We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Replay!

3.9 million sign petition to replay England vs Iceland

It makes just as much sense as this:

Petition for EU referendum re-run hits 3.7 million as David Lammy MP calls for parliament to block Brexit

Samizdata quote of the day

Is it any wonder we that we find ourselves today without a means to measure greatness? To those in the know, the experts who understand the fight game, Ali earned his place among the true greats of boxing but fell a little short of the very top. He was perhaps the greatest heavyweight (though I find it hard to believe anybody could beat Mike Tyson at his youthful rampaging best) but heavyweight champions are a peculiar breed of fighter. Watching those great ‘Rumbles’ and ‘Thrillers’ now, they are characterised by tired lumbering men stumped on the hard breathing end of slow jabs. In terms of technique, you’d need to look to a lighter man (or at Ali at his peak before television made him a superstar). You would look to Sugar Ray Robinson who, more than any boxer, could claim to have been the best.

David Waywell, writing at CapX.

“We should all know by now”

Bernard Thompson, in a piece for the pro-independence Scottish website Newsnet.scot, makes the case for repeal of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act of 2012: Offensive Behaviour: the case for the SNP repealing their own act.

He writes,

Opponents of the Act – none more so than the campaign group Fans Against Criminalisation – have been vociferous in their condemnation of the legislation.

And they have been joined by a host of academics and media figures. Human rights group Liberty have expressed concern that: “the broadly framed offences in this Act will unnecessarily sweep up individuals exercising their right to free speech who have no intention to commit or incite a criminal offence and in the event do not do so.”

And

The Act does not simply ban “the singing of sectarian songs” but also: – “other behaviour that a reasonable person would be likely to consider offensive…

“…behaviour [that] would be likely to incite public disorder”, even if ‘persons likely to be incited to public disorder are not present or are not present in sufficient numbers’.”

We can offer all sort of examples of behaviour that might offend a “reasonable person” but, for brevity, we may note that the Act banned Frankie Boyle (or recordings of his material) from being played wherever a tenuous connection to a football match could be established. Not so rugby matches.

In defending the Act, after someone wearing a tee-shirt supportive of Palestine drew police attention, SNP MSP John Mason even went so far as to say that wearing a Yes badge should be considered unacceptable while watching football.

“We should all know by now expressing political views is no longer acceptable at football matches.”

Mr Mason was apparently not questioned on whether wearing a poppy could be considered to be expressing a political view, and we can only speculate as to how objecting to a poppy might be viewed.

When reading that quote from John Mason MSP the old cliché about the “Nanny State” came alive again.

The ‘Clownocracy’ – modern Britain on show

A couple of unrelated incidents, and a political milestone all in the news today appear to me to sum up the ascendency of the ‘clown class’ in modern Britain, where personal responsibility and personal dignity appear to be outmoded notions.

Firstly, after a bomb scare led to the abandonment of the last football match of the Premier League season between Manchester United and Bournemouth, it appears to have turned out that the realistic but inert suspect device found just before kick-off was in fact a practice bomb left by a company engaged to plant suspect devices as part of a security drill. But this was only found out long after the event and after the Army had carried out a controlled explosion on the device.

What part of counting them all out and counting them all in was too hard to organise? Did no one remember the drill?

Secondly, it appears that a senior woman police officer in Greater Manchester Police has been suspended after attending a conference on Women in Policing.

Assistant Chief Constable Rebekah Sutcliffe has been suspended after the alleged “inappropriate behaviour” following a reported row with Superintendent Sarah Jackson.

The pair are said to have become embroiled in a “loud disagreement” over who had the “best boobs” while attending the Senior Women In Policing conference.

Quite how this would be a breach of police discipline, even if the alleged incident happened, is not immediately clear. However, ACC Sutcliffe has been reported as saying:

“I’ve nothing to say. This is an incredibly stressful time.”

Thereby immediately contradicting herself. And grammarians may ponder if she ought to have said ‘better boobs’ rather than ‘best’ as surely the comparative applies, rather than the superlative?

But if this is a stressful time, what on Earth are you doing in policing? Try something really stressful, like bomb disposal, like Lt-Cdr John Bridge GC GM and bar. He would have come in handy at Old Trafford yesterday.

And finally, Natalie Bennett is not going to stand for re-election as Leader of the Green Party when her term expires. So the party memorably described as ‘Communism for middle-class women’ will have a new leader. So the Schadenfreudefest of Ms Bennett being interviewed (very softly I think) on any topic may no longer be repeated so as to expose the Greens for what they stand for, banning anything that they can think of. This of course may be a negative development in terms of the political landscape, but why didn’t she either resign at the time or stand on her record?

