End of the Irish Golden Generation? – Irish Rugby in 2012

By Beth O’Brien

O’Driscoll. Wood. O’Connell. O’Gara. O’Kelly. Horgan. Stringer. Wallace. Hayes. Hickie. Murphy.
These names have defined a generation of Irish rugby players ever since Brian O’Driscoll scored
a famous hat-trick to help his team beat France away in the 2000 Six Nations Championship. The
brutal efficiency of the Munster forwards and the expansive and exciting Leinster backs propelled
Ireland from the team that had floundered during the Five Nations of the 1990s to winners of four
Triple Crowns and one Grand Slam in the new century. This ‘Golden Generation’ became a team
that could compete with the best in the world. They became a thorn in England’s side, a victory in
2004 just months after England’s World Cup win heralding a period of dominance – 6 wins in the 8
following Six Nations meetings followed.

Fast-forward to 2012, and we see a very different picture. Many of the above players have retired
from rugby, are seeing out their twilight years in their clubs, or are simply well over ‘the hill’,
shadows of the players they were a decade ago. The 2012 Six Nations campaign was doomed
from the off with a heartbreaking loss to eventual Grand Slam winners, Wales. The team lacked
coherence, flair and, for the first time in a number of years, an aggressive physicality. One decent
performance against New Zealand in the summer was flanked by two comprehensive victories for
the home team, and all seemed gloomy at the end of last season for the men in green.

Last weekend saw the first stages of the 2012/13 Heineken Cup, the seminal tournament in
European rugby, and all four of Ireland’s provinces in action. Unfortunately, the geriatric plague
that is befalling Irish rugby was yet again apparent. In a rainy Stade de France, Munster limped to
a losing bonus point against Racing Metro. The Munster pack struggled to maintain possession,
whilst mistakes from Irish legend Ronan O’Gara directly led to Machenaud’s try. Disappointment
was evident on the face of Paul O’Connell when he was substituted on 60 minutes, in his first game
in 5 months. A stark contrast to the team who were twice Champions – a rumbling machine of a
forwards pack and one of the greatest kickers in world rugby in O’Gara.

Meanwhile in Dublin, Leinster snuck a victory against Heineken Cup newbies, Exeter Chiefs.
Nothing must be taken from the Chiefs – they produced a gutsy performance and played at an
exhausting pace that held Leinster on the back foot for a large portion of the game. However,
Leinster lacked a cutting edge and squandered chances. Ireland’s incumbent fly half, Jonathan
Sexton, failed to pull the strings as we have seen him do countless times before, and Leinster were
powerless to break down the formidable Exeter defence. Leinster’s Head Coach Joe Schmidt rued
missed chances, stating after the game that “it’s not often we get in the 22 four times in the first
half, and get nothing from it. That’s down to us, we have to be more accurate than that.” With a
significant portion of the Ireland back division, fans would hope they can be.

Admittedly, the all-Irish final of 2012 (Leinster 42-14 Ulster), and first-round wins for Ulster and
Connacht, may suggest there is life in the old dog yet. However, what distinguished the successes
of Munster and Leinster over the past 5 years was their translation to the success of Irish rugby.
When Munster and Leinster were the dominant Heineken Cup forces, Ireland won their first Grand
Slam in 61 years. The current contingent of young Irish players have yet to make the same impact
on the international, or provincial, stage as the heroes of their youth. Perhaps illustrative of this
point, British and Irish Lions 2009 tourist Keith Earls produces only glimpses of the brilliance
that merited his call up. He has struggled with the weight of expectation and the ‘Austin Healey
syndrome’ of nobody being sure what position he is best suited to playing. As a result, he has
become another on the long list of ‘nearly-but-not-quite good enough’ young Irish talent. With the
Lions tour of Australia coming in the summer, there are perhaps only a handful of Irish players guaranteed                                                                   to make the Test 22 (Bowe, Kearney, Ferris, O’Connell and O’Driscoll, if the reader

would like the author’s opinion), and a number who may find themselves enjoying the midweek
fixtures or the action from their living rooms if their form does not improve.

In this Lions year, this Irish fan has to accept that her rugby heroes are simply not going to make
the plane. Munster may no longer be the Heineken Cup powerhouses they have been since the
competition’s inception. And the subject of the only poster on the author’s wall may be leaving
Ireland for a curtain call with the Waratahs in Super Rugby. There’s of course a long way to go
until the Lions set off for Australia, and one hopes there will be a significant Irish contingent on the
plane. However, unless the provinces of Ireland rediscover their form and build to a successful Six
Nations, it could be a long season to be an Irish fan.

Bleeding Heart: Nobody Messes With Baby

By S.M. Blanchard

When I was sixteen, I went to see Barack Obama speak on a cow farm outside of my hometown in downstate Illinois. I stood in the bandstands on a cold April morning as the rain poured down atop a large white tent, which sat in the middle of the barely ripe corn stalks. The atmosphere drew my imagination to images of clowns, lions, tightrope walkers, and all other things that involved the circus.  This was my first clue as to what awaited my young self and my future encounters with U.S. politics.

