Stories over the last week

Been pretty busy over the last week, no time to do any blogging. But here’s a few stories that caught my eye.

Language test cheating
One story this week that I found pretty shocking was news of systematic cheating within the UK language exams, as shown on the BBC’s Panorama program. They portrayed people being able to buy an A curtsey of either a dodgy invigilator who simply read out the answers or an agency who supplied a professional to take the test. These tests are crucial to securing UK visa’s or university places, the latter of which of course can lead to a visa.

That cheating is going on doesn’t surprise me. While the bulk of international students I teach tend to have fairly good English skills, we’ll get the odd one who can barely string two words together. The sorts who’ll often only communicate to us via e-mails, which often read like they’ve been constructed using google babelfish. Of course the problem for us then is that such students often are able to point to an A in some ETS English exam.
So again, that some cheating is going on doesn’t really surprise me. What I find shocking is that its been going in within the UK right under the noses of the UKBA. Often with the explicit support of officials within UK colleges.

Ultimately I would blame this situation on two issues. Firstly the UKBA has lumped all the UK’s third level institutes from some community college above a chip shop in Woking in with all the major universities. One has to wonder if this was done more of political reasons. i.e. that the government is peeved that so much of the UK’s student population are foreign (about 30% at present). Of course I would counter that we have the commercialisation of the UK universities to thank for this. As inevitably a commercial company will chase those with the deepest pockets. And if that means looking overseas, then that’s what they’ll do. And obviously some of the smaller insitutions without the applied research or academic portfolio to call on will be tempted to turn a blind eye to a bit of cheating on the side, just to make ends meet.

And similarly the UK’s immigration policy where by applicants need to get various bits of paper work, often supplied by private companies has created a cottage industry, one that is very profitable to all sort of backstreet dealers and multinationals with dubious reputations. That of these companies some are corrupt and are engaged in systematically cheating the immigration system is hardly going to come as a shock to anybody, save a few naive Tory minsters. Again the solution is to perhaps get rid of these and make all the key tests for visas held and organised by some branch of government.

Of course doing all of that, plus properly monitoring the UK’s universities and colleges would be hugely expensive. The Tories want Swiss style immigration laws but don’t want to have to pay for their enforcement. You can’t have it both ways!

Bedroom tax
Meanwhile Channel 4’s Dispatches looked at the impact of the Tories bedroom tax. They pointed out that it is often splitting up families, forcing many struggling to make ends meet further into poverty and does not account for people individual circumstances, e.g. a disabled couple who need a two bedroom house. It’s even been linked to suicides.

Also the argument that tenants can get out of paying the tax by just moving to a smaller home falls flat as there often aren’t any single bedroom council flats available. Glasgow Housing Association for example made a long term decision sometime ago to only build houses and flats with a minimum of two bedrooms, as this increased flexibility and value for money of their housing stock. They’ve had to spend millions going around buying up private one bedroom flats to accommodate those forced out of their homes by the bedroom tax.

In short it is another silly short-sighted Tory policy written by some toff’s in Whitehall who’ve never visited a council estate in their lives….and would probably not what to as given the effects of this tax they’d likely be killed on sight! ;D

Dellingpole bows out
The Daily Telegraph it seems, has decided to part company with climate denier James Dellingpole :crazy:, one of its regular bloggers. Of course he’s tried to put a brave face on it, claiming that he plans to go solo or pursue private projects of his own, becoming a consultant, etc. Ultimately however it would seem having a climate denier on the staff at the same time that much of the country is knee deep in flood waters was a bit too much even for the Barclay brothers owned Telegraph.

He was starting to sound a bit like that propaganda minister for the Iraqi government. Nothing to see here, I assure you there are no floods in Devon the climate scientists are committing suicide at the gates to Somerset. :wave:

Sochi
Not seen much of the Sochi games, other than the Snowboarding. This appears to be a sport that involves hanging around on a snow slope trying to look cool in your designer snowboarding gear while calling everyone around you dude. I wonder how they are fitting in to Putin’s Russia?

Just don’t do anything gay…or you’ll be wondering why there are lots of little red laser dots trained on you! :))

I find it odd that Britain isn’t doing better in the Slalom events, given the number of potholes on the roads since the floods started.

Barclays profit and loss
Barclays bank this week announced profits are down and that they would respond by cutting jobs. They also announced record pay-outs and bonuses for their top staff. So they respond to a dip in profits by sacking thousands of rank and file staff who actually deal with customers and awarded the “good-olde-boy’s” who are actually responsible for these losses an increase in salary. If you need any further proof that nothing was learnt since the financial crisis then look no further than this.

No you’re not keeping the dog
The Tories, lib dems (sort of the same thing these days!) and labour rounded on the SNP this week suggesting that a currency union was out of the question, regardless of who wins the next general election.

I’ve drawn parallels between the Scottish referendum and a divorcing couple, with them now arguing over who will get what and ultimately trying to get one over on each other. And of course this is hardly good news for the UK economic outlook in the event of independence, which its worth noting is still actually unlikely to occur (polls still say a narrow no vote).

Consider that anyone getting a divorce will often struggle to get credit from a bank, largely because banks worry that as the couple may not be behaving or thinking rationally and thus the bank’s money isn’t safe. Consider I know a couple in Ireland involved in a messy divorce the upshot of which is that they’re both going to get turfed out of the family home by the bank and after its sold they still won’t be able to afford to pay the lawyers, yet aware of this as they are they continue the fight purely to get one over on the other.

Well the same applies to a UK/Scotland split. The markets will punish both Scotland and England in the event of a messy divorce and they will dole out the bulk of the punishment on the City of London as the government in Westminster is supposed to behave more sensibly that getting involved in silly games.

And oddly enough I actually agree with the government on this issue, the idea of Scotland keeping the pound sounds daft to me and it is one of the reasons I’d argue that the SNP have largely failed to close the deal on independence. It would seem a lot more sensible to have their own currency, after all Ireland a nation of half the population with no oil reserves got by perfectly well with the punt for many decades.

Of course knowing the crafty cute hoor that Salmond is I do wonder if this is a deliberate ploy by the SNP. As they can now use this announcement as yet more propaganda to portray Cameron as another Edward Longshanks type (who’ll no doubt be seeking next to re-introduce the rule allowing English toff’s to spend the first night with new Scottish brides).

It also gives Salmond the perfect excuse to refuse to pay Scotland’s share of the UK debt (something the SNP type’s would be against paying given that as they see it the bulk of it was run up paying for wars, funding tax cuts to the wealthy, nuclear weapons and basically paying for the things the Scots want nothing to do with).

And Barroso was soon in on the act, indeed the timing is too close for it not to be a coincidence, claiming that Scotland would find it nearly impossible to join the EU. This is clearly intended for domestic consumption in Spain. While certainly the SNP needs to be realistic and realise that it would take time to negotiate EU membership, the suggestion that the EU would vote to make itself smaller is ludicrous at best and just plain stupid at worst.

