Wednesday, 27 June 2012

You've Gotta Laugh...

The brief history of everything according to Marxists never ceases to make me giggle.

Make yourself smile with a quick glance at this...

Keep the sandals baby - take care and I'll catch you soon.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Classic Boxing

This bunny needs to post this. It's round 9 of an epic struggle between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward that formed the first instalment of a trilogy between the pair.

Somehow it makes Round One of Hagler vs Hearns look like a couple of kids taking a trip to Disneyland. Not for the faint-hearted.

RIP Arturo and thanks for being you. Micky, kudos for your massive contribution to an epic series of fights. Take care and I'll catch you soon.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Q + A with Simon Gibbs - ACTA Protest

It's fair to say that the good people at Libertarian Home play a far more active and relevant role than sites like this one in actually promoting small-state ideas to the general public. Simon Gibbs started the site a year ago with the specific aims of building grassroots campaigns, raising the profile of Libertarian ideas and getting them into more mainstream discourse.

It's a slow burner and bound to be punctuated by the occasional moment where even the most committed might stop and ask themselves "what's the point?". Far from content with carping and making wisecracks from the sidelines (ahem...) Simon and the gang travelled to London last weekend to protest against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a treaty with a stated aim of protecting and establishing international standards with regard to international property rights but like most big government interventions runs the risk of doing something entirely removed from its (stated) intentions.

I managed to catch up with Simon the day after the protest for a quick Q+A session.

1 - How did the protest go? Was it well attended and are you confident you got your message across?

I think we did quite well in the circumstances and the organizers did a good professional job of it. They obviously put a lot of effort in and got a decent number out. It is good for the anti-ACTA campaign to be able to point at the fact that numbers are turning out to show support, and there were perhaps a hundred present, but I think more could have been achieved by the official group. The protest was, unfortunately, positioned quite poorly from my perspective. The Smith Square site is well off the beaten track which rendered the protest more of a get together for activists than anything anyone would actually see. There was one camera there there, and Russia Today were mentioned, but very few members of the public actually saw the gathering. I am, however, quite sure that lots of great images were produced for use in later communications and I wonder if this was perhaps the focus of their plan.

The nicest moment came when the Anonymous group decided to march over to Parliament Square. That place was rammed. We were able to tag along, we literally followed the riot van,  and ended up leafletting the square while Anonymous stood around in the middle and held a meeting. I don't get very competitive, but it was faintly satisfying to know that we out did Anonymous by reaching more people than they did. Of course, we did see people going over to Anonymous with copies of the leaflet that they had been reading, that's because they had flags and the V-mask uniform that makes them easy to spot. I don't see libertarians donning a Libertarian Home uniform, so we'll have to live with that kind of thing.

2 - The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement sounds like one of those Statist interventions loaded with nasty potential consequences and probably poses more new questions than it seeks to answer. How dangerous is it and why?

As a good objectivist, I actually favour some of it's intentions. I do think that there is a problem, for example, with companies inventing a drug in one market only for it to be legally ripped off in another. The problem I have with it is that is transfers burdens from one industry to another based on the needs of the first. Society should reward the value people represent for each other and doing anything based on needs undermines that. Society ends up trying to filling an endless hole, not building anything like what it could build.  In more practical terms, placing unchosen obligations on anyone is  simply wrong. That violates the non-aggression principle which I know your readers will understand and endorse, so ACTA is something they need to be concerned for.

We went there though with a much broader message. The leaflet included a section on net neutrality, for example, which does much the same thing, tranferring the desires of users and publishers and turning them into obligations on infrastructure providers. Net neutrality basically regulates contracts. I included a little illustration of all the players involved in making the web happen and most of the laws we stood against on Saturday basically shaft one player to benefit another. None of them respect individuals' property rights.

3 - I'm just about old enough to remember when the defence of civil liberties was lazily caricatured as the haven of 'do gooders' and 'lefties' who didn't live in the real world. Do you sense that this is changing slightly?

I'm not that old that I can spot trends like that, and only recently became involved in politics after 9/11, but I can see that politics is dominated by the left. I think the right is about as strong numerically, but far less vocal and much more laid back. Right-Libertarianism seems to be growing, which is great because though we differ internally we're all basically correct in our opinions and that will become more obvious to people as the internet connects the mainstream population to the people with the best ideas.

4 - Since 1997, we've had a government openly disregarded personal liberty, followed by one that claims to be striking a 'balance' in this false argument between liberty and security, but produces similar results. How important is it to demonstrate the fallacy of this argument and continue the debate on more honest terms?