I was one of maybe four liberals standing under the tent that day (this being an area of America south of the Mason Dixon line, where politics and its degenerate sister-liberal politics were not often discussed outside bylines of the Fox News broadcasts that occasionally hummed in the background of NFL football games and pizza parlors).  However, back in 2005, a name was starting to appear around our area a lot. Rumor had it, this guy could make people believe in something. And in an area that had seen several of its sons go off to fight a war, we needed it.

So there Obama stood in front of us, talking to the conservative, evangelical farmers of rural Illinois about the importance of exports in agriculture. Obama managed to clearly lay out not only how valued the Southern Illinois agricultural industry was for the state as a whole, but also how Illinois agriculture played a vital  role in helping boost America’s international exports. We weren’t just part of the state picture, or even the national picture. Those fields we tended, the livestock we raised, all our hard work had a vital and important place in the international framework. We farmers were international players.

By the end of his speech that day, Obama had made each individual in a room of roughly half a thousand people, feel as though their individual work was an essential part of the American economy. Even though I was only sixteen, I remember what it felt like in that tent after Obama spoke. Everyone came out of there believing in an idea that was bigger than themselves.

These past for years under the Obama administration have not exactly been the change we were fed to believe we would see. Some of those changes have taken place, most notably Obama Care- a policy that has saved the lives of countless friends who would not have been able to have the consultations, surgeries, treatments, and transplants they needed to survive. Other policy promises are yet to be fulfilled, and may not be.

I wont pretend that my political beliefs have no pertinence with why I wanted to obtain my masters in a foreign country. It was a quest to understand different political systems, different ideologies, and different beliefs. The United Kingdom has not let me down in that regard. I’ve had my conservative beliefs challenged on everything from what constitutes a national boarder in relation to migrant patterns to the morality of Obama’s methodological ‘kill list.’ These are notions that, even as a liberal American, went unchallenged in my mind until I learned from those living outside my boarders.

When I woke up at 2am London time to watch the speech this morning, my slightly embittered heart braced itself for what was to come: here stood two men – one man whose social policies I did not care for, and whose confusing economic policy seemed to lean upon unethical and unpragamatic practices. The other man had promised my generation a better tomorrow. After four years of a ‘two steps forward, one step backwards’ term, my hope was sinking for America. I was petered out by weary zealous partisan rhetoric, and ready to see a shift in the way America thinks politics. The thought of compiling a list of liberal countries I could declare political asylum was the first thing on my to-do list (regardless of the victorious candidate).

But there was only one thing that came to mind as I watched Barack Obama take on Mitt Romney in the second political debate of the election season: nobody messes with Baby.

The novelty of Obama’s approach last night wasn’t in the promised zingers, but in the fact that he came out doing what he does best: speaking as himself. He took on health care, the attacks on the Syrian Embassy, and women’s rights not by dogging issues or by keeping it diplomatic.  He attacked clearly and acutely.  More so, Obama made each issue stand clearly as major political concern not only for the American people, but also of himself.  He carried each concern into its larger context, carrying out that same sense of energy and excitement that I felt seven years ago when I sat in that circus tent. There is still potential for something bigger to happen.

Last nights debates inspired a new form of zest in the election coming in an old package; a sure candidate with a sound belief in his policy plans for the nation. It inspired an old hope for a continued change.  Because there has been change; a slow, continual change. Perhaps not as fast as we  bleeding heart liberals would like to see it. But there are a lot of voices in America, and perhaps the radical change that many of us would like to see, isn’t the best way for America. Perhaps it is this slow gradual change- a change that incorporates the voices of as many Americans as possible –both conservative and liberal alike- into a larger bureaucratic picture of democracy, is that change.

 

The Debate We Never Had: The Privatisation and Commercialisation of Space

By James Aisthorpe

On Wednesday SpaceX’s Dragon capsule successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS).  This first operational resupply mission will be followed by 11 more as part of a $1.9 billion contract between Nasa and SpaceX and is being hailed as a milestone in the history of space exploration.  Indeed, this is only the second time a private space craft has visited the ISS, the first was when SpaceX conducted their test of the Dragon capsule in May in preparation for this most recent flight.

While this mission has gathered a great deal of media attention as a result of the role played by a private company, it is only the most recent manifestation of a paradigm that has been developing for some time – the commercialisation of space and the privatisation of space exploration.

The first commercial communications satellite, Telstar 1, was placed into orbit in 1962 and belonged primarily to AT&T.  As of July 2012 there are 197 commercial satellites in orbit, mainly being used for communications but some are devoted to navigation or technology development.

A contender for most media saturated space venture in recent times is of course space tourism.  There are several private companies developing technologies to take ordinary people (well, those who can afford it) into orbit, or at least pretty close.  The most notable among them is probably Virgin Galactic but there is also Blue Origin who are developing vertical take-off systems for sub-orbital flights or Interorbital Systems who intend to take up to six passengers on trips into lunar orbit.  Budding astrotourists may soon be spoilt for choice.

