Manchester United v Liverpool

I wasn’t going to write about this seeing that I’m not sure how many of my readers follow football, but The Old Batsman – who is usually more at home writing about cricket – has touched on it so I have changed my mind.  I’m talking, of course, about Manchester United’s scoreless draw away against Liverpool last Monday evening.

After the match everybody – Liverpool and Man Utd fans alike – panned Jose Mourinho for his “negative” tactics and making the game as boring as hell.  Which surprised me a bit, because I watched the whole 90 minutes and I found it very entertaining.

Let’s switch sports for a second.  Back in June the England rugby union team played Australia in Melbourne in the second of a three test series.  England went into the match 1-0 up having won the first test, and if they won in Melbourne they would clinch the series.  England prevailed 23-7 but for most of the second half Australia were within a converted try of England and unleashed wave after wave of attacking play which England were forced to defend against.  To somebody watching the match hoping to see plenty of tries it must have been a pretty dull affair: the second half was basically a row of fifteen plus phases of non-stop tackling, mostly around the ruck.  For me, I was just pleased with the result (to see why a Wales supporter would be pleased, read this).  A week later I was sat with a friend of mine in Exeter listening to the third test on the radio.  He asked me what the second test had been like and I said “It was good, but it was mainly just England making tackle after tackle to keep the Australians out.”  My friend, who used to be a pretty handy openside flanker in his youth, said “That’s the kind of rugby I like!  I don’t mind watching that!”

I mention this because it serves to illustrate why I enjoyed the Liverpool v Man Utd match and nobody else did.  If you wanted to see fast, attacking football with lots of goals then yes, it was boring.  But for me it was a fascinating example of what to do when you’re facing a better opponent away from home.  Before the match everyone was speaking as if the result was a foregone conclusion in favour of Liverpool.  They had won their previous four matches 2-1, 5-1, 3-0, 2-1, and 4-1.  They’d scored 16 goals in their last 5 games, conceding 4.  They were a team that was settled and had found form under Jurgen Klopp who played a high-up-the-pitch pressing style which their opponents found hard to deal with.

Manchester United, by contrast, were a side that wasn’t settled: Mourinho didn’t know what his best XI was, Paul Pogba was struggling to justify his hefty price tag, and club favourite Wayne Rooney was looking more and more like losing his first team spot.  They’d drawn against Stoke City and lost to Watford, and had been comprehensively outplayed by Manchester City.

So what was Mourinho supposed to do?  If he’d turned up at Anfield determined to play fast, attacking football Liverpool would have been 3-0 up by half time.  Instead he instructed his players simply to disrupt everything Liverpool did, stop them from playing, and hope somehow they can snatch a goal from somewhere.  Jamie Carragher – no fool he when it comes to football analysis – said before the game on Sky Sports that this is what Mourinho would do because he did the same thing against Liverpool when he was Chelsea manager two years before.  So knowing what to expect, I watched the match unfold and enjoyed it.

Something else annoyed me, though.  Not the Liverpool fans complaining about Manchester United’s tactics: sure, they’d be delighted if Man Utd came to attack and got thumped, that goes without saying.  Mourinho’s job is not to keep Liverpool fans entertained and happy.  It was the Manchester United fans – an unlikeable lot at the best of times, mostly – that irritated me.  The BBC and Twitter feeds were alive with people harking back to the glory days of Alex Ferguson and how he wouldn’t have come to Anfield with this attitude.

Which is bollocks.  I must have watched pretty much every Man Utd v Liverpool match since 1996, with a gap between 2006-2010 when I was in Sakhalin sans television.  At that stage of the season, with the disparity between the sides, and with the previous results as they were Ferguson would have been perfectly satisfied with a 0-0 draw.  Sure his tactics might have been different, but the idea that Ferguson used to take on Liverpool and outplay them to a victory every year is revisionist nonsense.  Between 1996 and 2013, Man Utd played Liverpool 39 times, losing 9 of them and drawing 5.  The 2005/6 season saw Liverpool and Man Utd play out a 0-0 draw at Anfield.  Ferguson might have had success against Liverpool, including at Anfield, but it was never a foregone conclusion and from what I remember it was usually pretty hard work.  And bear in mind that Ferguson’s sides by and large dominated the Premier League and Liverpool rarely did anything in that era.  Yet in 2008/9 Liverpool came to Old Trafford and walked away 4-1 winners.  It was never plain sailing.