Talk of fallacies etc will only get you so far, and only with the most fanatical. David MacDonagh was kind enough to explain this clearly at the meetup on Thursday. Debating room style arguments about fallacies and epistemology will work well on the strongest, on the professional intellectuals, because they are equipped to readily absorb them and because they are true they will work and change minds, but we also need propaganda to get to work on people that don't know what epistemology is but who actively pursue a better world. That propaganda function is basically what we did yesterday.

5- It's clear that Libertarian Home has made good on the promise it made a year ago to become actively involved in grass roots campaining. What's the plan to develop this further?

Let's be clear. Libertarian Home, at the moment, is me. It's a website I put up to allow former Libertarian Party people to talk to each other and do stuff together but when it comes to arranging campaigns is basically me saying "guys let's do X" and then putting some evenings in. Don't get me wrong, Andy, Rob, Devika, Pavel, Clarissa, Richard and others have put in plenty of work too but the way it's set up limits things to me doing it with them, so I'm now the bottle neck. It can't go faster than me.

That's the limitation, let me tell you the strength: None of these campaigns were my idea. Frankly I feel a little uncomfortable getting the credit, but this is still a strength. The OccupyLSX trip was Andy Janes idea. On ACTA I basically asked "what might we do" and Rob Waller was basically assuming we should go and just attend and join in, so that was his idea. I organised a meeting and we did a few smaller things that were suggested by the people that came. All I've done is facilitate for others (and editorialise a bit because frankly I feel if I'm doing that I should get to add my opinion). This is a good pattern, I think, for Libertarians because here is a website that offers them help to organise a meetup, get people together for a protest, publish their opinion (I don't edit other people's blog posts, I just disagree in the comments), and actually I really enjoy it and will put work in to make it happen. As long as we are broadly on the same page ideologically, which we will be, and we can work together then I want to help facilitate it. That might means me literally putting work in to do it or it might mean providing access to the blog and social media outlets that activists are tuned into.

Longer term, I then want to take myself out of that loop. I want to make the website a platform where it isn't as personal to me and people have areas on there where they can work together and their work gets featured on the homepage and made visible in one place for other libertarians to see and join in with. Give me 12 months, and I will be facilitating at that much broader scale for people. Once that work is done, is can really scale and even turn a small profit, which I hope to use in a way the contributors will approve of and maybe scale it some more.

6 - If you can reach the public consciousness through these activities, does it negate the need for electoral participation in any way? Successful protests certainly produce better returns for one's resources than standing for election and losing your deposit ever could.

My preferred model is to have small parties that organise in regions. I think there is a big trust issue between libertarians that is only worse after the arguments over money that we had with the old Party. That trust issue can be gotten over with very small groups working together, but I admit the main issue is getting critical mass so that safeguards can be paid for. Actually I feel like a bit of a naysayer because I think people underestimate the challenge this trust thing is for a new party. People are going to throw eggs at you. I also worry that libertarianism needs to be maybe 10 times bigger before regional parties can happen, by which time we may forget arguments over money I suppose.

I think you are dead right that non-party campaigns are more effective, but actually libertarians need to be able to vote Libertarian and steal votes off the main parties. If we end up with a range of campaigning groups that are openly libertarian and two or three competing libertarian parties either regionally or overlapping nationally then this is as good as it gets.

Many thanks to Simon for his considered responses - be sure to check out Libertarian Home for a cocktail of high-brow discussion and grass-roots camapaigning.

In the meantime, take care and I'll see you back here on Bunny Island later in the week.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Ideology for Losers?

Ok - a friend of mine whose political compass travels in a vastly different direction to that of this bunny suggested recently that Instictive Liberal/Libertarian thinking would have to come under the umbrella of 'extreme ideology'. This was followed by a suggestion that 'extreme views' are generally formulated by losers who are looking to explain the lack of success in their own lives without looking at themselves.

This is an interesting point that I want to pick up, but first, thanks to my mate for making me think about this quite seriously.

There are numerous problems that stem immendiately from labelling an opinion as 'extreme'. First of all, it is entirely subjective and can only really be related to the political consensus of the time. Most of us would accept that openly racist or ethnically nationalistic politics might fall under the 'extreme' umbrella, but then ask a German citizen circa 1938, or an Italian or Spaniard in the same period, and you're likely to get a different answer.

The centre ground in political life is fluid and tends to move when a particularly influential statesman (for better or worse) is in office. What we refer to as the 'centre ground' in Britain is actually a plot of land buried somewhere between the editorial of the New Statesman and the Guardian's womens' section. A big state socialist-corporatist hybrid is now consensus, the conventional wisdom of the current era. Politically correct dogma bans certain 'unpleasant' and 'undesirable' opinions.

All three major parties essentially subscribe to this view of the world, while perhaps tinkering at the margins in a way that impresses one client group or another - that's worth returning to.

