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News | Anorak - Part 23

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Russian damages painting of Ivan The Terrible in drunken rage

The one great finding of all the social sciences is that there’s a truth in a stereotype. There has to be, for no one would believe it, or even make it up, if there weren’t something there to note in the first place. So, that idea that all Russians get wildly drunk on vodka all the time – no, it’s not true of all Russians and not of all the time. But there’s a truth there all the same:

A vandal has seriously damaged “Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan,” one of the best-known paintings exhibited in Tretyakov Gallery’s main building on Lavrushinsky lane in Moscow, the press service of Tretyakov Gallery told Sputnik on Saturday.

Well, yes, a vandal. Seems that the bloke didn’t go to the gallery with this in mind, but the idea occurred to him while there:

In the interior ministry’s video, the man says he recognised the seriousness of his crime. “I came to look at the painting,” the man reportedly told police. “I wanted to leave, but then dropped into the

[gallery’s]

buffet and drank 100g of vodka. I don’t drink vodka and became overwhelmed by something.”

That’s about 4 ounces of vodka, call it 5 UK shots from a standard optic. And yes, that 100 grammes of vodka is an entirely normal, even a small, measure in Russia. So, there’s that part of the stereotype proven then.

The painting — titled “Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on November 16, 1581,” depicts Russia’s first czar cradling his dying son after striking him in a fit of rage.

That’s what makes the story so wondrous. Man gets into a (drunken) rage and attacks painting. A painting of a man who has just been in a (non-drunken, so the story goes) rage.

Pretty good, no?

Posted: 30th, May 2018 | In: News, Strange But True | Comment


We’ve found the journalism’s nadir at Sainsbury’s

Journalism is not dead – it’s just waiting for Sainsbury’s to “reveal” what times its stores open over the bank holiday:

 

 

The story from investigative reporter ‘Becky Pemberton’ informs readers:

A spokesperson confirmed to the Sun Online: “All of our stores will be open this Bank Holiday but subject to changed opening hours.” It is therefore essential to check up on the individual store times to make sure yours is open.

So essential is the news that amid all the guff about bonus Nectar points and Sainsbury’s being tops for barbecues, Becky advises readers: “Many supermarkets are not changing their hours for the May bank holiday, but it is best to check first. You can do this using the store finder on their website.”

Yeah, that’s right – the Sun has “revealed” the opening times by looking at the Sainsbury’s website. And now thanks to the paper and links, you too can do just that.

 

Posted: 29th, May 2018 | In: News, Tabloids, The Consumer | Comment


Are people richer In London?

We all know that wages in London are higher than they are in the rest of the country. When we start talking about inequality then that’s as far as people go. They get paid more money so they’re richer, inequality must be this much then.

That’s not quite how an economist would try to guide the conversation though. What’s important is not how much someone can earn but what can they consume? So, we talk about the concept of disposable income. And, to the economist, the important one is disposable income after housing costs. Because that’s what you can spend on everything else. Wages, or income if you like, after taxes, benefits and housing costs. That’s the important number to be using when discussing inequality.

This inequality is a lot less than what we’re generally told it all is across the country. A nice example being this:

The sharp differences in household incomes across the UK have been set out in official government statistics.

The average disposable income per person (the ONS calls this household income), once taxes and benefits are accounted, was £19,432 in 2016.

But in Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham in west London the average income was more than three times this at £58,816.

In contrast, in Nottingham – which has the lowest household income – the average income was £12,232.

This is before housing costs. This is rather important because we can look up what housing costs are by borough (for London) or region (for the rest of the country). We should take the median – 50% of households pay less than this, 50% more.

Nottingham is East Midlands and median rent is £500 a month. Kensington and Chelsea is £2,000 a month. So, the economists’ inequality is rather lower. Because we’d say that disposable income after housing costs, is £6,000 a year in Nottingham, £38,000 a year in K&C. Sure, this is still a big difference. But it’s a smaller difference than the one generally being used.

Sure, incomes are higher in London, but so are the costs of living there. National inequality is lower than what we’re usually told it is.

Posted: 29th, May 2018 | In: Money, News | Comment


We don’t want more trains are useless; we want 21st Century technology

We have another of those calls from people who would spend our money for us. They’d like lots of it all to be spent upon trains. Lots of ’em, to cover the country with railway lines. There are problems with this idea, two of them being pretty obvious. Trains are a 19th century technology. It’s really more than a little odd to be pushing them quite so hard here as solutions to our 21 st century problems. The other is that they’re concentrating upon moving people around when that’s not the problem at all, freight is.

But, you know, they get to have fun arguing about how to spend other peoples’ money:

The UK risks becoming too reliant on HS2 to plug the gap in its national transport strategy, analysts have warned.

Transport thinktank Greengauge 21 has said that in order to develop a truly “national” strategy, the UK needs to move away from the “hub-and-spoke” model centred on London to a network that links together upgraded city centre “hub” stations.

It suggests that instead of forming a “Y” shape that will link London with Birmingham, the East Midlands, Leeds and Manchester, HS2 should instead form an “X” shape with a new connection in the West Midlands, allowing trains to operate from Bristol and Cardiff to places in the Midlands, the North and Scotland.

Well, that does rather depend upon the idea that there are people in Bristol who would like to go to the Midlands. People who would but won’t currently, given the necessity of going toward London then taking a left. Or, perhaps, up the M5 and right.

High-speed rail connecting all of the UK mainland by 2050 would put ‘rocket fuel in Britain’s economy’, a leading transport think tank has said.

The proposed plan would be a further development of HS2 (High Speed 2) which is the new high-speed rail linking London, West Midlands, Leeds and Manchester, due to be operational by 2026.

The ambitious proposal by a UK think tank is to extend the HS2 line and create 1,000 miles (1,600km) of new rail network that will ‘reach all parts of the country’.

Quite why this would invigorate the economy isn’t really known. For we do that by adding value. What we build must be worth more than what it costs us to build it. And HS2 itself doesn’t even manage that. The reason being that we’ve all got other methods of both communicating and travelling now. Cars, sure, but the internet and mobile phones have reduced the value gained by faster rail journeys.

Fast train sets just aren’t worth building that is.

It would also cut road traffic and shrink a long-standing productivity gap with countries such as Germany, Italy and France, the group believes.

But wasting money on something not worth it reduces productivity, not increases it.

Now, it is about possible that more freight railway work would be worthwhile. It’s a bit difficult to say in a country as small as Britain actually, but it’s possible. But more passenger rail? It’s simply not worth it, doesn’t cover the cost of building it.

So, obviously, we shouldn’t go build it, should we?

Posted: 29th, May 2018 | In: News, The Consumer | Comment


Mutiny festival deaths: test drugs, supply free water and stop blaming victims

Tommy Bakeer Georgia Jones mutiny festival

 

Tommy Bakeer’s father does not want his son’s death to be forgotten. Both Tommy, 20, (aka Tommy Cowan) and Georgia Jones, 18, fell ill at the weekend’s Mutiny Festival in Cosham, Portsmouth. Both died in hospital. A third person is critically ill. “I was in the hospital when he was fighting, I held his hand and he died. So I guess he wasn’t alone,” says Tommy Bakeer’s father Damian Cowan. “It’s no good saying ‘don’t do drugs’, all I can say is ‘take this on board, look what’s happened, if you want to end up that way, carry on. If you don’t, don’t even think about it.”

