Have a Choc-Ice: The Stupidity, Hypocrisy and Ignorance of Rio Ferdinand

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on January 8, 2013 by fasteddyf

Rio Ferdinand is a horrible, thuggish troll who is given license to masquerade as an ‘ambassador’ for a variety of causes by the equally odious and craven and classless British media. This mentally-diseased marionette of the red-faced, spitting bully from Govan has somehow managed to  usurp the mantle of  ‘respectable English footballer’ (an oxymoron if ever there was one). So why the vitriol? Well, it so happens that a friend of mine posted a ‘tweet’ of Ferdinand’s, where he bemoaned the fact that he had to stay in a 5-star hotel for New Year’s eve. Not satisfied with his paltry £120,000-a-week remuneration for this concentration-camp-esque torture, he beseeched the semi-literate morons that ‘follow’ him on twitter to ‘spare a thought’ for him. A multiple-tour veteran Afghanistan reminded him that he and his colleagues have been spending their Christmases in tents in the midst of gunfire. Arrogant and pathetic as this comment was, it is merely a taste of his insignificant character.

I try not to read those ‘E!’ sidebar-stories you sometimes see when you try to access articles, so I’m not well-versed on Rio’s considerable sleazy transgressions. I am, however, fairly au fait with the recent debacle surrounding John Terry (level 10 douchebag) and Ferdinand’s brother, Anton (douche level 7). Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think anyone should have to withstand any abuse – let alone racial abuse – particularly from one of Britain’s worst overall people (if there were top-trumps). Everyone knows what Terry said, he was filmed and many forensic lip-readers have seen through the bullshit – he called Ferdinand a ‘black cunt’. Make no mistake. As a result, there is uproar and a kangaroo-trial ensues. Obviously, nothing happens to Terry. Swept under the carpet – spinelessness all around and several resignations follow.

My problem is not Ferdinand’s fake righteousness and affected indignance (he knows full well that Terry isn’t a ‘racist’, just a scumbag who used a totally inappropriate adjective with a perfectly accurate noun), it is the monumental, mind-blowing hypocrisy in his reaction to the testimony of Ashley Cole (douche level: cannot compute), perhaps Terry’s only equal and neighbour (at least in the football world) in the squalid toilet of humanity. Cole took the stand and swore that Terry was a man of good character (perjury) and that he did not believe that, being a black man himself, Terry was a racist. Fair enough. Rio Ferdinand then took it upon himself to trumpet to the world that Ashley Cole was a ‘choc-ice’. I personally missed the profundity and poetic nature of the metaphor: black on the outside, white on the inside. It is too plainly obvious to bother going into the numerous inconsistencies inherent in a criticism such as this.

The question then is, what if the comment made by Terry had been: ‘you black nincompoop’ – if it is equally offensive, then we can safely deduce that the issue is with ‘blackness’ being used in a derogatory fashion, and the C-word is merely decorative. Ok, well then one surely cannot use ‘whiteness’ as a credible weapon to use in a war on racism?

I think that stamping out racism in football is not realistic in the near-future. The absolute dregs of society will always attend football matches and making hissing sounds to imitate gas when playing against perceived Jewish opposition, or make monkey gestures at players of African-descent. Zero-tolerance needs to be exercised, we need to stamp out ignorance and stupidity. And Rio Ferdinand.

By the way, why does no one talk about the fact that Ryan Giggs slept with his own brother’s wife for 10 years?

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The Carbohydrate Myth

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2012 by fasteddyf

Robert Earl Hughes, carbohydrate-enthusiast

I have recently finished reading a couple of books on the subject of obesity and the physiology of dietary nutrition (Gary Taubes’ ‘The Diet Delusion’ and Dr. Robert Lustig’s treatment on sugar). I’ve read several brilliant popular science books in the past (Emperor of the Maladies, In the Name of Eugenics and The Extended Phenotype are among the best)  but ‘The Diet Delusion‘ is arguably the most controversial. Thomas Kuhn, paraphrasing physicist Max Planck, once said of paradigm shifts (a phrase he coined): “a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.“‘ Similarly, in 1900, the brilliant but arrogant Lord Kelvin declared: ‘”There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement.”

Essentially, the ‘Copernican revolution’ that needs to take place is the understanding of the role of dietary fat in obesity. in the 1940s and 50s, a man named Ancel Keys conducted the ‘seven countries study’ along with testing semi-starvation on U.S. soldiers during WWII. As a result of this, pretty much everybody knows of the ‘Mediterranean diet’ with olive oil and baguettes etc. He also popularized the B.M.I, the pretty well useless index of obesity. As a result of this, coupled with his lobbying the United States Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, the consensus among nutritionists is that the low-fat, high carbohydrate (albeit ‘complex’ carbohydrates) is the way forward and that high fat, low-carbohydrate diets ‘clog the arteries’ etc.. The data used had been garnered from terrible studies that were not randomized and which claimed causation when there was tenuous correlation (if you force feed a rabbit fat and meat – even though its a herbivore – does that really count as evidence?.