More ambitious commercial plans for space are also emerging.  In April a new company, Planetary Resources, with investors such as film director James Cameron and Google co-founder Larry Page, grabbed the media spotlight to explain their audacious plan to mine asteroids.  The raw minerals and water extracted from the asteroids could be used to set up refuelling stations for other spacecrafts at various points in the solar system while any precious metals found could be brought back to earth.  The company describes itself as having an honourable goal, to further our understanding of asteroids and accommodate human space exploration, and I do not doubt their sincerity but there can be no mistake that this is ultimately a capitalist project.

Space is no longer an arena monopolised by super-power governments.  As technology has advanced the cost of putting objects in space has fallen and opened space up to capitalist uses.

Space was always eventually going to be exploited for money making, but it seems that it is happening without anybody raising an eyebrow.  Space enthusiasts seem to be all for the privatisation of space, the late Neil Armstrong raised some objections but he is in a non-vocal minority. This is odd given capitalism’s record of environmental destruction and ignorance of social justice.

There is a framework of space law under which private companies as well as governments must operate but these laws are usually vague.  Moreover space law creates quite a paradox when it comes to capitalist exploitation of space and asteroid mining, in particular.

Capitalism is fundamentally reliant on the concept of private property.  To sell something you must own it and you must own land to farm it (or at least rent it).  Space law dictates, however, that nobody can own a part of space nor any celestial body or a part of it, including asteroids.

This causes two problems for Planetary Resources and future space capitalists more generally.  First, if you cannot own a piece of the asteroid, how can you sell the resources you mine from it?  More importantly, there is no reason another space craft owned by another company or government cannot come along and mine the asteroid that you have put so much time, effort and money into identifying, analysing and perhaps even changing its orbit to better accommodate a mining operation.

For capitalism to work in an arena where there are no private property rights, private companies are going to look for a different sort of advantage.  The most likely course of action would be to develop technology superior to any competitors and maintain a technology gap which prevents other companies benefiting from your achievements. Naturally this would require an element of secrecy.

To keep space technologies secret, however, would be to reject the whole ethos that underpins many concepts of what space exploration should be.  It is even enshrined in international law that space exploration should be for the benefit of all mankind and that space technology should be shared.

So we are face with a choice, some may say that all that needs changing is the legal framework; let’s allow companies to own land on the moon or mars, then capitalism will work.  In fact this is probably the path we will be lead down but there is a risk.

Rather than opening up the universe to mankind we may only be opening it to the richest.  Already some of our planets richest have visited the ISS, trips estimated to have cost around $30 million.  Rather than a Star Trek-esque universe of equality our planet could begin to look like the Earth as it is at the end of Carl Sagan’s novel ‘Contact’.  The upper class, thanks to their wealth and enticed by the potential health benefits, may become the orbiting class.

Even today the wealthiest, who are also often those with the most power, are out of touch with the rest of the world.  Hidden behind gates and complex alarm systems they rarely see the problems caused by the greedy policies they promote, through politics or the media.  Is it really sensible to allow those with the most power to become even more detached from the rest of us?

As it is now, our current system promotes inequality; the concentration of money among a minority.  To simply extend that system out to the rest of the solar system and announce a free for all would be a disaster.

The other option is to find new ways of doing things for space so we do not pollute it with the systems we use on Earth which are pulling societies apart.  The other option is, rather than relax space law, to tighten it to ensure it is preserved as a realm for use by all of mankind, to use our desire to explore space to catalyse social change we so badly need to see on Earth.

Private space exploration will undoubtedly push our technology to new heights but it poses a huge risk to global equality.  We will visit new planets and there is unimaginable wealth available in the solar system which humanity should harness.  But at the moment there is nobody steering the process down the right path, a path that promotes equality and the sharing of knowledge and punishes greed.  It is a debate we need to have now.  If we reach the point, where the 1% are living in orbit looking down on the rest of us, far tinier than ants then – that is it – any chance of any sort of equality, ever, is gone.

Vice Presidential Debate: Raddatz Strikes Back

By S.M. Blanchard

“To all the fact checkers out there, remember that every time Mr. Biden called Mr. Ryan “my friend,” he was lying.”
-Matthew Moberly Carbondale, Illinois, United States of America

So went the general feedback on the Twitter and Facebook feeds of Americans the nation over. Though the vice presidential debates carried some important themes that detailed vital differences in the democrat and republican tickets, many Americans were just as intrigued by the sheer rhetorical roughhousing of the debate as the actual content within it.

Vice Presidential Joe Biden, who had 25 years experience in Congress and one presidential run by the time Congressman Paul Ryan graduated high school came into the debate seasoned and ready to attack. Said to be making up for Obama’s lack of zeal in last week’s presidential debate, Biden forcefully took control over young upstart Ryan, who maintained a collected stance throughout the course of the 90-minute session. The banter of the debate, which included Ryan slamming Biden’s 47% attack on Romney’s misspeak leaked out earlier last month, responded that the vice president should know that, “words don’t always come out of your mouth the right way.” At points, the banter accumulated in an almost sibling-like atmosphere of ‘he-said, she-said’, complete with an impressive set of facial expression and smirks from Vice President Biden.