What do Libertarians or Instictive Liberals believe in? That taxation at source is an act of theft on the part of the state, one which encourages evasion from those who can afford the means to do so and punishes the least well off in relative terms. There's a commitment to civil liberty and the notion that once people are willing to sacrifice hard-won freedoms in the name of some phoney 'war on terrror' or under some generic 'securiry' umbrella, then you can never get back to the place you were in.

Perhaps the most antagonistic element to consensus/centre ground politicians is an understanding of how majority tyranny can slowly erode the freedoms of those who have done no wrong, but find themselves in the wrong place, at the wrong time, under the rule of the wrong mob. In an age when 51% of those who can be arsed to vote is seen as a holy grail, are ideas that seek to illustrate the danger of such thinking extreme or dangerous? Strictly in relative terms, yes they are. It's certainly a radical platform, and even if it is not extreme, then at best a marginal one.

There is of course a more basic and common sense way of looking at this. What is the logical conclusion of sustained Libertarian government? Would we be looking at political dissidents getting their fingernails ripped out, forced repatriation of established immigrants or labour camps for those who did not fit neatly with our view of the world and its future? The unequivocal answer to that question is no, so if one takes the instinctively liberal, consequentialist view of things then there is no way that Libertarian thinking could be seen as extreme in any shape or form.

Such a label only comes into play when viewing events from a 'centre ground' position that is liable to shift.

This poses the other question about 'extreme' thinking:- who gets to decide whether an unconventional and radical view of the world counts as 'extreme' or not and on what scientific or forensic basis? Once you start decrying a sincerely expressed opinion as ''extreme' then you're on the slippery slope down into the murky world of thought crime. Most of what we would not want to see done in the name of a political viewpoint (violence, inciting others to commit crimes) is already illegal anyway, so what's the problem? Instead of banning someone's view of the world, why not destroy their argument with reason instead? It's a lot more fun, right?

This bunny has no time for Communism, but give me a Marxist over a McCarthyite eight days a week...

Then there's the issue of 'winners and losers' that my friend alludes to. To answer this point, it's worth asking what the purpose of political ideology is and what it seeks to achieve. Of course, in our current political climate the concept that government might be following a set of ideals that it believes in is rather amusing, but then it's worth exploring the alternative of values, explanation and direction.

All well thought-out ideologies attempt to explain how we have reached this point in our history. They seek to tell a story in which there were undeniably winners and losers. Then it asks whether or not those winners and losers deserved those outcomes, and if not, then why those net results were either facilitated by the state or allowed to happen, and what can be done to reverse those trends in the direction of more 'just' outcomes. Take Marxism as an example:-

We have reached this point of large-scale relative poverty and unequally distributed wealth because of unfettered bourgeois capitalism.

The winners were the greedy, self-serving Bourgeouis capitalists who achieved their wealth and status by exploting the Proletariat for their own ends.

They do not deserve the spoils of their victory and nor do the Proletarian workforce deserve their squalid housing, poor working conditions and low wages.

Ergo - the solution is to take collective (state) control of the means of production, strip the Bourgeoisie of their wealth and assets, and establish a government of the proletariat, by the proletariat and for the proletariat (or something like that).

There's a brief history of everything and how to solve the ills of a planet - according to a Marxist. Of course, Libertarians have their own take on the world, how we got here and who the fortunate or unfortunate few might have been. The point is:- every ideology, which in an age of consensus politics can be seen as extreme or at best misplaced, seeks to identify those who lost for reasons beyond their control. The solution may be a bigger state or a smaller one, but the basic aim is to change the conditions that created the wrong in the first place.

What they call 'normal distribution' would suggest that 5% of people are likely to succeed regardless of the climate at the time, be it as a result of inate brilliance, toughness, capacity for work or tendency to attract good luck and a break of the ball. Conversely, 5% of us are idle, useless, walking disaster zones who attract misfortune in the same way that honey might draw bees, or all of the above. That leaves the other 90%, of whom some benefit from the prevailing climate of the time or have a single life-changing flash or inspiration, while others don't. There's no doubting that life is a bitch.

So why is this bunny, a working class lad of modest means even now, an Instinctive Liberal? When things were difficult (and believe me, they once were), why wasn't he taken in by the appeal of Socialism or Marxism, a notion that all would be well if you could simply swipe a few quid from some awful rich person? It's an interesting proposition and I think it's one that goes to the heart of my friend's critique of my core beliefs. He's a man of socialist views, which I respectfully disagree with, and this bunny would surely have been ripe for taking in this view of the world at a point in time.

When I think of the two biggest external cancers in my life, one was a member of my own working class family, while the other was wealthy, connected and believed that he owned not only his own life, but yours, mine and that of anyone else he could frighten half to death. I've seen with my own eyes how a massive welfare state creates incentives for idleness, how governments shift the fit and well onto sickness benefit to manipulate unemployment figures and that the 'greater good' is built on a misplaced  notion that the self-interest of some is superior to that of others.