Here is a rundown of facts you should be aware of:

In days gone by, it was thought that ‘glycaemic index’ was the be-all and end-all when it came to controlling blood sugar and the resultant insulin spike. The G.I. is a measure of the speed which glucose enters the bloodstream. The faster the glucose absorption, the quicker the release of insulin by the pancreas. Sucrose – table sugar or the carbohydrate found in fruit was thought to be the absolute business because it wasn’t pure glucose, but half glucose half fructose. Fructose has to be digested in the liver (glucose gets absorbed readily by muscle and fat cells). This means that the G.I. is much lower – since only half of the sugar is directly taken up. Enter high-fructose corn syrup (corn is extremely solid crop and is immune from the huge swings that sucrose gets on the commodities markets) – this is the mega-selling form of carbohydrate that is contained in soft-drinks. Dr. Robert Lustig, Professor of Paediatric Endocrinology at UCSF, gives a pretty damning talk on it, where he describes obese babies being bottle-fed high-fructose formula (glucose is not particularly sweet, whereas fructose is). If the liver is overloaded with fructose it stops metabolizing it and sends the backlog on riding on newly-synthesized ‘lipoproteins’ (more later). Admittedly, the studies are controversial about HCSF, particularly among carbohydrate-apologists who try and single it out as the cause of global obesity.

Over the last 25 years, the amount of dietary fat has decreased:

Marketing has shifted toward cheaper carbohydrate product

If we look at the carbohydrate equivalent graph:

Diabetes and HFCS are fairly well correlated

Now obviously this is not controversial, everyone knows that more and more people are getting fat. The American Heart Association, using spurious results from cherry-picked data, deduced that ‘all fats are bad’ in the 1970s. Without solid data, or a good understanding of the relationship between LDL, VLDL and triglycerides (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol), they found there to be and increase in cholesterol when fat was replaced by carbohydrate (turns out ‘Omega-3’ is and polyunsaturated fats are protective against cardiovascular disease).

Basically, the culprit here is insulin. Insulin ‘opens the door’ to let glucose into your cells. Everytime you eat a starchy meal (or have a can of coke), insulin bangs on the door. Eventually, they stop answering and hey presto! diabetes. Insulin is the only major hormone in the bloodstream that inhibits the mobilization of adipose tissue for energy. It also stimulates the liver (when in excess) to synthesize triglycerides (components of fat) and transport them to tissues on lipoproteins (the ‘L’ in LDL, VLDL and HDL stand for ‘lipoprotein’) and so increase cholesterol. Usually, your body dynamically breaks down fats for energy when it has run out of glucose stores (your body makes glucose from fat) and it stores fat when there in an abundance of glucose (so when you eat high-carbohydrate meals, the body ‘tells’ the fat part of your meal to ‘join the reserves’). With all this suppression going on (from insulin), fat gets pumped in and not out. Leptin, a hormone that signals to your brain that you’ve had enough is released in proportion to your levels of fat. So, if you have a lot of fat stores, a lot of leptin (the ‘appetite hormone’) is released. Eventually, in the same way that insulin-resistance causes diabetes, chornically high-levels of insulin result in leptin resistance. Now your always hungry.

Everyone has it drilled into them that ‘fat = high-cholesterol’. We now know that only 15% of out blood cholesterol comes from our diet. So I suppose if we are genetically (or epigenetically??) predisposed to high-cholesterol, maybe we should cut down on the dietary fat? Well, it seems that that is not the case. 2 Nobel prize-winners, Michael Brown and Joseph Goldstein, have shown that a very low-carbohydrate diet reduces the levels of VLDL and triglycerides. It is true that LDL is increased somewhat on this diet, HDL (the good type) increases. On a low-fat diet, they showed that TGs and VLDL increase and there is no effect on HDL.

This man was an absolute legend

In the 1920s, a fascinating man called Vilhjalmur Stefansson spent over a decade with Inuit tribes, who essentially subsist on a no-carbohydrate diet. When challenged by medical authorities, the Journal of the American Medical Association, one of the leading medical journals in the world, funded a study on him for 1 year with paid observers. After a year on a literal 0-carb diet, he was completely healthy. You can read about his experiences here. It turns out the 21/21 amino acids come from meat. It also turns out that 12/13 essential vitamins come from meat (it is the only dietary source of Vitamin D and B12). The missing vitamin C – why did he not get scurvy? It seems that Vitamin C is absorbed by the same insulin-regulated pathway as glucose. High blood-sugar inhibits Vitamin C absorption. In other words, it carbs’ fault again! He was in perfect health after one year and died aged 83. Legend.

