia contest I remember with utter clarity, was torture, save for a token victory at the Oval against a touring side already 4-0 up and mentally on the plane home. Selection was haphazard, with the sword of damocles permanently dangled over newly selected players to perform in the here and now, and the one league, eighteen team county system, which had become stale and no longer fit for purpose by the mid 1990s, was leaving those players exhausted when they were called up to play in international competition.


In short, it was madness.


With the benefit of hindsight, the rock bottom of English cricket came at a good time, as it underlined the necessity of implementing some of the changes that were on the table at the point:- a two-division domestic league to reduce the 'comfort factor' that might kill the drive of young players, central contracts for England players to keep them fresh for Test Matches and ration the amount of cricket that they played in between, a professional coaching setup, greater emphasis on fitness and sports psychology - ie putting the England team, whose matches generate the greatest revenue for the ECB, at the centre of the game's domestic structure. Would England have ascended up the world rankings and won three of the last four Ashes series had these measures not been in place? Of course we'll never know, but the logical money would have to be against it, and I would probably be far from alone in not wishing to find out.


The current England team play cricket that is dynamic, fast-paced, bold and to a consistently high standard. I dread to think what they would do to the side that represented the same country in 1999, but here's something pertinent that I only discovered when researching for this piece. England took the rare step of selecting a fourteen man squad for that decisive match at the Oval, and one of the unfortunates who found themselves left out was a 20 year old bowling all rounder, who batted aggressively and was one of the few twirlymen in England who could turn the ball a considerable margin. His name was Graeme Swann, who now is not only regarded as the best slow bowler currently operating in world cricket, but also averages 24 with the bat from the position of number nine that Alan Mullally occupied that day. It is just possible that had Swann been selected then the course of history may have been radically altered. However, if like myself you believe that rock bottom is sometimes necessary in order to move forward, then perhaps we should be grateful he was left out some 12 years ago.


Take care, and I'll see you around...

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Statism, Manipulation and being Thoroughly Pissed Off

I've always been a glass half empty kinda fella. Some of this may well be down to a sense of predisposed melancholia, which has aroused the attention of many a control freak looking to 'fix' my nature over the years, but then I don't think being a natural pessimist is necessarily a bad thing. Bad news tends not to discomfort someone as much if there was a part of their instinctive psyche that expected it. Moreover, eternal optimists tend to live with their heads either floating in the clouds or lodged deep within their own arses, and from personal experience I tend to find them a damn sight more depressing than those naturally inclined towards the worst case scenario. Anyone remember Mr Motivator? Or Anthea Turner's permanent false smile? I don't know if they made you wanna reach for the shotgun and fucking end it right there and right then, but I've no problem admitting that the sight of Mr Lycra in particular first thing in the morning left me feeling terminally demotivated. I've come across many a 'hooray for everything' specialist in my life and found every last one to be vacuous, pointless and fucking useless. Sincere apologies to anyone who was already feeling depressed...

We're all supposed to be happy aren't we? But how can anyone who believes in personal liberty be happy whether they have a predisposed melancholia or not? Not only are us instinctive liberals in a distinct and marginalised minority, it becomes apparent on a daily basis that Statism has won the battle in so many aspects of our lives. We now have three major political parties all committed to adding their own unique form of Statism to whatever the previous lot managed to inflict upon us. Modern politics seems to be little more than a competition to see which jumped-up shit can take away the most of your life, liberty and property with a single stroke of their pen. Millions of people, either not knowing or refusing to consider that their minds have been conditioned, immediately turn to politicians for a solution to every problem, be it a crisis in healthcare, the peddling of 'hatred' or whatever. I'll come back to those two examples throughout the piece as they're good instances of how the state ruthlessly snatches the personal and constitutional freedom of individuals.

But Statism, like Liberalism, is instinctive, and is therefore not just a political ideology but a way of life. If I could sum up the modus operandi of this poisonous value system in but a few words, they would be "play the game". Do as you are told, be grateful for the little of your hard-earned property that they kindly allowed you to keep, and under no circumstances are you allowed to think or speak for yourself without first receiving the permission of your nanny. I struggle to think of a single area of our lives in which independent thought is even tolerated, let alone encouraged. Kids at school are encouraged to 'discuss' topics but are always reminded at the end that there is a 'right' answer, holding certain contentious opinions is actually illegal and punishable by a spell in chokey, while medium and large sized organisations, be they private or public, have become mini-states of their own where obedience is rewarded, basic aptitude becomes irrelevant and anything resembling initiative is at least discouraged, if not crushed with ruthless efficiency.

When people call for the state to 'step in' on their behalf and 'solve' whatever pressing concern is currently on the radar, there seems to be a failure to recognise precisely what this entails. Statistism is a very devious and manipulative ideology by definition, dependant as it is on establishing certain 'sacred cows' or 'greater goods' and then using them to justify any encroachment into the life, liberty and property of others (I always find this Youtube film useful as a means of explaining what I'm talking about. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muHg86Mys7I). If you view redistributed wealth as a pot of money, then it essentially involves someone walking up to the pot (with the state pointing a gun at their head), dropping the money in that they have earned themselves, then leaving so someone else can take it. The law of unintended consequences invariably creates some undeserving winners (the terminally idle, teenage breeding machines) along with many unfortunate, sometimes serial sufferers (drinkers, smokers, drivers, the childless, the habitually employed). 'Redistribution' as Statists call it is essentially, as the video points out, theft.

