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July, 2009:

Sir Bobby Robson RIP

I just heard that former England and Newcastle manager Sir Bobby Robson has died.

He knew his football and always came over as a decent chap. Arguably couldn’t cope with the modern players – his playing experience being in the age of a maximum wage (twenty quid a week!) and most of that went on a couple pints of shandy and bryllcream… Nah, he might not have been cut out to deal with the dogging antics of the likes of Keiron Dyer but then who is? But he did know football and he was a gentleman and unlike later England managers (a certain Swede can stand up right now) he understood that it mattered and unlike that Swede he treated his position as an avocation rather than a temp job. Admittedly for Sven a temp job on four and a half million a year. And you know what? Every boozer in England has at least one bar-fly who would do it for nowt (well a couple of pints and a pie). Bobby knew that. Sven thought he was a gift from the Gods. I recall Ulrikka Johnsson saying Sven was better looking up close. She said up close he looked like Kevin Costner. I will shoot in the face and genitals any fucker who says at any range that I resemble the dancer with wolves.

Bobby Robson was real. When they appointed Sven he was made out as some sort of intellectual because he read Tibetan poetry. Well that’s gonna have the likes of Paulo Maldini quacking in their boots. Bobby wasn’t like that. He didn’t give a toss about South Asian poets or Swedish weathergirls but he knew that trick that the Arsenal back-four did.

And apart from anything else he was gloriously quotable…

“Des Walker jumped like a salmon and bit like a ferret”

So goodbye Bobby. You will be missed. And not just by me. I’ll bet you get a standing ovation at Sunderland. Now that would be something…

Just for you…

Adam Smith was Right!

Last weekend my mother had a house party. At one point there were only four of us in the living room. That would be me, my wife, Michael (a mate) and his girlfriend Alison (who I’d only just met). Anyway.. I’m an IT guy and Alison is massage therapist (kerching!) but Michael and Lizzy are both freelance translators…

Dive behind the sofa folks if you don’t want full and frank translator shop-talk. If you don’t want to know how to rack the Japs up to 80 quid a thou or who in Denmark doesn’t pay on time then look away now. Alison fell asleep and dear reader my brain melted which is one of the reasons why I am not providing a transcript.

That and Cats, Ian and Daphne would kill me over what it would do to the stats.

All I can recall from that encounter (and I am not up for beating any more out of me with the leg I had to chew off) is that Alison is very nice and that Michael has not just fallen on his feet but got 5.9s for both technical merit and artistic impression from all the judges including the snarky North Korean. And if I am honest I felt a sense of pride because Michael has frequently been unlucky in love and I have frequently opined he ought to get an English girlfriend. Previously he has almost perversely pursued ladies from every continent apart from Antarctica (though he made some penguins nervous once) and now he has a bird from Hull (and spot on she is too) and it seems to be going well. So fair play to the lad but me, slightly older, and somewhat wiser (yeah, right!) feels somewhat vindicated that it seems to be working out with a Brit. He once dated a Luxemburger. All I know about that small nation is that it has low taxes and is the world’s largest manufacturer of false teeth. Well somewhere has to be I guess. All of that and the fact my mate got dumped in Luxemburg City for no apparent reason.

Professional Journalism

From The Telegraph

Last week an amateur astronomer spotted that a comet or asteroid the size of the Earth had crashed into Jupiter, leaving a large crater.

…because only professional journalists can ensure high quality, reliable, fact checked news.

(I don’t need to explain what’s wrong with the quote to anyone, do I?)

Absence Of Evidence May Be Evidence Of Absence

Well, this looks odd. The police are saying some young men are terrorists. The evidence as described seems somewhere between flimsy and farcical. They haven’t got any actual evidence of bomb making, which is normally a prerequisite of a bombing campaign, but they’ve got, er, emails with girls’ names in them that may be codewords and a reference to a wedding that may be a codeword.

I don’t trust the police any more. I used to sort of generally trust them. I mean, I knew they planted drugs on people and hit people they shouldn’t, and stuff, so didn’t trust them in that regard, but I generally thought most coppers were decent enough people trying to do a difficult job in difficult circumstances, often in very grey areas, and I happen to think, despite being a minarchist, that state policing has a useful role. But I now think something has gone very very wrong with our entire policing apparat.

Over the past few decades, policing- the capture of criminals- has been replaced by policing as a sort of state guardianship. They are moral guardians now- a mutaween- but more than that we now have this enormous, uber-powerful “security apparatus” which is profoundly menacing. Such apparats rarely stay within sensible bounds- power leads to excess. The days of the village bobby are long gone.

We know that cases like Operation Ore- the paedophile ring that never was- are driven by a kind of excess of zeal and groupthink, often being pushed along by specific high ranking officers who believe they are on a mission to save humanity. When the matters being investigated are the subject of societal panic- paedophilia, or terrorism- we need to be very cynical. There seems to be a psychological effect which occurs whereby the security apparat fall into a groupthink feedback. They’re certain they’re right and, like conspiracy theorists, fall into a mindset of trying to pull together whatever snippets of information they have to fit their preconceived picture. The public tend to be ready to support them too in these panic situations, for much the same reason- when terroristsandpaedophiles are involved, any smoke proves there is a raging inferno. We become too ready to accept reductions in standards of evidence and due process of law because in our gut we know they’re guilty and terroristsandpaedophiles are as sly as foxes and capturing them requires the suspension of caution.

I have no idea whether these young men are terrorists caught in the nick of time, or innocent men caught in a web of circumstancially justified certainty by the security apparat. But when I read about “bombers” who have no bombs, and that emails describing a wedding are the evidence, I feel disquieted.

Geordie Masochism