He’s right, of course. Taking drugs is dangerous. Their illegality makes them more so. The debate around drugs is tired. The fact remains true: if an adult wants to take drugs, what business is it of the law to empower them or ban them? Neither represent freedom.

Georgia Jones’s mother,  Janine Milburn hopes her daughter’s death would deter others from “taking anything ever”.

As for any criminal case, Hampshire Police say a 20-year-old man from Havant, a 20-year-old from Waterlooville and a 22-year-old man from Cosham are helping police with their enquiries. They remain in police custody.

What says the Press?

Daily Mirror: “‘Rogue GREEN HEINEKEN ecstasy tablets’ blamed for deaths of two people at Mutiny Festival.”

We do not know what caused two apparently healthy young people to die. “Eyewitness Sam, 20” tells the paper: “I saw the girl on the ground being treated by paramedics, it was a horrendous sight, she was in a very bad way. People said she may have had two pills and if they were the Green Heinekens I can see why as my friend only had one and he was in a right state afterwards. We had not heard anything about any drug warning, but as soon as people started getting ill it was blamed on the Green Heinekens.”

Janine Milburn, Georgia’s mother, adds: “As I have now spoken to family members I can now say Georgia died yesterday due to complications after taking two pills at Mutiny. If nothing else I hope what has happened to her will deter you from taking anything ever.”

Mrs Milburn made her comment over social media. The Mirror, which publishes the “exclusive” story after it’s accessed by readers who first agree to watch an advert, says: “Georgia’s family did not wish to make a comment when a reporter visited their home in Havant, Hants.”

The Sun: “‘SHAMBOLIC’ Mutiny Festival where two died after taking ecstasy slammed for ‘shambolic’ security with steward claiming guards failed to search revellers”.

Shambolic times two. How abad was it?

Steward Thomas Hall, 28, told The Sun Online some security guards failed to search people coming in – and even stashed drugs found for their own personal use.

No proof. And why should more control be the remedy for people taking drugs they cannot test and must buy illegally?

Pictures claiming to show drugs smuggled into the festival have also circulated online.

One photo shows condoms strewn across the surface of a toilet cubicle, with the poster alleging that pills were stashed inside and hidden by a dealer.

Would it matter if they were?

But one Twitter user blamed drug dealers and takers for the deaths.

They wrote: “Blaming security when the #mutiny punters bring stuff in and kill their friends.

“Look at yourselves when you kill kids, you know who sells, deals, kills your friends. Deflecting blame doesn’t make you less guilty.”

Daily Mail: “‘Shambolic’ security guards are accused of failing to search revellers at Mutiny festival where girl, 18, and father, 20, died after taking ‘bad batch’ of ecstasy – as police arrest three men.”

Shambolic? There it is again. Can you search cavities? That’s how drugs can get into the venue – inside the dealer and the taker. The Mail’s story is based on the Sun’s story and tweets:

One person wrote on Twitter: ‘The security yesterday at mutiny was f**king shambolic, their sniffer dog was just running round with a tennis ball and not one of us got searched.’

Another said: ‘Security at mutiny yesterday honestly shocking, one sniffer dog, nobody got a pat down search or anything and seemed to be more interested in throwing away my water bottle than looking for drugs!!’

The Guardian: “Concerns raised over festival water supplies after drug deaths”

Dehydration?

Concerns have been raised about access to free drinking water at Mutiny festival this weekend after the death of two people believed to have taken high-strength ecstasy pills.

People who attended the event in Portsmouth on Saturday have alleged on social media that there was a lack of drinking water after 4pm, when they claim some of the taps stopped working properly and large queues built up.

The festival’s organisers vehemently denied that access to water was limited and said the 21 taps were working at all times.

Ecstasy use can lead to overheating and dehydration. The NHS advises that drinking too little can be dangerous, but also that too much fluid can affect the brain, as ecstasy tends to make the body retain fluid.

Water:

Fiona Measham, a director of the drug-testing charity The Loop, said dozens of people had contacted her expressing their concern about the availability of water at the festival.

“[People] were contacting us to say there was a real problem accessing water and that the pumps were not working properly and water was dripping out. There were big queues around the pump and also people queueing in the sun to get in [to the festival],” she said.

The terms and conditions on the festival website stipulated that attendees could only bring in 500ml water bottles with them. “There is a bigger learning point here about what festivals can do to make sure people have more access to water,” Measham said. “Why are they restricting access to how much water you can bring on site in first place? I don’t think there should be restrictions on that.”

She said Mutiny festival was not unusual in this approach and “all festivals should have better water provision”.

Mutiny says: ” NO Glass, alcohol or food in large quantities is permitted to be brought onto the site. 500ml of water in a sealed plastic container is permitted.” So there is water. But the cool kids might not want it.

No paper has a comment on drugs policy and how it influenced the tragedy.

Posted: 28th, May 2018 | In: News | Comment


Spider-Man of Paris Mamoudou Gassama wins French citizenship

Mamoudou Gassama, 22, saw a four-year-old child hanging from a fourth-floor balcony. So he scaled the building to rescue him. It was 8pm on Saturday in northern Paris.

 

 

“Luckily, there was someone who was physically fit and who had the courage to go and get the child,” a fire service spokesman said. “I saw all these people shouting, and cars sounding their horns. I climbed up like that and, thank God, I saved the child,” says Gassama. “I felt afraid when I saved the child … [when] we went into the living room, I started to shake, I could hardly stand up, I had to sit down.”

Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, hailed the “Spider-Man of the 18th”, referring to the Paris district where the rescue to place. “He explained to me that he had arrived from Mali a few months ago dreaming of building his life here,” she says. “I told him that his heroic act is an example to all citizens and that the city of Paris will obviously be very keen to support him in his efforts to settle in France.”

 

Gassama has now been to meet the President of France, who presented the hero an award and French citizenship.

Posted: 28th, May 2018 | In: News | Comment


Morissey’s Right You Know – Hitler Was Left Wing

This isn’t fashionable to say these days but it is actually true. Hitler was, by any economic at least standard, rather left wing. As was the BNP in fat, you could insert the economic portions of their manifesto into that of most socialist parties in Europe and not note the joins.

The basis of this is just that it’s true- Hitler and the fascists were, in their economics, what we would today call left wing. So Morissey’s right:

And as far as racism goes, the modern Loony Left seem to forget that Hitler was Left wing!

And boy isn’t he catching flack for having said it:

The pop star said he now affiliates himself with For Britain, a far-right party created by failed Ukip leadership contestant Anne Marie Waters, who has said she left Ukip after the party’s former leader Nigel Farage dismissed her and her allies as “Nazis and racists”. Morrissey added: “As far as racism goes, the modern Loony Left seem to forget that Hitler was Left wing!”