Consider that while Spain or Belgium might worry about Scottish succession making a case for other breakaways, such a move to punish a nation for exercising its democratic rights while allowing the EU to interfere in a matter that is clearly an internal issue for a sovereign nation to work out itself, would go down really badly in other parts of the EU. Notably the Eastern states (who still harbour bitter memories of the efforts they had to go through to break free of the communist block). Smaller countries like Ireland, Greece as well as Scandinavia will likely be sympathetic to the Scottish cause and hostile to dangerous precedence such a policy would set. The danger is that if Spain and the UK (who last time I checked were trying to leave the EU!) tried to use the EU to meddle with politics within of a member state it would go down like a lead balloon and would almost certainly weaken if not undermine the EU’s credibility.

Bitcoin continues its slide
The woes affecting the virtual currency Bitcoin continue as its value still falls, with experts pointing to serious vulnerabilities within the currency. The problem, as I highlighted before is that even if a virtual currency is a good idea, Bitcoin may not be the medium that actually succeeds and even if it does, a currency has heavily overvalued as it clearly is no the sort of thing you’d want to be paid in or pay for you’re groceries with.

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Random Thoughts

A few thoughts on various stories that have been doing the rounds the last few weeks…

Banning Marmite
Canada has taken to banning certain UK products, such as Marmite, Iron-Bru and Ovaltine. A similar policy exists in the USA. Such products are imported in small numbers by expats looking for a taste of home. Haggis has also been banned, so any Scottish Americans/Canadians would have been forced to go see some dodgy back alley dealer for their burns summer.

The Canadians and Americans both claim this policy is necessary due to reasons of “safety” and “environmental grounds”…and guns are still legal in the US and Canada :no:. So you’re saying that a can of Marmite is more dangerous than an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle? And as for the environment, Harper’s government is currently presiding over the Tar Sands, the biggest environmental crime in history, as its being called.

It reminds me of a similar scenario where Ireland was suing the UK government over Selafield and the various nuclear waste leaks from the plant. The response of the EU? To have a go at Ireland over the environmental consequences of our food additives, specifically types used to make lemonade red (its an Irish thing!) and pea’s that right shade of green. Go figure!

Then again, they say with Marmite, you either love it or you hate it – clearly the Canadians hate it!

Right wing nuts
As I mentioned in a prior post, we have the story of a Tory MP who decided to hold a Nazi themed stag do in a French ski resort. Apparently it never occurred to him that this might be deemed offensive :no: …same way in never occurs to Tories that some people on benefits sort of need them to avoid starvation. I mean those on benefits just spend all the money on booze and drugs…which they also steal…that’s what that C4 programme showed.

Climate Trolls
Of course part of the problem with right wingers is they have a nasty habit of jumping on the band wagon, following trends, repeating myths they’ve heard from somewhere without first performing some fact checking. I’ve pointed to some of these, notably with regard to immigration, before.

A good example, being that story doing the rounds a few weeks ago about the Russian Icebreaker stuck in ice in the Antarctica. Deniers quickly jumped on this as evidence of global cooling. Despite the fact that all the evidence points to the fact the planet is still warming, that while there’s been a brief extreme cold snap in the US, overall its been an unusually mild winter in the Northern Hemisphere and there has been record breaking heat waves in Australia (so bad that some Tennis players in Melbourne were hallucinating).

However the Beeb has an article out by a journalist who was actually on the ship. He points out that the ship’s getting trapped in the ice was more down to a number of factors, such as the decisions made by the captain, prevailing weather conditions and a certain element of bad luck. Needless to say encountering ice in Antarctica is hardly unusual. Furthermore sea ice represents ice that has broken off the mainland, i.e. ice that is the process of melting. While this is perfectly normal at this time of year (it being summer in the Southern Hemisphere right now), the effects of climate change has been to create some unusual conditions in this region.

The Ice breaker ultimately strayed much deeper into the ice pack than would normally considered wise, largely because it was encountering relatively thinner than normal ice, only to realise when the weather suddenly changed that they may have bitten off more than they could chew and getting stuck. So all in all, this is more evidence which proves warming, than disproves it.

Tories cook the books
Aware of their reputation as “the nasty party” the Tories have been trying to put a brave face on things. This week the released economic figures which seemed to suggest that people were better off with wages rising.

My response to that is to point out to them that their figures fail to account for an all important thing – inflation. Yes wages have gone up, but that’s because the cost of living has risen, indeed they are rising much faster in the UK than other parts of the EU. In part this is due to normal factors outside of government control, but also due to factors directly tied to Tory policy.

For example, by cutting benefits this forces the burden of paying for certain things that were otherwise free onto the general public. E.g. someone with an elderly relative who now has to look after them or pay for a private care home because the Tories cut that budget. Or paying for police time in the event of an accident (whether or not it was you’re fault). This in turn leads people to need that bit more in wages from their employer just to stand still.

This is why despite lower rates of take home pay, people in other European countries are often better off, as they get all sorts of things paid for, be it cheap subsidised electricity or public transport, better health care, cheaper petrol, etc. in return for paying a bit more in tax.

Also there is the issue of Quantitative Easing, which the Tories have kept going far longer than was sensible. As someone who goes between the UK and Europe regularly it is obvious to me that my UK pounds don’t go as far as they used to, largely due to the inflationary effects of QE. This means that anything we need to import into the UK, such as oil, industrial goods, commodities, etc. is that bit more expensive, with a knock –on effect on prices throughout the economy. Quite apart from the impact on savings and pensions, which is that they don’t go as far as they used to, meaning people need to save that more.

Which effectively means people are likely worse off, even if this tiny rise the Tories point to is true.

Putin’s his foot in it
Putin is in trouble over his government’s recent anti-gay policies. Indeed it’s worth noting that the principle criticism of these laws is that they are so arbitrary as to be little more than a meaningless excuse for the cop’s to arrest anybody (and Putin’s passed plenty of laws like that in his time already).

His response to this international criticism, was firstly to stonewall on the issue. Putting pressure on the IOC for example to toe the line and not allow any hint of protest against this policy. This reached the absurdity in which in true soviet style a Swedish athlete was threatened with arrest for her choice of nail colourings as it was thought it might be seen as a protest. Yes, a women can’t even choose how to colour her nails under Putin’s Russia.

