Category: Uncategorized

Sport: What happened to sportsmanship?

Corruption in sport is nothing new. Boxing has often been fixed since the early days, giving us the familiar expression ‘taking a dive’. Horses and dogs were doped to slow them down, or to make them go faster. Team members and individuals took bribes to lose games or matches, and bookmakers could win or lose fortunes on the outcome of a race. Money was always involved, but never on the huge scale it represents today. Winning is all, whatever the cost. It doesn’t matter if it is an amateur contest, or the prestige of playing for a national team, fame, success, medals, or money seem to be all that matter.

Recent high-profile cases have included swimmers who took performance enhancing drugs, cyclists who did the same, as well as runners and athletes tied up in doping scandals. Now we have cricketers who have admitted to match-fixing, tampering with balls on the pitch, or deliberately playing badly for payment to do so. Football (soccer) stars who have feigned injury in the hope that their team will lose, and they will make money from payoffs or gambling, and Formula One cars with unauthorised modifications that have helped them win races.

Even in the world of Tennis, unfair play in the form of ‘gamesmanship’ has become the norm, with delayed serves, arguing with the officials’ decisions, and anything else possible to unsettle an opponent.

Second best is no longer good enough, unless it comes with a substantial paycheck to compensate for it. And what about behaviour? Cricket and rugby stars in this country attacking people in the street, or assaulting a police officer whilst drunk. Should they be trying to set a better example? I think so. Should they be banned from their sport because of that behaviour? I think they should

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The spirit of sport is withering on the vine as we watch, and the corruption that began in the bad old days of Soviet-bloc hormone treatments has been exceeded by such widespread abuses, we can no longer be sure of the validity of any sport we might watch, or follow.

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2018: A very messy year

Still more than four months to go, but this has to be one of the messiest years I can remember. Nothing seems to be working, anywhere. Nothing seems to be getting solved, anywhere. And nobody appears to be even trying that hard, anywhere. Perhaps the heatwave here has numbed my brain, but after my year of being positive during 2017, I am struggling to find anything remotely positive about 2018.

America is in a mess, divided in ways I have never seen before in my lifetime, and arguably not since 1861. The US president is loved and despised in equal measure, and lines have been drawn in the sand that nobody is prepared to cross. He famously once remarked that he could shoot someone dead in the street, and not lose a single vote. I think he was right.

Britain is in a mess too. The government hangs on by a thread, supported by one the nastiest parties in British politics, The Democratic Unionists of Northern Ireland. Brexit has been sucked into a quicksand of deals, none of which look like working. Nobody seems to want it any more (except me perhaps) in its likely form, and some Conservatives have seen it as an opportunity to oust the current leadership, and satisfy their chums in big business. We are stumbling into a bad-deal Brexit that leaves us neither in nor really out. Some people will benefit of course. They always do.

Syria is in a mess. Assad still can’t win, it seems. People are still dying, on both sides, and the western (and Russian) vultures are still circling above, looking to see what scraps they can gain from the carnage. Iraq is still in a mess. Despite supposedly democratic elections, the losers didn’t like the outcome, and won’t accept it. And nobody is completely sure that ISIS has actually been defeated there.

Israel and Palestine are still in a mess too. That’s a pretty long mess, that has carried on since the formation of that country, in 1948. And unlikely to change any time soon, as long as the US and other nations refuse to condemn Israel for its excesses.

There are some seemingly overlooked and forgotten messes too. The Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar, the cruel war against ‘rebels’ in Yemen, with the Saudi-led coalition killing civilians every day. Boko Haram operating in Nigeria, corruption and exploitation all over the African continent, and the never-ending stream of economic migrants still arriving in Europe.

And let’s not forget Europe. The Far Right on the move in countries like Hungary, Italy, and Austria. Greece still bankrupt, Sweden and Norway supposedly overwhelmed by migrants and refugees they took in in good faith, and the German leader facing the backlash of her open door immigration policies.

I haven’t forgotten South America and Asia, but then the post would get far too long.

I don’t know about you, but I see no way out of this 2018 mess, and fully expect it to carry on into 2019.