Note: It has been shown that Alzheimer’s is caused by ‘amyloid plaques’ forming in the brain. Insulin-Degrading enzyme (IDE) consumes these plaques. It also consumes insulin. It has a higher-affinity for insulin so if you constantly have hyperinsulinaemia, then there is there isn’t enough IDE to break down amyloid.

The Gibson/Cruise Effect

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2012 by fasteddyf

The night that ended a career…

What do Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson have in common? Well, they are both ageing movie stars who have been in some of the greatest films of all time. Similarly, they seem to court controversy and undue attention is paid by the media to their admittedly idiosyncratic personal lives.

Christopher Hitchens was no fan of Mel Gibson, and said as much in his 2007 book, God Is Not Great: ‘In 2004, a soap-opera film about the death of Jesus was produced by an Australian fascist and ham actor named Mel Gibson’. Now whatever about Gibson’s fascistic beliefs (is ‘fascist’, by definition, pejorative? How would you describe an unlikely instance of a benign, loved dictator? – Wikipedia’s definition is ‘ a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology’) the charge of ‘ham actor’ is a bit harsh. Admittedly he is overly reliant on ‘throat acting’ where he chokes up when his wife inevitably dies (Signs, Lethal Weapon, Bravheart, The Patriot, Mad Max, Edge of Darkness etc) but I think his performances aren’t that bad. Now, having amassed a huge fortune (reckoned at $850 million), through acting and producing films with his company Icon, he was able to finance Passion of the Christ – the script of which, let’s face it, is weaker than Homer Simpson’s script with the time-travelling killer-robot driving instructor and the talking pie.

Passion is fairly unsubtly anti-Semitic. Himself a bible-basher, he clearly blames the jews for Jesus’ death. In 2006, he effectively ended his career (though Apocalypto and Edge of Darkness are very good….we’ll not talk of ‘The Beaver‘) when he was arrested for DUI, he allegedly told police officers that the Jews were responsible for causing all of the wars in the past. Though technically anti-semitic, this remark alone seems to have been sufficient to cast out the former much-loved leading man from the Hollywood inn.

So this is why I’m confused. In 1971, John Wayne gave an interview in which he stated that he believes ‘in white supremacy until blacks are educated to a point of responsibility‘ and, on Native Americans: ‘I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them, if that’s what you’re asking. Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves‘. This was published in a very widely distributed magazine (L.Ron Hubbard Jr.’s Penthouse article is also worth a read) and yet almost nothing was said about it. At least Gibson can act – John Wayne is probably the greatest fraud in acting history:

John Wayne as Ghengis Khan in ‘The Conqueror’…what a joke

So I can forgive his terrible and talentless attempts to act (I do so for Arnold Schwarzenegger) I cannot forgive the Academy Award he received for True Grit (Arnold only ever received a Golden Globe).  It seems ironic that Wayne famously dodged the WWII draft and was subsequently a victim on home soil. In 1956, he used his clout as a Hollywood heavyweight to get the role of Ghengis Khan in The Conqueror. How fucking preposterous, as you can see, a tiny moustache and dyed hair and he is supposed to look like a Mongolian Warlord from the Middle-Ages, obviously, it deservedly gets 3.1 on IMDB. Anyway, the set was 137 miles downwind of the Nevada nuclear testing site. 91 of the crew developed cancer – many of whom died, including Wayne himself of stomach cancer. So this bullying coward and fraud has retained his standing as the ‘American Hero’ notwithstanding all those gross marks against him.

In a very similar piece of public ambivalence, Chris Brown – the man who put Rihanna in the hospital by punching her repeatedly in the face – has now been welcomed back into the fold, doing skits on SNL after serving his year-or-so punishment of being ignored. Heck, the moron Rihanna has recorded with him since. He beat a woman badly enough that she had to be hospitalized. A very funny clip about it is worth watching. Michael Richards, the ‘comedian’ who played the unfunny character Kramer in Seinfeld, infamously went on a rant against black people at one of his stand-up ‘comedy’ shows. Angered by a heckler, he pined for the days when ‘we could string you up from a tree’. Disgracefully, he was given a platform to apologize using Jerry Seinfeld’s influence on The David Letterman show via satellite link.  Mark Wahlberg is a well-known racist who has thrown rocks at black school children and attacked a middle-aged Vietnamese man with a stick and blinded another – at least he was charged with attempted murder and jailed (though for assault) but all is forgiven.