Associating with Anne Marie Waters might not be quite so wise.

However, on this Hitler was left wing thing. It is actually true. In the academic world the best explication of this was by Goetz Aly. Hitler’s Beneficiaries. The Nazis built a pro-working class state that was several measures beyond what the left has built even in the Nordics. Beyond social democracy that is.

Look through the racism and nationalism – if you can – and in terms of economics Hitler was indeed left wing. Why shouldn’t Morissey say so?

Posted: 27th, May 2018 | In: Celebrities, News | Comment


Princess Diana’s ghost has Harry and Meghan’s lives all planned out

Right it is that we finally get to hear from Princess Diana. For some months we’ve been told by experts that Diana “would have” been delighted with Harry for marrying Meghan Markle. “Diana wold have loved Meghan,” says former Royal Butler Paul Burell in the Chester Chronicle. “Princess Diana would have loved Meghan Markle,” says Naomi Capbell on the BBC’s website. “Why Diana would have been so proud of her youngest son today,” says a Telegraph writer. Princess Diana “would have been in tears” at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding, says Andrew Morton. “Princess Diana would have wept with pride,” says Arthur Edward, Sun photographer. And the pick of the bunch: “Princess Diana would have helped Meghan avoid scandal, says former aide.”

But now “Princess Diana has spoken from beyond the grave to reveal newlyweds Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will have at least two children.” No recording of the address, sadly. Testimony is provided by “The Psychic Twins” who have “revealed to Daily Star Online the ‘People’s Princess’ has told them her son and new daughter-in-law will have their first child in 2019.”

This is a “stunning revelation” channelled from Terry and Linda Jamison, “dubbed ‘Nostradamus in Stilettos'”. Can they be trusted? YES! As if Diana would pick a fool to broadcast her message. You want proof? Here goes:

They told us that Diana would attend the Windsor Castle wedding and appear as a butterfly, then during the ceremony a fly was captured on video hitting Meghan’s face.

If you mumble ‘butter’, ‘butterfly’ can sound a lot like ‘fly’. And, sure, whilst colourful butterflies are known to hang around with flowers and sip flower nectar, and flies are more associated with imbibing liquified turds and disease, one can easily be mistaken for the other – especially if you pull their wings off. Anyhow, Diana told the twins: “I feel there may be a pregnancy fairly soon, before the year 2020, and both of them will be wonderful parents. Meghan will be a wonderful mother… another child may follow in a few years. I see at least one girl for them.”

And: “Their children will be very close with Will and Kate’s children, and I see them doing many play dates and activities together.”

Previously:

 

diana kate ghost diana princes kate

 

It’s what Diana ‘would have’ wanted.

Posted: 27th, May 2018 | In: News, Royal Family, Tabloids | Comment


Mutiny festival cancelled as failed drugs policy linked to two more deaths

Two people are dead at the Mutiny Festival. The BBC says they died “after falling ill”. Ebola?  Something from the Russian act’s smoke machine? Drugs? The dead are an 18-year-old woman and a 20-year-old man. “The deaths are being treated as separate incidents at this stage,” says Hampshire Police. “They are not being treated as suspicious but inquiries are being made to determine the circumstances of what happened in each case.” Nothing suspicious about two young people dying on a day out? These are the police who invite us to nark on a tweeter if they say something that has caused offence.

Before the deaths, the festival tweeted a warning about a “dangerous” substance on the site. They need not have bothered. All drugs are dangerous. They are made all the more dangerous by their illegality, which enables and encourages criminals – which everyone must be to supply them – to sell any old banned and government-controlled pills, herbs and powders as the genuine article. Not like booze, then, which is the psychoactive substance that is taxed. Alcohol comes sealed from source in handy containers with ingredients and strength printed on the side.

Unless a banned drug can be tested before it’s bought or taken, the buyer has no idea what they’re really getting. And because youth will always look at ways to get off their face, they’ll buy it anyhow.

 

mutiny festival drugs

 

 

The Mutiny fFestival has now been cancelled. Say the organisers:

“Following the terrible news from earlier today, the team behind Mutiny Festival are incredibly sad to announce that Sunday of the festival has been cancelled as a safety precaution. The safety of our amazing customers has always been paramount to us and so to keep everyone safe and in respect to those who have passed, we have taken the decision not to open today. As you can imagine, this decision was not taken lightly and was taken with the support of the local statutory authorities who we continue to work with. Enquiries are being made into the circumstances of what has happened, but we must reiterate our advice to all our customers to responsibly dispose of any substances. More information will follow when available, we appreciate your understanding at this difficult time.”

Throw “substances” away? Surely, bring them in for testing would be better, no?

Posted: 27th, May 2018 | In: News | Comment


The NHS needs £2,000 more per household

There’s a report out insisting that to keep the NHS angels treating our woes we’ll all have to stump up £2,000 more a year. Or at least, we need more taxes of about £2,000 per household to pay for it all. It’s not entirely obvious that this is actually so:

Taxes will “almost certainly” have to rise over the coming years simply to prevent the National Health Service and social care system from slipping further into crisis, a major new report concludes.

It needs a lot of cash:

Funding the projected increases in health spending through the tax system would need taxes to rise by between 1.6 and 2.6% of GDP – the equivalent of between £1,200 and £2,000 per household, the experts said.

There’s a problem with the report.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies and Health Foundation said the NHS would need an extra 4% a year – or £2,000 per UK household – for the next 15 years.

It said the only realistic way this could be paid for was by tax rises.

A detailed report of how they’ve gone wrong is here. A simple one is as follows.

Ever since it started the NHS has had a higher inflation rate than the rest of the economy. This isn’t a surprise, we expect services to rise in cost relative to manufactures. No, don’t worry about why (“Baumol’s Cost Disease”) but it’s something that we have seen is true for hundreds of years and we expect it to continue to be true. Except, except – this is only true if we don’t try to change the manner in which we do things. If we attempt reform then it is possible that we’ll prevent that rise in costs.

What have we been doing since 2010? Yup, that’s right, we’ve been “destroying” the NHS by bringing in all those market and competition ideas, haven’t we? And a remarkable thing has happened. Since 2010 is the only time that the NHS hasn’t had a higher inflation rate than the rest of the economy. Quite the contrary in fact, prices for the same output have been falling in the NHS relative to those prices in the rest of the economy. Since 2010. Since we started to reform the NHS. By having those markets and competition.

That is, NHS reform actually works to solve this problem in this report. So, it isn’t – necessarily at least – that we need more tax money for the NHS. We could continue what we’re doing, which is to continue to reform the NHS, more markets, more competition, and deal with the problem that way. After all, we’ve got the proof of the past 8 years that it does actually work.

What’s bad about this report is that all of the information I’ve just used is in that very report. They just don’t manage to piece it together.