I also understand the danger of 'connected' and unofficial power, the sort of masonic lodges, the sort that comes with a reminder that you can do whatever you want, but accidents happen. I know what it's like to be frightened, to feel that there's no hope no future, and no escape without either signing your life over to another or launching oneself off a motorway bridge. A life that is nominally yours, but over which you have absolutely no control, is not worth living. To hold such troubles against wealthy or 'connected' people generally would be irrational, but there's undeniably a problem when a fortunate member of society believes that it can quite literally own and enslave a less fortunate one.

Apologies if things got a bit 'analyst's couch' just then.

So can government legislate against the circumstances or nature of your parents, or the toxic associations that one might unwittingly fall into? One of the problems of democratic politics is the need for candidates to promise solutions to every last bad thing that might take place in one's own life. This facilitates a state that further erodes the life, liberty and prosperity of the individual, becomes bloated and is impossible to hold accountable. Everything government does has both an intended and an unintended consequence, and it begins to resemble a cat chasing its own tail, passing one bad law to deal with the negative fallout of the last one.

This amoeba effect of legislation was most evident as New Labour passed a law for every single day that it was in office over thirteen years. It's no way to run a country, makes no sense and illustrates the silliness at the heart of Socialism. To believe in the power of the state as an unequivocal force for good, one must either a) refuse to believe that unintended consequences of state action exist, b) regard anyone hit by those consequences as collateral damage or c) seek to further legislate one's way out of whatever whirlwind might come back at them.

Now that's extreme, and dangerous...

Alternatively, you can accept that bad things will happen and cannot always be prevented by what government does, that individual freedom and responsiblity are mutually exclusive and it that a state in which only one of these concepts holds sway will be either anarchic or feudal, and that losing is but a temporary blip for those who are willing and able to step up to the plate. What marks Libertarianism out from other ideologies is that it does not tell life's losers "here's a bit of someone else's money", but instead works on the maxim that "you can, if you believe you can - now go and prove me right".

It almost makes this bunny proud to be both a loser and an extremist - take care and I'll catch you soon.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Running a Generic E-mail Address

As those with a functioning brain (ie everyone who reads this site) will know, we have an OutspokenRabbit e-mail address at the top of the screen for anyone who wishes to get in touch. It's served us quite well, has enabled people looking to post on here to get in touch and connected us with the legend that is TC - god bless that man.

However, there is another reason why I'm convinced it was the right move, even if we exclude the obvious point that giving your personal contact details to every man and his dog could never consitute a smart move. The amusing aspect of this is not just the volume of junk e-mail that we get, but the nature of it

In less than 12 months, we would (apparently) have won in excess of £10 million had I simply been possessed of sufficient decency to provide my address, telephone number and bank details. I've just had a message from someone with a 'proposition' into which they offered no explanation, propaganda from the British Tobacco Programme, invites to become a marketing guinea pig for some corporate entity or another, numerous and various e-mails in foreign languages that once translated have turned out to be scams, and then the odd article of substance, like TC getting in touch or Mimi offering to post here.

The only reason I can imagine them sending out this junk is because someone, somewhere is sufficiently stupid to take it seriously.

All good fun, and for those who are reading and run their own site, definitely to be reccommended. Take care and I'll catch you soon.

Short Parish Notice - Andy Janes

Just a quick note to thank Andy Janes, who has been a regular reader, commenter and supporter of this site in its relatively short and on-off lifespan. Andy has announced his retirement, or at least a lengthy lay-off from the blogosphere as he seeks a new career path.

I hope you'll join me in wishing a fellow insitinctive liberal all the best for the future and thanking him for his contribution to bunny island. Muchos Kudos.

Going Underground

Here's a video I found after reading a story about people living in a network of tunnels under the strip in Las Vegas.

Opting out of conventional society certainly has its advantages and the couple featured in the second half of this video seem to have their living space worked out quite nicely (although the camera crew could have been courteous enough not to focus on the stash of pornography).

A penny for the thoughts of those running the highly lucrative health and safety industry - perhaps the biggest mistake made by those living here is that of allowing an author in to detail the lives of a secret community. My money's on Obama introducing a tunnel tax to crack down on this sort of thing if he wins.

Not for this bunny by any stretch, but then who are we to judge? Leave them the fuck alone is what I say. Take care and I'll catch you soon.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Party Time, Excellent - or Maybe Not. Independence, Please.

This bunny was fortunate to discover Jesse Ventura's body of work (no pun intended) shortly after writing the 'Democracy Doesn't Work' series and pondering the relevant questions around representation, majority tyranny and personal liberty. Having served as governor of Minnesota as an Independent, Ventura's perpsective on party politics was worth hearing. Why not join one of the only two games in town (of course the same applies over here) and make life a whole lot easier for yourself?