But the truly striking person to watch in the debate was Martha Raddatz. The ABC correspondent took control of the debate from the beginning, coming at both candidates from their respective opposing political viewpoint. Raddatz asked provoking and charged questions in response to the candidates’ retorts; responses that American viewers sitting the political fence would probably be questioning themselves.

A prime example of this can be seen in the discussion of Iran’s potential nuclear armament. When Biden downplayed the threat of Iran, Raddatz probed Biden as to his own conceptualisation of Iran as a threat, and then followed up Biden’s look at the facts response with a quote from former Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, who stated that ignoring the potential development of nuclear arms in Iran would be a catastrophic decision for the nation. This forced Biden to backtrack on his own dismissive statements and address the legitimacy of the threat, as well as detail the proposed plan of action of Obama’s foreign policy. In response to Ryan’s attribution that what was needed in the Iran situation was facilitation, understanding, and the changing of minds, Raddatz immediately probed as to how the Romney ticket proposed going about this ‘changing of minds’ in a quick manner. Ryan’s response to this was the offering that the suggestion of a hasty timeline to create change in the minds of Iranian leaders to prevent a potential nuclear armament was questionable.

Raddatz’s strategy not only kept the debate on track, but also drew out moments of acute and authentic responses from the candidate as to their actual policy plans and sentiments to the issues at hand. Her style of facilitation allowed for the brief dismantling of the shadowy-figures behind the Vice Presidential candidates to reveal their intentions underneath their party’s political zingers.  It was in this style of debate that we saw Biden, the man, who had faced the death of his young wife and daughter in a car accident years ago, sympathise with the compassion of Romney’s well known charitable work, and time spent with other American citizens who had lost loved ones in accidents. This shared mutual respect for Romney’s character as well as the reliving of such a tragic experience gave way to a moment of vulnerability that served the Vice President to drive home the authenticity of further points. This brought an authenticity and humanness to a debate that was otherwise wrapped up in rhetoric.

After last week’s presidential debate, where PBS Jim Lehere unapologetically allowed for a no-holds-bar atmosphere of seemingly chaotic and unapologetic disregard to maintain structure, Raddatz controlled force of the arguments last night drew out an alternative narrative for the Vice Presidential debate that lent a fresh and compelling perspective to the political issues at stake in America’s future.

Ed Miliband’s ‘One Nation’: What should it mean?

By James Aisthorpe

Ed Miliband’s speech at the Labour Party conference in Manchester last week is perhaps best described as triumphant. It was met by rapturous applause by the Labour faithful and Ed was affable, clear and confident while speaking ‘without notes’. Labour MP Tom Watson called it ‘the best leader’s speech’ he had ever heard.

Certainly it was not a speech that is going to be skipped over by the history books, particularly if Labour should win the next general election. Ed Miliband’s ‘One Nation’ speech could well emerge as a pivotal point in the development of UK politics. It was that good.

It was of course, as many commentators have already noted, quite audacious to co-opt the term ‘One Nation’, two words which together are traditionally associated with the Tories, but we’re certainly going to be hearing a lot more about it. Undoubtedly ‘One Nation’ is primed to become the flagship policy of the Labour Party for at least the next two years.

So what is ‘One Nation’? Well, that’s the thing, we’re not really that sure. Ed’s speech was a little devoid of policy and so, right now, ‘One Nation’ seems a little…vacuous. Exactly what ‘One Nation’ is and how it translates in to real policy is something that the Labour Party need to articulate and disseminate quickly.

Failing to add substance to the ‘One Nation’ theme would be to repeat the mistakes of the Conservative Party and their ‘Big Society’ initiative. Relaunched on four separate occasions, ‘Big Society’ sounded all fluffy and wonderful but in truth, like a cloud, it was vaporous. As Conservative MP Jo Johnson (that’s right, Boris’s brother) put it, ‘Big Society’ was ‘incomprehensible’ and ‘intangible’.

‘One Nation’ needn’t be that way. ‘One Nation’ can’t be that way. It has to mean something.

As Ed Miliband noted in his speech, economic inequality is on the increase in the UK. The gap between the richest and the poorest is growing and the working class can do little but watch as the already privileged work to enlarge their piece of a stagnated economic pie.

Exorbitant bonuses for bankers who have failed to facilitate economic growth and a Prime Minister and Chancellor who have awarded themselves a 5% tax cut while forcing student tuition fees through the roof are just two examples of the ways the system and the current government have promoted inequality.

A top heavy economy, one in which money is most concentrated among a few wealthy individuals, cannot grow. As money moves from the bottom to the top overall spending naturally decreases since the rich don’t need to spend as high a percentage of their income to live comfortably as those less well off do.

So simply from an economic standpoint ‘One Nation’ must redress the economic balance if we want to see sustainable growth.

But it is not only the economic polarization that needs fixing; economic asymmetry has bred social polarization in British society. Both the upper and working class see the other as free-loaders and cheats.

Both have a case. There are those in the upper class who have used their already privileged position to make further gains. Consider the expenses scandal, tax evasion worth over £14 billion in 2010/11 and the intricate web of crooked elite relationships that have been revealed by the Leveson and Hillsborough inquiries. The working class are, quite rightly, angry.