This mass-confiscation of other people's money of course funds the 'sacred cows' of the Statist project, such as the NHS. Once it (of course, wrongly) becomes conventional wisdom that universal healthcare funded by taxation is the only way to prevent corpses rotting in our streets, then the individual wishing to hold on to his or her life, liberty and prosperity is portrayed as someone who is 'selfish', 'irresponsible' or 'does not care'. In the same fashion, if the 'right' of individuals not to be offended in any way is enshrined in law, it follows that the freedom of others to think or express an 'unacceptable' view of the world is immediately compromised, and their objections to the latest bout of tyranny dismissed as 'dangerous extremism'. Of course, Statists love nothing more than cashing in on a fatality in order to advance their cause. Just as the dead of Dublane rapidly became pawns in the pursuit of the banning of handguns, Cameron and his assortment of fucking traffic wardens have wasted no time making capital out of those who tragically lost their lives in Oslo and on Utoya Island.

Another 'crackdown' on 'extremism' will invariably mean the further restriction of opinions deemed 'offensive' by the state. I often wonder if Statists actually celebrate such horrific events since it gives them an excuse to interfere and boss people around in the name of the latest 'greater good' handed to them by what was in reality a pretty unavoidable catastrophe brought about by a deranged lunatic. The draconian anti-gun laws passed after Dunblane did not stop criminals from obtaining them, and merely served as a further restriction on law-abiding people seeking to defend their lives and property. What price that anything done to combat 'extremism' achieves nothing of the sort, and instead leaves the rest of us having to choose our words with ever-increasing care?

The old axis of left and right is long dead, and the true battle lines of politics rest upon this struggle between Statism and Liberalism, over the crucial questions that impact the real lives of real individuals. Who gets to spend your money? Who sets the goals of your life and judges whether or not you have been successful in achieving them? Who decides what you can think, feel, believe and choose to say about any issue either relating to your own life or taking place in the wider world? And the most important issue addressed by the video - who owns your life? To all these questions I would instinctively answer "you do" while a Statist would mumble something about the 'greater good', the 'real world' or the 'bigger picture' before telling you to sit down and do as you're fucking told. That's why the society in which we live, where Statism enslaves and steals from people at every opportunity, leaves me as pissed off as it does.

I guess this is why many of us are here at OutspokenRabbit - to get an alternative view of the world across and hopefully change a few minds. Kudos to Simon and the boys at Libertarian Home - http://libertarianhome.co.uk/, who are involved in encouraging activism and what you might call 'actually doing something' in the name of personal liberty and telling the bullies, manipulators and control freaks to leave us the fuck alone. I've previously mentioned Wirral First - http://wirralfirst.wordpress.com/, the campaign for an independent and instinctively liberal Wirral peninsula, which enjoys the editorial support of this site, and a personal pledge to help them in any way possible. It's a struggle to remain motivated sometimes, and there is no doubt we are up against it from a plethora of different directions, but we're in there pitching, writing, talking, doing. Take care and I'll see you tomorrow...

Incentives

The world is full of incentives. Work hard, study and your chances of personal success improve dramatically. Give workers a target and a bonus scheme and you will be surprised (or not) at the results.

The state, whether it admits it publicly or not, creates a leviathan minefield of incentives or disincentives. It also does not admit to doing this gob-smackingly badly. Take the banks. They were told, implicitly or not, that the state would bail them out, regardless of how egregiously reckless they were with their landing, watched over by the FSA regulator. The result? A housing boom based on reckless lending and taxpayers money stolen to bail them out.

This creation of "moral hazards" brings me on to the topic of today's rant - the benefit system. This blog has already dealt with the subject of the minimum wage and how it increases joblessness by dis-incentivising employers from taking on people. The other side of the coin is the overgenerous welfare state allowing people to make the rational decision to stay at home rather than take a tough, low paid, taxed job.

People are not stupid. They make the decision that is best for them, despite the wailing of protest from the left, who believe human nature to be other than what it is. Take the BBC analysis of the ESA (the replacement for disability allowance)

"ESA is the successor to Incapacity Benefit and claimants are required to go through a series of tests to judge their fitness for work.

The department has released the results from 1.3 million tests over a period of more than two years which showed:

  • 7% were incapable of any work
  • 17% were able to do some sort of work given the correct support
  • 39% were deemed to be fit for work and were moved onto jobseeker's allowance
  • 36% dropped out of the application process
  • 1% of applications were still in progress"
36% of the claimants dropped out before they were tested - "it's a fair cop guv" and almost 40% were found to be fit for work. These individuals knew that they would be better off "on the sick" and went for it. These are smart people and should have no problem holding down a job.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

If We're Talking Immigration I Hope it's not Because of a Serial Killer

It looks like Andreas Behring Breivik got what he always wanted. Like John Ausonius, David Copeland and others, he has ensured that his name will forever be recorded in the annals of history. The bombing in Oslo, followed by a shooting spree on Utoya Island leave nearly 100 dead and join the list of massacres that have earned an unwelcome place in the memory recall of thousands of others. Breivik refers to himself as a Christian fundamantalist, an ultra-conservative and a revolutionary, and bizarrely, quotes John Stuart Mill on his Twitter page, "One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100 000 who have only interests". Sometimes it's fascinating to find out who read the same books that you did...