Posted: 25th, May 2018 | In: News | Comment


Unai Emery commits Arsenal to aggressive, entertaining football

Unai emery twitter

 

The Guardian was live blogging Unai Emery’s fire press conference as Arsenal manager. Arenal fans were invited to watch it via the club’s website. But the paper can add a bit of bite and humour with a running commentary. Our narrator tells us: “Emery’s range of expression in English isn’t great, you might discern, but he’s giving it a go.” A bit like the paper. Highlights are:

Emery: “My English is not the very best now and I want to make an effort to speak with you to explain my ambition.”

Guardian (typos: paper’s own):

Ivan Gazidis: “I’m really delighted and excited to announce the new ehad coach. I know that came as a bit of a surprise, perhaops there were one or two rewrites necessary. But those who know won’t spek and those who speak won’t know… “

Their English is not the best.

As for the recruitment process, Gazidis told a packed press conference that Emery was on an eight-man shortlist. We’re not told who the eight were.

“I’m really delighted and excited to announce the new head coach. I know that came as a bit of a surprise, perhaops there were one or two rewrites necessary. But those who know won’t speak and those who speak won’t know. I’ll give you a little insight into the process. We formed a three-person committee of me, Sven Mislintat and Raul Sanllehi. We had some clear criteria: aggressive, entertaining football; personality that fitted with Arsenal’s values; also a record of developing players through detailed tactical instruction and also cultural demand, pushing players.

“We looked through and analysed on the basis that every coach in the world would be interested in this position. We don’t believe any position in world football is more attractive. We created an eight-person longlist. All of them were interested and took part in extensive, in-person interviews. None of them at any stage withdrew their interest. So we were in a fortunate position to make our first choice, and that’s what we did. Our first interviewee was conducted on 25th April, our last was conducted on 15th May and we interviewed Unai on 10th May.”

Emery was the right fit. Arteta never was fist choice. “The thing that distinguished him above all that was the chemistry between us and the feeling for football in the room, Gazidis added. “He has a feeling and competitive energy and it is this passion, love for football and will to win that made us feel it as exactly right for Arsenal.”

“Success next season would be developing, but how?” asked Emery. The question was rhetorical.”By battling for every title. It’s very important for the club, after two years outside the Champions League, to work to be the best team in the Premier League and also in the world That’s in Arsenal’s and my history.”

Posted: 24th, May 2018 | In: Arsenal, News, Sports | Comment


England’s going to run out of water says the Environment Agency

It’s a pretty good indication that someone, somewhere, is doing something wrong when one of the rainier places on the planet is warned that it will run out of water. But that’s what the Environment Agency is forecasting for England in the coming decades. What’s being done wrong is that people just aren’t using prices properly:

People should take showers instead of baths, the head of the Environment Agency has said, as he warned of the need for personal water targets.

Sir James Bevan also suggested that householders could help avoid water supply shortages by turning the tap off while brushing their teeth and ensuring the washing machine is full before starting a cycle.

That’s the sort of wibble that always does get trotted out at times like this. It’s wibble because this just isn’t where the problem is.

England’s population is growing, and is set to rise to 58.5 million by 2026, putting even more stress on water supplies.

If no action is taken to reduce demand and increase water supplies , most areas will not be able to meet demand, the report said.

That is true but we’ve got to get the emphasis correct.

And in the future, with climate change, river flows are predicted to increase in the winter and decrease in the summer, which along with drier conditions because of warmer temperatures could have a greater effect on wildlife.

Start from the beginning again. We’ve a water system that does a reasonable enough job of providing for us as things are. We have an increasing population so we’ll need a bit more of that system perhaps. But quite how do we do that?

Well, what we should do is change the prices. That wasting of water in the home – put the price up and people will waste less, won’t they? Those leaky pipes. Currently water’s cheap enough that it’s cheaper to waste the water than it is to repair the pipes. Put the price up and we’ll solve that little problem too.

But we’ve also got that climate change problem. We’ll be getting more winter rain and less summer. Meaning that we’ll need to collect more of our water in winter and then eke it out over the summer. That will be a big change. Fortunately, we also know how to do this. For winter rain and none in the summer is how the entire Mediterranean works. So, we should do as they do. Many more reservoirs and dams to collect that winter rain so as to save it for the summer.

Err, something which will cost more which is where we can spend that money we’ve just raised by increasing prices to stop wastage.

There’s no real problem here that is. A few little adjustments and we’ll be fine. As long as the Environment Agency allows us to flood a few more valleys that is.

Posted: 23rd, May 2018 | In: News | Comment


Philip Roth RIP – with replies by John Updike, The Atlantic and Wikipedia

Philip Roth, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1998, has died. He was 85.  Claudia Roth Pierpont said his books looked at “the Jewish family, sex, American ideals, the betrayal of American ideals, political zealotry, personal identity [and] the human body (usually male) in its strength, its frailty, and its often ridiculous need.” And, boy, was he funny.

In 1996 Roth reacted to Claire Bloom’s memoir Leaving a Doll’s House. The actress commented at length on her and Roth’s marriage. “He’s tense; she’s tense,” said Gore Vidal said. “Each is neurotic. They were together 17 years; it couldn’t have been all that bad. It’s always best to stay out of other people’s divorces. And their civil wars.”

The book was trailed thus in the NY Times:

Ms. Bloom was 47 when she began her romance with Mr. Roth. In the memoir, the opening scene of their relationship reads like a parody of the daily life of two cultivated New Yorkers, with Mr. Roth on his way to his psychoanalyst, and Ms. Bloom on her way to her yoga class….

 

But soon there were signs of trouble. Mr. Roth was suspicious and mistrustful, she said, and pressed her to send her daughter elsewhere. In the memoir, Ms. Bloom expresses guilt for having done so. But the real problems began when Mr. Roth had a knee operation, she said, and became addicted to sleeping pills and an anti-anxiety drug. She writes that a terrible depression ensued, and that the couple took refuge on Martha’s Vineyard in the home of their friend William Styron, who has written a moving book about his own depression.

Later, when Mr. Roth wrote ”Deception,” he named the character of the deceived wife ”Claire,” Ms. Bloom writes, changing it only after she begged him to do so. Still, as if teasing his readers, Mr. Roth reserved the name of ”Philip” for the book’s narrator.

In 1999,  when the book came up in a John Updike essay about literary biography in The New York Review of Books, Roth wrote to the Editors:

To the Editors:

In your February 4, 1999, issue, John Updike, commenting on Claire Bloom’s 1996 memoir Leaving the Doll’s House, writes: “Claire Bloom, as the wronged ex-wife of Philip Roth, shows him to have been, as their marriage rapidly unraveled, neurasthenic to the point of hospitalization, adulterous, callously selfish, and financially vindictive.” Allow me to imagine a slight revision of this sentence: “Claire Bloom, presenting herself as the wronged ex-wife of Philip Roth, alleges him to have been neurasthenic to the point of hospitalization, adulterous, callously selfish, and financially vindictive.” Written thus, the sentence would have had the neutral tone that Mr. Updike is careful to maintain elsewhere in this essay on literary biography when he is addressing Paul Theroux’s characterization of V.S. Naipaul and Joyce Maynard’s characterization of J.D. Salinger. Would that he had maintained that neutral tone in my case as well.