The simple answer is that like ours, the American system is rotten, and Ventura wanted to serve his constituents rather a vested interest that would seek to buy and sell him. His budget for winning election was circa $300,000 which is miniscule by American standards. As for third parties (a claim that the Libertarian Party could legitimately hold across the pond) Ventura once supported them in principle, before ultimately concluding that "for a third party to survive, it would have to corrupt itself like the other two - vote for an Independent".

The record of Independents in public office stands up favourably when compared to that of smaller parties (and I'm talking genuine Independents here, not those who simulaneously claim to run Branch Davidian-esque circuses of their own). As a general rule, they are amongst the most capable and competent at local or national level - they work harder on behalf of their constituents and are less likely to fiddle their expenses. What's not to like?

Independents have many obvious advantages - even if there is a drink in it for themselves, they tend to run because they want to run in that constituency as opposed to being placed in 'safe seat' terriroty by an approving party machine. They have the freedom to speak and change their minds without being subject to the sort of party whipping that has left most MPs as little more than frightened drones. Set-piece speeches or television appearances are now mere word-for-word repetitions of what has been publicly declared to be party policy.

So when I said 'Democracy Dosn't Work', should I have qualified that somewhat and instead stated that "Democracy under the Umbrella of a predominantly Two-Party System Doesn't Work?'. Would a democtatic system free of party machines and filled instead with individuals governed by their own consciences work better than the rotten sham for representation that operates both in Europe and the States? Almost certainly yes - independents knock seven shades out of party apparatchiks each and every time.

There has been much talk of the formation of a rival to the Dead Chicken Party recently, both in this lowly hutch and on other more reputable platforms. My best wishes go out to anybody who seeks to challenge the divine authority of 'the chosen one', but this bunny has reached the conclusion that party politics is an inately filthy, unpleasant and morally bankrupt game. I may join simply so the other side can be £20 or so up on Vernon, but be assured that is the only reason

I'd already figured something out about it long before Ventura's words of wisdom and experience confirmed it to me - just as big parties become little more than enablers for vested interests and client groups, so emerging and rapidly rising ones are indentified as entities which corporate monsters, Stalinist trade unions and other grizzlies will attempt to either dig their claws into or derail. As a starter for ten, a party without reliable client groups will struggle to raise sufficient funds with which elections can be campaigned for, fought and won.

And who are 'Libertarian clientele?'.

People who, as a general rule, tend to hate those client groups that control existing parties, be they gangster capitalists, union militants, whoever.

Er, shit. Anyone got any change for the bus?

This is the problem with any potential Libertarian Party - with its policies on corporate taxation in particular, any degree of success is going to be met by 'kind offers' from wealthy individuals to donate the kinds of monies that fund effective campaigns and enable further growth. Someone at the top of the tree, perhaps seeing this as a sign of success or siezing the opportunity to become a full-time politician, takes the king's shilling and adjusts policy in line with the wishes of his paymaster.

Parties are simply made up of deeply flawed human beings like you or I, and those who actively seek power tend to have less resolve in resisting temptation than most. Watching what you once cared about becoming the thing you always hated is never a pleasant experience for those on the ground who actually believed in something.

In reality, the odds are stacked against any newcomer party getting even that far. The history of those at the fringes of electoral success would indicate that in the majorirty of cases they become the enablers not of a corporate or vested interest, but one ambitious individual seeking to step on their band of loyal disciples. To confirm this point, let's look at five of what you might call the major smaller Uk parties - UKIP, the Greens, BNP, Liberal Party and Respect.

Who can name me their leader or most prominent member? Hopefully most of you will score at least three out of five.

Now name three members?

Or six? Or ten?


This is why any attempt at a Libertarian Party will always, always fail - because most of us are too smart and possessed of sufficient self-respect not to be fawning disciples. Even in the unlikely event of ordinary members taking the Fuhrer's shit for a sufficient length of time to make inroads, there would inevitably follow a slide into realpolitik, sloppy compromise and sellout, all for the price of a couple of dozen posters. Forgive me if I'm sounding dreadfully cynical.

What's the answer? Do we ban political parties, a means by which like-minded people can meet with each other, exchange ideas and pool their resources to put one of them up for election? As much as they are either inherantly corrupt or actively allow themselves to be corrupted by the political process, no sane instinctive liberal could possibly go down that road and sleep comforably.