So what gives? Why do these disgraceful transgressions get forgiven, when Mel Gibson is essentially a swear word now? I’m not excusing racism of any kind, but considering the nature of the alleged remark, I think his ostracism is a little harsh. I have no doubt that Gibson probably is anti-semitic, but at least it’s on religious grounds (I infer this because of the ‘leaked’ conversations with Joe Ezsterhas, the writer of terrible films – where he said his ill-fated film about the ‘Jewish Braveheart’ was motivated to ‘convert the Jews into Christians’). It’s true that Gibson’s father Hutton is a ridiculously fanatical anti-semite and holocaust-denier, but its not believable that Gibson could have got to where he’s got being a holocaust-denier. I suppose there is a truth to the saying that the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Which brings me to Tom Cruise.

I love Tom Cruise. I’ve seen all his movies bar 4 and I like pretty much all of them. Films like Minority Report, Born on the 4th of July, The Colour of Money, Jerry Maguire, Magnolia – to name a few – have cemented his place of one of the greatest moviestars of all time. He is a legit actor, having received 3 oscar nominations. It’s a well-known fact that Cruise is a member of the dangerous cult, Scientology. Having endured the greater part of Dianetics, I can verify that it is a douche-cult. The interview given by his son in 1983 essentially debunks it as a ‘religion’ (one of the other canonical works is All About Radiation – where Hubbard claimed to be a nuclear physicist and that radiation poisoning could be cured with vitamins). Everyone seems fascinated by Cruise’s subscription to this and it is somehow fuelled by bizarre speculations about Cruise’s sexuality.

Notwithstanding his strange personal life (I suppose it is strange? How could I know?) he has not put a fut wrong in terms of film. With the exception of Mission Impossible 3 (Recently, that is, Far and Away can’t be forgotton), his other films have been pretty good – Knight and Day being a particularly underrated one. Cruise famously attacked Brooke Shields over her taking anti-depressants – he claimed in an infamous interview that he ‘knew the history of psychiatry’. If he bases this on the content of Dianetics, then he does not know. I actually tend to agree with him to a degree about overprescription of drugs having read a very interesting book, Anatomy of an Epidemic. Anyway, what I don’t understand is the obsession with Tom Cruise’s personal life. What religion is Tom Hanks or Robert Downey Jr.? Downey has a very shady past, so why isn’t his personal life scrutinized?

I suppose people need a ‘crazy guy’ in the media at all times. Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Whitney Houston, Lindsay  Lohan, Charlie Sheen – the list goes on. I suppose the Scientology thing is fairly intriguing (given cases like Lisa McPherson etc.) I suppose it preys on ‘damaged’ or easily swayed people (conspiracy-theorists) – having myself sat a ‘stress test‘ I know how misguided one would have to be to get lured into it.

Conspiracy Theory: The Bizarre Case of Jim Corr

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 30, 2012 by fasteddyf

The government’s plan went off without a hitch!

Jim Corr, known for his mediocre guitar playing and lurking in the background of ‘Corrs’ music videos, has recently turned his untalented hand to conspiracy-theorizing. He has recently embarrassed himself and other close to him with a series of bizarre rants (which are lame, tired and unoriginal) from the obscure crank-sector on the fringes of social discourse. I will come to the specific claims he makes in due course. It is a well-known fact that Darwinian heavyweights Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins – despite being fierce rivals in the field of evolutionary biology – published a joint letter outlining their reasons for refusing to debate creationists/proponents of ‘intelligent-design’. Their reasoning was simple: if you share the stage with these people, you have, by implication, lent their cause some kind of credence and gravity. The corollary is as follows: so overwhelming is the evidence for the fact of evolution that the very prospect of having to defend it against something as pathetic as creationism communicates to the public that it is controversial or subject to debate.

While it is true to say that the mechanism through which evolution operates is open to debate, its existence is not in reasonable doubt. There are a vast number of conspiracy theories out there and the internet has provided a hotbed for skeptical users to ‘find the truth’ and, through techniques that appeals to a certain personality-types managed to convert the impressionable and suggestible. Generally, it is all a harmless bit of fun – the moon-landing didn’t happen because the flag is facing the wrong way etc. Anyone who has seen Capricorn One can appreciate the appeal of such an idea. Let’s take something more sinister – I’m not claiming Jim Corr believes this by the way – which is denial of the holocaust. Now many conspiracy ideas generally have an outcome or an endpoint, in this case it is the creation of Israel. Anyone familiar with The Protocols of the Elders of Zion will be aware that this kind of thing is not new. Now I am a fierce skeptic myself and am constantly questioning motivations and demanding rigorous scientific data to back up claims made about pretty much anything. Now David Irving, the disgraced historian, sued the American historian Deborah Lipstadt for libelling him in her book Denying the Holocaust in which she named him as one of the academics who claimed that the holocaust never happened. In a strange quirk of British libel law, Lipstadt, as the defendant had to prove in court where he had published this (not ‘innocent until proven guilty’). What began was a fascinating trial in which Irving openly challenged long-held beliefs about the holocaust (particularly the gas-chambers at Auschwitz and the estimates of those killed in the genocide) reverted to Irving’s ill-concealed trump-card which was a reaffirmation of a the claim that not one document ever linked Adolf Hitler to the holocaust – he once again offered a reward of £1,000 to anyone who could furnish one. Now this is really the crux of my point. The best illustration of this is, I think, a quote attributed to Galileo following the ‘Leaning Tower of Pisa Experiment’, when his results weren’t exactlyas predicted:

