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Friday, 2 December 2016

Uber Fares To More Than Double

We are constantly being told how much less expensive it is to use driver and rider matching service Uber than to rely on black cabs or established private hire operators, and especially in cities like London. Uber’s cheerleaders keep up the propaganda, which holds, more or less, that it’s all about disruptive technology, that this is what progress looks like, and it will all be for our benefit, as it’s so inexpensive.
However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, one inconvenient fact that the Uber fanboys tend not to dwell upon is that the whole operation is losing money, and losing rather a lot of it. But when this is brought up, it is dismissed as merely the start-up costs of the company, and we are confidently informed that all will be well as the business model matures, the clear implication being that it will still be cheaper than taxis.

This propaganda assault, together with Uber’s incessant lobbying to try and remove or at least relax regulations in order to tilt the playing field a little more in its favour, has established the idea that taxi and private hire drivers might as well give up and join the revolution, that this is indeed the future. But the latest numbers on Uber’s finances tell a very different story, and are very bad news for their cheerleaders.

Izabella Kaminska at FT Alphaville, in an article titledThe taxi unicorn’s new clothes”, has told “Finally! Word is getting out. It’s not just Uber’s ‘innovation’ claims which are questionable, it’s potentially the entire business model”. She cites new findings that show “for the year ending September 2015, Uber had GAAP [Generally Agreed Accounting Principles] losses of $2 billion on revenue of $1.4 billion, a negative 143% profit margin”.

There was more: “Thus Uber’s current operations depend on $2 billion in subsidies, funded out of the $13 billion in cash its investors have provided … Uber passengers were paying only 41% of the cost of their trips; Uber was using these massive subsidies to undercut the fares and provide more capacity than the competitors who had to cover 100% of their costs out of passenger fares”. Have a think about that.

Even if Uber was to wipe out the competition, it would still have most of those costs. Perhaps some capacity would be cut, but to make any kind of profit, fares would have to rise, and rise significantly - by at least 100%, maybe more. Factor in the tendency of the app to jack up prices at the first suggestion of higher demand - the fancily-titled “Surge Pricing” - and you realise this is nothing like the deal promised by all those cheerleaders.

And that is without considering all those overheads, like the advertising and lobbying. There is also the repeated suggestion that Uber may have been making payments to selected journalists and others in exchange for favourable coverage, or, as most people would call it, bribes. This is yet another example of something looking too good to be true, because - guess what - it really is too good to be true.

Uber is not about disruptive technology. It is not about giving customers better value for money. It is an aggressive campaign to wipe out the competition and then, having established a monopoly, put those customers over a barrel and screw them over.

Uber is a lousy deal for its drivers, and ultimately its customers. But not for its bosses, and all the others waiting at the payout window. No-one should be surprised.

Delingpole Feels The Bern

These are not the best of times for the batshit collective that it Breitbart: despite getting their man into a key position in the prospective administration of Combover Crybaby Donald Trump, this convocation of the terminally bigoted suffered the loss of several advertisers this week, and now has come the humiliating debunking of yet another slice of climate change denial from James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole.
"Gay marriage" ... "Global warming" ... "Bat-slicing, bird-chomping Eco Crucifixes" ... "Red meat Conservatism" ... "Rant autopilot" ... "Incoherent Wibbling" ... "Credibility oblivion"

The climate change denial lobby, or what remains of it nowadays, had been rather quiet as the recent El Niño event drove even higher global temperatures, but as the subsequent La Niña followed, and there was a drop in global temperatures, out they came. First out of hibernation was David Rose, telling gullible Mail on Sunday readers “Global average temperatures over land have plummeted by more than 1C since the middle of this year - their biggest and steepest fall on record”. But there was a problem with this claim.

As the Washington Post’s Jason Samenow has pointed out, “Rose’s claim relies on the satellite record of Earth’s temperature estimated from space, which only dates to 1978. The surface-temperature record, which directly measures the planet’s temperature using thermometers and dates to the late 1800s, exhibits a drop but not a record drop … More importantly, Rose conveniently headlined the drop in the land temperature while failing to mention that the overall global temperature combining both the land and ocean did not experience a record fall”. But in the meantime, Del Boy had leapt into action.

Global land temperatures have plummeted by one degree Celsius since the middle of this year - the biggest and steepest fall on record … But the news has been greeted with an eerie silence by the world’s alarmist community” he sneered, citing the MoS and then doubling down in the denial citations, telling “I recommend this sober assessment of the situation written earlier this month by Dr. David Whitehouse, science editor of the Global Warming Policy Foundation”. Of course you do, Del Boy. They agree with you.
But he was away and running: “The last three years may eventually come to be seen as the final death rattle of the global warming scare … [incoherent ranting omitted due to lack of relevance] … This is why there is such an ideological divide regarding climate change between those on the left and those on the right. The lefties get their climate information from unreliable fake news sites like Buzzfeed”. What colour is the pot, kettle?