Over the past three years I have become accustomed to finding Miss Bloom’s characterization of me taken at face value. One Sara Nelson, reviewing my novel American Pastoral, digressed long enough to write: “In her memoir, Leaving the Doll’s House, Roth’s ex, Claire Bloom, outed the author as a verbally abusive neurotic, a womanizer, a venal nutcase. Do we believe her? Pretty much:Roth is, after all, the guy who glamorized sex-with-liver in Portnoy’s Complaint.” Mr. Updike offers the same bill of particulars (“neurasthenic…, adulterous, callously selfish, and financially vindictive”) as does Ms. Nelson (“neurotic, a womanizer, a venal nutcase”). Like her, he adduces no evidence other than Miss Bloom’s book. But while I might ignore her in an obscure review on the World Wide Web, I cannot ignore him in a lead essay in The New York Review of Books.

Philip Roth
Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut

John Updike reply was slo printed in the magazine:

Mr. Roth’s imagined revisions sound fine to me, but my own wording conveys, I think, the same sense of one-sided allegations.

In 2012, Roth had more words for the World Wie Web. He wrote an open letter to persuade Wikipedia to let him adjust inaccurate description of his novel The Human Stain. Wikipedia refused to accept him as a credible source.

Dear Wikipedia,

I am Philip Roth. I had reason recently to read for the first time the Wikipedia entry discussing my novel “The Human Stain.” The entry contains a serious misstatement that I would like to ask to have removed. This item entered Wikipedia not from the world of truthfulness but from the babble of literary gossip—there is no truth in it at all.

Yet when, through an official interlocutor, I recently petitioned Wikipedia to delete this misstatement, along with two others, my interlocutor was told by the “English Wikipedia Administrator”—in a letter dated August 25th and addressed to my interlocutor—that I, Roth, was not a credible source: “I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work,” writes the Wikipedia Administrator—“but we require secondary sources.”

Also in 2012, Roth wrote to the The Atlantic over an essay’s claims that he suffered “a ‘crack-up’ in his mid-50s”.

“The statement is not true nor is there reliable biographical evidence to support it,” wrote Roth at the time. “After knee surgery in March 1987, when I was 54, I was prescribed the sleeping pill Halcion, a sedative hypnotic in the benzodiazepine class of medications that can induce a debilitating cluster of adverse effects … My own adverse reaction to Halcion … started when I began taking the drug and resolved promptly when, with the helpful intervention of my family doctor, I stopped.”

The letters have stopped. But the books remain brilliant.

Spotter: Dangerous Minds, NYRoB

 

Posted: 23rd, May 2018 | In: Books, Celebrities, News | Comment


9 key thoughts On The Gun debate

Can we talk abut guns in America? Last week,  gunman shot dead ten people in Santa Fe, Texas. We’e seen it all before. Jason Kottke has collected a few  articles about America and guns. It’s a good list, making for a good read. The gun lobby is allergic to gun control. It’s not all about death. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, 467,321 persons were victims of a crime committed with a firearm in 2011.

Who gets to control the guns? The National Rifle Association says: “The historical purpose of gun-control laws in America has been one of discrimination and disenfranchisement of blacks, immigrants and other minorities.” Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is for less gun control (My Extraordinary Family, by Condi Rice, p. 94 , Jan 10, 2012):

…after the first explosion, Daddy just went outside and sat on the porch with his gun on his lap. He sat there all night looking for white night riders. Eventually Daddy and the men of the neighborhood formed a watch. They would take shifts at the head of the entrances to our streets. Occasionally they would fire a gun into the air to scare off intruders, but they never actually shot anyone. Because of this experience, I’m a fierce defender of the 2nd Amendment and the right to bear arms. Had my father and his neighbors registered their weapons, Bull Connor surely would have confiscated them or worse. The Constitution speaks of the right to a well-regulated militia. The inspiration for this was the Founding Fathers’ fear of the government. They insisted that citizens have the right, if necessary, to resist the authorities themselves. What better example of responsible gun ownership is there than what the men of my neighborhood did in response to the KKK and Bull Connor?

Is gun control about the elite keeping control, disarming what they fear?

Via Kottke:

An armed society is not a free society:

Arendt offers two points that are salient to our thinking about guns: for one, they insert a hierarchy of some kind, but fundamental nonetheless, and thereby undermine equality. But furthermore, guns pose a monumental challenge to freedom, and particular, the liberty that is the hallmark of any democracy worthy of the name — that is, freedom of speech. Guns do communicate, after all, but in a way that is contrary to free speech aspirations: for, guns chasten speech.

This becomes clear if only you pry a little more deeply into the N.R.A.’s logic behind an armed society. An armed society is polite, by their thinking, precisely because guns would compel everyone to tamp down eccentric behavior, and refrain from actions that might seem threatening. The suggestion is that guns liberally interspersed throughout society would cause us all to walk gingerly — not make any sudden, unexpected moves — and watch what we say, how we act, whom we might offend.

We’re sacrificing America’s children to “our great god Gun”:

Read again those lines, with recent images seared into our brains — “besmeared with blood” and “parents’ tears.” They give the real meaning of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday morning. That horror cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our demonic god. We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily — sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children’s lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector. Sometimes this is done by mass killings (eight this year), sometimes by private offerings to the god (thousands this year).

The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?

Roger Ebert on the media’s coverage of mass shootings:

Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking sound bites to support it. “Wouldn’t you say,” she asked, “that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?” No, I said, I wouldn’t say that. “But what about ‘Basketball Diaries’?” she asked. “Doesn’t that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machine gun?” The obscure 1995 Leonardo Di Caprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office (it grossed only $2.5 million), and it’s unlikely the Columbine killers saw it.

The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. “Events like this,” I said, “if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn’t have messed with me. I’ll go out in a blaze of glory.”

In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, the NBC Nightly News and all the other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of “explaining” them. I commended the policy at the Sun-Times, where our editor said the paper would no longer feature school killings on Page 1. The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.

Jill Lepore on the United States of Guns:

There are nearly three hundred million privately owned firearms in the United States: a hundred and six million handguns, a hundred and five million rifles, and eighty-three million shotguns. That works out to about one gun for every American. The gun that T. J. Lane brought to Chardon High School belonged to his uncle, who had bought it in 2010, at a gun shop. Both of Lane’s parents had been arrested on charges of domestic violence over the years. Lane found the gun in his grandfather’s barn.

The United States is the country with the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. (The second highest is Yemen, where the rate is nevertheless only half that of the U.S.) No civilian population is more powerfully armed. Most Americans do not, however, own guns, because three-quarters of people with guns own two or more. According to the General Social Survey, conducted by the National Policy Opinion Center at the University of Chicago, the prevalence of gun ownership has declined steadily in the past few decades. In 1973, there were guns in roughly one in two households in the United States; in 2010, one in three. In 1980, nearly one in three Americans owned a gun; in 2010, that figure had dropped to one in five.