The key in this bunny's view is to either not vote at all (in the words of Billy Connolly - "don't vote, it only encourages them!!"), join the campaign for None of the Above on ballot papers and vote for that, or if one must vote, then at least do so in a way that kills off the zombie duopoly that has governed Britain for the last century. An Independent candidate may be turn out to be just as egomanical as all the others (or not a real Independent at all), but he has the benefit of being neither a wannabe David Korresh with his army of frightened lambs (assuming he's actually an Independent), nor the pupper of some overblown and corrupt vested interest.

In the grand scheme of things, you could do a lot worse. Take care and I'll catch you soon.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Jesse Ventura on the Bank Bailout

This bunny is young enough not to remember Jesse Ventura as a wrestler, but old enough to recall his utterly brilliant stint as a commentator in the 1990s. Generally sympathetic to heel wrestlers, Ventura would often wax lyrical on their behalf, offering such insights as "it's only cheating if you get caught" and "Regal hooked the tights - yeah, the mistake his opponent made when he had Regal pinned was not hooking the tights".

All fun and games, and about as real as Santa Claus, the tooth fairy or the Monarchy (apologies to all those who thought any of the aformentioned were kosher).

Anyway, this bunny very much doubts that he would have applied such thoughts to the chief protagonists of the financial crisis in 2008. His 'Conspiracy Theory' programme delves into terrain on occasions that presents its frontman as something of an oddball, and the reliance on 'expert evidence' from the likes of David Icke hardly lends credibility to whatever thesis might be on the table.

This is a shame, as his hatred of gangster capitalism and consistent support for civil liberties will chime instantly with most Libertarians, this bunny included. Ventura is a former governor of Minnesota with real knowledge of how 'the system' works. When your anger is as sincere and well-founded as his, sticking to what one can demonstrate to be true is more than enough.

However, this exploration of the financial meltdown is bang on the money and goes some way towards exposing the cronyism that operated in the relationships between the White House and Wall Street at the time.

For some reason, I'm convinced that TC in particular will enjoy this - look out for the brief cameo from Ron Paul around 20 minutes in.

Take care and I'll catch you soon.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Confidence is Everything - now bring on Haye vs Chisora

Not the last time Malpoet and I ran into each other, but the time before that, we were discussing the sport of boxing and how there were many contests down the years that had been suspected to have been fought with less than total honesty.

It is now confirmed as fact in the annals of history that villains practically controlled the sport during the inter-war period, and a fighter had two choices - either do as he was told and 'take a dive in five' to instruction, or face a bleak future where meaningful events did not materialise. As someone who has spent time around boxers and covered the sport in isolation, this bunny initially finds this quite a difficult reality to accept.

All of the records that were built up in the time where the sport was undeniably crooked therefore have to be viewed with a hefty degree of suspicion. If Primo Carnera could be manouvred to the World Heavyweight title by a combination of mob control and clearly fixed fights, then how can we be certain that the achievements of his contemporaries were kosher?

Something I made sure to listen to this weekend was the story of Hansie Cronje, the great cricketer and captain of South Africa who traded his legacy as a proud sportsman and symbol of new-found South African unity for a wad of notes and a leather jacket. I'm old enough to remember when a forfeited innings presented England with a shot at winning that dead rubber of a Test Match in 2000. The widely-held view at the time of course, was that the spirit of cricket was the real winner that day, not Cronje's latest bank account and an Indian bookmaker as we subesquently discovered.

There seems to be a degree of contrived bewilderment as to exactly why Cronje did it. This may be because he had demonstrated himself to be a fierce competitor on the field of play and had led his nation to a string of famous victories shortly after their re-admission to Test Cricket. One can only presume that the temptations on offer reached a level where they exceeded any tie he had either to representing South Africa or the very notion of sporting excellence. Presumably, he also believed he would not be caught and that the occasional strategic error either batting or in the field would be seen as an honest one.

The major problem with throwing a single match, be it in an individual or team sport, is the chain that it breaks. Gone is the absolute that I or we are going out there to give it our best shot - win, lose or draw there can be no regrets, no sense that something was not left in the ring or on the field of play. Sometimes a better competitor a team will get the better of you, but it can never, ever be for the want of trying. I mention this while remembering another famous England-South Africa series in 1998.

England were comprehensively outplayed in the first three matches - they scrambled a draw in the first, were smashed to pieces in the second and looked set to suffer another innings defeat in the the third. Then the tail of Croft, Gough and Fraser hang around, blocking everything that Donald, Pollock, Kallis and MacMillan can throw at them - a draw is achieved when Croft chips a ball through mid-wicket for two and takes England one run ahead. Ending the innings would require a ten minute break that effectively times the South Africans out.

There are wild celebrations at narrowly avoiding what would have been a crushing defeat and taken the tourists to a daunting 0-2 lead with two to play. That's how bad England were at the time, or at least we thought they were.