Breivik may or may not sincerely hold all of the beliefs that he claims to, but like Ausonius and Copeland, he is first and foremost a lunatic with an overwhelming urge to leave a permanent mark somewhere. Naturally, this is a combination that rarely ends well, but usually has the protagonist's desired effect of buying himself the fifteen minute's of fame that he sought after. I managed a look at his 'manifesto' - 2083 - a Declaration of European Independence, and though I clearly couldn't get through the entirety of its 1500 pages, there seemed to be an odd cocktail in there of anti-Islamic sentiment, revolutionary tales and some useful tips for anyone interested in crop rotation. It may be a substantial body of work, but that does not make it coherent, and the claim that the whole of Europe will be overrun by Muslims inside two generations does not seem to be that of a man whose thought process contains a great deal of structure.

Still, written under the name Andrew Berwick, the manifesto seems on face value to have been the motivation for the atrocities, which have given its content the publicity that he craved. I often wonder in these cases whether it is the political/religious belief that drives the killing or maiming of others, or alternatively if the protagonist's 'ideology' is adopted as a form of self-justification for predisposed tendencies. John Ausonius (aka the Laser Man) is a good example in this regard because as well as being a (pretty useless it should be said) shooter of immigrants he was also a serial armed robber who managed to escape the police by mere bicycle on numerous occasions.

Criminality and playing games with the authorities was in his DNA and Ausonius was clearly not a well man - groovy liberal Sweden may have been experiencing rare signs of racial tension in the early 1990s, but having watched a couple of documentaries about his crimes I never quite understood why a loner like Ausonius might feel as strongly about the subject as he claimed to. The conclusion I reached was that if say, homophobia had been the line of prejudice doing the rounds, at the time, then Ausonius would probably have fired his bullets at eleven gay people instead of Iranians or Brazilians. Astonishingly, a combination of misfiring laser sight followed by a terrible handgun that he modified himself meant that all but one of his victims survived.

The relevance to the Breivik case is this:- a survey conducted only a few weeks ago found that 53.7% of Norweigians wanted a complete halt to immigration from overseas. Now having never been to Norway and knowing little about the country that is not sports-related, I would not be qualified to offer an insight into precisely why that is. Nor would it be wise for a groovy pro-immigration liberal like myself to dismiss more than half of the population of a foreign land as narrow-minded fools. For that sort of figure to appear in any poll, something must have gone terribly wrong in the way that immigration is managed, and there is clearly a genuine sense of disgruntlement on the subject in what has historically been a very tolerant and liberal society. Those who support immigration and the positive benefits that it brings would do well to take such sentiment on board, dispel any myths as and when they occur, but at least engage with the decent people in that 53.7% who are not naturally inclined towards hatred (ie most of them), and will be as horrified by what Breivik did as anyone else.

This is another of those instances where it would appear that very little could have been done to prevent it from happening. Meanwhile viewing the massacre as a reflection of where anti-immigration sentiment leads us both gives Breivik's psychotic rampage an unjustified veil of validity, and does a great disservice to those who are anti-immigration but have no intention of killing anybody. Listening to the radio last night, I heard a couple of journalists interviewing each other on the subject of 'xenophobia in Norway' as if a single deranged madman was some sort of poster boy for the subject. Then while researching this piece I stumbled across a predictable line of guff online where someone had attached Breivik's anti-Islamic video from 2003, "I am deeply saddened and angry because of what he did. I make this video available not to propagate his crazy ideas, but to help us think and analyze what we can do to be more tolerant and keep this from happening again.".

This sentiment is no doubt well-intentioned, but the suggestion that a lunatic hell bent on violence would refrain from his killing spree 'if only we were more tolerant' could politely be described as deeply flawed. Attaching the atrocities of such individuals to general 'intolerance' is the first step towards the muzzling of any discourse deemed 'unacceptable' by the state. Breivik and the Malmo shooter are no more a representation of 'anti-immigrant' sentiments in Scandinavia than Copeland was the face of British 'anti-gay' feeling twelve years ago, and it does no good to the discussion of either topic to suggest that they ever were. Men of this ilk are reflections of the contents of their own sick minds, and nothing else.

We'll do something on immigration in the week but in the meantime take it easy and I'll catch you soon...

Saturday, 23 July 2011

30 Years On - Does the Miracle of 1981 Teach us to Leave the Genius to it?

That it is the 30th anniversary of the Headingley Test Match of 1981 will be known to anyone who has even a passing interest in the game of cricket, and its historical significance is thoroughly merited. Not only was this only the second occasion on which a side following on had won a Test Match, it represented the finest hour of one of this country's greatest ever sportsman. Ian Botham was a man capable of passages of genius with either bat or ball, and after a barren run while shackled by the responsibilities of captaincy, his return to the ranks under the leadership of Mike Brearley was met with a rapid upturn in fortunes that has left a vivid mark on mortality.

This series took place a year before I was born, but like many I've made a point of watching and reading as much as I can on the subject, since it tells us so much about the nature of competitive sport. Statistics are much like a bikini, in the sense that while what they reveal is interesting, they also have a tendency to conceal something vital. When did the player make his runs or take wickets? Were they in tame draws, at the back end of affairs when the game was already up or did the contribution of this single player actually make the difference between who won and lost?