Realising that these heavy handed tactics weren’t working, worried how it would look with the Winter Olympics coming up, and not wanting to do a dreaded U-turn, instead he tried his best to downplay the issue. He firstly suggested that gays would be welcome at Sochi…so long as they stayed away from children (i.e. falling for the long suggested stereotype that gay’s are more likely to engage in child abuse). Then Putin suggested that he likes gays, indeed some of his best friends are gay…would those be the ones he goes out hunting in the woods with his shirt off with! :))

Of course this comes across much like the classic line “I’m not racist or anything but I was reading in the Daily Mail the other day…”. |-|

The problem for Putin’s Russia is that his long standing policy of trying to use Soviet era polices to maintain order, a sort of “Compliant Despotism” is starting to come unstuck. His reputation as incorruptible, is being exposed as a bit of a porky thanks to various leaks, notably as regards the Sochi games in fact. At $50 billion 88| it’s by far and away the most expensive games in history…or the most corrupt! Then there;s the mysterious appearance of a massive palace complex near the Black Sea.

Also Putin’s regime have not understood that while the Czar’s and KGB could just sent dissidents away on a train to Siberia, in this era of globalisation and social media, that doesn’t quite work. The arrest of dissidents from the punk band pussy riot, Greenpeace activists protesting Artic drilling and Khodorkovsky all continued to make the news long after they’d been imprisoned. The original alleged crimes they committed were rendered meaningless as their imprisonment became the story, repeated across the world repeatedly, with Putin himself being confronted by this, either through the likes of David Cameron (who is not adverse to having a few tree huggers beaten up or arrested on trumped up charges) raising it, or through the businessmen for whom he depends on pointing to it as an obstacle to investment abroad.

He managed to avoid the embarrassment of the recent release of many activists by using the cover story that it was some sort of amnesty in advance of the Sochi games (ignoring the obvious that the last thing one does if you really believe these people to be dangerous is release them from prison before a major event). However I’m wonder how he’ll handle the next similar crisis.

Raining cats…literally!
In the UK its been raining pretty hard for several weeks now. Several parts of Somerset have been turned into mini-Islands due to the level of flooding (I didn’t realise there were that many gay people in Somerset! ;D). And in Surrey it would seem the weather has run out of rain and started resorting to raining cats instead.

A mini tornado is alleged to have lifted several feral cats off their feet and dropped them again. The reports are unclear as to whether said cats still landed on their feet, or whether any dogs also fell.

Creative punishment
A policemen is in trouble having been shopped by a suspect he was transporting for driving at 140 mph on a public road.

Rather than punish this cop, I’m wondering if this is the way to deal with speeders and other nutters on the road. Put ‘em in a car, not on a public road, but say a track, something like the Nuremberg ring and have a professional driver drive then around at +140mph 88|. We’ll see if they still want to go speeding after that! 😳

Tackling the London Vortex
The Today programme on Radio 4 briefly made mention of the so-called London vacuum, whereby London sucks in all the young people from across Britain to start their careers here, with the result that a disproportionate number of UK firms are based out of London, forcing others to relocate (or set up a London office), putting enormous pressure on London public services, housing and leaving other regions of the UK chronically short of skilled workers as well as taxpaying residents.

I see this myself, as there are several high-tech start up companies the uni has dealings with who are based out of London, even thought if you think about it an industrial estate near Birmingham or Manchester would probably be a better choice of location. However, they feel obliged to base themselves in central London, as so they can attract the right staff.

Anyway what was being discussed was various ways of encouraging de-centralisation and get firms to move to other cities. This is of course one of the justifications for HS2 .

My solution would be to employ meeter’s and greeters at London’s main train stations, preferably ex-cab drivers with a good cockney accent, whose job would be to approach anyone looking like they are moving to London (be it from Manchester or Belize), grap them and start smacking them about the head while say “are you flippin mad or wha” “move to London?” “Leave you’re nan back home with no one to look after her” “you’ll never own a house, not unless you’re some wanker who works in a bank or some pampered oil sheik” “spend the rest of you’re life payin half you’re salary for a shoe box in Chelsea” “never be able to afford to go out” “spend 2 hours a day standing on the tube”…Might get the message across!

Direction Easter eggs
Here’s something to try, go to Google maps (US site), set you’re destination as “The Shire” and destination as “Mordor”, indicate you plan to walk there.

Oddly enough there are places in the US called Mordor…Republican party HQ, NSA in Fort Mead, NRA HQ, etc. ;D

Trouble on the trains

This week saw the collapse of the West coast railway contract. On the eve of a court date with Virgin boss Richard Branson, the government caved in and admitted to getting its sums wrong with the assessment of the contract. It would appear that they made a number of school boy errors….such as forgetting about inflation (important, given the effect Quantitative Easing is having on that). They didn’t consider whether all those passenger’s could fit on the West Coast line (without it being expanded, in which case what’s the point of HS2!). They also seemed to have assumed that Branson would just hand the trains over, when it seems, peeved at loosing the contract, he instead planned to sell the trains to anyone but First Group.

As I’ve described in a previous article, the current government has some serious question marks hanging over it as regards its competence. They seem to blunder from one self made crisis to another. And even when they try to do the right thing, they still screw up royal.

It is now costing the government 5 times more to subsidize the high fares “privatised” rail service today than it cost to keep running the nationalised rail service. I pointed out in a prior article that I can see two ways the railways could be fixed. The first was re-nationalisation, something which a number of commentators and the audience of Question Time this week, seemed to think was a good idea, but sadly out of the question under a Tory government. Plan B was to create a “proper” privatized rail system. This would involve making sure that there was actual competition between companies on routes and for rail franchise contracts. This would force the rail companies into a sink or swim scenario where they would have to shake up their companies (e.g. stand up to the train drivers unions, currently a train driver in the UK can earn more than a pilot!), lower ticket prices and become more competitive.

Clearly the Tory’s were angling for this second option when they awarded the contract for the West coast mainline to First Group. Clearly the intention was also to scare the other companies straight. I should note that I’ve had not entirely nice experiences on Virgin trains (they still owe me for a delayed train and a lost laptop!), but even I would question how exactly painting a different logo on the side of the trains is going to change anything. But the Tory’s it would seem couldn’t even get a simple contract bidding right.

Why I won’t be voting Tory
I won’t be voting Tory in the next election for two reasons. Firstly, they are a bunch of upper class twits who only goal is to further their own class and flog the “plebs” (that would be anyone in the UK without a mansion and a butler). The Tory’s have never cared about the deficit, the real objective behind the current austernity is that they see no reason why the taxes (that they don’t pay) should pay for things such “health care” or “education” or a “police service”.

The second reason for not voting Tory is that, even if I was a right winger and I lived in Kensington (and I’m lefty living in a working class area), the present government are, as we’d say in Scotland “a bunch of numpties”. As witnessed by the petrol strike (that wasn’t), the UKBA screw up’s regarding border staff and the universities, the GCSE results, the pastie tax, the G4S fiasco at the Olympics or how various “cuts” they’ve implemented have backfired and ended up costing the country much more than they were supposed to save. One gets the impression that David Cameron and his government couldn’t organize a piss up in a brewery.