North Korea: Eating My Hat

I never thought the ‘summit’ between Mr Trump and the leader of North Korea would go ahead. I have said that before, and I am now admitting my error. Apologies to those I argued with. I had long considered this to be a ‘blind’ by the Americans, something they pretended to want to happen, but hoped never would.

I am man enough to accept that I was wrong. Some basic ‘agreements’ have been signed, and will hopefully be put into action. Let’s hope that the region will be free of the threat of nuclear war, and that the people of the DPRK can look forward to a slightly easier life. We may never know what was on the table, to get Kim Jong-Un to sign away all the things he had said he never would. But it doesn’t matter what has been given away, if it brings some peace to that troubled country, and its southern neighbour.

I don’t wear a hat, so you will just have to imagine I have eaten it.

Iran: All about one thing

The last few months (years, let’s face it) have seen a lot of antagonism focused on Iran. That country can’t seem to do anything right, in the eyes of others. Ever since the hostage crisis that ended in 1981, it has been vilified as the cause of so many problems, not only in that region, but the world over. If they couldn’t actually pin anything on the Iranians directly, they complained about the use of ‘Iranian-supplied weapons’, or ‘Iranian-backed troops’.

They didn’t mention all the Western-supplied weapons, or Western-backed troops. Oh no.

Remember the long war Iran fought against Iraq? It was from 1980-1988, to jog your memory. During that war, we all thought the Iraqis should win, and wanted the Ayatollahs in Iran to be defeated. Our governments did, anyway, and told us that was the preferred outcome. So we supported Iraq with weapons, advisers, and probably money too. Anything to see the end of Iran, or the regime that wasn’t on our side, as the former Shah had been. This despite the fact that it was conveniently forgotten that Iraq was the aggressor, as they sought to capture the rich oilfields of Khuzestan. At the end, nobody won, and over 1,000,000 troops and civilians were dead. But we don’t ever think about that, as we fill up our cars with fuel.

So once again, it was about oil. It was about oil then, and it is still about oil now.

What are those naughty Iranians up to now?

The US has withdrawn from a Nuclear deal that everyone else accepts was working, claiming Iran is not keeping its promises.
The US is now laughably blaming Iran for the 9/11 attacks, despite proof-positive that they were backed and organised by Saudi Arabia.
Iran is supplying arms to militant Palestinians in Israel.
Iran is supplying rockets that are being fired into Israel.
Iranian banks are ‘funding world terror’.
Iran has imprisoned a British woman on spurious charges.

There is more, but I cannot be bothered to list all the accusations.
Behind all of it, there is just one thing. Oil
It has always been about one thing, Ayatollahs or not. Oil
The Nuclear deal rejection is a smokescreen for? Oil.

The west wants Iran’s oil, and will stop at nothing to get it. That’s what all of this is about.
If you want to believe all the rest, then that’s up to you.

Facebook, and Cambridge Analytica

During last week, the world was supposedly ‘shocked’ by revelations that the details of Facebook users were being used by a research company, Cambridge Analytica, for sales or marketing purposes, and also to possibly influence voting patterns in the 2016 election in America. It was also ‘revealed’ that they targeted voters in the UK, during the EU referendum.

Facebook has 215 million users in the United States alone, and 35 million users in the UK by current available figures. Worldwide, users of that one social media platform are believed to be well in excess of 2.2 BILLION, with at least half that number active on a daily basis. People in most countries around the planet, people of all races and creeds, young and old. They happily share a photo of their latest meal, new sexy outfit, playing with their pets, or just plain old-fashioned keeping in touch with family and friends.

As well as that, many express their political preferences, attack people with different views and opinions, or bully vulnerable people whilst online. They tag people in photos, often without asking, and mention the people they have been socialising with, as well as family members and children. All this information is eagerly harvested by Facebook, from their headquarters. It is then sold on to advertisers, marketplace sellers, opinion poll companies, consumer research organisations, and statistical number crunching outfits like Cambridge Analytica.. Facebook is now estimated to be worth over $500 BILLION, without including the personal worth of its founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.