Scary viruses and clinical trials

Some people think the Rio Olympics might cause the Zika virus to spread all over the world. Reddit is not a reliable place for sensible political commentary, but I am heartened at how up-voted comments like these are:

mixmastamikey: “Global Health Disaster” How about just “Global Disaster”… Why the fuck can’t we reuse olympic venues? Seriously why does a different country need to host the olympics every 4 years. Cant everyone just buy a fucking island and call it olympic island maybe update a few things here and there.

BlueBlazerIrregular: But then the IOC wouldn’t be able to steal millions and would lose out on all that graft and bribery. Think of the rich for once! They are people too!

kangamooster: Hmm, I guess you could consider lizardfolk people….

Kamuiberen: Wait, are we talking about IOC or FIFA here?

BlueBlazerIrregular: Same modus operandi

Anyway it seems unlikely that the Olympics will be stopped or moved and I am not sure if doing so would really make any difference. I am hopeful of solving problems with technology, though. I am quite keen on the plan to exterminate all mosquitoes. And then there is IBM’s rather interesting research into a chemical that blocks viruses in general.

“We began to think, how can we move forward and kind of attack the virus in a very different way,” says Hedrick. “Instead of going after its RNA or DNA, we looked at the glycoproteins that surround…the virus.” No matter what the virus and how it mutates, it’s going to have these substances on the surface; they have electric charges (some positive, some negative) that a chemical can stick onto. What the researchers developed is a polymer that adheres to the virus, blocking it from hooking onto a victim cell in the body.

The idea is to put the molecule in soap and hand-wipes, but it could also be put into a person.

Assuming it works as well as the researchers say, the macromolecule couldn’t come soon enough to handle frightening outbreaks like Zika, Ebola, and chikungunya. But it hasn’t quite come yet. “My gut feeling is, something like a wipe, something like a hand cleaner is going to be relatively straightforward to move to market,” says Hedrick. “It you market it as a true antiviral, I would imagine it would take 3, 4, 5 years maybe maximum.” Getting the macromolecule into humans, where it uses all three of its powers, would require clinical trials than could extend over several years.

Serious question: why the need for such long clinical trials? What is wrong with marketing something with the caveat that it is not fully tested yet and it might be a cure worse than the disease but if you have a terrible enough disease it might be worth a try?

What are we going to do about Gary Lineker’s underpants?

Barring an extremely unlikely set of results Leicester City Football Club will win this season’s English Premier League. This is extraordinary. Leicester have never won the Premier League even in the days when it was called the League Championship. Last season they only just avoided relegation and at the beginning of this one they were given odds of 5000 to 1 to win the title.

The club is not under the ownership of some Middle East potentate with an air force and in the figure of Claudio Ranieri – likeable as he may be – does not possess a genius manager.

A couple of seasons ago I had the unprivilege of watching Leicester play Watford when both teams were in the Championship ie the next league down. It gives me no pleasure to say that they gave us a right shellacking and I was surprised when initially they struggled in the Premiership. At Christmas 2014 they were bottom of the league.

Football fans use the expression “Championship player” implying that while a player might do well in the Championship he is not good enough for the next league up. It is cruel and it is true. The gulf between the two leagues is enormous.

So, I was surprised when I dug out the programme from that day to find that 6 or 7 of that Leicester team regularly start for them now. The equivalent number for Watford is 2. Yes, Leicester have won with a bunch of Championship players.

If Leicester’s success cannot be explained by either the owners, managers or players what can it be explained by? Sherlock Holmes said that: “…when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth…” This leads us to the inevitable conclusion that Leicester’s triumph is all down to finding that dead king in one of their car parks.

But to weightier matters. For those who’ve never heard of him, Gary Lineker is a legend. As a player, he scored a huge number of goals for club and country. If you want to see a middle-aged Englishman lose his composure just ask him what is meant by the expression “When Lineker scored.” Many of his goals came while he was playing for Leicester City, his home town. Since then he has made successful careers for himself both as a TV presenter, currently fronting the BBC’s main football highlights programme Match of the Day, and as a crisp salesman.

Earlier on in the season at a time when Leicester were doing well but no one expected them to actually win anything, Lineker promised that should they do so he would present Match of the Day in his underpants. Most people in similar circumstances would promise to streak down a public thoroughfare or clean the steps of St Paul’s with a toothbrush. But Lineker had to come up with something that was not only a bit naff but involved his employer as well.