One of my first cricketing memories as a kid and arguably the greatest innings I ever watched live was when Graham Gooch carried his bat for 154 not out on a sphincterish Headingley pitch against the West Indies in 1991. Now in statistical terms there will be much greater knocks than that, and Gooch himself had plundered 333 against and Indian attack led by an ancient Kapil Dev but a year earlier. However, the quality of the bowling he faced (Marshall, Ambrose, Walsh, Patterson - ouch!!) and the fact that his contribution essentially won the game for an average side against a very good one (the next highest score in that England innings was 27) makes this combination of skill and bravery far more significant than substantially higher scores against dishwater opposition on plasticine pitches.

Now Botham was of an altogether different mould (it is fair to say that he and Gooch did not always see eye to eye), but had this knack of producing his greatest performances when they really mattered. Perhaps given a certain degree of licence by the possession of two strings to his bow, 'Beefy' was a man looking to play a positive shot to every ball he faced, while then seeking to take a wicket with every delivery. For that reason, he could be a frustrating batsman who got out to loose strokes, or an expensive luxury when bowling on an off-day. However, those occasions where he got either or both disciplines spot on invariably came when they counted most.

Nor is it unfair to suggest that 'Beefy' was never captaincy material, precisely because of his individualistic nature. He was by no means a surly 'pima donna', but getting the best out of the man meant leaving him the hell alone to do his thing, while being prepared to forgive the odd moment that did not tie in with the context of a match situation. In Mike Brearley, Botham found a captain who 'understood' and would encourage him to hit the ball hard or bowl as fast as possible. His 6-95 in the Australia's first innings of that Headingley Test Match is forgotten, partly because it came in the context of the tourists' imposing 401-9 declared, and also when set against the drama that followed later. He subsequently scored 50 in England's first innings at nearly a run a ball, and was the only batsman to offer significant resistance as they were skittled for 174 and forced to follow on.

Being the main man had clearly cramped Botham's style (he had made a pair in the previous match at Lord's and left the field not to polite applause but deathly silence), and that six wicket return was his first five-for in 14 months. The Brearley effect cannot be underestimated in the way the match unfolded, nor can the contributions of Graham Dilley, Chris Old and Bob Willis. Without the former pair's 56 and 29 respectively while at the opposite end to Botham, setting even the modest target of 130 would not have been possible. Then Willis, perceived as being in the autumn of his career, produced a devastating spell of fast, accurate and intimidating bowling, walking away with a return of 8-43 off 15 overs that speaks for itself.

However, it is Botham's contribution that is given most focus and rightly so. Test Cricket was played in an altogether more prosaic fashion back then, and the notion of one man scoring 149 not out at a run a ball bordered on the ridiculous. There were drives, hooks, cuts, pulls, top edges and outrageous heaves over mid-wicket and mid-on. Richie Benaud, who for my money is the greatest sports commentator of all time, offered a memorable observation on a mammoth six off Terry Alderman, who was himself a top-notch Test Match bowler, "that's gone straight into the confectionary stall, and out again".

That line never ceases to make me laugh when I hear it, and watching this innings illustrates what set Botham apart from others who contributed to the outcome of the match. Having been seven wickets down and 90 runs behind following on, he and Dilley as a partnership of equals dragged the possibility of an England win back into the equation. However, what Beefy did that nobody else could was plant the seeds of doubts in Australian minds that had been certain of impending victory up to that point. More than simply scoring runs that influenced the end result, he changed the fundamental dynamics of the match, enabling his partners at the crease to hit out with him, then for Willis to charge in like a man possessed at a batting line-up that had never believed they would be out there, let alone chasing a meaningful total to win.

Further evidence of this came in the Fourth Test at Edgbaston, where Kim Hughes' side capitulated when requiring only 150 to take a 2-1 lead in the series. Botham, given the ball as second change, produced an insane spell of five wickets for just one run, as the Australians collapsed from the relative comfort of 105-4 to 121 all out. Then at Old Trafford, he smashed six sixes in 118 off only 102 balls as England took an unassailable 3-1 lead. Not only had he produced a series of performances that only a genius at the peak of his powers could, he had broken the will of his opponents and left them caught in the headlights. Hughes resigned the Australian captaincy three years later in an emotional press conference where he was visibly shed more than a few tears. One wonders how much of this was down to the manner in which one man altered the course of sporting history.

Cricket is fairly rare in the sense that although it is a team game, it essentially revolves around a series of individual contests between batsman and bowler. Few players in the history of the sport have relished or made the most of these battles in the way that Botham did (Shane Warne is a modern-day instance of a man who won matches in the mind as much as anywhere else). The ability to get away with outrageous shots and take wickets with dreadful deliveries is one which owes a lot to something one cannot pick up in a coaching manual. All of this of course has very live relevance in the present day.

Kevin Pietersen's 202 not out against India on Friday was a welcome boost both to the England team and a player who has suffered a prolonged dip in form over the last 12 months. This was a knock somewhat out of kilter with the usually dominant nature of his batting and required patience, a degree of fortune and real character before the security of a score on the board and a tiring attack allowed him to unload with both barrels. His last 50 runs came from only 25 balls. and was the sort of cricket that only a man under a flash of pure inspiration could produce, Genius of the type that he has very rarely comes along, so it would make sense to forgive the odd indiscretion and enjoy it while it lasts. KP is back to his best, and if he can contribute a tenth to this series of what Ian Botham achieved 30 years ago, then England could well knock over the side ranked number one in the world.