And I would put the blame for this second point squarely on the first. Cameron, Osborne, Boris and many other members of this millionaire cabinet don’t live in the real world. The Bullingdon boy‘s are used to merely issuing instructions to some hapless underling who scurries off and see’s that his master’s will is implemented without question or criticism.

Unfortunately for the Toff’s in power right now, in the real world of government, people will question these dictates and subject the fool who proposed them to ridicule in various radio and TV comedy shows. Also in the real world, those put out by such dictates, be they low wage civil servants or multi-billionaires like Branson, don’t just curtsey and back away without making eye contact. No, in the real world they go on strike or hire an army of lawyers to get the policy changed.

Consequently I would argue that the Tory’s and their lib dem allies are unfit to rule and my advice to anyone with vaguely right wing sympathies would be to find another party to vote for come next election.

Things I missed while on Holiday

I’ve been on holiday for a few weeks with another wee break coming up. So I thought I’d comment on the stories I’ve missed while away.

Olympics closing ceremony…which I missed, which was probably just as well as it featured the spice girls, not exactly my favourite people!

Julian Assange gets Asylum – To be perfectly honest, the only asylum this guy should be in is the type that hands out strait-jackets and free drugs :DD . But as the expression goes “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you” has to apply doubly to Assange. Now on the one hand if the Swedes just issued a declaration saying that he would only be charged/interviewed with regard to the rape charge (possibly we could allow the Ecuadorian government to participate as a neutral observer). This would resolve the current crisis, but I get the impression that even this would not sufficient for Julian. On the other hand, it seems odd that such an offer hasn’t been made, which sort of suggests Julian has good reason to fear going back to Sweden as it might turn into a mere pit stop on his way to Gitmo!

Will the British police storm the embassy? I hope not or they’ll be making it open season on every UK diplomatic mission in the world. They will have set a legal precedence that the likes of Assad, Putin or Mugabe will drive a bus thro. Diplomatic immunity is a 4,000 year old tradition going back to the time of Rameses the Great. One possibility is the Ecuadorian government trying to sneak him out in the boot of a car (considered diplomatic territory) and onto a plane…one assumes the cops have a few special branch officers at Heathrow waiting to rugby tackle him as he runs from the car to the plane!

Virgin loses West Coast Train franchise – I’m not surprised by this, I’ve had many bad experiences with Virgin (and I’m still waiting for my refund btw). Branson said he’d run it like an airline. Unfortunately he succeeded. They seemed to have turned the West Coast line into a case of Ryanair service for British Airways prices.

Will First Group do any better? Hardly! As I’ve discussed before the problems with rail travel in the UK are more fundamental, i.e. we have a “fake” private rail system that needs more in subsidies than British Rail pre-privatisation needed. Changing the livery on the side of the train or the coffee cups isn’t going to achieve a thing.

Neil Armstrong Dies – The first man on the moon makes his final “giant leap”. He was the perfect guy for the job. What many people don’t know was that things started to go badly wrong in the last few minutes of the moon landing. The LEM’s computer crashed unexpectedly due to the volume of data coming in and the astronauts realised they were heading for a dangerous boulder field. The manual said in such a scenario they should abort, but Neil switched the LEM into manual mode and with the guidance and help of Aldrin, he got the LEM down on the ground with seconds of fuel left remaining (both have often wondered if anyone goes back to the moon could they check the tanks and see how much fuel was actually left!). He and Aldrin were in essence the right people in the right place at the right time.

That said, Armstrong represented a different era of America. The US space program is caught in the doldrums, with no manned launched capability nor clear mission. It is possible that private space launchers will, as Obama hopes, provide a service. But that to me is a bit of a gamble. In any event I would argue the current world priority in space should be science missions, such as a new generation of space telescopes and long range space probes (notably to Jupiter and its moons). At some future date, the time will come for further manned missions, both to the moon and Mars (to stay perhaps?). But its pure speculation how long it will take for that day to arrive. Neil Armstrong might be remembered more as our “Eric the Red” rather than “Christopher Colombus” in that it might be centuries before anyone goes back to the moon again.

What happens in Vegas….well I’m quite sure the Royals would like to add “…stays in Vegas”. Unfortunately the tabloid press would disagree. The newspapers initially agreed to keep the photos of a naked prince Harry under raps…of course they forgot about this thing called “the internet”. Here’s a link if you’ve missed it. The Sun tried to portray its decision to publish as a moral one regarding press freedom and striking against censorship. Ya right! If that’s so I dare the Sun to publish those cartoons of Mohammed? Or how about pictures of the Tienanmen square massacre? (Murdoch’s been cosying up to the Chinese for years) Or how about those pictures of Bush doing coke? The only reason why the Sun published them is because they were salivating at the cash they could pull in.

I also did see this odd article on the Beeb which tried to suggest it was normal for people to take their clothes off when they were drunk. I’m Irish and therefore I think I can call myself an expert on drunken activity and while it happens to some people it is certainly not “normal” in anyway. Generally if you find yourself starkers you’ve either drunk way too much or have had your drink spiked, or simply can’t handle you’re liquor.

Lance Armstrong gives up fight against drug allegations – Meanwhile another Armstrong appears to be in trouble. Lance Armstrong appears to have decided to stop trying to defend himself against doping allegations. While he’s not admitted to anything, this has quite serious implications.

It essentially means that between 2010 and the last win by Miguel Indurain in 1995 every single tour winner has had either been disqualified or had some cloud of doubt placed over his win. Indeed numerous winners in the pre-Indurain era (its widely believed that Indurain had a natural physical advantage compared to other cyclists and that if he was taking drugs, then he was an idot!) are also under suspicion, right back to Eddy Merchx (Merchx regularly won stages by a margin of ten minutes or more, so again if he was taking drugs, he was an idot!).

Indeed if the authorities do decide to strip Armstrong of his titles they are left with the problem of who to award them too, as a number of the 2nd and 3rd place finishers behind him are also at the centre of various doping controversies.

This to me is the real problem with drug taking in sports, it ruins things. Sure the athlete gets the medals and the sponsorship endorsements, but we’re left speculated over who would have actually won a clean race. Take the example of the women’s 100m final in Sydney, where the top two athletes have since tested positive, as also happened with the men’s 100m in 1988 (while Johnson got caught, allegations have swirled since then regarding Carl Lewis). Then there was all that speculation over a Chinese swimmer during the Olympics, and I’m sure some are even wondering about whether Phelps performance was “enhanced” in some way. Like I said it ruins the sport.

To my mind, the solution is simple – take the money out of sports. Athletes can only participate in major events such as the Olympics or Tour de France if they agree to some sort of wage cap on earnings. An athlete who knows that once their sporting career is over that they’ll have to go out and get a job is less likely to cheat.

