Monday, June 28, 2010

England's World Cup woes

"Maybe England were not prepared for this game as they should be," said the Germany captain, Philipp Lahm. "Maybe they underestimated us because our players are not as famous as the England players".

But it wasn’t just the England team who underestimated Germany yesterday. What about the media pundits who, conveniently forgetting how abysmal England were against Algeria, repeatedly assured us that England were ‘superior’ to a ‘very average’ German team?

On the radio, Alan Green told us how confident he was that England would win.
Ditto the tv ‘experts’. No member of the ‘very average’ German side would get into the England team, we were told. Incredibly, Germany were available at odds of 21-10 before the match. Surely the bet of the World Cup.

Depressingly, even when England were 4-1 down the myth that our players are world class performers was still being parroted. ’We know how good these players are' remarked the BBC’s commentator- adding how galling it was to know that come the autumn Wayne Rooney would be banging in the goals again for Man Utd. But he forgot to add that there is quite a bit of difference between Rooney playing alongside world-class international players at Old Trafford and scoring goals against Sunderland and West Brom, and performing alongside other English players against top quality international sides like Germany and Argentina.

The simple truth is that England’s players are not world-class. In horse-racing terms they are handicappers, who are found out whenever they race in Listed or Group company. It’s time we accepted that fact and lowered our expectations accordingly.

That said, Fabio Capello had a nightmare tournament. You’ve got to question the sanity of a coach, who when his side is trailing and urgently needs goals, brings off Jermain Defoe, and replaces him with Emile Heskey. Recognising his players’ technical limitations, Capello should have played a more direct style: making the most of Peter Crouch’s height in attack. Instead, Crouch, who has an excellent scoring record for England, played just 17 minutes in the whole tournament. What a waste.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Work until you drop in 'progressive' Coalition Britain

It boggles the mind, what ordinary people are having to put up with right now….
I've known Ken Livingstone for decades. To say we are on different sides of the political divide is to put it mildly.
But when he said he thought all bankers should be put up against a wall and shot, I felt like saying: 'Hand me the gun Ken. Let me be the first to pull the trigger.'

It's all very well for little Disney cartoon people to leap about gleefully singing: 'Whistle while you work.'
Right now, those looking forward to retirement can whistle all they like, it ain't gonna get them anywhere.
You'll work until a government of public school boys who've never had jobs in the real world tells you to.

You can read the rest of Michael Winner- yes Michael Winner’s- wonderful piece on the latest ‘progressive’ move from the Coalition government, here.

Meanwhile, the Mail reports that wealthy Tory MP and former investment banker John Redwood has denied telling people hit by Budget cuts to wear more clothes, turn down the thermostat and eat more vegetables.

Redwood wrote on his blog:
'If you are living a middle-class lifestyle and your income goes down by 10 per cent you have plenty of options.
'You can holiday nearer home and cut out the foreign trip. You can eat at home more than in restaurants. You can trade down for a cheaper car.
He added: 'You can buy more of the value items at the supermarket and put more vegetarian dishes into menus.
'You can discover home entertainment to keep the leisure bill down. You can turn down the thermostat a little and put on a jumper.'

Still, at least after this week’s ’progressive’ budget, John has got what he wanted.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Oh Dear. How Sad. Never Mind: France exits the World Cup

Well, they cheated to get there, but now they’ve departed in disgrace, with coach Raymond Domenech not even having the courtesy to shake his counterpart‘s hand at the final whistle.

What a pity though that South Africa couldn’t get the goals they needed to progress to round two. Still, at least they, unlike the French, went out on a high.

Meanwhile, Uruguay have won Group A without conceding a goal, and with their round of 16 opponents likely to be South Korea, Nigeria or Greece, look to have a great chance of making it through to at least the quarter-finals.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

England's World Cup Wallies

Well, I said last week that England probably didn’t have enough world class players to win the World Cup.

I was being over generous. Do England have any world class players? The performance against Algeria was the most technically inept showing from an England team I have ever seen.

The passing was terrible, the ball control was terrible and the corners were terrible.

Gerrard, ‘Lamps’, Rooney and co might look like world-beaters when they are playing for their mega-rich clubs against mediocre Premiership opposition, but- let's face it- they have consistently failed to deliver at the highest level.

Yes, we can go on and on about systems and tactical formations, but isn’t the bottom line that England’s players are simply not good enough, as Karl Naylor said in his comment to last week‘s post?