Take care, see you tomorrow, and get a look at the links - you'll enjoy them...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkkvgiZJkhM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjSDvdgTOzg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cniRV3M8gRA&feature=related

Friday, 22 July 2011

Electro Angst Unlimited - Used Again

Your speaking clock
confirms the bad news
as you take stock
of what you already knew
You stare across the bed
at a pillow minus a head
And you know, you know, you know
you've been used again

That shrill alarm
is a sound that signals strife
Again you've come to harm
Well aint that the story of your life?
That warm and loving face
is now just an empty space
And you know, you know, you know
you've been used again

She said,
All I ever want is to be adored
I'm not bad, I aint some kinda whore
I'm obviously not worth loving
So five minutes is better than nothing

Your stereo
says you're going out tonight
And you just know
this time you're gonna get it right
Those eyes put you at ease
because it's what you wanna believe
And you know, you know
You're gonna get used again

Thursday, 21 July 2011

C'mon you Libertarians

I'm gonna try and keep things as light and as brief as I can - it appears that the current incarnation of the Uk Libertarian Party has finally succumbed to the megalomania of one man, and from a personal perspective I believe we'd be best suited letting the Vernon Howell of British Politics do his thing and write that particular project off as a bad job. Maybe the cops will take a greater interest now the scam is back on, I don't know. At least we've played our part here in alerting would-be new members to the swindle and I'm eternally grateful to all of our readers for their role in making that happen.

Some may see this as the death knell for Libertarianism in the Uk but that can be the polar opposite of the truth if we want it to be. A phoenix party may or may not emerge out of the mess, and I'd be willing to give party politics a last shot if the concept attracted sufficient numbers to make it worthwhile. As it happens, I know something about phoenix organisations from my days as a writer for the football website, A Different League - http://adifferentleague.co.uk/. One of the stories that caught my eye (and thanks to Rob Paton for his faith in letting me run with it) was the crisis at Chester City FC, a club under the vampire ownership of the crooked Stephen Vaughan snr. I investigated the 'Danish Consortium' looking to buy Chester, did a forensic Q+A with them and uncovered some photographs of its frontman Palle Rasmussen shaking hands with a smirking Vaughan, along with former manager Mark Wright (who was always openly a supporter of the bid it should be said).

It turned out that this 'buyout' was nothing more than an online share issue in the same mould as that which took over Ebbsfleet United, with less than sexy results. A few Danish kids turned up at a meeting and handed over their money, but didn't manage to raise the £500,000 that Vaughan was looking for. It was quite clear the current owner was far more concerned about his own potential payout than he would ever be for the club which remained in his care. Vaughan had also been disqualified from being a company director for eleven years after a VAT fraud - sound familiar? Anyway, the demise of Chester City in a half-hour court hearing would prove to be the rock bottom from which a wonderful phoenix club emerged. Last season they secured promotion to the Northern Premier League in their first year of existence.

The new Chester FC is run along democratic lines, with supporters involved in decision making, and the Deva Stadium would appear to be a happy place again. I guess the point is that the freshness of the scars have enabled them to learn the right lessons from history, thereby ensuring that the same mistakes will not be made in the immediate future. I have no doubt whatsoever that a New Libertarian, Minarchist or Classical Liberal Party would not allow the concentration of money and power that fell into one man's hands in the case of LPUK, and ultimately drove it to destruction, to be repeated.

But hey, if there is no new party, then this is not the end of the world as we know it by any stretch. Many people will mock 'keyboard warriors' and suchlike, but there is nothing wrong with the blogosphere, pressure groups and campaigns such as Wirral First - http://wirralfirst.wordpress.com/ as separate means by which to promote Libertarian ideals both as an alternative, or in addition to an organised political movement. Look how successful the Green lobby were in terms of infiltrating mainstream politics from the outside, long before they achieved parliamentary representation. Statist environmentalism is now the conventional wisdom of all major parties in the Uk, and while having no time for their message or the instincts that underpin it, one has to give credit to the greenslime for showing considerable political nous, and exerting far greater influence than their official mandate should ever have allowed them to. There is no reason why we cannot achieve something similar if we put our minds to it.

I remember completing a sort of 'Milton Friedman Test' before joining LPUK from which I was deemed to be of Libertarian instinct, but not 'pure'. I've always viewed our ideology as a direction rather than 'a set of things you believe in', and have encountered people of such instinct who are slightly more or slightly less 'pure' than myself. Many possess ideas that travel in a similar direction without ever realising it, and we badly need to tap into this pissed off section of the general population in order to make significant headway. The challenge to us is:- how do we make ours as broad a church as possible, one which encompasses Minarchists, Classical Liberals and Anarcho-Capitalists, while also repelling careerists who will hijack us for the sake of being a big fish in a small pond? We then need to make a distinction between a vision of 'our ideal society' and any realistic plan for government in the here and now. Even if power itself is light years away, tackling current issues and presenting what a Libertarian utopia might look like need to be kept on clearly separate pages.

So the death of LPUK may actually turn out to be the shot in the arm that Libertarianism in these isles really required, and let's face it, we need a credible alternative to statism more than we ever have. The 'differences' between the three corporatist parties need to be exposed as the single strands of hair that they actually are, while something blossoms from the ground up that appeals to those who have had enough of the status quo, and are seeking a more honest answer to everyday questions. Being a Libertarian, Minarchist or Classical Liberal is not always easy, and often involves taking anti-populist stances on contentious issues, but it is also immensely rewarding sometimes to see a situation develop and know that once again, you were right and the statists made things a whole lot worse than they already were.