In summary, any Man Utd fan who is criticising Mourinho for his tactics last Monday night needs to grow up a bit.

Walloons good, English bad

Plucky little Wallonia, a French-speaking part of Belgium, is threatening to derail years of negotiations between the EU and Canada by refusing to agree to a new trade deal.  Apparently, under Belgium’s constitution, the Wallonians Walloons (thanks, dearieme) have a right to do this.  EU leaders are now falling over themselves to get to Namur, where the hold-outs have their gang hut, in order to persuade them to come on board.

One is permitted to contrast the reaction of the EU leadership towards Wallonia in the past few days with their reaction towards Britain voting to leave the EU and, prior to that, Prime Minster David Cameron’s attempt to get some concessions ahead of the vote.  One would have thought that accommodating a country of 60m people would be of greater importance than a region of 3.5m to the EU, but obviously it’s not.  To see why we first need to look at an Forbes article on the subject written by Tim Worstall, who speculates as to why the Walloons have rejected the deal:

There are some out there who are simply hostile to the idea of any trade deals at all. This is an undercurrent in left wing and environmental politics over here. There are actually people so deluded about economics that they think that trade is something bad, to be avoided. Goods and services should be locally produced and locally consumed. Economies should be small and self-contained. Yes, I know, it’s an absurdity but it’s a very real current in European politics. The various Green parties near all sign up to this idea as do all too many unthinking leftists. They’re all failing to see that it is trade with its attendant division and specialisation of labour which make us all so much richer than our peasant forefathers.

We then need to look at a post on another blog which I now rather embarrassingly cannot find (I thought it was at Nourishing Obscurity, but I haven’t been able to locate it).  It was a photo taken in Brussels of a street sign which bore the name Salvador Allende Square.  As the blogger noted, if places are being named after communists in non-communist countries, that tells you a lot about the local politics.  France is no different: the Parisian suburb of Montreuil has an Avenue du Président Salvador Allende.  Lyon has a Salvador Allende Tram stop, and Nanterre a Salvador Allende public car park.  Paris also has a Karl Marx college.  The city of Brussels even has a tribute to Salvador Allende on their webpage.

Time of for an anecdote.  I have an acquaintance here in Paris who worked through from the 1970s to early 2000s for EDF, the French state power company.  He told me the company was “openly communist”, which I took to mean the management and employees were either communists or communist sympathisers.  Because of EDF’s nuclear expertise, my acquaintance used to travel to the USSR, North Korea, and other communist states to share nuclear technology.  He told me he went as a visitor to the top-secret bomb-making facilities in the Soviet Union where there were portraits of the Rosenburgs on the wall.  I’ve included this anecdote just for fun.

The point is that Belgium, France, and many other European countries are far more left-wing than England is.  I say England because Scotland, and to a lesser extent Wales, are more left-leaning than England but even they are not as left-wing as places like France.  In France, the Socialist party holds power and is being challenged from the left by a Communist party.  By contrast, the communists in England consist of a gaggle of clowns who think the Soviet Union is still in existence, and the socialists under the banner of Labour only managed electoral success when they shifted rightwards.  When Labour ran as socialists under Neil Kinnock they were roundly rejected by the electorate.  Britain’s most successful post-war Prime Minister in terms of time in office was the decidedly anti-communist Margaret Thatcher and the second was Tony Blair who the left-wing hated for abandoning socialist principles.  Now Labour is being led by socialists and communists and they are a laughing stock who stand zero chance of attaining power unless they ditch this lot for some who are much further to the right.  The only place in London bearing Karl Marx’s name is his grave.  The closest we have to Salvador Allende avenues in the UK are places named after Nelson Mandela which lefty councils foisted upon cities during the apartheid struggles.

And this is why the EU leadership – particularly the French and some Belgians – cannot stand Britain: we are right-wingers who lean towards free markets and capitalism whereas they are made up largely of socialists.  A good number of French and other Europeans believe that the EU should be more socialist and more powers granted to the centre, whereas most British believe the exact opposite.  Socialist Europeans know they cannot attain, or retain, power at the nation-state level (or make the books balance) and so are attempting to do so at the EU level: Britain leaving represents a setback to this goal.  Listen to Francois Hollande – a socialist – saying Britain must “pay the price” for leaving.  What price?  Scuppering the plans of European socialists?  Whereas the Walloons are good, old-fashioned socialists pushing back against capitalism, and so they get treated with kid gloves.