Unfortunately when that anger boils over, when the working class and those disenfranchised by the current system protest, occupy or even riot then those who want to maintain their privilege don’t describe these actions as what they really are: a reaction against simple unfairness. Instead they label the rioters as opportunists, the occupiers as lazy, the protesters as hooligans. And many in the upper class are quite happy to accept this ill-fitting stereotype, it maintains the illusion that what they have they earned on their own rather than through the accident of birth that gave them a double-barrelled surname.

‘One Nation’ has to tackle this class divide as well as the economic divide. In many ways these ailments will require a similar medicine. Reducing inequality will reduce the friction between classes. Furthermore reducing inequality is going to help the economy as a whole.

‘One Nation’ must start by taking on those who cheat the system for personal gain. Tax evasion and benefit fraud must be treated as equal wrongs. Under ‘One Nation’ it would make sense for HMRC and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to come together and share their expertise in cracking down on people who abuse the system. We need to treat tax evasion and benefit fraud as the same crime so that participating in one cannot be rationalised by the fact that people are participating in the other. ‘One Nation’ should tell people that if you are a tax evader you are just as bad as a benefit cheat and vice versa.

Second, ‘One Nation’ must encourage economic growth through progressive taxation. Giving a tax cut to millionaires won’t grow the economy because they aren’t going to spend that money, they don’t need to, it’s going to be put away in a bank, maybe a Swiss one, and never be seen or heard from again. ‘One Nation’ should put more money in the pockets of normal working people so that they can spend it on birthday parties and trips to the seaside that they couldn’t otherwise afford. This way the seaside fish and chip shop can stay in business, grow, hire more employees, buy more fish and potatoes and help grow the economy as a whole.

Third, ‘One Nation’ must stop the war on benefits. Yes, we should make sure that people aren’t cheating the benefit system but almost everybody who claims benefits are doing so fairly. A social safety net is vital to an economy, without it people are too busy worrying about where their next meal is coming from to even consider looking for work or inventing new products. Without a social safety net J.K. Rowling could never have written the Harry Potter series.

‘One Nation’ must assure the rich that their higher taxes are not being given away to cheats but should remind them that, in the long term, they, and everybody else, can become even wealthier by helping to grow the economy rather than looking to grab a greater portion of one that isn’t growing. The working class, meanwhile, need to be shown that the wealthiest, those who have benefited the most from the system, are putting their fair share back in. The working class must also be encouraged to climb the economic ladder by a social safety net that will catch them should they fall but only if those who can get back on that ladder do.

With the correct policies ‘One Nation’ has the potential to really improve class relations and trust among people is important to an economy. The different classes no longer trust each other. Fixing that is what ‘One Nation’ should be about.

John Terry and the FA – the unanswered questions

By Cressida Smart

(C) The Mirror

 

 

 

 

 

Any doubts about the veracity of the verdict by the FA panel into the John Terry racism
row were alleviated with the release of the long awaited full transcript of the FA’s
report. It gives a damning verdict of Terry’s defence that he had merely been repeating
the words of Anton Ferdinand in some puzzled way. Yet it still leaves many questions
unanswered: Was the punishment adequate? If the FA does not think this is racism, what
is? What of Ashley Cole’s evidence?

John Terry was found guilty by the FA of breaking rule E3(1) and E3(2) in his abuse of
Anton Ferdinand. Specifically, it was Terry’s use of “abusive and/or insulting words and/
or behaviour” towards Ferdinand with the further charge that he “included a reference
to the ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race of Anton Ferdinand”. He was ordered to
serve a four-game ban and pay a fine of £220,000. Earlier this years in July however, the
court of law cleared the Chelsea captain after a four-day trial in Westminster magistrates’
court of a racially aggravated public order offence. Whilst Terry did not deny using
the words “fucking black cunt” to Ferdinand, he maintained he was only sarcastically
repeating words that Ferdinand wrongly thought he had used. Howard Riddle, the chief
magistrate summed up by saying, “It is therefore possible that what he said was not
intended as an insult, but rather as a challenge to what he believed had been said to him.
In those circumstances, there being a doubt, the only verdict the court can record is one of
not guilty”.

The FA’s case hinged on whether the words were used as an insult or whether he was
repeating an allegation made to him and dismissing it. In their written report, they
dismissed Terry’s defence as “improbable, implausible, contrived”. On the balance of
probabilities, “the commission is quite satisfied that there is no credible basis for Mr
Terry’s defence that his use of the words were directed at Ferdinand by way of forceful
rejection and/or inquiry. Instead, we are quite satisfied, and find on the balance of
probabilities, that the offending words were said by way of insult.”