A Land Without Guns: How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths:

The only guns that Japanese citizens can legally buy and use are shotguns and air rifles, and it’s not easy to do. The process is detailed in David Kopel’s landmark study on Japanese gun control, published in the 1993 Asia Pacific Law Review, still cited as current. (Kopel, no left-wing loony, is a member of the National Rifle Association and once wrote in National Review that looser gun control laws could have stopped Adolf Hitler.)

To get a gun in Japan, first, you have to attend an all-day class and pass a written test, which are held only once per month. You also must take and pass a shooting range class. Then, head over to a hospital for a mental test and drug test (Japan is unusual in that potential gun owners must affirmatively prove their mental fitness), which you’ll file with the police. Finally, pass a rigorous background check for any criminal record or association with criminal or extremist groups, and you will be the proud new owner of your shotgun or air rifle. Just don’t forget to provide police with documentation on the specific location of the gun in your home, as well as the ammo, both of which must be locked and stored separately. And remember to have the police inspect the gun once per year and to re-take the class and exam every three years.

Australia’s gun laws stopped mass shootings and reduced homicides, study finds:

From 1979 to 1996, the average annual rate of total non-firearm suicide and homicide deaths was rising at 2.1% per year. Since then, the average annual rate of total non-firearm suicide and homicide deaths has been declining by 1.4%, with the researchers concluding there was no evidence of murderers moving to other methods, and that the same was true for suicide.

The average decline in total firearm deaths accelerated significantly, from a 3% decline annually before the reforms to a 5% decline afterwards, the study found.

In the 18 years to 1996, Australia experienced 13 fatal mass shootings in which 104 victims were killed and at least another 52 were wounded. There have been no fatal mass shootings since that time, with the study defining a mass shooting as having at least five victims.

From The Onion, ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens:

At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past eight years were referring to themselves and their situation as “helpless.”

But America is not Australia or Japan. Dan Hodges said on Twitter a few years ago:

In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.

What next?

Posted: 22nd, May 2018 | In: News | Comment


New Look charges the fat more for their clothes

This is being trailed as something of a scandal but it’s actually just great, the way the system should work. Some people should be charged more:

High street retailer New Look has been criticised by shoppers for allegedly imposing a “fat tax” across its plus-sized range.

What’s the standard complaint from fatty lardbuckets the average sized British woman?

Here, she found that the Green Stripe Tres Jolie Slogan T-Shirt was being sold for £9.99 in the standard range and £12.99 in the Curves range – a 30 per cent difference in cost.

So, what’s happening here then?

Firstly, realise that no one does price things by adding up their costs then trying to sell them at that plus a profit. So, arguments that larger sizes require more cloth don’t work. Instead, what everyone does is look at absolutely the maximum they think they can get away with charging. Then they charge that.

Hey, that’s capitalism, every producer of absolutely everything really is out to screw you. It’s markets which temper this. So, someone realises that there’s loads of fatty lardbuckets average sized British women out there looking for clothing more attractive than a Soviet potato sack circa 1955. They go make and sell them and make a fortune doing so. They really do set out to screw those fatty lardbuckets average sized British women. And they do screw them – unlike anyone else to hear the complaining.

Then other manufacturers spot those profits and copy what they’re doing. Prices fall, the range available expands, everyone – other than the original manufacturer – is happy. That’s just how the system works. It’s also how it’s supposed to work, it’s all in Adam Smith.

If New Look can get away with charging higher prices to fatty lardbuckets average sized British women then this tells us that there aren’t enough plus sized ranges out there with decent looking clothing. And the fact that New Look can charge higher prices is what will create the competition and cure the problem.

No, really, markets do in fact work. Which is why we’re not all in Soviet potato sacks, you know, the place which abolished markets and the price system?

Posted: 22nd, May 2018 | In: Money, News, The Consumer | Comment


Harry and Meghan and the modern myth of inclusivity

David Starkey is here to tell Sun readers that when Meghan Markle married Prince Harry the Royal Family modernised. Starkey tells us, and “it’s worth repeating”, that Megan is “mixed-race, American, of uncertain religion, an actress, divorced and with a sexual history”. She’s nothing like Kate Middleton, then, you know, and it’s barely worth repeating, who is a mixed-race Commoner, of uncertain religion, a part-time shop worker and with a sexual history”. Good wedding. Lovely do. But it wasn’t all that new and it wasn’t all that modern.

Undaunted by the repetition of past marriages that also spoke volumes about how modern the Family born to rule had become (yes, and to stop one of us uppity plebs having too much power) Starkey says that any “one” of the attributes on Meghan’s checklist “would have rendered her deeply doubtful as a royal bride”.

Jessica Bouton tells Mirror readers is was very… Well, see if you can guess: “Meghan’s gown was…a modern look for a modern duchess. And her story is a modern Cinderella.” Yeah. Modern. It was a “magical modern wedding,” says the Mail.

The Telegraph says the wedding was “modern”, and in it Britain “sees a mirror image of our times”. And you thought the royals’ job was to transcend the times, to add a divine-given thread of continuity beyond the grasp of prevailing trends, mores, lusts, thrusts and fashions. When did the royals get to be inclusive? When did we raise expectations of their capacity to do anything other than shoot, breed and ride?  If they are just as meaningless as the rest of us, do we all get a go at being one? If they’re just like us, what’s the point of them?

Posted: 21st, May 2018 | In: News, Royal Family | Comment


Chelsea owner Abramovich is not dead

CHELSEA FC owner Roman Abramovich is “BANNED FROM UK”. Well, so says the Daily Star. And it’s wrong. He’s just “faced delays in renewing his UK visa” the BBC “understands”. No that the Beeb knows much about the Russian billionaire who wasn’t at Wembley to see his investment win the FA Cup. This is its story in a nutshell:

Asked about the visa, Security Minister Ben Wallace said: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases.” Mr Abramovich’s office said it does not discuss personal matters with the media. Reports suggest his investor visa expired three weeks ago.

 

roman abramovich visa

 

Apropos of nothing much, the BBC then adds: “He is believed to be close to current Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

Whatever anyone suggests and believes, the Star is happy to go out on a limb and scream on Page 7: “ROMAN TOLD: YOU’RE NOT WELCOME ANY MORE.” But just one line in and the bold statement is undone as the Star says Abramovich’s visa has “reportedly run out”.

It all promised so much. What football fan was not smirking and mentally counting the seasons as Chelsea, shawn of Russian money, slide to those pre-Roman days of lower-league football and in-fighting. Not that a club’s overseas-domiciled owner needs to be a fan nor show up to games – see Man City, Man United, Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool. But Chelsea is Roman’s alone. It’s a one-man empire. “What happens if he suddenly dropped dead, as Russian oligarchs have been known to do?” muses the Daily Mail. Dunno. Maybe a family man wily enough to be a billionaire has thought about that made plans?

 

roman abramovich visa

 

roman abramovich visa

 

He’s not dead. He’s “stranded in Russia,” says the Express. It adds that Roman “could become the first major casualty of the tensions since the Salisbury nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March.” Of maybe, you know, he could not.