It is also enlightening to look at how the Remainers in the UK lean politically: most of them are left-wing.  Having failed to bring about many of their desired policies via national elections, they have been quite content to see them imposed via the EU where socialism holds much more sway.  They know that without their fellow travellers in Europe, socialist policies in England are pretty much dead.

A lot of the anger around Brexit is not actually about Britain leaving: it’s about communists, socialist, and other left-wingers not being able to join forces and impose their policies on the English who are stubbornly centre-right.  And this is why it is getting so damned bitter.

Social Engineering

Staying on the subject of gays:

A bill that would have wiped clean the criminal records of thousands of gay men has fallen at its first parliamentary hurdle.

The private member’s bill would have pardoned all men living with UK convictions for same-sex offences committed before the law was changed.

Mr Nicolson says he was motivated by his work as a BBC journalist in the 1990s: “I made a documentary in the 1990s looking at the discriminatory laws which criminalised gay men.

“There were some shocking injustices. Men were arrested aged 21 for having ‘under-age sex’ with their 20-year-old boyfriends,” he said.

Section 12 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 concerned buggery.  Which means 60 years ago politicians sat down and decided what two grown men of sound mind could and couldn’t do to one another, and how the rest of the country should treat them.  Does this sound reasonable to you?  It doesn’t to me.  There is an argument that this is what the majority population wanted, but I don’t see any reason why the wishes of the majority should be taken into account when two independent adults decide what they’re going to do behind closed doors.

Had the principle of individual freedom and liberty been in force in 1956, this law would never have come into being.  This is why the war cry of the gay movement was “Get the Government out of the Bedroom!”, implying what two men get up to is no business of the government’s or anyone else.  On that basis, the gays of the day would have had my full support.

Across the Atlantic there is a parallel: pre-Civil Rights Era laws requiring blacks to be segregated from whites, and the two treated differently.  At some point legislators sat down and determined that blacks should be treated differently from whites, and anyone breaking these laws – be they black or white – would be subject to criminal prosecution.  Regardless of whether a free individual of one colour wanted to interact with a free individual of another, this was prohibited by law, which in turn was justified on the grounds that this is what the majority wanted.  Only if individuals are truly free then they can associate with whomever they please, and it ought not to be a matter to be decided by the majority.

My point is that not so long ago legislators put severe restrictions on supposedly free individuals as to how they could interact with each other based on rather arbitrary criteria beyond the individuals’ control.  They justified these laws by saying that this is what the majority wanted and it was for the greater good of society.  These laws, the majority agreed, made for a better, safer society.

Only now we look back and most people are in agreement that these laws were an abomination and ought never to have been passed.  Hence the attempt now to pardon those in the UK and the rioting and looting in the USA.  I’m being ironic about that last one.

Fortunately politicians and the voting public learned their lesson that individual liberty and freedom is paramount and governments have no business passing legislation as to how free individuals should interact (short of causing actual physical harm or loss of property, reputation, etc. covered by laws that have been in place since Man first wandered out of the Great Rift Valley).

Oh wait.  No, actually they didn’t.  With breathtaking hubris they determined that although the last lot of politicians and voters were catastrophically wrong, they are much smarter and hence are able to write laws setting out exactly how individuals must interact in a hideously complex society to achieve the absolute optimum outcome in terms of happiness and security for all.  Clever folk, eh?

So now we have laws which actively discriminate between people of different skin colours and religions, insist that gender – which can be changed on a whim – should be both ignored and acknowledged simultaneously, maintain an ever-growing list of sexual orientations all of which deserve special treatment, allow grown men to wander into women’s toilets a fundamental human right, and make formal (and even informal) criticism of all of this practically illegal.

Whatever happened to the principle of all humans are equal?  Or the principle of individual freedom?  Well, that’s the problem: there are no principles being applied, it is simply a small group of people deciding this is what they want to do, claiming a democratic mandate, and forcing it on everyone else.  Just as they did when they criminalised gays and made blacks drink at a different fountain.