The first point to address is the punishment handed down to Terry. Many have howled
at the match ban, comparing it to that of Suarez, arguing it should have been longer. In
his written reasons for explaining the penalty imposed on Suarez, FA chairman Paul
Goulding QC and his colleagues ruled, “It is not necessary for the FA to prove that Mr
Suarez intended his words or behaviour to be abusive or insulting. Our task is to decide
whether in our view the words or behaviour were abusive or insulting.” In Terry’s case,
the findings, presumably, were the same. He admitted, in the dock in July, that he had
used the words “fucking black cunt”. Context, as ruled in the Suarez case, was irrelevant.
The rule states that reference to a person’s “ethnic origin, colour or race” should guide
a panel into considering double the minimum four-match ban. One could argue that
perhaps Terry’s four-match ban leaves open the possibility that the panel accepted, at
least in part, Terry’s defence. Suárez was given an eight-week ban for his remarks to
Patrice Evra.

In deciding Terry’s punishment, the commission took into account Ferdinand’s victim
impact statement, which made plain he had been “badly affected” by the incident and the
high profile nature of the match. Weighed against that was the fact the insult was said
only once and the testimonials in favour of Terry by many of those involved in the game,
with his team-mate Ryan Bertrand’s seen as particularly significant.

The second bone of contention is Ashley Cole’s evidence in court, which casts serious
doubt over his witness statement. One of the chapters in the FA’s report is entitled
the ‘evolution of Ashley Cole’s evidence’. It states that the Chelsea player added at a
later date the word ‘black’ into his witness statement which outlined what he claimed
to have heard Ferdinand saying to Terry. According to the report, this had the effect
of “bolstering Mr Terry’s claim that the words that he spoke to Mr Ferdinand were not
said by way of an insult, but as repetition and forceful denial of what Mr Ferdinand had
accused him of saying.”

In new evidence that was considered by the panel but not by the court, it shows in
an interview with FA officials five days after the match, Cole saying he heard a “b-
word” but did not mention the word black. In a later emailed statement, Cole says the
word “could have been Bridge”. However David Barnard, Chelsea club secretary, later
emailed the FA after discussing the matter with Cole to add the words “black or Bridge”.

In his witness statement, some 10 months later, Barnard also claims that Cole heard the
word “cunt” being used in close proximity to the “b-word”. Yet the commission found
on the balance of probabilities that Cole’s original evidence contained neither that word
nor “fucking”. There could be serious implications for Barnard and Chelsea if this is
considered a contempt of court. Following the report, Cole released a tweet making
derogatory comments about the FA. He tweeted that the FA were a ‘bunch of twats’, he
also said that he wasn’t a liar, even though neither the FA nor anybody else used the
word liar? It now remains to be seen how the FA react to that, given that Cole is still
an England player. If the FA has any integrity at all, that will be the end of his England
career.

The third issue is that of racism. The FA, which brought the charge, actively argued that
Terry is not a racist. If the FA doesn’t consider calling someone “a fucking black cunt”
what do they consider racist? Of what need did Terry have to refer to Ferdinand’s skin
colour? Racism is vile and malevolent and has blighted many people’s lives. It continues
to do so, although great strides have been taken to reduce its incidence. Only racists and
Neanderthals would need convincing that society has to adopt a zero tolerance approach
to incidences of racism or racist insults.

If a leading member of a major private or public institution repeated the words used by
John Terry, he would be sacked. If Chelsea – who have said they will wait to see if Terry
appeals before making clear their intentions and on Saturday confirmed there will be
a “disciplinary process” with Ashley Cole – choose not to do that, what reasons will they
give for not taking this course of action? Are they happy their captain has been found
guilty of lying? Are they happy that he uses such appalling language in public? Are they

happy for this man to be their captain?

What of the fans? They too have a voice. Are they happy to have their team led by a
man who uses a racist insult? Now is their opportunity to use social media in protest
and signal their disapproval of their leader; how about #sackjohnterrynow? If they don’t,
then how can they take a credible stand on racism in public life ever again? They can’t.
There is no reason for being equivocal about racism. It will be interesting to note if any
action is taken by Chelsea’s commercial partners and sponsors such as Samsung. Are
they happy that their brand is represented by a team leader who uses racist language
towards an opponent? They shouldn’t be and they should use their considerable influence
to demand that he plays no further part in any association with their brand.

The entire incident has shamed Chelsea and England’s stance on racism. For those of us
who love football it is dispiriting, depressing and disgusting to see how football has dealt
so ineptly with this Terry affair. Calling John Terry a racist may lose the FA friends and
create enemies, but it would at least emphasise that there is no place in football or society
for racism. Change starts at the top.

George Osborne and the Concept of ‘Yellowism’

By Kirstin Farnie

George Osborne would like to have us believe that instead of going to work first thing in the morning we should all be looting- blazing pitchforks in hand- any homes where the curtains are still drawn, demanding to know why the inhabitants aren’t at work. It seems George has never come across the concept of working night shifts- but he can’t know everything, can he? Just as your English teacher said ‘write about what you know’, Osborne seems to deliver economic policies about the small section of society he knows.

Don’t worry, I’m not planning to write a ‘Casual Vacancy’ spin-off series and bore you all with one-sided socialism. And it might seem silly to read into one comment Mr Osborne made this morning during a radio interview. But Osborne’s comment about drawn curtains suggests that he is still working from an outdated crib-book entitled ‘How to recognise different social classes’.