These are of course merely the ad-lib thoughts of a Classical Liberal. and I just hope they spark some debate about the future of what many on here believe in. Take care and I'll catch you soon...

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The Cult of Andrew Withers Deserve what they Get

Many thanks to Pagar for making me laugh with this link to a new website passing itself off as that of the Uk Libertarian Party - http://libertarianpartyuk.com/. Perhaps the most amusing aspect of all this is that despite the complete absence of anything resembling actual content, the would-be member or donor is met with a full-on invitation to part with their money via debit or credit card. Firstly, it should be noted that trusting this bunch of charlatans with your card details is akin to leaving King Herod in charge of an under-fives football team. Then there is the obvious question - Andrew, what exactly are people paying for? Where's the pledge of a shiny new membership pack or keyring, or perhaps a signed photo of APW himself in a suave but authoritative pose? Most worryingly, they appear to be imploring you to ring a premium rate phone line at the bottom of the page. Now, will it be Withers himself or IPJ who will be breathing heavily at the other end? Apologies to all those who were about to eat something...

Still Andrew claims to be the emperor and Reich Fuhrer of LPUK, just as many a deposed dictator has done after being forced into exile by a mass uprising. It should be added that there also remains a small but devoted set of drones ready to believe that the earth is flat and the moon is made out of green cheese if that is what AP Withers chooses to tell them. Well that's their decision, and if they remain inclined to pay for their leader's next trip to the supermarket out of their own pocket then so be it. I had no idea who Peter H Fairbanks was until but a few weeks ago when he came on here referring to 'the economic illiterate', and explaining that Withers had actually saved Libertarianism in the Uk by pumping in vast quantities of his own money to stave off the threat of insolvency.

Of course, had anything of this nature actually taken place, the natural response to any doubts over Andrew's honesty would have been to fully disclose the details of the LPUK account there and then, showing us mere members (some of whom are of course now ex-members) what a great guy he was and how lucky we were to have him. I don't believe for a second that Peter is deliberately misleading anyone, merely that he has been taken in by a serial manipulator and then, for whatever reason, surrendered the capacity to think for himself. Unless he had the privilege of seeing the accounts, which I very much doubt (since not even John Watson was allowed to have them when he was officially LPUK's treasurer), then I struggle to see how Fairbanks could tell us we'd got it all wrong with the utter certainty with which he does. This can only be blind faith, the commodity on which all sects grow and their leaders prosper.

It has become apparent to this bunny that the Withers 'version' of the Uk Libertarian Party is in fact not a political movement at all, but a warped and semi-religious cult, where its members part with their efforts, independence of thought and most importantly, their money, in exchange for the wisdom and vision of 'the chosen one'. It may be a predictably despicable move on Andrew's part, but there is no point denying than when you think about the ramifications, it is also a pretty smart one. If Mal, Pagar or myself wished to join this British answer to the Branch Davidians, do you seriously think Withers would allow us to? There may be a requirement to call an AGM in the near future, but with one man deciding who can and cannot be a member of the club, such a meeting is unlikely to be much more than ten parts rubber stamp and ten parts procession.

Then there is the depressing fact that this party, with its bank account soon to be filled and then emptied again, is the one officially recognised by the Electoral Commission. I feared some time ago that LPUK was finished, and will not attempt to take any credit for some unique act of foresight - several others reached a similar conclusion in May. However, in all honesty I did believe that it would simply die a slow, painful death as opposed to becoming the vehicle by which one man could continue to suck the blood from his followers. This latest development has been something of a bolt from the blue, but in a way it makes sense because in reality Withers and his disciples need each other. The bully/control freak/manipulator and sycophant/gullible fool are drawn to each other just as a bee is to honey. Think about it - for every addled old lady who falls into a few quid, there will be a bogus roofer ready to con it from them with ruthless efficiency. A weak-willed individual who is incapable of standing up for themselves always seems to become the fodder of a thug who throws his weight around. Coincidence? Or the laws of human nature and the jungle displayed in all their dubious glory? As a Libertarian, I'll invite you to decide for yourself...

I clearly offended former LPUK member and alleged Libertarian Gregg Beaman when I suggested that democratic politics was not really AP Withers' style. "Forming a religious sect out in Iowa would have been more appropriate" was like a red rag to a bull in Gregg's world - strange how an individual who supports "freedom of expression" would become hysterical upon someone poking fun at organised religion, but there you go. The point is I was only half-joking. You're dealing with a man here who preaches self-reliance to others, but wishes to be entrenched in privilege himself, and seeks power but neither the responsibility nor accountability that go with it. Any liberal instincts that Withers may or may not have possessed in the past were clearly flushed down the toilet the moment he found himself in a position of authority, "there will be more party discipline, and if the anarchist fringe do not like it then they can walk" was the final straw for this bunny, who is a classical liberal not an anarchist, but did not wish to belong to an organisation inspired by the East German Communist Party circa 1953, with a dash of Waco thrown in for good measure.