And isn't it also the case that our much-hyped Premier League, where all our players ply their trade, is not as good as its supporters make out?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The tyrants in pinstripe

This piece of mine appears in today's Morning Star.
(It's also posted over at the Campaign For Public Ownership).

Neil Clark on the biggest menace to threaten Europe since the nazis- international capital.

Seventy years ago, European countries faced a battle for their very existence as nazi forces swept across the continent.

Now those countries face another battle - against the forces of international capital.

The money men won't be happy until every last publicly owned asset is privatised and in their greedy hands.

Europe's debt crisis, caused in large part by the greed of international speculators, is being used as an excuse for something which the money men and their cheerleaders in the media have long desired - the wholesale sell-off of those assets which remain in public ownership.

As John Foster said in his Morning Star analysis recently, it's a confidence trick so gigantic that it would make even that Olympic champion fraudster Bernie Madoff blush.

Earlier this month, Greece's "Socialist" government announced a major programme of privatisation, including the sale of 49 per cent in the state-owned railway, the sell-off of regional airports, highways and harbours and stakes in the post office and water utilities. The French government has announced a fire-sale of over 1,700 state properties, including many historic castles.

Here in Britain, new Postal Affairs Minister Ed Davey, from the "progressive" Liberal Democrats, has said he is considering the full-scale 100 per cent privatisation of Royal Mail, which has been in the hands of the British state since its inception in 1516.

If the money men have their way then over the next few years, governments in Europe will sell off not only their railways and national infrastructure but hospitals, schools, universities and all other state-owned enterprises.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Simon Heffer and Reform's plan to cut the deficit

VAT on food, children‘s clothes and the printed word. ‘Severe NHS cuts’. An immediate rise in the retirement age. The privatisation of Britain’s motorways.

But, of course, the abolition of the ’ pointless, spiteful and growth-inhibiting 50p top rate.’

You can read the Simon Heffer/Reform think-tank plan to reduce the deficit here.

I think the phrase ‘neo-liberal extremism’ is quite inadequate in describing it, don’t you?

UPDATE: Just to make sure DT readers get the point, Andrew Haldenby of the think-tank Reform, which I wrote about here, has a piece in today's paper reiterating the Heffer line.

"Let’s put the enabling state in the dustbin of history and replace it with limited government", Haldenby says.

I've got a better idea. Let's put neoliberalism in the dustbin of history.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lib Dems won’t forgive Nick Clegg’s U-turn

This piece of mine appears in today's First Post.

Neil Clark: Treacherous Clegg is looking like the Ramsay MacDonald of modern politics.

 It's one of the biggest political U-turns of all time. Just six weeks ago, during the general election campaign, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg was attacking Conservative plans to introduce major cuts in public spending before the economy was secure.

“Do I think that these big, big cuts are merited or justified at a time when the economy is struggling to get to its feet? Clearly not.” he told Jeremy Paxman in April. "Of course I would vote against cuts which would destroy any chance we would have of having a sustainable recovery."

Now, though, it's Clegg himself who is making the case for big, big cuts. "We have to take action now so that we can still be in control of our future," he says. Postponing the cuts "would not only be irresponsible, it would be a betrayal of our progressive values".

Could it be that there are really two Nick Cleggs?

You can read the whole article here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Gaza blockade a ‘collective punishment’ in ‘clear violation of international humanitarian law’

The dire situation in Gaza cannot be resolved by providing humanitarian aid. The closure imposed on the Gaza Strip is about to enter its fourth year, choking off any real possibility of economic development. Gazans continue to suffer from unemployment, poverty and warfare, while the quality of Gaza's health care system has reached an all-time low.

The whole of Gaza's civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility. The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel's obligations under international humanitarian law.

The words not of George Galloway, Seumas Milne, or John Pilger, but the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Clearly they’re a bunch of Jew-hating, terrorist supporting anti-semites.

Meanwhile, the Middle East country that thinks it's above international law has announced its own internal inquiry into its deadly raid on the humanitarian aid flotilla. How very decent of them. And guess who one of the two foreign observers in the inquiry is going to be- why it’s none other than the Henry Jackson Society-supporting, the Rt Hon Lord David Trimble!

You really couldn’t make this stuff up, could you?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Who’s going to win the World Cup?

Well, hopefully not Uruguay or France after that terrible, but predictable bore-draw last night.