Leicester’s march to the title has been not unlike the end of The Wicker Man. You think: “It can’t happen, it can’t happen, it can’t happen. Oh. It has.” And now that the structure is engulfed in flame, Lineker and the BBC – unless the latter decide to be ultra-pedantic – are going to have to make good on his promise. While I yield to no one in wishing Mr Lineker – or, the anti-Watford as I think of him – ill, I find the idea of the man sitting in a presenter’s chair wearing nothing but a pair of Marks and Spencer’s Y-fronts stomach-churning enough without anyone making it real. So, oh commentariat, can you come up with a way that Mr Lineker can stand by his word without outraging all that is decent, moral or civilised? If you can you will have the thanks of a grateful nation.

Anti-Brexit howler of the day

Oh, and today’s Brexit scare story appears to be pro football. Our clubs will be stymied if they can’t employ lots of Belgians. Don’t look at the fact that they do Employ lots of Africans who, AFAIK, aren’t EU citizens.

– Kevin B.

Djokovic serves up an ace… fault called

The World no.1 mens tennis player, that well-known Scots-Irishman Jock O’Vitch, has caused some ripples in the usual areas with his remarks over the ATP (Mens) tennis tour being the bigger draw than the WTA Tour in terms of ratings and therefore being deserving of more prize money.

Of course, in a free world, it doesn’t quite work like that, as it depends on the contract that you have, and the comments of the CEO of the Indian Wells tournament, a Mr Moore, appears to have led to the usual media ‘storm’ and to his resignation in a bout of pseudo-Maoist self-criticism.

Moore said female players “should get down on their knees” in thanks to male counterparts such as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. The South African – a former player – later apologised for his “erroneous” remarks.

In this Holy Week, should we not remember the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, the only bit of the Bible that resonated with me at school (apart from Balaam’s Donkey, for other reasons), as being an obvious statement of what is right and wrong.

12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.
13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
17 And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them,
18 Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death,
19 And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.
20 Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.

We shall know that there is progress in the cause of liberty when those who protest against the perfectly reasonable comments of the World No. 1 are laughed at and ridiculed, and those who speak as they see things shall not cower before those who scorn reason and liberty.

And where are the complaints from the same horde that sponsorship deals for some women tennis players far outstrip the earnings of male tennis players?

Free speech for all (neds need not apply)

Further to my earlier post about the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, Kevin Rooney, a self-described fanatical Celtic supporter with a “deep loathing” of Rangers, wrote an article for Spiked in 2012 to which I can add little except to say that I had heard nothing about this case, which horrifies me and proves his point.

Football fans need free speech too

A man has been jailed for singing a song that mocks a religious leader, yet liberty campaigners have said nothing.

Imagine the scene: a young man is led away in handcuffs to begin a prison sentence as his mother is left crying in the courtroom. He is 19 years old, has a good job, has no previous convictions, and has never been in trouble before. These facts cut no ice with the judge, however, as the crime is judged so heinous that only a custodial sentence is deemed appropriate. The young man in question was found guilty of singing a song that mocked and ridiculed a religious leader and his followers.

So where might this shocking story originate? Was it Iran? Saudi Arabia? Afghanistan? Perhaps it was Russia, a variation of the Pussy Riot saga, without the worldwide publicity? No, the country in question is Scotland and the young man is a Rangers fan. He joined in with hundreds of his fellow football fans in singing ‘offensive songs’ which referred to the pope and the Vatican and called Celtic fans ‘Fenian bastards’.

Such songs are part and parcel of the time-honoured tradition of Rangers supporters. And I have yet to meet a Celtic fan who has been caused any harm or suffering by such colourful lyrics. Yet in sentencing Connor McGhie to three months in a young offenders’ institution, the judge stated that ‘the extent of the hatred [McGhie] showed took my breath away’. He went on: ‘Anybody who participates in this disgusting language must be stopped.’

Several things strike me about this court case. For a start, if Rangers fans singing rude songs about their arch rivals Celtic shocks this judge to the core, I can only assume he does not get out very much or knows little of life in Scotland. Not that his ignorance of football culture is a surprise – the chattering classes have always viewed football-related banter with contempt. But what is new about the current climate is that in Scotland, the middle-class distaste for the behaviour of football fans has become enshrined in law.

And

The other thing that strikes me is how anti-Catholic prejudice seems to be tolerated when it comes from our ‘national treasures’, like Stephen Fry or Richard Dawkins, but not when it comes out of the mouths of football fans. When the pope visited Britain two years ago, liberal campaigners lined up to accuse him of everything from hatred of women to paedophilia. To my knowledge, none of these words were deemed offensive enough to the UK’s Catholic community to prompt arrests or detentions, yet when a Rangers fan shouts of his hatred for the pope, that fan is locked up.