Anyone who dared criticise his style of leadership (assuming they were lucky enough not to be threatened with litigation - see http://outspokenrabbit.blogspot.com/2011/07/coongate-cover-up.html) was an 'anarchist' or 'hero-worshipped Susanne Nundy' (aka Anna Raccoon). The Raccoon herself was supposedly a government agent intent on bringing Libertarianism down from the inside. So were Malpoet, Pagar, this bunny and a whole catalogue of other 'dissidents'. Peter Mandelson has been out to 'do' Withers seemingly since the dawn of time - maybe Andrew spurned Mandy's advances at the Blue Oyster back in '85, is that it? Next up, Anna Raccoon is not only a state-sponsored spy and heretical purveyor of evil cauldrons, she is also a fully-fledged stalker who is intent on chasing AP Withers to an early grave. Yes, she arrives from France in the week and follows 'the leader' round on his day-to-day travels, stopping only to post a blog or two in an internet cafe. She then flies home on her broomstick for the weekend, and the cycle starts again. Quite incredibly, there are people who still believe this stuff...

All this said, I don't regret joining LPUK. I found the North West branch to be a warm and intelligent group of like-minded people, am immensely pleased that they have all contributed to OutspokenRabbit in its short existence, and hope to have made a few friends for life. I actually stumbled across the Uk Libertarian Party after deciding to form my own political movement along Libertarian/Classical Liberal principles, only to find that 'my' party already existed (yes boys we really were that small and insignificant). Having had some time to cool off since 'retiring' from frontline politics in May, I'm ready and willing to assist with campaigning and literature for any new party that might be formed as an offshoot or breakaway from LPUK. If a member or ex-member is thinking along those lines, then I'd love to hear from you.

In the meantime, while I care not one iota for the disciples of AP Withers and their ever-draining bank accounts, please tell any young person who is interested in Libertarian, Minarchist or Classical Liberal politics to avoid this 'party' like the plague and not to submit their card details or any money to the owners of the bank account on this link, which I will drop in here again for the removal of doubt http://libertarianpartyuk.com/. The cause for personal freedom and smaller government is one which requires new members in order to blossom from the base up as it should. We cannot allow the enthusiasm of youth to be knocked out of individuals by the threats, bullying, manipulation and outright theft of one man. Take care and I'll see you tomorrow...

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Statism Drives You to Drink and Drugs - Machine Cleaner and Pure MDMA by the Sounds of It

Two items caught my eyes and ears in the last 24 hours and after hearing both I couldn't help but feel that there was a link between them. First up I woke this morning to find a text I'd been sent just after nodding off, "I've just watched a TV show about fake vodka - it contained Machine Cleaner". This of course was a reference to the 'Fake Britain' programme on counterfeit alcoholic drink which he'd watched on the BBC iPlayer. Then while getting a lift home I heard a radio report (also on the BBC) about clubbers beginning to take stronger and 'more pure' form of ecstasy.

Now I've never taken E and I'm not about to do a Johann Hari and pretend that I have. The odd joint and a bizarre evening with a water bong were pretty much the limits of my forays into controlled narcotics. However, I was led to believe (perhaps wrongly) that it was impure ecstasy tablets that were the issue - ie dealers were cutting MDMA, its prominent 'ingredient' with other substances that were actually causing the health problems and (it should be said, very occasional) fatalities. It may of course be that both arguments contain a grain of truth, but hopefully someone can come on here and clear that up because I've heard it from more than one source who was, shall we say, in the know.

The statist message of both items was loud and clear - in the case of 'Fake Britain', the programme represented a firm instruction to only purchase alcohol from reputable sources, who themselves should not be procuring their stock from the back of a van or lorry, thereby endangering the health of their customers. After the explosion and death of five people at a 'vodka plant' in Lincolnshire, an investigation searched first for the producers and then retailers of the phoney product, with a pressing reminder of the amount lost to the treasury as a result of this black economic activity. Taxation was mentioned twice, with the £350 million of lost annual revenue dropped in at the start of the broadcast, and one gang in London personally blamed for "£18 million that could have gone towards schools, health etc...". Meanwhile, the ecstasy piece on the Radio carried constant tones of Mr Garrison from the cartoon South Park, and the "drugs are bad" mantra that he peddled ad nauseum to his class.

Being an anti-statist is difficult these days, but the creativity of the control freaks, manipulators and bullies deserves a sort of grudging acknowledgement, even if respect is something this bunny will never have for his natural enemies. Their latest brainwave with regard to taxing and regulating every aspect of our lives is minimum alcohol pricing, with the Socialist Republic of Scotland expressing particular enthusiasm for this new method by which to squeeze more money out of poor people who enjoy a drink more than the state are comfortable with. The argument for this, like many that statists peddle, is tired and predictable:- cheap alcohol encourages more consumption, worse health issues as a result and a further strain on the sacred cow of the NHS. Of course the same 'logic' applies to smoking and narcotics of any kind, so let's play the lifestyle fascists at their own game. If someone takes out private medical insurance and does not use the NHS, surely by the statists' own reasoning this should entitle them to the following:-

1) an annual tax rebate on all alcohol and tobacco they have bought in the previous financial year for which they can provide a receipt and:-
2) complete exemption from all laws controlling the possession and use of narcotics - if stopped they are allowed to carry on with their lawful business upon production of their card for BUPA or whichever private provider they use.

For if it is their own body that the individual are wrecking, and the health insurance paid for out of their own money that is picking up the tab, surely the 'costing the NHS money' argument is rendered obsolete with immediate effect? No you say, why ever not?