“Aristotle says that a hundred-pound ball falling from a height of a hundred cubits hits the ground before a one-pound ball has fallen one cubit. I say they arrive at the same time. You find, on making the test, that the large ball beats the smaller one by two inches. Now, behind those two inches you want to hide Aristotle’s ninety-nine cubits and, speaking only of my tiny error, remain silent about his enormous mistake.”

This crystallizes my position on conspiracy theories generally. The absence of evidence is no substitute for its presence – gaps in the fossil record don’t disprove evolution, the fact that there is a fossil record affirms its existence. So let’s take the 9/11 conspiracy. There are obviously several manifestations of this theory, but the most common one seems to be that it was orchestrated by some kind of ‘New World Order’ or ‘Shadow Governments’ that actually rule the world – unbeknownst to the ovine masses. So, these secret societies (the Bush family is part of the dynastic oligarchy that I’ll come to next) needed a ‘smoking gun’ (similar to Pearl Harbour) to shift public opinion in favour of invading Afghanistan and then Iraq as a means of controlling the opium trade and the oil pipelines etc etc ad infinitum.

If you ever have the misfortune to listen to a tirade from one of these fanatics who peddle this stuff, be prepared to weather a storm of unsubstantiated facts and ‘science’ which has been rote-learned, along with a few fringe academics’ (who absolutely never have tenure at a legitimate university – but of course, this is due to their refusal to ‘play the game’) names. Now, we’ve all heard the one about ‘Tower 7’ being subjected to a controlled explosion, given its admittedly demolition-esque fall. Similarly, I’ve heard that the manner in which the trade centres fell – ‘pancaking’, is impossible, especially since that kerosene supposedly doesn’t burn hot enough to melt concrete (insert names of engineers/architects to add weight to argument). Popular Mechanics has completely debunked all of this, as has the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s $16 million study. We’re not talking about the much-maligned 9/11 commission’s report, which is fairly clear too. Now, this goes further and claims no plane crashed into the Pentagon, owing to a lack of photographic evidence. So again, the implication is that every single eminent academic wouldn’t be interested or ‘hasn’t seen the footage’ to sufficiently pique their interest. Once again it is a lack of evidence – or a list of co-incidences (that fat fraud and imbecile Michael Moore has tried the same tricks) and a stout refusal to adhere to Occam’s Razor – if I’m a juror during a straight-forward trial, I don’t start claiming it could be a conspiracy if there is ‘missing evidence’. These people learn off their facts and figures – taken at face value with absolutely no back-up research – and then baulk at refutations by hiding behind perceived inconsistencies.

All of this is based around a fanatical belief that the Trilateral Commission and Bildeberg Group (constant reference is made to the Freemasons, the Rockefellers and the Rothschilds among a litany of other dynasties – the Kennedy’s and Bush’s are also included) are the puppet-masters of the ‘New World Order’ (about which Karl Rove has written). Some extreme versions of this theory follow that mountebank, fraud, liar and douchebag David Icke’s (the son of God, that is)theory that Obama et al are all part of a reptilian invasion:

The morons actually believe in this hierarchy

So this might be a little bit on the extreme side of the crank-scale. How about the Kennedy assassination? apparently he made a speech ’10 days’ before he was shot about ‘secret societies‘. In fact this was a speech about communism made in April 1961. Even if I grant that there are several inconsistencies with the Kennedy assassination, I have to believe, like the 9/11 conspiracy, that a GIANT cover-up was undertaken (even though there are many witnesses to Oswald shooting a police officer 6 times) and that this powerful secret organisation could’t even plant WMDs in Iraq to ‘fool us even more’, which is no doubt what the line would have been. So all of the massive documentation that would be required, all of the whistle-blowers silenced etc. all because of a refusal to believe that a marine could shoot Kennedy dead after 3 attempts. Again, when the evidence is lacking, it is tempting to see the romantic side of an event and invent a fantasy about Castro or Joe Kennedy’s mafia connections or the New World Order but the confirmation bias skews the interpretation of the evidence. I prefer people to be skeptical – falling into the obvious pitfalls by listening to a charismatic presenter on youtube or some absolute cretin like Jim Corr or David Icke is just pathetic. There is no way that anyone who studied science of read scientific reports (which are available – published and peer-reviewed) could believe in the conspiracy of fluoridation or ‘chemtrails’. AIDS denialists believe that stuff like this is scientifically credible. Like religion, blind faith is often a key feature/characteristic in these kind of beliefs. The real question I want answered is this: what evidence would I need to show you before you stopped believing this stuff?