Hat tip: Rob Fisher

New stirrings at the Old Firm

The Herald reports: Rangers and Celtic fans to unite for football grounds demo over anti-bigotry law

RANGERS and Celtic fans are among those who are joining forces to are support a new campaign in grounds across Scotland for the scrapping of a controversial law designed to stamp out sectarian abuse at football matches.

The demonstration over Saturday and Sunday aims to show a united fans front in protest against the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 on the grounds that it is “fundamentally illiberal and unnecessarily restricts freedom of expression”.

Supporters group Fans Against Criminalisation say protests are expected at Scottish Premiership and Scottish Championship grounds featuring fans from Celtic, Rangers, Hibs, Motherwell, Kilmarnock, St Johnstone, Hamilton Academical, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Greenock Morton.

Hibs fans unfurled an “Axe The Act” banner on Sunday during their 3-0 victory over Alloa at Easter Road.

One banner unfurled at Celtic Park on Saturday said: “Scottish football – not singing, no celebrating.”

Another banner containing a rude gesture and the words, “Recognise This”, appeared to be a stark objection to the Scottish Professional Football League’s bid to bring in facial recognition cameras. Some fans have warned they risk driving fans away for making them feel like criminals.

An FAC spokesman said: “We have now been harassed, intimidated, filmed, followed, demonised and criminalised for four years and we have had enough.

It is interesting that fans from both the clubs in the Old Firm are among those involved in the protests. The series of pictures at the top of the Herald article shows banners being raised in protest at Celtic Park rather than Ibrox. Due to its association with Unionism the SNP government dislikes Rangers and would discount any protest coming from that quarter alone.

Phone versus Zone (again)

Dan Hannan, in a piece about how Indians would like Britain out of the EU so that Indians can more easily do business with Britain, ruminates upon the irrelevance of mere geography in the modern world:

Two generations ago, when most business was localised and freight costs were high, regional customs unions had a certain appeal. But in the Internet age, geographical proximity has never mattered less. Culture and kinship trump distance.

Likewise, in many eyes, lack of cultural affinity and lack of kinship trump geographical proximity, or they should. The biggest reason why Brexit seems now to be winning in Britain is that we are now watching EUrope make a hopeless mess of mass immigration from its geographically near but culturally very distinct eastern neighbours.

Near the end of the same piece Hannan says:

Next year, Britain will have to decide whether we are defined chiefly by our geography. Must we merge with states which happen to be in the vicinity, or do we recognise that some values transcend continents, linking us to kindred peoples in more distant lands?

I was having similar thoughts here, a while back, when the internet was just getting into its stride as a mass experience.

I see that I also had some rather prophetic things to say in that piece (posted in 2002) about the recently concluded Rugby World Cup (2015). The point being that rugby is an activity that was then and still remains at the mercy of geographical proximity. Rugby tournaments that happen every year, all the time, need to be based in the same approximate locality. Northern Hemisphere rugby teams were in 2002, and remain in 2015, physically separated from their superior Southern Hemisphere rivals. England had a little moment of superiority in the noughts, just winning the 2003 World Cup and coming second in 2007. So when England recently got knocked out at the group stage of the latest Rugby World Cup in 2015, in England, it felt like a uniquely terrible failure. But come the semi-finals this time around, no Northern Hemisphere teams remained in the tournament, despite the event itself having been held in the Northern Hemisphere. In the quarter finals, New Zealand slaughtered France, and Argentina decisively defeated Ireland, France and Ireland having been regarded by many as the best Northern Hemisphere bets. Many had realised that Argentina, who now regularly play against the Southern Hemisphere big three (NZ, Australia, South Africa) have recently got a lot better, but many others, me included, were amazed, not just by the fact of Argentina’s victory over Ireland but by the manner of it. Wales and Scotland did better but still lost, to South Africa and Australia.

However, the fact that regular rugby tournaments are obliged to cluster geographically is no reason for political entities to attempt to do the same. Geographical proximity to weaker teams and separation from the strongest teams is seen by Northern Hemisphere rugby people as a problem, not as any sort of answer to their problems.

With Dan Hannan, I say: Brexit. And it has to be a good sign that this anti-Brexit guy, in an article with very high google visibility, is making excuses about why his team may be about to lose rather than even attempting to make persuasive arguments about why it should win.

I had the strangest dream!

I had a really weird dream. I dreamt that Japan beat South Africa at rugby :D I know, hilarious :-P Yet strangely I cannot seem to wake up! What the fuck?

Woah