Alternatively its a case of throwing in the towel, accepting the fact that athletes are going to dope, but instead trying to manage the problem, i.e. make it legal, if carried out under careful supervision. Naturally, some athletes will choose not to dope, but this could be solved by using a handicap system (doped athletes have to wear a belt of small weights, or have several seconds added to their time).

Wheels Come off Ron Paul’s “delegate strategy” – One story I covered a while ago was the “undemocratic” tactics of Ron Paul’s Tea Party supporters (often referred to as “Paulestinians” within the Republican party). They had been planning to rig the delegates who went to the up coming Republican National Convention. They would then vote for Ron Paul, even though the state they represented may well have voted for Romney (oddly enough internal rules of the Republican party allowed this). Unsurprisingly, the GOP leadership has now closed this absurd loophole and the “Paulestinians” are going nuts about it.

Now while I’m no fan of Romney nor the Republican party, what Ron Paul and his cult of personality were up too was an attempt to circumvent the democratic process. This I would argue disqualifies him and his Tea Party supporters from holding high office, as like the nazi’s or many religious fundamentalist parties, they clearly see the democratic process as merely a means to an end. How ironic that Ron Paul is constantly going on about liberty when he and his supporters seem to be dead set at denying millions of their fellow conservatives their liberty.

Micheal D Higgins take down of Tea Party goes viral – Speaking of the Tea party, about a year or two ago, Micheal D. Higgins, Ireland’s new president, had a debate with a Tea Party loon and basically knocked chucks out of him. It has recently gone viral over the internet.

I think what this demonstrates is the vast gulf between politicians in Europe and those in the US. Can anyone see a politician like Higgins, a heavy weight intellectual, a poet laureate and a writer winning an election in the US? No chance!America, and increasingly the UK, is run by handsome millionaire politicians whose main election strength is their ability to pose in front of a camera. Party conferences are increasingly not about meeting and discussing policies but presentation and spin. Is it any wonder that the world is in the mess its in when photogenic politicians get elected in place of people with something resembling “intelligence”.

The Euro crisis….rumbles on, nuff said! The problem is as more political than economic and until the politicians, notably Merkel, get their finger out of their ass, nothing will get done and it will just keep going from bad to worse. At some point soon its likely the euro will be beyond saving, I’m sort of hoping an election in Germany or an asteroid hit (in Athens or Berlin) or something else (revolution or a military coup in a eurozone country?) comes along to save the continent in time.

Operation Liberal Shield at an end?

Meanwhile….back in Westminster, behind the Beach Volleyball court (odd that the government agreed to that! I hope the sight of pretty ladies in bikini’s out the back window isn’t detracting any civil servants too much), the UK coalition government is under serious threat. The planned reforms of the house of Lords has been dropped, largely as a result of Pimms swilling Tories who baulked at the prospect of an elected 2nd chamber, which would inevitably see commoners (too them the great unwashed) floating around. As a consequence, Nick Clegg has accused the Tory’s of breaking the coalition contract. It would seem the Lib Dems are about to go rogue (or finally growing a spine!), with suggestions that they will vote against efforts to change electoral boundaries.

This is a bit more serious that it would seem at first glance. We have coalition governments all the time in Ireland, and based on my experience of such coalitions, I’d say, unless the Tory’s can very quickly charm the lib dems back to the table, we’re now a year or less away from an election. Once these sorts of tit for tat bouts between ruling parties starts, it generally grows (as politicians on both sides build up resentment and mistrust), until eventually the government looses a vote of no confidence and an election is called.

Up until now, the Tories have been operating according to a plan, critics call, Operation Liberal Shield, where their buddies in the right wing media blame everything that goes wrong (even if its ultimately a Tory policy that’s at fault) on Nick Clegg and the lib dems. This has meant, as local elections have shown, that the lib dems have been the biggest losers in terms of public support and are likely facing annihilation come next election.

However there is an important dynamic at work which the Tories are neglecting. It means the lib dems know they now have nothing to loose. If there’s is an election, while yes they know they’ll likely get wiped out, that will probably happen regardless of the timing of the election, so they’ve every incentive to grab the Troy’s by the ankles and dragging them down with them. This is not an unusual occurrence in a coalition in other countries, when the junior party realizes they’ve little to gain any more from cooperation (indeed that’s the problem, there is no cooperation anymore!), ultimately then bringing about the downfall of the larger ruling party and an election where both parties are generally punished at the polls.

Consequently, the Tories now have three choices. Firstly, go to the country now while post-Olympic euphoria is at a high. Of course the risk with an election now (current opinion poll status of the party’s here), is they will loose seats, lead to a hung parliament with the Tories lacking a majority, nor any party willing to go into coalition with them, thus a rainbow coalition led by labour is the likely outcome.

So option two is, in order to keep the lib dems sweet, they drop one or two policy’s and let the lib dems have their way on a few things (gay marriage seems like a likely option, reimposing the 50p tax or a similar “rich tax”, ditching nuclear power another). Of course the problem with this strategy is that David Cameron’s control over his own back bencher’s (as revealed by their rebellion over lords reform, or any matter relating to Europe) is tenuous at best. Cameron could risk splitting his own party with such a strategy.

Which brings us to option number three, the default option I suspect that will be taken. The Tory’s continue with “operation liberal shield” in the face of a lib dem party that is increasingly willing to vote down Tory policy’s (the Mail’s nickname for Clegg could soon be Dr No) which will enviably mean institutional paralysis, until sooner or later it gets put out of its misery by labour (or Vince Cable!).

New Olympic Sports?

One thing I was surprised by was the lack of any new sports introduced during these Olympics, again I wonder if this is more thrifty government penny pinching at work.

Cricket
Now, its not my cup of tea, but it beggars belief that the brit’s won’t introduce a sport like Cricket (I mean its not as if the country is short of cricket grounds to host the tournament!) While it mightn’t be as popular in the UK as it used to be, its practically the national sport in India, Pakistan and the West Indies. It clearly meets the criteria of being played on all five continents, and would be very popular in many countries (again, like India) who normally don’t pay attention to the Olympics.

Rugby
Okay, again, not my cup of tea, as I never went to a public school (thank fuck for that!). But again, a very popular sport with many, a sport with a large worldwide audience and one where the Brit’s stand a good chance of getting a medal (and Ireland too!).

Rock climbing, Bouldering & Fell running
my own particular sport is mountaineering, arguably a winter sport when its snowing…or a water sport when its raining! Now while its not the sort of sport you give out medals for (surviving and getting to the pub okay is the reward, so the medal would likely have to be a pint of Larger or wheat beer for the winner, pint of white lighting for 2nd place and a pint of bitter for 3rd).