Some people call this Social Engineering, and it’s a good term.  But engineering is all about the application of principles, not doing whatever a gaggle of people fancy doing this week.  If you tried to build a bridge like this it would collapse.  As will our society if we keep this up.

Owen Jones: Gays are Mentally Disturbed

This is an odd thing for Owen Jones – an openly gay journalist – to write:

[Author Matthew Todd] identifies a number of problems that most gay men, if they were honest, would at least recognise: “Disproportionately high levels of depression, self-harm and suicide; not uncommon problems with emotional intimacy … and now a small but significant subculture of men who are using, some injecting, seriously dangerous drugs, which despite accusations of hysteria from the gatekeepers of the gay PR machine, are killing too many people.” He lists a disturbing number of gay friends, acquaintances and people in the public eye who struggled with addictions and took their own lives.

The statistics are indeed alarming. According to Stonewall research in 2014, 52% of young LGBT people report they have, at some point, self-harmed; a staggering 44% have considered suicide; and 42% have sought medical help for mental distress. Alcohol and drug abuse are often damaging forms of self-medication to deal with this underlying distress. A recent study by the LGBT Foundation found that drug use among LGB people is seven times higher than the general population, binge drinking is twice as common among gay and bisexual men, and substance dependency is significantly higher.

Hasn’t it traditionally been the religious nutcases that insist homosexuals are mentally disturbed and in desperate need of help?  Now it’s Guardian journalists.  We live in strange times.

Keeping Britain Safe

I find this story a bit pathetic:

A flotilla of Russian warships is passing through the English Channel en route to Syria.

Two British naval ships are shadowing the vessels. The Ministry of Defence said they would be “man-marked every step of the way” while near UK waters.

The ships are within international waters but Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the UK would “be watching as part of our steadfast commitment to keep Britain safe”.

Oh please.  As if the Russian carrier is suddenly going to hang a right and splurge little green men all over Kent.  This is just an opportunity for the Defence Minister to sound tough and the Royal Navy to show that it’s still relevant.

The UK’s Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan, escorted by the Type 23 frigate HMS Richmond, steamed from Portsmouth on Tuesday to track the Kuznetsov group as it headed south from the Norwegian Sea.

Why?  To give them something to do which might be slightly less humiliating than being captured by Iranians and made to cry?

Sending a large Russian flotilla through the North Sea and the English Channel sends a clear message to the West: anything you can do, we can do just as well – or even better.

You don’t need to be a supporter of the Russian military or their actions in Syria to find this ridiculous: the English Channel is the most logical route to follow.  Did the Belgians send any ships out?  The French?  This isn’t the Channel Dash.  Next time just ignore them, eh?

And this amused:

A Russian tug, believed to be in convoy with the taskforce, entered the channel first off the coast near Ramsgate.

As Streetwise Professor is fond of pointing out, the Russian navy can’t go anywhere without its rescue tug.  The accompanying video of the Admiral Kuznetsov shows columns of black smoke belching from its twin funnels, a feature which probably wouldn’t have helped the Japanese at Midway.  Neither navy comes across particularly well in this report.

Legal Tyranny

I was taking the piss a bit with yesterday’s post on this idiocy, and I think I ought to take it a bit more seriously.  Let’s consider this again:

Dr David Adamson, one of the authors of the new standards, said “It puts a stake in the ground and says an individual’s got a right to  reproduce whether or not they have a partner. It’s a big change.

“It fundamentally alters who should be included in this group and who should  have access to healthcare. It sets an international legal standard.  Countries are bound by it.”

A supranational body has basically passed a law determining how taxpayers’ money must be spent without any consultation with the respective governments or citizenry.  Wars have started over less than this.

And we have a doctor – who probably considers himself to be of unquestionable moral standing – stating this with the cold, bureaucratic arrogance of a Waffen SS officer informing a village of Belorussian peasants what’s going to happen to all males over twelve.  Things like this make me think, not for the first time, that Diderot’s quote left off a line regarding doctors.