A United Ireland?

Posted in Uncategorized on March 11, 2012 by fasteddyf

The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 stipulated that there could be a referendum on the question of unifying the country every 7 years. We have now seemingly spurned 2 opportunities to have a vote. What seems to be the problem? Surely, this is just a simple matter of democracy? Recent studies into the demographics of the North of Ireland shows a not-insignificant ‘Catholic’ majority (unfortunately, this is our only real signal for nationalism…ugh). It has been speculated that, if a plebiscite were to be held tomorrow, a majority would be in favour of rejoining the 26 counties that have been partitioned for these last 90 years.

Now the interesting thing about this is the apparent complete ambivalence on this question among ‘Southerners’. Since I can remember, whenever this topic has come up it either waved away as radical, unrealistic and childishly idealistic. It appears that the very topic is a controversial one that should be whispered, lest someone be offended. After all, we’ve seen the kind of latent societal tensions it can stir-up. Similarly, this ambivalence is expressed in economic terms – Ireland is broke as it is, we could’t possibly afford the burden of a failed economy on top of our own. The transition would be an expensive one that would require a nightmarish bureaucracy – a logistical hell into which this incompetent country has already embroiled itself through the medium of a clumsy, nepotistic and croneyist civil service.

Now, the Irish people voted in favour of the Anglo-Irish treaty in 1921, with a fairly clear assumption that the partition would be temporary and that the agreement was a ‘stepping-stone’  to full independence – indeed this is the line that Collins sold population. The troubles of the 60s and 70s ostensibly put paid to the idea of a reunited Ireland as both sides blundered their way into burning the rickety, Indiana Jones-esque bridges that had built themselves, despite the appalling treatment of the Catholics. In 2012, the Church has just about fallen on its own sword after the most retarded PR campaign in modern history. The stubborn nature and refusal to give ground by either side in the North has meant the country has stagnated. The question is, however: are the patient Irish who live in the 6 British counties being betrayed by their compatriots? The aforementioned ambivalence to the ‘Northern question’ is pretty galling when one thinks that it is they who have had to endure mistreatment/cultural isolation while the South has prospered (relatively speaking) in spite of the incompetent governance and inertia.

I’ve always found the cross-border relations to be quite odd – on one hand, we share our sports in the form of Gaelic football and hurling, and no rugby – having recognized their claim to being Irish without having to be Irish (hence Ireland’s Call). On the other hand, we have a different currency, set of laws and a fundamentally different culture. In the Republic, the road signs read fairly benignly: ‘Yield! Right of Way’, once you cross the border they read simply: ‘Give Way’.

In 1973, a referendum was held to ascertain whether the people of the North wanted to join the Republic or stay within the union. Owing to an SDLP boycott, 99% of people voted to stay within the union. 40 years later, I think it’s time for another. Quebec has held two plebiscites, in 1980 and 1995 – on the issue of its being partitioned from Canada (in a somewhat convoluted form of Home Rule) It’s clear, as Rafa Benitez would say, that the vote was bound to fail owing to the gerrymandering etc. that was going on – but things are now different. I cannot believe that, in the age of wikipedia (peace be upon it), people can’t see how the union is wrong. Fundamentally. The reason Ulster is so ‘protestant’ (i.e. logical Christian – which I guess is an oxymoron) is because the O’Donnells and O’Neills hailed from there. The resultant battle of Kinsale, which essentially ended the Irish resistance meant that the ‘Earls’ of Ireland had to flee to Scotland.  Anyways, without going into the whole detail of it, the reason that the North of Ireland has the Queen of England emblazoned on their currency is the result of an anti-revolutionary policy adopted by Britain. It worked. I admit that I would have had my qualms about departing from the U.K., being the rich country that it is – but now Ireland isn’t such a backward place anymore.

Let’s have a vote, then.

Sport: Achievement as an Index of Quality

Posted in Uncategorized on January 27, 2012 by fasteddyf

Messi may be empty-handed but....