So, why the surprise? What is all the furore and chest-beating about? Did you really think that Facebook was just the invention of an amiable geek who wanted to allow everyone to connect with their old school-friends? Really?
Just like how Amazon only wants everyone in the world to be able to buy reasonably-priced goods, delivered to their door.
Or Google provides a totally free search engine, for the altruistic benefit of mankind.

Charities In Meltdown

The current Oxfam crisis comes as little surprise to me, to be honest. I gave up donating to such charities decades ago. I discovered that they were paying their executives six-figure salaries, and that much of the aid sent to desperate countries was either ending up in the hands of armed warlords, or being sold on by middlemen, described by various charities as ‘local entrepreneurs’. They tried to dress this up as ‘job creation’, but what it actually meant was more profit for a charity that had become little more than a business, its coffers swelled by huge government donations too.

Other charities will be exposed too, I have no doubt. Save The Children has already been mentioned, and many others will topple like dominoes, in the weeks to come. Sex for aid, the misuse of vehicles and funds, and the appalling spectre of children sexually abused in return for the basics in life. This with charities paying their executives well in excess of £100,000 a year, as well as supplying housing, company cars, and expense accounts to many as well. Make you feel warm inside, for doing that ‘fun run’? I doubt that.

And how about their luxury offices, in prime locations? I think it would be unlikely if even 10% of donations actually reached the underprivileged and starving they were intended for. Too much money equals big business, and we know how that ends up. Corruption, abuse, deprivation, and big rewards for those in charge. Sex, exploitation, child abuse, what a shameful catalogue of horrors. Abuse of resources and vehicles, and perhaps more tellingly, abuse of a position of trust. Not only do I feel sorry for those poverty-stricken people who deserved compassion and help, but also for the hard-working and unpaid volunteers who did it all for nothing.

And for those of you that doubted me, as long ago as the 1970s, I have four words.

I TOLD YOU SO.

The Nuclear Threat

Ever since I can remember, the world has lived in fear of one side or another using nuclear weapons. At school in the 1950s, we had air-raid drills; hiding under desks, facing away from the windows. As if that would have made any difference, if a nuclear bomb had actually struck central London, some two miles from where I was concealed under my old desk, in a school built during the Victorian era. We had seen the result of the American attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and these new bombs were many times more powerful.

At the time, there were few countries capable of using such weapons. The Soviet Union was the presumed enemy during the Cold War, and Britain had been given the means to retaliate too, by America. The French had also tested atomic bombs in the Pacific, so it was safe to assume that only four countries had these bombs in their possession. We are now in 2018, and that list of countries has not grown significantly. As well as Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and Israel are all known to have the potential to launch nuclear weapons. And if you believe the propaganda by both sides, (I don’t) North Korea may well have a viable delivery system too.

Then there is the issue of ‘sharing’. That sounds very cosy, given what is being shared. The USA has ‘shared’ the option to launch nuclear weapons with Turkey, Belgium, Holland, Italy, and Germany. This basically consists of the USA siting weapons in those countries, then deciding whether or not to fire them. There are also countries that once had nuclear weapons, but apparently no longer have any; South Africa, Canada, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. One thing we can be sure of, there are a lot of nuclear bombs and missiles out there.

By using published figures, there are 14,900 nuclear missiles and bombs stored around the world. That’s more than enough to wipe out the human race, many times over. Probably enough to not only eradicate all life on Earth, but also to destroy the very fabric of the planet. When we read about the nuclear threat, it is generally in terms of a supposedly limited conflict. The US has hinted that it will use them against the DPRK, should their leader fire rockets at US bases, South Korea, or Japan. But the DPRK has a border with China, so involving the Chinese could not be avoided. India and Pakistan square up against each other all the time, and have been in conflict since 1947. But both sides know that using nuclear weapons would also be self-destructive, so have never launched any. For Israel to use them against their near-neighbours would also result in disaster for their own country, so they are almost certainly not going to launch any.

For almost sixty years, I have lived in the shadow of this Nuclear Threat. The Cold War, The Cuban Missile Crisis, and many other supposed ‘near misses’ over the decades. I have finally decided that nobody will use them. It doesn’t make economic sense, and money rules the world. I stopped living in fear of the Nuclear Threat, and concluded that it is just that. A threat.