But there are one or two sub sets of mountaineering that easily translate into an Olympics friendly sport. Sports climbing (indoors on a climbing wall), speed climbing (two climbers set off and race each other up a climbing route) or bouldering (short distance climbing without a rope, you never get more than a few feet off the ground, but the moves are often harder…..as in you’re hanging upside down by your arms sometimes!). In all cases its a combination of dexterity, strength and intelligence. While its a relatively niche sport, it does have a worldwide following and its a great spectator sport, so it meets all the relevant criteria. Again, fell running (essentially running up a mountain and back down again), while not exactly my cup of tea either, but its a good spectator sport.

Motorsports?
One of the things I’ve never understood about the Olympics is having Dressage and Show Jumping, but not motor-sports? I mean all the rider does is sit on the horse, surely the horse should get the medal? Now you might well argue that all a guy on, say, a superbike, just sits there, but actually motorsports is a fairly physical sport, both from the high G forces experienced, but also with sports like bike racing the need to maintain balance. So I would argue that if the horses stay, then equally we need to introduce some motorsports.

Admittedly, there is the issue of technology, who wins at formula one is as much about the car as it is the driver (a bad driver can’t win, even with the best car possible, but the best driver in the world would still struggle to win in a bad car). So you’d need to correct that by giving all drivers a standard car of some sorts. It would also make sense to stick to things like Superbikes or Rally cars, as they are relatively cheap (compared to Formula one!) and can take place on an open country circuit.

Which sports should be dropped?
Of course, talking about new sports, brings up the topic of what sports to get rid of. Softball and baseball were dropped some time ago. Is it perhaps time to get rid of Handball? I mean what’s the point of it? (I caught a game awhile ago, Argentina were playing, and I was surprised to see Maradona not on the team!). As I mentioned already, if motorsports are seen as beyond the Pale, then Dressage and all the Horsing around should go also. Then there’s diving, I mean either ditch this or introduce a new category for bombing! And how about indoor Volleyball? There’s already Beach Volleyball, why two types? (mind you, beach volleyball’s only being in the schedule because soft porn isn’t an actual sport!).

Olympic Coverage
And while we’re talking about it, then there’s the Beeb’s coverage of the Olympics. As a neutral I’m more interested in the actual sports, whereas the Beeb seem to be more interested in running montages and tributes to British athletes. I mean, they’ll spending 30 minutes talking about Jessica Ennis, then ideally mention that someone else just broke a world record, won a gold medal, all time best ever, etc., now lets get back to that action replay of Ennis sneezing.

Now, okay, the Irish do tend to go on a lot about our athletes, but in between they do sort of see the point in showing some sports action. They’ll even show medal ceremonies in which no Irish athletes get a medal at (gasp!). The Beeb just don’t seem to have their priorities straight.

The Olympic Hydrogen SAPS

In a previous comment I mentioned how the government had closed down the filling station, near the Olympic park that was refueling the Olympic fleet of hydrogen powered taxi’s, due to “security concerns”. Instead they’d taken to sending the taxi’s on a 150 mile round trip (on the back of a lorry!) to Swindon to be filled up. Now I’m all one for the environment, but it would be cheaper and produce less carbon emissions if they just switched to standard taxis.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-19049209

However, it gets worse. I was moving cylinders of hydrogen over the week and it was pointed out to me that the safest place for the hydrogen is within the fuel tanks of the cars. Why? Because they are ballistic tanks made from Kevlar. Consequently if any wannabe Jihadi did decide to try shooting up the hydrogen tanks, in all probability the major safety risk would be the risk of him being hit by the bullets ricocheting off the tanks!

Also, as I’ve pointed out before, hydrogen isn’t as dangerous as you’d think, as it tends to burn upwards (while petrol is a liquid and can stick to surfaces when it burns). Indeed tests comparisons have generally concluded that these kevlar reinforced hydrogen tanks are safer than gasoline tanks.

The bulk of the casualties from the Hindenburg were probably the result of falls and the fire spreading to the diesel tanks, or crew high up in the ship at their landing posts. Its likely the crew of Challenger survived the explosion of the shuttle’s hydrogen tanks, only to expire as a result of the sudden drop in air pressure (inexplicably in these early shuttle missions, they didn’t wear space suits!) or the impact with the ocean several minutes later. Consequently if this hydrogen garage is too dangerous, then every garage within 5 miles of an Olympic venue should also now be shut for the duration of the games (hint, that would close most of the ones in London!).

So in short, what happened here was some ill informed, inept, safe-ass, who’d watched one too many James bond films (and thinks that hydrogen tanks blow up in a massive spectacular fireball) decided that the hydrogen fuel station was dangerous and closed it all down. He/they clearly did not consult with anyone who actually knew anything about hydrogen, they just made an arbitrary heavy handed decision and not wanting to loose face tacked on this ridiculous policy of shipping the taxi’s around by truck. Again, it is a classic case of SAPS (Save Ass Policy Scheme) in action.

The Shambles of Stratford Common

Firstly to any foreigner, notably Americans, who didn’t understand the opening ceremony, read this: “the Johnny foreigners guide to British humour“.

It would seem that Dan Boyle’s opening ceremony was not to the liking of the Tories, apparently some Tory peer described it as “leftie multicultural rubbish”. I presume he was pissed off by the tribute to the NHS, or the fact Chakrabarti (founder of Liberty) was seen carrying the Olympic flag. I thought to myself, well how could we make it too his liking? perhaps by getting it to pay tribute to some Tory policies.

Of course many Tory policies aren’t the sort you’d want to celebrate in front of a international audience (I doubt the Argie’s would be happy with a renactment of the sinking of the Belgrano, or the Germans with the Dambusters march). So I suppose we could have had a scene which re-enacts Thatcher stealing milk off of children? Or how about a lot of bankers dressed as pigs swilling around in vast trough of money like some sort of freak Dita Von Teese tribute act? Or how about “Porky” Pickles kicking disabled people out of wheel chairs? Or Osborne whipping Pasties out of the mouths of builders? Rather than Mr Bean we could have Harry Enfield doing one of his characters (Loadsa Money or Considerably richer, but not Tim-nice-but-dim, as Boris has sort of stolen that act, while David Cameron seems to be in the process of stealing “you-don’t-want-to-do-it-like-that….”), or have a scene where Jimmy Carr is cramming bank notes under a carpet….in the shape of Jersey! The simple fact is, the Tories, aka “the Nasty party” haven’t really done a lot to be proud of.

But it wasn’t just Tories who didn’t “get” the opening ceremony. NBC in America cut the tribute to the July 7th victims, presumably because the director was Muslim (they no doubt assumed he must be promoting terrorism rather than condemning it! I wonder if anyone’s tried the trick of selling them tower bridge).