I think the bookies have got it about right by making Spain the favourites- they are the most likely winners, but I also think that Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Serbia and Honduras could spring a few surprises along the way and that Holland should be in for a very good tournament. As for England: well, they have a great manager, but I’m not sure that they have enough genuinely world-class players in the squad to win it. Argentina are the complete opposite- they do have enough quality players to win the tournament, (including probably the best player in the world- Lionel Messi), but the doubts are about their manager, who prior to the World Cup hadn’t impressed with his selections or tactics.

Anyway, what do you reckon?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Motor racing's biggest disaster: Le Mans, 11th June 1955

While we celebrate the start today of the football World Cup in South Africa, (more on the World Cup later), let’s not forget that today is also the 55th anniversary of one of the worst sporting disasters of all time, one in which over 80 people lost their lives. Here’s my piece to mark the anniversary of the 1955 Le Mans disaster from the Daily Express.

Neil Clark

It was the worst – and most ­horrific – disaster in the history of motor racing. On June 11, 1955, at the Le Mans 24-hour race, at least 83 spectators were killed and hundreds more injured when the burning remains of the Mercedes car driven by 49-year-old Frenchman Pierre Levegh, flew into the crowd­ following a terrible on-track collision. A 400-square-yard stretch of cheering ­people became a black, hysterical horror,” reported Time magazine.

The disaster stunned the world and led to some countries banning motor racing altogether. Fifty-five years on, questions remain as to who was to blame for the tragedy, as a BBC4 ­documentary relates.

Was it caused by Mercedes gambling on unproven new technologies? Was the death toll so high because there was a secret fuel additive in a hidden tank which caused Levegh’s car to explode? Was there an official cover-up on the causes of the crash by the French authorities? Or was it all to do with the recklessness of a devil-may-care British driver who had been told he had only a few years to live?

The backdrop to the disaster was intense rivalry between German and British motor-racing teams and their drivers. But the fierce competition had dire consequences for safety.

Motor racing in the Fifties was far more dangerous than today. Safety measures such as guard rails and tyre walls were non-existent. Drivers risked life and limb in every race. Just a fortnight before the Le Mans disaster Alberto Ascari, a dual world champion, had been killed at Monza in Italy. Only four days earlier he had ­narrowly escaped when his car tumbled into Monaco harbour. At Le Mans, six men had died in the race since it began in 1923.

But before 1955 spectators did not expect to be victims.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thought for the Day: Bertrand Delanoe

"Do you want a world where consumerism reigns supreme? Or a world that allows for silence, intimacy, culture, privacy, family life as well as intellectual and spiritual life?"

Paris’s splendid Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, on why he wants big department stores in the French capital to stay shut on Sundays.

What a shame that he’s not the Mayor of London too.

Hat tip: The First Post.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Letter of the Week: Victor Grossman on Long John Silver

This gem from Victor Grossman in Berlin, appears in today's Morning Star:

News flash: The descendants of Long John Silver and Captain Flint have put in claims for damages.

As they pointed out, it was the passengers and crew of the ships captured who were the criminals since it was they who had beaten the men with knives and iron bars. It was necessary for the men to shoot and kill some of the attackers, acting in self-defence. To determine the facts they were willing to let a commission of impartial buccaneers decide.

Have I been dreaming after seeing a Johnny Depp film, or perhaps just watching the news?

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council prepares to vote on a US-backed plan for imposing swingeing new sanctions, not on serial international law breaking, nuclear-armed Israel, but on a Middle Eastern country which hasn’t attacked anyone and has no nuclear weapons. You really couldn’t make it up could you?

UDATE: Shamefully, the UN Security Council has just imposed fresh sanctions on Iran on account of its non-existent nuclear weapons programme. Bravo to Turkey and Brazil for voting against this nonsense.

Monday, June 07, 2010

This is not a poem; a massacre is not a massacre

By Ghassan Hage,
(hat tip- Media Lens)

Long ago, I was made to understand that Palestine was not Palestine;
I was also informed that Palestinians were not Palestinians;
They also explained to me that ethnic cleansing was not ethnic cleansing.
And when naive old me saw freedom fighters
they patiently showed me that they were not freedom fighters,
and that resistance was not resistance.
And when, stupidly, I noticed arrogance, oppression and humiliation
they benevolently enlightened me so I can see that arrogance was not arrogance,
oppression was not oppression and humiliation was not humiliation.
I saw misery, racism, inhumanity and a concentration camp.
But they told me that they were experts in misery, racism, inhumanity
and concentrations camps and I have to take their word for it: this was not misery, racism, inhumanity and a concentrations camp.