Players on both sides have always denied that the two matches following this, both won by England, had anything to do with illegal bookmakers, villains on the subcontinent or batsmen being intimidated to throw their wicket away. Fair enough - the umpiring of Javed Akhtar probably made the final match of the series something of a lottery anyway and could politely be described as 'bad for both sides'. That he was later accused of corruption made little sense, since shocking decisions for LBW and caught behind evened themselves out nicely.

The issue for this bunny is:- South Africa were considered at the time to be a close second to Australia in the world rankings of Test Cricket while England would officially become the worst team in the world less than a year later. On paper they were the much stronger team and also seemed possessed of a greater level of intensity. When in the zone, England were no match for them, but Cronje had compromised the ability to sustain those levels through a series by getting involved with criminals on the subcontinent during 1996.

So while there may not have been any deliberate dishonesty, it's likely that the fact this was a 'less than pure' team, with a 'less than pure' captain didn't help them when the trio of Cork, Gough and Fraser finally put them under some real pressure for the first time in the series. As individuals and a team, you either want to win 100% of the time (like the Australians) or you don't.

Once you agre to throw any sporting contest, the first question that arises before the next is one that should never have entered the equation, "is this legit or can we cash in before deciding the result beforehand?". Ergo, a competitor ot team that gives the game away just once can never be as focussed or intense, or possess that total winning mentality again.

In the case of team sports, the Cronje case throws up an interesting question. How many players in an eleven-a-side game do you need to rope in for a pre-ordained result? Would the likes of Allan Donald or Shaun Pollock ever have participated in a match they knew to be fixed? This bunny is 99.9% sure that the answer is no. So, what if one of them produces a spell of brilliance that puts the desired outcome of the match in jeopardy? How many others have to produce shockers to render the team effectively useless?

One of the most famous fixed matches in sporting history came in the final weekend of the 1992-93 French football season. Marseilles needed victory to secure the title and played away to Valeniciennes, who still had a mathematical shot at avoiding relegation if they could pull off a surprise result themselves. Then there was the small matter of a European Cup final against AC Milan the following Wednesday. Rationalising that an easy ride in that final domestic match would leave their players fresh for tougher challenges ahead, Marseilles paid off two of their opponents' key players to produce non-performances.

The result was a 0-1 victory for the visitors, who retained their title and sent Valenciennes down in the process. Would they have won anyway? The form book would suggest so and this probably had some impact on the number of players they deemed it necessary to get onside. Were they playing Monaco or Bordeaux, would we have been looking at half a team deliberately not trying? On one level you would hope that clubs with a proud history of their own would not co-operate, but by extension that means little Valenciennes were targeted solely because of how insignificant (and therefore vulnerable) they were.

Recent claims of match-fixing in Italian football have surprised this bunny slightly, probably because the swift handling of the Calciopoli scandal six years ago appeared to represent clear, firm action in dealing with the issue. The paradox at work here is the willingness on the continent to accept that corruption is a part of life - while it arguably makes it more likely to take place, there are not the waves of denial and contrived disbelief that you'd inevitably get if someone suggested it had occurred over here. Some still appear to harbour a delusion that us Brits are so much more honest than those in mainland Europe that a fixed football match could never be allowed to happen over here.

Anyone believing such nonsense has clearly never heard of Tony Kay. Here's the Fix.

Whether the Premier League is as loaded with corruption as Serie A, this bunny has no idea. The only two observations I'd make on the subject are 1) where there is big money involved and a substantial betting market in the sport, then the scope and rewards for corruption and fixed results become huge. This could be in football, cricket, boxing, horse racing, whatever. 2) the problem only tends to be dealt with by the governing bodies of a sport when mistrust of the product reaches a level that hits attendances, shirt sales and other revenue streams.

Calciopoli in Italian football and the crackdown on crooked cricket took place when people stopped attending matches in the numbers they once had. Is that more than mere coincidence or is this bunny being overly cynical? The reason that English football has failed to acknowledge a significant corruption problem may be because one does not exist, or could have more to do with the fact that despite rising prices in an age when times are tight, revenue streams are holding up. Maybe the true test of how honest our football is will come when the crowds dwindle below an acceptable level?

Even the non-boxing enthusiasts amongst you will have noticed the upcoming David Haye vs Dereck Chisora contest on July 14th, sanctioned by the now world-famous Boxing Federation of Luxembourg. Having banned both men for some sort of tripod jousting session during a press conference following Chisora's last fight, the British Boxing Board of Control are doing their damndest to stop it from going ahead on British soil. I'm aware that 1) Chisora telling a packed press conference that he was going to shoot Haye was probably not a smart move and 2) the BBBC have a cartel to maintain - not that it's stopped them doing exactly what the LBF have and sanctioning fights outside the Uk.