Ticketing

But of course the big story so far, aside from a lack of British medals, is rows and rows of empty seats in some venues. I seem to recall predicting this months ago. Much like the Chinese, the British have been forced to draught in the army and teachers (again clearly this is a panicky reaction, as the Tory’s are just guessing that teachers have nothing to do over the summer….ah no!). So we’ve seen a lot of bored squadies for example showing up at the Gymnastics events (hint, Army squaddies aren’t that interested in Gymnastics, shooting, archery, wrestling, boxing, etc., yes! But not gymnastics….navy boy’s might be interested…if you know what I mean!). And it is not really surprising we’ve seen this given the Byzantine system of ticket allocation and booking that the organizers set up.

Take my example, I never booked tickets myself because when the ballot went through I had no idea what I’d be doing come the games, and I baulked at some of the ticket prices and the forms that had to be filled in. And of course the ballot meant I could wind up with thousands of pounds worth of tickets which I might not be able to pay for and ultimately not be able to attend (depending on my circumstances come games time). And I don’t seem to be alone, as a couple of comments on the Beeb (or indeed any major news outlet) shows.

Now while I can see the concept of a ballot for people who are mega organised, but the bulk of tickets should have the distributed the same way you distribute tickets for anything else – put them on sale at a price people can afford to pay. A price window of say, £10 to £35 is well within the income of practically everyone in the country, so tickets on general sale at that price would ultimately have sold out.

Furthermore, in order to get around the problem of people booking tickets and not attending, then you would have a condition attached to the ticket that any “no shows” or failure to return the ticket in advance (say at least 48 hours) would result in a fine being imposed (say twice the ticket’s face value, so if you bought a ticket for £15 and failed to show up you’d get no refund and another £30 charged to you’re credit card). This is similar to a policy used in sports, including my sport of mountaineering, where you sometimes get problems with people booking, say mountain huts, and then never showing up, generally because they got put off by a bit of snow or rain (leaving those who couldn’t book forced to sleep outside in the snow!). While policies vary (unfortunately some clubs turn a blind eye to it, notably the French alpine huts) many will fine you for a “no show” or if it happens more than once, they’ll not take any further bookings for you or you’re club (and cancel all you outstanding bookings, and likely call you a big girls blouse on the phone!). One or other of these conditions would easily get around the problem of people booking tickets and not showing up.

Furthermore, everybody means everybody! The bulk of those empty seats seem to be those allocated to Olympic officials, the media and corporate sponsors. Now while the IOC and corporations seem to be pointing the finger at each other, clearly the buck stops with one of these two groups. And again, the simplest solution would have been to make clear to all groups that fines would be applied if they failed to fill seats, or hand back tickets well in advance.

Indeed, I wonder if the large number of tickets that the IOC and corporations were awarded which aren’t been taken up may have something to do with the fact that one or two of these were caught by the media trying to sell Olympic tickets on the black market, earlier in the year. My suspicion is that quite a few corporate sponsors and IOC cronies got there hands on lots of tickets that they never planned on using, but instead selling on the black market, but when they realized that the British tabloid media were on the prowl on this matter (and that some of they’re potential buyers were likely to be undercover journalists), they stopped trying to sell them, hence the empty seats.

Queues, Queues, Q’s?

Then there’s the food shortages at some venues and the long queues for drinks fountains. This can be blamed squarely on the draconian security measures being imposed, due to the government’s fear that someone wannabe jihadi will attempt a suicide attack armed with a tuna sandwich and a squirty bottle of water. Inevitably, you have people stuck in a venue for hours, you don’t let them bring in enough food and water, what are they going to do? Go looking for water/food! Do you think the authorities would therefore lay on more food/water to cope? Fat chance! That would be thinking!

But no doubt the government will warn, but what if that bottle of water turned out to be a bomb? As I’ve pointed out before, and The register deals with here, all this hype about liquid bombs is just media paranoia that anyone who knows anything remotely about chemistry can debunk (while I’m an engineer, not a chemist I know enough about the topic to see the obvious flaw in the gov’s paranoia). There are good practical reasons why the military or industrial users of explosives prefer to use solid explosives – because they are easier to handle and “safer” (i.e. they don’t go off except when they are supposed too, in war its most unprofessional to kill you’re own men, its considered far more sporting to let the enemy do that!). Also, liquid explosives (or flammable liquids in general) tend to come with very pungent odors, as anyone whose ever handled acetone, hydrogen peroxide or hydrazine will know (i.e. they stink to high heaven and in some cases the vapours are actually toxic!). Indeed, even petrol or kerosene stinks. Is someone seriously going to tell me that some Jihadi (likely covered in chemical burns and puking his guts up from the fumes) is going to sneak something like this through security in a little plastic bottle? No chance!

Government by SAPS

Ultimately what we see here is an example of trying to run something by committee. A group of ill informed save-ass types make a arbitrary decision more to cover themselves than anything (what I refer to as Save Ass Policy Scheme or SAPS for short), which has huge knock on effects, which they are then left to deal with later, by the usual running around in a last minute panic.

Ryanair fills their planes, hotels regularly achieve near full capacity in high season and numerous music venues regularly sell out acts that most of us would rather eat the album cover than attend (such as Madonna!). If they can do it, really, selling out the Olympics should be a no brainer!

Study in Britain – Home of Bungling government

A few weeks ago the Home Office Minster made a speech encouraging foreign students from beyond the EU to come to the UK to study….and many lecturer’s like me responded by shouting the bloody check of ya!

Since coming to power the UK government have gone completely Daily Mail on students and have cracked down hard on them with all sorts of new rules being imposed. Right now we’re being asked to carefully monitor students and we’re supposed to know where they are at all times (just a reminder we’re talking about students here, at home in bed or playing X-box! I think 70% of the time would be an accurate answer and the rest of the time the answer would be “down the pub”). If we fail to do it the uni can loose its UKBA license, which given how UK universities have become dependent on the financial contributions from foreign students, this has serious financial implications.

Now that said there are situations where uni’s have been rightly caught out, Glasgow Calley for example, while the University of Wales was caught out running a fake degree and visa scam. But even so the UKBA needs to cut us some slack and realise that not every student coming to Britain is a Terrorist/Illegal migrant. I think its fair to assume for example that Masters and PhD students (who we’re having to meet weekly and fill out forms to record what they are doing) can be trusted not to have entered the country just to get a job flipping burgers. After all they already have degrees and could get a good well paid job back home. Even if they wanted to get a job here, they’d probably not find it hard to get a company to sponsor a working visa application, so why waste time and money sneaking into the country on a student visa?

Similarly, a number of our undergrad students are here having paid many tens of thousands of pounds a year to come here and study. I think its reasonable to assume that someone whose paid that much money, isn’t going to squander it by getting a low paid permanent job (they are it should be noted often entitled to work a limited number of part time hours). Now, granted students who clearly aren’t showing up too class or applying themselves and we clearly get the impression that they are here to either party or work should be followed up, but its a matter of taking it on a case by case basis, whereas the UKBA seem to want us to treat alls foreign students as potential fence jumpers (guilty until proven innocent).