Over the years they’ve taught me so many things:
invasion was not invasion, occupation was not occupation,
colonialism was not colonialism and apartheid was not apartheid…
They opened my simple mind to even more complex truths
that my poor brain could not on its own compute like:
‘having nuclear weapons’ was not ‘having nuclear weapons’,
‘not having weapons of mass destruction’ was ‘having weapons of mass destruction’.
And, democracy (in the Gaza strip) was not democracy.
Having second class citizens (in Israel) was democracy.

So you’ll excuse me if I am not surprised to learn today
that there were more things that I thought were evident that are not:
peace activists are not peace activists, piracy is not piracy,
the massacre of unarmed people is not the massacre of unarmed people.
I have such a limited brain and my ignorance is unlimited.
And they’re so fxxxing intelligent. Really.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Workforce wins The Derby- in record time

video: sir hughie.

How ironic, given the neoliberal passion for cutting the workforce.

But what a hugely impressive performance.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

"Gaza flotilla activists were shot in head at close range"

See here:

And according to its supporters, Israel is defending ‘civilised’ values.

You can find details of today’s Stop the War march to the Israeli Embassy in London here. Do try to make it.

As Sarah Colborne, a survivor of the Freedom Flotilla massacre says: "We can't sit by and watch Israel violate international law every day".

Friday, June 04, 2010

Get used to Cumbrian-style killings in neoliberal UK

This piece of mine appears in the First Post.

Neil Clark: The egotistic culture of free market capitalism is to blame.

It's tempting to see Derrick Bird’s killing spree in Cumbria as 'just one of those things' - a freak, isolated event that has no real sociological cause. It's certainly a line taken by right-wing media commentators. "Terrible deeds like this happen every so often. Nothing could have been done to prevent it, little can be done to explain it," opines political blogger Iain Dale.

In fact, much can be done to explain it.

US-style killing sprees are a relatively recent phenomenon in Britain, occurring for the first time in Hungerford, Berkshire in 1987. We didn't have such occurrences in the 1940s, 50s, 60s, or 70s - and many countries in the world still don't experience such events. So where have we gone wrong?

The answer is that we've Americanised our economy, and consequently are paying a very high social cost.

You can read the whole article here:

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The (David) Laws of Britain's political elite

John Pilger writes:

Imagine someone on state benefits caught claiming £40,000 of taxpayers’ money in a second home scam. A prison sentence would almost certainly follow. David Laws, chief secretary to the Treasury, does the same and is described as follows:

“I have always admired his intelligence, his sense of public duty and his personal integrity” (Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister). “You are a good and honourable man. I am sure that throughout you have been motivated by wanting to protect your privacy rather than anything else.” (David Cameron, prime minister ). Laws is “a man of quite exceptional nobility” (Julian Glover, the Guardian). A “brilliant mind” (BBC).

The Oxbridge club and its associate members in politics and the media have tried to link Laws’s “error of judgement” and “naivety” to his “right to privacy” as a gay man, an irrelevance. The “brilliant mind” is a wealthy Cambridge-groomed investment banker and gilts trader devoted to the noble task of cutting the public services of mostly poor and honest people.

Also on the subject of the ‘talented’ Mr Laws, don’t miss this brilliant post by our good friend and regular commenter Olching.

UPDATE: Here's another very good piece on Laws from The First Post's Mole.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Israel-Firsters who defend the indefensible

Well, you wouldn’t think it possible that anyone who purports to be a civilised human being could defend the murder of at least 9 civilians travelling on a humanitarian aid ship in international waters, would you?

Think again.

As Mark Steel comments:
some defenders of Israel are so blind to what happens in front of them there's nothing at all they wouldn't jump to defend. Israel could blow up a cats home and within five minutes they'd be yelling "How do we know the cats weren't smuggling semtex in their fur for Hamas?"

Perhaps Mark has Melanie Phillips in mind. As Rod Liddle, Phillips’ fellow Spectator blogger, wrote today:

Is there anything Israel could do which would discomfort my colleague, Melanie Phillips (I mean other than behave peaceably towards Palestinians)? She has been defending, without giving so much as an inch, Israel’s attack upon the, uh, “peace flotilla”; all perfectly justifiable, the convoy was actually an Islamist terrorist attack, and so on and so on.

No Rod, I honestly don’t think that there is anything Israel could do which would discomfort Ms Phillips and her fellow hardcore Israel-firsters.

If, unlike the 'Israel is always right' brigade, you are appalled by Israel’s murderous act of piracy on the high seas, please consider lending your support to this petition, which over 260,000 people have signed since 1st June.