But the bigger issue is that the last decade, or perhaps two or three, has seen social change being forced through societies not via the ballot box but top down through the courts.  More and more often we are seeing small but determined minorities bullying governments into passing laws, or interpreting existing ones, which compel the majority to adopt social attitudes with which they clearly don’t agree.  Governments and their supporters are simply bypassing the political process of obtaining popular support for their policies and simply writing them into law and arresting anyone who doesn’t comply.  If they can palm this off onto supranational organisations such as the WHO or UN – who have no democratic mandate and have no right to pass legislation in any country – then so much the better: they can simply sit back and smugly say “it’s out of our hands, it’s the law”.

Antonin Scalia’s dissent of the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision contained a stark warning regarding this practice:

Until the courts put a stop to it, public debate over same-sex marriage displayed American democracy at its best. Individuals on both sides of the issue passionately, but respectfully, attempted to persuade their fellow citizens to accept their views. Americans considered the arguments and put the question to a vote. The electorates of 11 States, either directly or through their representatives, chose to expand the traditional definition of marriage. Many more decided not to.1 Win or lose, advocates for both sides continued pressing their cases, secure in the knowledge that an electoral loss can be negated by a later electoral win. That is exactly how our system of government is supposed to work.

This is a naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed, super-legislative—power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government. Except as limited by a constitutional prohibition agreed to by the People, the States are free to adopt whatever laws they like, even those that offend the esteemed Justices’ “reasoned judgment.” A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.

Few people heeded this warning, and we can expect to see a lot more of this kind of thing.  But sooner or later they are going to overstep the mark badly: one of the benefits of the democratic system, as opposed to a top-down legal tyranny, is that issues can be properly thrashed out and general acceptance obtained from the populace before people start being thrown in jail for non-compliance.

This won’t end well.

Life, Liberty and…er…Some Bloke’s J*zz?

It was only a matter of time before our masters started tying themselves in knots due to their own stupidity:

Single men and women without medical issues will be classed as “infertile” if they do not have children but want to become a parent, the World Health Organisation is to announce.

In a move which dramatically changes the definition of infertility, the WHO will declare that it should no longer be regarded as simply a medical condition.

The authors of the new global standards said the revised definition gave every individual “the right to reproduce”.

Until now, the WHO’s definition of infertility – which it classes as a disability – has been the failure to achieve pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sex.

But the new standard suggests that the inability to find a suitable sexual partner – or the lack of sexual relationships which could achieve conception – could be considered an equal disability.

That’s generally the problem with insisting somebody has the right to do something that requires the cooperation of one or more people.  It’s why the right to get married was so stupid: what if you’re too damned obnoxious to find a willing partner?  Have your rights been violated?  Apparently so:

Dr David Adamson, one of the authors of the new standards, said “It puts a stake in the ground and says an individual’s got a right to  reproduce whether or not they have a partner. It’s a big change.

“It fundamentally alters who should be included in this group and who should  have access to healthcare. It sets an international legal standard.  Countries are bound by it.”

Okay, marvellous.  So what do we do about this?

In the UK, it is illegal to pay surrogates, resulting in a severe shortage  of women wanting to take on the role.  Similarly, there is a national shortage of sperm and eggs, with donors only  able to receive expenses.

There is a shortage of sperm and eggs – which I suspect exists pretty much everywhere – and now the WHO is saying everybody has a right to somebody else’s, and countries are legally bound to provide them.  Presumably if they can’t make up the shortfall in the private sector, governments are going to have to create state enterprises in which people are employed to sit around doing nothing but wanking all day.

Business as usual, then.


This amused:

Film director Ken Loach has criticised the current crop of TV period dramas for indulging in “fake nostalgia”.

In response to a question about Downton Abbey in a Radio Times interview, Loach said: “This rosy vision of the past, it’s a choice broadcasters make.

Loach said nostalgic dramas were “the opposite of what a good broadcaster should do, which is stimulate and invigorate”.

Allow me to translate that for you:

How dare those awful oiks watch things they enjoy rather than the artistic masterpieces I am paid handsomely to create with taxpayers’ money!

As an additional point, Downton Abbey must seriously grate with the BBC chiefs.  The BBC was always considered the global leader in “costume dramas” and in theory it is they who ought to have spotted the opportunity for Downton Abbey and reaped the millions its extraordinary success has generated.  But that fell to ITV, their bitter rivals in the ratings wars, who are dependent on getting eyes on the screen rather than simply lifting billions from British owners of television sets on threat of imprisonment.