Of course this has meant that many of these students have tweeted home to their buddies not to come to the UK to study. Foreign student numbers are apparently down significantly which could leave a gap in the budgets of many universities, something that could be made worse if, as widely expected, the government’s rise in Tuition fees also puts off home students from attending university. Apparently most universities are planning around the assumption of less first year students next semester. Of course once those universities start making layoffs, then we’re going to see an immediate knock effect into the wider economy.

Government by Bungling
In essence, what we’re seeing here is another example of the current government’s policy of governing by bungling and basically creating a crisis, then go running around in a panic with you’re hair on fire while trying to improvise a hasty solution.

Typically the government will do something, often penny-pinching to “cut costs”, such as cutting back on immigration staff at the UK border, then realise they’ve not got enough to cover the Olympics, queue panic as more temporary staff are drafted in, existing staff forced to work longer hours on overtime pay (costing the government more than its saving) and finally said remaining staff get sick of being treated like a commodity and go on strike.

Or in another example, the government advises G4S to go skimpy on wages to security staff at the Olympics, with the result that they fail to hire enough staff (ask yourself, if you’re a trained security guard and you can get, say £10 a hour guarding a local Salisbury’s, or £7 guarding the Olympics, which would you rather do?) and the army and police have to be drafted in, over stretching two forces that the government also plans to cut the numbers of (how fortunate for them that the army and police can’t go on strike also). Or how about that submarine that got grounded up on Skye and had to be rescued by a boat the government had just cut funding for and they had too hire out again! And let’s not even mention the mess regarding the petrol tanker strikes that ultimately never was.

Of course oddly enough for a government supposedly committed to cutting public spending the government has recently been spending money like a sailor on shore leave. They’ve announced many new improvements to the railway lines, new nuclear reactors, an airport in the Thames estuary and now a whopping £50 Billion in cash for no specific purpose.

What’s going on here is that the austerity measures taken after coming to power have started to slow the economy, driving us into recession and this has meant tax receipts are now falling. Already the signs are the government is going to have to borrow more in future, essentially proving that the government has made the deficit worse not better by its policy of austerity (as I warned would happen last year). Aware of this, and also aware that if such facts were to become obvious to the public that the Labour Party would be laughing all the way to Downing street come next election. The result is a panicky scramble by the government to essentially throw money at any project with enough zero’s behind it as part of a desperate effort to jump start a haemorrhaging economy.

Its a case of the government costing the country millions due to its miserly efforts to save a few penny’s. These “thrift” people cost themselves more money than they save! Nick Clegg and David Cameron are starting too look like an extended version of Laurel and Hardy, I’m just waiting for Cameron to turn to Clegg and say “now that’s another fine mess you’ve…” while Clegg starts fiddling with his hair and crying.

So I’ve a suggestion to the government – from now on before you cut anything or bring in a radical new policy, pause for 5 minutes and think, why did the previous governments (both Tory and Labour) do it this way? Why did the UKBA seemingly have all these extra passport officers that they maybe didn’t have working at 100% hours all the time (to insure cover in peak times?). Why should private security staff be paid more? (cos then they might show up for work!). Why did the previous government go for Jump Jet’s off the carriers and want long range maritime patrol aircraft? (cos they though that come an actually shooting war it might be useful to have some kit that worked and was in service rather than some photoshoped images of stuff they’d like to get in a few years time).

A lot of the time I suspect you’ll find there’s a good reason to leave things well alone.

Home Advantage

So with the Olympics just around the corner no doubt the UK’s athletes are limbering up to get going….at least those lucky enough to have been selected! There have been some claims however that the British team have been a bit harsh in their selection standards. Its been claimed that they’ve pushed the bar too high, well above the minimum standards required by the International Olympic committee, as well as being extremely inconsistent (i.e. rigidly applying the rules with one sport, yet bending them to let in a no-hoper in another discipline).

For example, despite they’re being several athletes within the qualifying time for the women’s 800m only one will be running in it. This is due to the fact that the selection committee made some arbitrary discussion that the one women selected, Lindsey Sharp was “on form” but because she was only a grade B athlete, the IOC rules said a mixed team of B’s and A’s (which included the three other women who had run faster times) could not be submitted. So in essence 3 A class athletes were sacrificed for one B class athlete. Similarly Richard Kilty (men’s 200m runner) has been left out in the cold despite achieving the A class time.

Now if it was Ireland hosting the Olympics I guarantee you anybody who could run the 800m, or 200m and make the qualifying time (down hill with a tailwind! :DD) would be selected and stuff the IOC rules! I mean what are they going to do, move the Olympics to France with a week to go?

I suppose I have to ask the question as too whether this is another sign of our miserly government trying to save the pennies by cutting the number of athletes, despite having spend many billions on the Olympics to begin with?

On the other hand, the athlete they don’t want competing, Dwain “druggie” Chambers, is still on the team. If they can make such arbitrary decisions for one athlete, why not another? Again this won’t be a problem in any other country. In Ireland, it would be made clear that he was persona-non-Grata and that every possible barrier would be put in place to stop him competing (and I mean we’d lay the concrete in his lane just before he started running sort of stuff! :))). He would not get sponsorship (it would also be made clear to any potential sponsor that they so much as gave him a pair of trainers and they could expect a very in-depth tax audit next year).

I think it hasn’t clicked with the Brits yet that host nations take home cricket score worth of medals, not because they’re athletes magically run faster at the Olympics just because they’re being held in East London (then again, I’d run faster in East London, only way to stay one step ahead of the locals!), but because these nations have taken advantage of, well home advantage. That means bending the rules here and there as necessary.

I’m not saying ye should cheat or anything. But gently bending the rules to give your athletes every possible chance. Other host nations have done far worse in the past, and gotten away with it. For example, in the Moscow Olympics there were two large doors at the end of the stadium that always seemed to be open when a Soviet athlete was throwing the Javelin or Discus. There are rumours abound that a number of US athletes (including Flo-Jo who ran the fastest ever 100m in 1988, tho she only won sliver in 1982) either got caught doing drugs, or missed one too many tests in the lead up to the games (which effectively counts as a fail) but fortunately the evidence to prove this got “accidentally” destroyed by a US Olympic official (I mean how easy is it to get a fax machine and a shredder mixed up! :>>). The Australians and Chinese made sure their aquatics centre’s and cycling tracks were open well in advance of the games, to give they’re athletes plenty of time to train on them, and “learn” the route.

But trust the British to screw things up and go all honest. Just don’t be crying come mid-August when you’re left with a handful of medals to show for it all.