Osborne’s welfare cuts are designed, he says, to prevent people who feel they’re hard-done-by from stock-piling benefits that ought to be given to people who actually are hard-done-by. From personal experience, I can tell you that it is relatively easy to make any minor physical disability sound life-changing just to get an extra fifty quid a week. I know several university students who- perfectly legally, but somewhat immorally in my opinion- cheat the system so that they get a bigger student loan. I think this is very unfair, of course I do. But the experiences I’ve had have taught me that benefits cheats are a socially mobile group.

It isn’t that long ago that we believed in Britain that poverty was the result of a weakness of character. Although he daren’t say it explicitly, Osborne’s comment about benefits cheats having a lie in every day shows that still views society as a collection of stereotypes. If he really wants to make society fairer, he needs to understand that the national sense of entitlement has become epidemic. It might have started with the chavs, but its inexorable spread (apparently there were some monkeys involved somewhere along the line) has left us in a society rife with it. Political efforts to find the cure have so far been unsuccessful, simply resulting in violent protests and resentment. Maybe it’s time for politicians to realise that they need to invest a bit more time in researching their vaccine before they hail it as the miracle cure it to the rest of us.

Osborne doesn’t seem to have grasped that the national sense of entitlement doesn’t just affect rioting teens who ‘know their rights’: in the age of Twitter and Facebook, everyone has an arena to express themselves in. We’ve adapted to this increased access to expressive platforms by feeling that we all have the right to tell everyone our toast-eating habits free of censorship.

Everyone feels it’s their human ‘right’ to blurt out their opinions, whether or not they’ve properly thought about them, and usually without recourse to any form of evidence.

It used to be that only people with an opinion worth listening to was invited to express it publicly, but now everyone and anyone can tell the nation exactly what they’re thinking. This sense of entitlement has broken down the respect we once had for authorities, and whilst I don’t want to return to an intellectually hierarchal society, I am concerned about the effects of this sense of expressive entitlement. I believe it is this that led someone to deface a much-loved work of art in a revered art gallery this weekend. The culprit wanted to express the artistic movement of ‘yellowism’. In protest, I fully intend not to give his movement any more attention. Treat others as you would be treated, goes the old saying, and the disrespect that the vandal showed to the hours of work Rothko must have put into creating his mural demonstrates that he believes that his right to express himself is more important than Rothko’s right for his work to be respected. Rothko wanted the room in which the mural was displayed to be spiritual, and now his right to express himself has been violated.

Social media has turned us all into attention seekers, and we live in an era where any publicity is good publicity, so chances are there will be a ‘yellowist’ wedding on the cover of ‘Hello’ before the year’s out.

Obama Leaves Space for a Comeback

By S.M.Banchard

Image
© Scout Tufankjian for Obama for America

In the presidential debate that took place last night, there seemed to be a strong sense that someone was missing. That someone was President Obama. Though the president appeared at the Denver, Colorado venue on his anniversary, no less, the president’s normal regal charisma and affluent delivery on the stage was somehow absent.

Instead, during the 90 minutes, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney took an aggressive front on the issues posed to both contenders, not only singling out the misgivings of Obama’s last four years, but also highlighting the intricacies of how his plan differed for the better. Romney, having already gathered a strong reputation for not being afraid to stand out in opposition, even confronted moderator and long time PBS affiliate Jim Lehrer, stating “I love Big Bird,” but that he would stop the subsidies to such publicly funded programs to ensure the reduction of the national deficit.  Romney outlined a plan for more programmes to be run at the state level, citing the dismantling of nationally funded programs like Obama care, which he claimed were unnecessary expenditures increasing the budget.

It was on this point of economic development that Romney, perhaps unsurprisingly, stood out. Romney skilfully framed the problem as a moral issue- calling upon the fears of those American’s that are weary of Obama’s high fiscal spending to drive his point home. The contender stated that it was immoral for his generation, “to spend massively more than we take in, knowing those burdens are going to be passed onto the next generation, knowing they are going to be paying the interest and the principle all their lives.” Romney’s detailed and confident approach left many believing Mr. Romney not only won the debate, but made up substantial ground amidst the past few weeks of media misspeaks.

Where Obama failed was not in the defence of his attacks; but in that he did not attack. In an America that perceives itself to still be treading water amidst a 16 trillion dollar deficit, the scrutiny of the public eye on the current economic state was at its highest. Thus, the confident representation of Obama’s plan was necessary to bolster America’s confidence in its economic future under his authority. Instead, the president focused on Romney’s proposed tax cuts, and questioned Romney as to how the government would pay for such a policy. To the keen economic eye, the president’s juxtaposition skilfully undermined many ethical implications as to who would be responsible for those costs, cleverly bringing in the question of the middle class, a subgroup whose favour both parties find themselves vying for in these elections. However the president’s lack of detail in his follow up to these remarks was an untapped counter to the consequences of Romney’s emotively executed argument for protecting future generations.

Furthermore, there were several hot topic issues of Romney misspeaks that Obama did not confront the Massachusetts governor on, such as drawing on the now famous 47% statement, to hot topics of immigration and abortion. These areas of republican rhetoric have been privy to contentious backlash in the previous weeks, and went untapped as areas of important concern.