But there's a bigger picture here. When Mal and I were discussing the nature of competitive sport, I mentioned the numerous contests I had seen through my relatively short life that were unequivocally, 100% straight and legitimate. His vew was that although such things took place, the likelihood was that a great deal of sport at practically any level is going to be bent in some way. Someone involved is going to be either not trying, performing under some sort of enhancement substance or working towards a pre-ordained result rather than one that comes about through all sides giving of their best and competing honestly. That might be an individual competitor, part of a team, the referee or judges, whoever.

I happen to think he is wrong, and that the overwhelming majority of sport is pretty clean. That said, how common a view is it now that cricket and some top level football is rotten to the core, blighted by spot-fixing and results agreed in a smoke-filled room beforehand? How many of you sincerely believe that this summer's 100 metres final at the Olympics will be contested by a series of juiced-up mutants, looking to beat first each other and then the drugs test? How many of you have seen a boxing match and thought straight away "he took a dive", "fucking fix" or whatever? When these sporadic instances come up with proven dishonesty, the gut instinct of many is to believe it merely to be the tip of a very uncomfortable iceberg.

That's why I hope the BBBC's attempts to stop Haye and Chisora fighting are unsuccessful. One of the reasons that tickets for the bout shifted as quickly as they did after going on sale was precisely because fans know beyond a doubt that they will be getting 'a proper fight'. Two men who clearly hate the sight of each other, one of whom has smashed the other in the face with a tripod and found retaliation in the form of threats to kill (Chisora seems to dislike most people, but isn't that what makes him an interesting fighter?).

Is anyone suggesting this will be anything other than a genuine attempt by two fired-up athletes to knock each other into next week? Haye might be a betting favourite, but in this sort of situation the result can become something of a lottery as it does in derby matches. The key point is that it would at least be an honest lottery, rather than one of those banana republic efforts where the president wins every other week.

Without its supporters, competitive sport is dead. The BBBC would have no cartel to protect and could clean up this mess by relenting and giving both fighters their licences back.

What's ten per cent of nothing again? Take care and I'll catch you soon.

Thoughts on Democracy and Government...

As a quick bit of bank holiday fun, here are some of the most relevant comments made on the subject:-

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote." - Benjamin Franklin.

"A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one per cent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine." - Thomas Jefferson

"A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always count on the support of Paul." - George Bernard Shaw

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until a majority of voters discover that they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury." - Alexander Tytler

"A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money." - G. Gordon Liddy

"A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves." - Edward R Murrow

"Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys." - P.J. O'Rourke

"The power to tax is the power to destroy." - John Marshall

"Liberty is not a means to a political end. It is itself the highest political end." - Lord Acton

"The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule." - H.L. Mencken

"The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin." - Mark Twain

"What this country needs are more unemployed politicians." - Edward Langley

"It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong." - Voltaire

"The best government is the one that charges you the least blackmail for leaving you alone." - Thomas Rudmose-Brown

"Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries." - Douglas Casey 

"Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program." - Milton Friedman

"If you have been voting for politicians who promise to give you goodies at someone else's expense, then you have no right to complain when they take your money and give it to someone else, including themselves." - Thomas Sowell

"Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom." - Albert Einstein

"Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance." - H.L. Mencken

"Liberals want the government to be your Mommy. Conservatives want government to be your Daddy. Libertarians want it to treat you like an adult." - Andre Marrou

"Left-wing politicians take away your liberty in the name of children and of fighting poverty, while right-wing politicians do it in the name of family values and fighting drugs. Either way, government gets bigger and you become less free." - Harry Browne

"One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors." - Plato

"The moral and constitutional obligations of our representatives in Washington are to protect our liberty, not coddle the world, precipitating no-win wars, while bringing bankruptcy and economic turmoil to our people." - Ron Paul, speaking in 1987

"Germans who wish to use firearms should join the SS or the SA – ordinary citizens don't need guns, as their having guns doesn't serve the State." - Heinrich Himmler

"Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything." - Josef Stalin

"Capitalism is using its money - we Socialists throw it away" - Fidel Castro

"How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don't think." - Adolf Hitler

"England is the ideal place to live." - General Augusto Pinochet

"Politics is war without bloodshed, while war is politics with bloodshed." - Mao Tse-Tung

"It may be necessary to use methods other than constitutional ones." - Robert Mugabe

"Politics is when you say you are going to do one thing while intending to do another. Then you do neither what you said nor what you intended." - Saddam Hussein

"I want you to know that everything I did, I did for my country." - Pol Pot

"We're not perfect, but we do have democracy." - Hugo Chavez

"Democracy means permanent rule!!" - Colonel Gaddafi

"Democracy is the Road to Socialism" - Karl Marx

Thanks to the Libertarian Quotes site, for providing a few new ones and confirming the origins of those I'd already heard.

Take care and I'll catch you soon.