The reality is that just like 'green taxes' the war against 'cheap drink' is just another phoney cause designed to extract as much money as the state possibly can from already hard-pressed people. Two fundamental truths remain as they always have and explain why both the dismal 'war on drugs' and any notion of price-fixing with alcohol are doomed to failure. Firstly, people will always find money for their vices be they drink, tobacco or narcotics, and will in fact base the rest of their budget on what is left after these wants have been covered. More importantly from a political viewpoint, the bigger the attempts to tax or regulate any area where money is exchanged for goods or services, the greater the scope for black economic activity. For example, with trade in the areas of narcotics and prostitution currently illegal, this is a slice of the cake currently owned in its entirety by criminals. Therefore, the sex industry and at least the three 'recreational' drugs (marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine) should be legalised immediately in order to bring them under lawful control, while also ensuring that consumers pay for a product that has been tested (any volunteers?) and meets recognised quality controls.

On the question of alcohol, you have to think about who minimum pricing is aimed at before weighing up its likely effects. While I don't buy the suggestion that most drinkers will be 'untouched' by this, as any price increase at one end of the market is likely to have some sort of ripple or domino effect, the first to feel the pinch will be either the poorest or underage who purchase the cheapest products. They will have to either stop drinking altogether or drink considerably less (not likely), re-allocate what remaining monies they have to deal with increased prices (more likely) or find their drink outside the legitimate economy. Just as the high levels of tax on alcohol have sparked a 'black boom' in the fake drinks industry, minimum pricing will increase the rewards to producers of dangerous 'moonshine' products, and also those for retailers looking to undercut the competition and/or increase their margins. It's basic supply and demand market forces at work, and I find it baffling how many statists have either a failure to grasp or complete disregard for what is very simple economics.

The attitude of successive governments towards the black economy has been all wrong. It has actually served as an illustration of what happens when tax and regulation is greatly reduced, and instead of laughable 'crackdowns' and programmes to scare consumers on State TV (I occasionally defend the BBC but this was a shocker), we should be seeking to reduce its advantage over the legitimate economy, keeping the the creators of wealth and jobs, along with their customers inside it. This means significantly reducing the burdens of taxation on alcohol and tobacco, while legalising (not merely decriminalising) marijuana, ecstasy and cocaine, then applying the same lower duty to these products. Let's take away the incentives for rogues to produce vodka and whiskey that contains meths, industrial alcohol or machine cleaner, while returning the sale of recreational drugs to lawful enterprise, thereby destroying the criminal monopoly that currently exists. Then we can get the deadly drink and the ecstasy that is either too pure or too impure off our streets and out of the clubs.

Of course in 21st century statist Britain, that sounds far too much like sense to actually happen. Some of Malpoet's thoughts on this topic appear here http://malpoet.wordpress.com/2011/07/14/where-the-spirit-takes-them/ while I'll catch you tomorrow. Take it easy, and don't let the bastards grind you down...

The Coongate Cover Up

Daz has written here before about the loathsome Andrew Withers, who, it appears, has single handedly brought down the Libertarian Party of the UK.

For those of you not aware of the story, Withers was the Treasurer, then Party Leader, who was outed earlier this year on the Anna Raccoon blog as a crook and a conman. When investigations began into his party activities it became clear that, following his stewardship, there was 16p in the bank account, a loan outstanding, and most of the money had been withdrawn by Withers himself as "expenses". How much he took is unclear as, to this day, he has refused to allow anyone access to the relevant bank accounts.

The situation would have been recoverable except that, in order to effect a cover up, it was necessary for Withers to destroy the evidence and, to do that, he believed he had to destroy the party. His familiar tactics were to bully and threaten the other party officials with legal action and this proved effective as he turned the heat on one after another.

A sample of the style

"Fuck impatience by others we do this legimately not by mob rule. He either talks to me or my lawyers I don' t care. I either get an apology for this shit this morning in writing not email or I place this with lawyers monday

In the meantime one more email this weekend on this subject and you will not know what hit any of you. Just fuck off and leave me alone."

And of course threats like this were effective- because legal action for libel (however unlikely it was from someone who required to withdraw party funds when he went to Tesco) was potentially ruinous for the individual threatened.

Why take such a risk?

Withers succeeded in getting the Party Chairman and many others on the NCC to resign and tried to have the party de-registered with the Electoral Commission. Having failed in this, he turned his attention to the website, not targeting those members brave enough to publicly call him out for what he had done, but threatening the person in whose name the domain was registered. This resulted in comments and posts being closed down and the website was mothballed.

Earlier this week it seems Withers was unhappy that new membership subscriptions were apparently being diverted from the party bank account that remains under his control.

"Unfortunately the repeat advertising of 'unofficial' bank details
means that I have to report this matter to the Electoral Commission as
it is not part of the approved financial scheme, and I have to report
the same to the Information Commissioner as I am the Data Protection
Officer for the Party.

I cannot understand why some people are continually trying to break
the law. I am faced with no other option to place this matter in the
hands of the legal authorities to deal with."

The above was the final straw for the host and, yesterday, the website came down.

The point of detailing the above is to demonstrate that with Coongate, as with Watergate, it was not the original action itself that caused the devastation but the necessity to cover it up. Because no single individual had contributed a great sum of money to the Libertarian Party- a large number of people had each given small sums, along with their time and effort, in pursuit of a belief in the right to greater individual freedom.

That is what has been lost.

Avon and Somerset police are currently investigating the conduct of Andrew P Withers and anyone with any direct knowledge relating to this matter should contact them.