The Sun makes the link between poison and footy overt in its headline: “Chelsea owner stuck in Moscow after poison row.” But there’s no link between the two things. The headline might just as easily say: “Chelsea owner escapes Wembley bore-fest.”

It’s “Roman’s own goal” in the Mirror. Roman news shares a page with the story “Cut off dirty money, MPs plead” – “Fresh sanctions on Vladimir Putin’s cronies will be urged today to stem ‘dirty money’ harming UK security.” No suggestion whatsoever Abramovich has down anything wrong – other than fund Chelsea, the club that since his investment in 2003 have won 15 trophies. And that’s unforgivable, of course. Still, if could have been worse: he could have bought Spurs.

Posted: 21st, May 2018 | In: Chelsea, News, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Transfer balls: Manchester City want Hazard; Chelsea star ‘agrees’ Real Madrid move with mind

Pick a top player. Any player. And then say Manchester City want him. The BBC says Manchester City are “planning” a £100m deal for Chelsea’s Eden Hazard. Pep Guardiola has earmarked the 27-year-old Belgium forward as “his top transfer target”. Over in the Daily Star, we get not only the same peak at City’s summer spending plan but also an insight into Pep’s head. News is that he’s “confident” of getting Hazard. And – get this – Hazard is “aware” that City like him.

The Daily Star can read minds. But it can’t conjure a quote of single fact to support its scoop – and neither can the BBC.

It might be worth have a look at what other Eden Hazard headlines the tabloids have provided us with:

Chelsea may offer Eden Hazard in a swap deal for Barcelona star Ousmane Dembele – Daily Star, Jan 21 2018

Eden Hazard AGREES Real Madrid move after snubbing Chelsea contract offer – Daily Express, Jan 10, 2018

EDEN TO REAL Eden Hazard agrees deal to join Real Madrid with Alvaro Morata moving the other way to Chelsea – The Sun, Jul 10, 2017

Eden Hazard reaches agreement with Real Madrid after secret transfer talks – The Metro, April 26, 2017

Hazard has done all that by communicating telepathically. Fact.

Posted: 21st, May 2018 | In: Back pages, Chelsea, Manchester City, News, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


English fans told not to celebrate St George at World Cup

The police are telling England fans that they shouldn’t try to fly St George’s Cross – you know, the national flag of England – at the World Cup in Russia this summer. Because it’s colonialism or something. Locals, Russians, will be so outraged that something or other might happen.

Well, no, not really:

England fans are being urged by police not to display St George’s flag at the World Cup in Russia because it could bee seen as ‘imperialistic’ and ‘antagonistic’.

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, the head of football policing, said the flags were the trophies of choice for hooligans from rival countries.

It comes after Russian hooligans attacked England fans in 2016 and posted pictures of dozens of ‘captured’ St George’s flags.

That one group of fans might try to take and make off with the treasured flag of another group is obviously entirely possible. But it’s not going to be because it’s St George and England and not because of anything about patriotism, colonialism, imperialism or anything like that.

For St George isn’t in fact just the patron saint of England, he spreads his favours rather more widely than that. Bits and pieces of Northern Italy for example, and they use the cross itself as well. The Republic of Georgia in fact, what used to be a bit of the Soviet Union. Even, the city of Moscow – although unlike Georgia they don’t use the cross on their flag.

Yes, quite, the police are arguing that English fans should not, when in Moscow, display the flag of St George when St George is the patron saint of Moscow. Because imperialism.

If only the police had a clue, eh?

Posted: 21st, May 2018 | In: News, Sports | Comment


Meghan’s spare wedding dress cost £100,000 (or not)

Thomas who? Thomas Markle… Anyone? Having rolled over Megan Markle’s father, the news cycle gets to focus on the honeymoon and the dress. Not that the new Duchess of Sussex’s dress was a surprise to Daily Mail readers who on April 4 got a sneak peak of her walk-on look. Rebecca English told us:

EXCLUSIVE: Meghan’s £100,000 wedding dress revealed: Royal bride will wear hand-stitched, beaded design made by British couturiers Ralph & Russo (and paid for by Prince Harry’s family)

 

daily mail meghan dress

 

The price then doubled. And the designer changed their name. Although no longer an “exclusive”, the story remained a revelation: “Givenchy’s Clare Waight Keller has been revealed as Meghan’s wedding dress designer.” There had been lots of “speculation” –  surely “exclusives”? – with with “Ralph & Russo hotly tipped”:

 

 

meghan dress daily mail

 

 

But if it’s guff you’re after, step forward and take long obsequious bow, Robin Givhan, who writes in the Washington Post:

…what was most noticeable were all the things that the dress was not. It was not a Hollywood red-carpet statement. It was not a Disney-princess fantasy. It was not a mountain of camouflaging tulle and chiffon.

The dress, designed by Clare Waight Keller, was free of extravagant embellishments. It was not covered in yards of delicate lace. It did not have a single ruffle — no pearls or crystals. Its beauty was in its architectural lines and its confident restraint. It was a romantic dress, but one that suggested a clear-eyed understanding that a real-life romance is not the stuff of fairy tales. The dress was a backdrop; it was in service to the woman.

Weekend in Blackpool, right?

Posted: 19th, May 2018 | In: Fashion, News, Royal Family, Tabloids | Comment


Chinese corruption crackdown screwed Cartier watches

cartier fakes china

 

These aren’t things you’d really think would be connected. How much corruption there is or isn’t in the Chinese economy and the profits of a Swiss watchmaker. But there is indeed a link and it’s worth about £400 million.

The connection is that when people Out East make buckets of cash money from doing something they shouldn’t have done then they’ll invest some of the proceeds in a good looking watch. And the brand matters – because the watch is a signifier of being one of the rich guys. Therefore it has to be one of the brands which is seen as showing that you’re one of the rich guys.

Sure, it’s showing off but with a purpose. It shows you’re a player and if you can show you’re one of those them more games to play in will be offered.

Then what happens with a crackdown upon corruption? Fewer people have the cash to buy them of course. But also, even those who can legitimately buy them from properly earned money won’t – who wants to be market out as a player when there’s a crackdown?

The company took action after stocks of its wristwatches began building up in display cabinets in Asian markets amid a crackdown on corruption in China, where luxury products such as watches and whisky had been dished out as lavish gifts to curry favour with officials, as well as a wider sales slowdown. It was worried that unsold stock would end up being discounted in the so-called “grey market” of unauthorised resellers, damaging the image and pricing power of its brands.

There’s also that point that fewer “presents” were being bought. The effect is rather large:

Shares in Richemont fell sharply on Friday after the Swiss luxury goods group reported annual profits had been hit by more than €200m spent buying back excess stocks of watches to protect its brands from “grey market” discounted sales.

It was a couple of hundred million the year before too.

The real lesson here is that the world economy is a hellishly complex place. Less corruption in China means smaller Swiss watch profits. How can anyone plan something of this complexity? And that really is why planned economies don’t work, it’s just not possible to even know what’s going on let alone predict what will.