I think most people would agree that Tiger Woods is the greatest ever golfer. Similarly, Federer is widely regarded as the greatest tennis player of all time (note I didnt say ‘one of the best’). The have won 14 and 15 grand-slams each and this is seen as a reflection of that quality. However, there is still some foolish talk about Nicklaus’ having won 18 majors and therefore must still be considered the greatest. Bullshit. This is where the results-based facet of sports can become misleading. First and foremost, the inter-generational comparison of sports is, I think, a warranted and valid one. Secondly, the old cliche that ‘no one remembers second place’ is undoubtedly true. As outlined here before, it is very difficult to gauge the relative quality of players from past and present. The perennial excuse of equipment change etc precludes, for many, the direct comparison of modern vs. ‘classic’ athletes. This problem is further exacerbated with sentimental, rose-tinted recall of ‘glory days’ by old people who incessantly lament: ‘If you saw him you would think differently’.

So how do people rank players in terms of quality? Well, Michael Lewis’ book, ‘Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game’, and other such works can show us that statistics aren’t just annoying and meaningless numbers that the North Americans seem to focus on excessively. Clearly, when measured correctly, a fairly good index of a players quality (in team sports, that is) in micro terms. When compiling lists of ‘greatest ever players’ in team sports, there is clearly a tendency to focus on those aspects of the sport that appeal to the ‘layperson’. If you ask a front or second row in rugby to compile a list of great players, the list would be undoubtedly be peppered with relatively unusual inclusions. You see, every player who is aware of the nuances of their position will and do claim that it is little understood or that it is underrated. If you ask a ‘lay-person’ to compile a list of the greatest baseball-players in the last 20 years, there would be considerable heterogeneity among the population. Undoubtedly, all will quote some kind of statistics, but which statistics are the most important ones? Batting average? runs? Home runs? Saves? Strikeouts? A weighted average? The Opta Index attempts to measure the ‘sporting virtues’ of players contribution – but does ‘total distance run’ have anything to do with anything?

Recently, I read about Pele’s most recent contribution to the football blogosphere/media. He claims that there ‘will never be another Pele’ and: When Messi’s scored 1,283 goals like me, when he’s won three World Cups, we’ll talk about it’. Now, not to get into a debate over the fact that that goal tally likely includes exhibition matches played against disabled children and wheelchair-bound war veterans, but to claim that winning a World Cup has anything to do with individual brilliance is a spurious claim to make. Pele, the douchebag that he is, has always feigned a kind of humility, with half-self-deprecation and comparisons to ‘new-Pele’s’ being forthcoming on a bi-annual basis (the man clearly does not have an eye for talent, or he jinxes the players he chooses). Now, however, for the first time since Maradona (and a far better case, really, given that Messi is 24, playing in the modern game and scoring 1960s-esque numbers of goals). Pele has had enough.

It was recently put to me that, since Messi has not won a World Cup, he can’t be considered the greatest ever. This can be discounted outright. What if, hypothetically, a new super-patriotic player emerged from Equatorial Guinea. Moreover, imagine he scored 100 goals a season for 10 years and won, say, 8 champions leagues and 10 leagues (etc etc) with his club. Imagine he won all 10 of the contested Ballon D’Ors during that time. Despite 1,000 goals (which Pele could laugh off as insignificant) and all the decorations, this phenomenon could not possibly have won the world cup. Not a chance in hell. Does Pele think that, if he could imbue Messi with his skills from the 1960s, that Messi would have cakewalked the World Cups – despite the invention of defending since Pele played? I would be fairly skeptical of anyone who tried to clutch at this flimsy straw during an argument. Sure, it would be great to win a World Cup – and it would undoubtedly contribute to his greatness. However, when we consider the metric for determining quality, one has to ask: ‘If Tiger Woods won 19 majors and Messi won 1 World Cup (does it have to be 4 to overtake Pele?) would they be the greatest in their respective fields?’

Many players in various sports would – but for the irritating presence of a super-rival – have dominated their respective sports. Because of the existence of these rivals, the perennial second-place finisher will never be regarded as ‘great’ because he didn’t win many trophies. In other words, the over-arching quality of a once-in-a-generation/lifetime player renders a victory close to impossible. Without invoking vague terms like ‘bottle’, ‘mettle’ and ‘grittiness’, we should ask ourselves how and why we regard great players as we do. Cristiano Ronaldo would undoubtedly be regarded as the world’s best if it were not for Messi. In 30 years will he just be an also-ran who was ‘pretty good’?

The Law: Spirit Vs The Letter

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2012 by fasteddyf

Judges, as H.L. Mencken said, are law students that mark their own papers. Any honest lawyer (oxymoron?) will admit that, in their opinion, the severity of a judgement is dependent on the judge – which in turn is determined by the subtle social biases to which the mammal is inclined. In the main, an experienced barrister is the one who ascends the bench, bringing with him all the prejudices that are used to forge a career in double-speak and obscurantism.