In his closing statement, the president spoke of drawing on the American people’s strengths to develop the country’s future. Skilfully, the president focused on how to cultivate these areas of strengths that the debate had not given much focus to, such as developing environmentally conscious energy products, investing in creating jobs within US borders, and perhaps of most importance, closing the budget in a responsible way. Yet the president could have done more to break these points down and bring it home to a nation that already teeters in his favour. His lack of clarity left the public without the ability to take home his own driving points for future policy, giving Mitt the advantage and leaving space in the presidential race for a comeback.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Quickly Becoming Hollywood’s Brightest Shining Star

(C) imdb.com

By Lee Kiddell

We’ve all increasingly seen Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the past
few years; he’s everywhere! And unlike Nicolas Cage, it’s actually a good thing!
He doesn’t just appear in any-old rubbish – he’s one of those actors who seems to
mainly appear in great films. He is certainly one of my favourite actors, not just of
late, but in general because of the respect I have of him as a professional.

Obviously, no actor can dodge every bullet and there have been a few films that
haven’t quite been my cup of tea but it takes nothing away from a man who is an
exceptional talent. And I haven’t seen everything he’s ever been in but what I have
seen has made me a big fan. Read more of this post

The British Chambers of Commerce and the question of growth

By Matt Kilcoyne

The British Chambers of Commerce has released the findings of its survey of 7,593 UK firms and it is a mixed bag of results for the UK economy. Overall the BCC, which represents over 104,000 UK businesses, found that the British economy had grown in the third quarter of this year by around 0.5%. This represents a stark departure from the gloom earlier in the year where it’s estimated that GDP shrank by 0.4% Q2 and 0.2% Q1 and will be a welcome relief for the British chancellor George Osborne.

Yet this headline figure of growth, which happily for the Conservatives appears right in the middle of the Labour conference, does come with some heavy caveats. Namely, that whilst the top line figure appears positive, the underlying economy is hurting and almost all key balances had worsened in Q3 compared to Q2. Indeed the Government’s much lauded export lead growth policy, designed to rebalance the economy away from over-reliance on finance, is suffering with the third quarter levels dropping to a similar level as the end of 2011. This report coincided with the release of the Purchasing Managers’ Index which measures economic indicators and where an number above 50 represents expansion, below contraction, with the export PMI down from 48.8 to 48 Aug-Sep and the sixth month of continuous decline.

It doesn’t even stop there with manufacturing at 48.4 (well below the market expectation) and employment at 47. In addition to this bad news the input price for firms rising from 48.8 to 57.5 whilst output price fell showing that “firms have struggled to pass on the increase in their costs to customers”

BCC Director General John Longworth said: “Economic growth is weak and businesses are less confident and less likely to invest than they were at the beginning of the year “The BCC’s survey results should be a clear signal to Government that more needs to be done to stimulate growth alongside continued deficit reduction. Despite official estimates, we believe the economy is still growing, but it is slowing. We need immediate measures now to support confidence and investment, a radical long-term growth plan, and a continued commitment to deficit reduction.”

The BCC’s call for new means to stimulate growth will chime with UK voters that have increasingly become cautious on spending cuts with more and more wanting cuts done more slowly and the Coalition increasingly seen as managing the economy poorly.

Yet for all this woe it should be noted that the BBC and its members really do think that the economy is growing and that their businesses are surviving. This is a call for animal spirits to be revived and to get the British economy back to life. The BCC notes that the Liberal Democrat and Conservative coalition has policies in the pipe-line to get us moving again and wants to see them implemented quicker “such as implementing plans to create a British Business Bank as well as far-reaching proposals to unlock infrastructure investment”. These calls should ring warning bells for Labour leaders as businesses are not calling for Labour’s ‘Five Point Plan’ but for more Coalition policy.

If Labour are to gain back the some 5 million voters that deserted them between 1997 and 2010 then they will need to restore their economic credibility and one of the easiest ways for them to do this is to get the confidence of businesses and their workers. Whilst they’re on the wrong side of ‘wealth creators’ they will also be on the wrong side of the argument and quite possibly the wrong side of the house for the rest of their agenda.

Finally, to end on some good news and some brilliant news for the areas concerned, the economy in some of our most deprived communities is recovering at a pace well above average with Liverpool and Norfolk bucking the trend of negativity. Liverpool’s Chamber of Commerce saw optimism in sales, orders and exports with manufacturing sales performance is at the highest level since quarter four 2010 and orders at their highest since 2007; confidence follows mass investment from Car Industry giants providing job security and growth opportunity for other firms in the region.

If George Osborne’s deficit reduction strategy is to work, growth be returned consistently and the economy rebalanced the BCC’s calls for radical action will need to be heeded. If Labour is to regain power it will need to regain the confidence of business and promote policies that will actually work at getting the economy growing. The problem is until the politicking ends and we see a decent effort on all sides to go for growth, to talk up the economy and revive our desire for growth it’s quite likely that the economy will continue to stagnate and the news correspondingly bleak.

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