Posted: 19th, May 2018 | In: Key Posts, Money, News | Comment


Standing in a betting shop made women want me

They shoot horses and put greyhounds out to graze on the hard shoulder. And now there’s “bloodbath at the bookies” featuring human beings. The Star is labouring under the impression that bookmakers give two hoots about their staff as it leads with how the Government has “slashed maximum stakes at fixed odds betting terminals from £100 to £2”. This will, we’re told, lead to job cuts among the people detailed to scoop up the proceeds of the pitiless gambling industry and deposit the filthy lucre into the burgeoning bank accounts of the big companies running the show.

 

betting adverts tabloids

Betting is sexy!

 

betting adverts tabloids

Who sane dials these lines?

 

The Association of British Bookmakers warns that curbs on “crack cocaine” betting machines will lead to the loss of 21,000 jobs as 4,000 high-street bookies shut. All balls, of course. The big betting companies spend fortunes telling us to bet online, offering inducements for a more fun sporting experience from your smart phone. They don’t do that to improve the lot of their shop workers. Online bookies are often based overseas. They’re happy for British punters to chuck their money to non-British workers.

Switch on pretty much any televised sporting event and someone will tell you how betting is for hard men – men ‘hard’ to argue with, like actor Ray Winstone, or ‘hard’ to touch, like the priapic saddos who think betting on Harry Kane will get them laid, possibly with an actual flesh-and-bone woman.

 

betting adverts tabloids

 

Inside today’s Star there are plenty of adverts for gambling. “Bets plan is a loser,” says the Star’s editorial. The adverts agree – it’s free FUN and you GET YOUR MONEY BACK:

Page 50: topless stunna Michelle Marsh advises readers to “BET HARD & FAST” (see above). Subtle it ain’t.

Pages 46- 48: horse racing times are wrapped round adverts for tipster hotlines (£1.50-a-minute); and more ads for Ladbrokes and Coral – “Bet £5.. .& Get £20 in Free Bets” – “When The Fun Stops Stop – Be Gamble Aware.” Yeah, right.

Pages 27-30:  An entire section advertising Paddy Power bets on the FA Cup final – “The Craziest bets punters have placed this weekend.”

And it’s all done to keep people in work and the high-street bustling. It’s selfless stuff…

Posted: 18th, May 2018 | In: Key Posts, Money, News, Tabloids | Comment


Meghan Markle: darts walk-on girls and The Naked Rambler should get the nod

As Meghan Markle straps an inflatable bellend to her neck and brandishes Harry’s loyalty card for for the mother of all hen nights at SophistiCats night club, the papers all lead with the “sad” announcement that her dad, the much-maligned Thomas Markle, will no be walking her down the aisle. Who will is the matter of heated debate, the smart money being on the her mother, darts walk-on girls, Naomi Campbell, the Naked Rambler and Ian Botham, should he be seeking a new sponsorship role: it’s £1000-a-yard for charity. (TV executives, call me I have ideas – Sue Perkins presents The Hard Yards, a pro-celebrity walk down the aisle.)

 

the sun markle harry sex

The Sun plan for the next generation

 

Anyhow, California-gal Meghan stuffed in a plum and issued a statement via the Kensington palace twitter feed: “Sadly my father will not be attending our wedding. I have always cared for my father and hope he can be given the space he needs to focus on his health.” Shades of Adrian Mole’s mother saying she’s “fond” of him. Harry has never met Thomas. But “nothing’s going to spoil our big day,” thunders the Daily Mail’s lead headline – although you’d imagine a few of the paper’s hacks will give it a whirl.

In the Sun there’s lots of gush about Meghan being a “silver-lining girl”as the paper joins “fans” sleeping on the streets of Windsor. Best not get there too early, mind, lest the police give you a kick and move you on. The homeless and rough sleepers have been swept from the town’s streets. “Crazy Corner” looks like the “Calais Jungle”, says the Sun’s man on patio furniture. But there’s no Lily Allen, just people like Skye London  – “People call us mad. Well, we are mad but we always gets the best seats” –  and Terry Hunt – “I’ve been doing this since I was four. I’m at every wedding and outside the hospital at every birth.”

Posted: 18th, May 2018 | In: News, Royal Family, Tabloids | Comment


Hunter S Thompson’s letter to Tom Wolfe- the ‘pig in the ‘filthy white suit’

Tom Wolfe (1931- 2018), leading light of the ‘New Journalism’, writer of the terrific The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and much else has died. Joseph Epstein writes in his profile of Wolfe in The New Republic: “His prose style is normally shotgun baroque, sometimes edging over into machine-gun rococo, as in his article on Las Vegas which begins by repeating the word ‘hernia’ 57 times.” “He is probably the most skillful writer in America — I mean by that he can do more things with words than anyone else,” says William F. Buckley Jr., in National Review. But if it’s high praise you’re after, getting up Hunter S. Thompson’s nose is hard to top.

The writers exchanged letters, the pick of which is this missive from Thomson to Wolfe dated Mash 3 1971.  Thompson was not exactly chuffed at being shuffled inside Wolf’s New Journalism project:

 

March 3, 1971
Woody Creek, CO

Dear Tom…

You worthless scumsucking bastard. I just got your letter of Feb 25 from Le Grande Hotel in Roma, you swine! Here you are running around fucking Italy in that filthy white suit at a thousand bucks a day laying all kinds of stone gibberish & honky bullshit on those poor wops who can’t tell the difference . . . while I’m out here in the middle of these goddamn frozen mountains in a death-battle with the taxman & nursing cheap wine while my dogs go hungry & my cars explode and a legion of nazi layers makes my life a goddamn Wobbly nightmare…

You decadent pig. Where the fuck do you get the nerve to go around telling those wops that I’m crazy? You worthless cocksucker. My Italian tour is already arranged for next spring & I’m going to do the whole goddamn trip wearing a bright red field marshal’s uniform & accompanied by six speed-freak bodyguards bristling with Mace bombs & when I start talking about American writers & the name Tom Wolfe comes up, by god, you’re going to wish you were born a fucking iguana!!

OK for that, you thieving pile of albino warts. You better settle your goddamn affairs because your deal is about to go down. “Unprofessorial,” indeed! You scurvy wop! I’ll have your goddamn femurs ground into bone splinters if you ever mention my name again in connection with that horrible “new journalism” shuck you’re promoting.

Ah, this greed, this malignancy! Where will it end? What filthy weight in your soul has made you sink so low? Doctor Bloor was wright! Hyenas are taking over the world! Oh Jesus!!! What else can I say? Except to warn you, once again, that the hammer of justice looms, and that your filthy white suit will become a flaming shroud!

Sincerely,
Hunter

Adrian Chen is more succinct on twitter: “RIP to Tom Wolfe, who gave a generation of young writers wildly unrealistic expectations about how glamorous and lucrative a career in magazine journalism would be.”

Posted: 16th, May 2018 | In: Celebrities, News | Comment