Like the biblical Pharisees and modern-day priests, lawyers today read the law that is available to everyone and find ways to favourably interpret it. Hard cases, it is said, make bad law. Lobbyists unwittingly force the hand of the legislature when cases are brought that require a ruling. Can deaf couples intentionally choose deaf embryos? By forcing the issue, dangerous precedents can be set – the judge may be strong-armed into making a black-and-white decision of one with several shades of grey.

To illustrate, take Paedophilia. Ask yourself a few of the following questions and see how biased you might be. Is paedophilia a mental disease? If so, can it or should it be cured? Using whatever criteria you used to come to a conclusion, is homosexuality a mental disease should be cured if possible? So let’s imagine that we agree that it is a pathology of the mind (paedophilia), and that the afflicted person has no choice as to his sexual preference for infants and toddlers. I think that in the case of pederasty, the employment of self-control or complete abstention is the ethical option for these sick people. Those who kidnap and rape the children are morally reprehensible and should be imprisoned. Now, if it is a sickness, a compulsion – an uncontrollable urge – what use to ‘punish’ them? Prison can’t rehabilitate them, unless of course, you think they are being intentionally aberrant in their sexuality.

So let’s take the above issue and translate it into a real legal ethical issue. Now, let’s imagine I were to hook a large sample of men up to some kind of polygraph device that measured sexual attraction, and then paraded a variety of women from a wide spectrum of ages. Now, if a brought out a suitably voluptuous 16 or 15 year old girl (Rolling Stones drummer Bill Wyman dated 13-year old Mandy Smith) – I would wager that they would elicit a response consistent with those above the arbitrary watershed age of 17. Even if the ages were disclosed beforehand, I suggest that there is no conscious intentionality of response, and that these men would be a slave to evolution and their mammalian heritage. Nobody would accuse these men of having a psychopathology – it is a purely natural response. The lawmakers of yesteryear needed to make a guideline age in order to prevent creepy old men sleazing on innocent young women that could be manipulated. So, what is my point? the law is a guideline. Having sexual intercourse with a girl on her 17th birthday completely exculpates the would-be rapist. Ever since Gillick competence and Fraser guidelines were introduced in England, it has made a mockery of the legal that a claim that, no matter what, an ‘underage’ girl cannot consent to sexual intercourse. It is my belief, therefore, that a judge should use his discretion and not be beholden to arbitrary criterion of age or otherwise. Common law is based on the reasonable man principle, which is the objective standard used to ascertain whether the claim being made is reliant on the letter, rather than the spirit of the law.

Mandy Bill Wyman

Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones dated 13 year-old Mandy Smith....Paedophile?

As documented here before, the revered American judge, Oliver Wendel Holmes was guilty of several appalling miscarriages of justice. In a landmark case, Schenck Vs The Unites States He ‘interpreted’ the law in such a way that he felt that handing out anti-war leaflets in Yiddish to prospective Jewish volunteers in World War I was the equivalent of shouting falsely shouting ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theatre. Finding them guilty of treason and the death penalty, this was a grossly spurious inference made despite the first amendment. Let’s not forget Buck vs Bell, which made the sterilization of the ‘mentally unfit’ compulsory. Holmes stated that ‘3 generations of imbeciles is enough’, after relying on a psychiatrist to determine that a 1-year old baby ‘showed signs of feeble mindedness’.

Oliver Wendell Holmes: Overrated douchebag

We have all heard cases of intruders suing the victim of the robbery. In Ireland and England, the Occupier’s Liability Act states that if a person is in the process of robbing you and say, cuts him/herself of a jutting rusted nail, that  the occupier can be liable. If that’s the law, then as Mr. Bumble says in Oliver Twist, ‘the law is an ass’. It is a disgrace that a homeowner/landowner could be sued by someone on the basis of ‘reasonable forseeability’. It is a disgrace, and although there are clearly reasons why certain provisions must be made, I refuse to be conscripted into subscribing to the idea that this is ‘just’. I do not believe that people should ever be ‘made an example of’ in court.

Everyone knows the story of Rosa Parks, but the real catalyst for civil rights and lesser known case is that of Emmet Till. Having been acquitted of murder, the two murderers (scumbag Mississipi racists) gave an interview describing how they perpetrated the grisly slaughter. Double-jeopardy can also be an ass (O.J. Simpson almost pulled off the same trick, offering to write a book ‘I DID IT’ with ‘if’ in tiny font – the slimeball Rupert Murdoch realised that this was below even his ridiculously low standards)

OJ's tasteless book

At the end of the day, there are lots of flaws in the law, but  think it is the spirit of the law – the general intention of it – that matters, not the bullshit standard that they simply have to lay down as a guideline.