Delingpole did score one perhaps unintended success: the Twitter account of the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology Tweeted out Del Boy’s propaganda, and in the process was given a considerable amount of stick for doing so. But one long-serving figure had rumbled the Breitbart tosh for what it was.
Bernie Sanders took one look at Delingpole’s idiotic claims and summed up their significance on one Tweet: “Where'd you get your PhD? Trump University?

That just about sums up the batshit Breitbarts and their slew of fake news. Rose was wrong in his MoS article, so Delingpole just went a bit more wrong. The “interpreter of interpretations” managed to interpret less than wisely once more.

And, in any case, nobody outside his echo chamber is listening. No change there, then.

So Farewell Then Zac Goldsmith

In the early days of Europhobia in UK politics, there was no greater pleasure than seeing the Referendum Party losing its deposit in a whole string of General Election and by-election contests. This was not unconnected to the leader of that party being the late and not at all lamented James Goldsmith, a monumental shit of no known principle, who, like Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, was indulged by the media but never got into the Commons.
Man of the people, or maybe not

Goldsmith was also despised by many who cherished free speech and the right of dissent from the conventional wisdom, as he had tried - and ultimately failed - to close down Private Eye magazine in the 1970s over allegations the Eye made over his potential involvement in the disappearance of Lord Lucan, who is generally agreed to have murdered his family’s nanny before vanishing off the face of the earth.

The sheer obnoxiousness of the family patriarch has since hovered over the rest of the Goldsmith dynasty, despite the ostensibly agreeable demeanour of son Zac, who became an MP in 2010 when he defeated Lib Dem Susan Kramer to win the constituency of Richmond Park for the Tories. The collapse in the Lib Dem vote at last year’s General Election inflated Goldsmith’s majority to just over 23,000.

And Zac could have remained MP for Richmond Park for the foreseeable future, but for two things: first, he put himself forward as Tory candidate for the London Mayoralty, and then took part in a campaign notable only for its disgraceful Islamophobia and suggestions that his Labour opponent Sadiq Khan was some kind of terrorist sympathiser. This would have gone down like a cup of cold sick with his constituents.

As if that were not bad enough, Goldsmith then had a mardy strop when it was announced that Heathrow Airport would be favoured for expansion, with a third runway to be built in the near future. Pretending to have high principles, Goldsmith resigned his seat and declared that he would contest the resulting by-election as an Independent. This was complete crap, as all the Tories campaigning for him showed.

Not only that, Goldsmith declared that he was in favour of Britain leaving the EU - like father, like son - and in a constituency that voted Remain by a margin of 70% to 30% he was always on a a hiding to nothing. His Lib Dem opponent Sarah Olney, representing a party that has more than 50 years’ experience of winning by-elections (Orpington was in 1962), declared her support for the EU and opposition to triggering Article 50.

And so it came to pass that Zac Goldsmith had his 23,000 majority overturned by Sarah Olney and her confident smile, the Lib Dems securing a dream result after last year’s humiliations. There have been the usual confident noises about Goldsmith bouncing back, but the reality is that this overmonied, out of touch patrician has shot his bolt and would be best advised not to bother even thinking about comebacks.

Zac Goldsmith - so far the only one in 2016 to run a nasty racist campaign and not get rewarded for it. Yes, there he goes, on his way … out.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Brexit - David Davis Sells The Pass

After the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU resulted in a narrow majority in favour of leaving - remember, it was narrower than what Nigel “Thirsty” Farage said would have been “unfinished business” if the vote had gone the other way - and the dust had settled, we were told by our not at all unelected Prime Minister Theresa May that “Brexit means Brexit”. We were on our way out, and that was that.
Not even her appointment of the “Three Brexiteers” - David Davis, Liam Fox, and London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson - would stop the process, despite Fox being unfit for any kind of ministerial responsibility and Bozza being nothing more than a figure of ridicule. But now Davis, the one of the three capable of applying some thought to the exercise, has effectively admitted the game is up.

Davis today faced the Commons, a regular session for the Brexit minister, where Labour MP Wayne David asked him “Will the government consider making any contribution in any shape or form for access to the single market?” Remember, the central plank of the Vote Leave campaign - the lead group for the Outers - was those EU contributions. And the claim of what we could do with them if voters decided to leave.

Davis’ answer, “The major criterion here is that we get the best possible access for goods and services to the European market - and if that is included in what you are talking about, then of course we will consider it”, left open the door wide enough for Sterling to put on around 1% against the US Dollar and appreciate against the Euro. It pleased Remain advocates, and horrified his fellow Out campaigners.
And looks like we'll keep on sending the money

Fundamentalist Outer Peter Bone spluttered “People will be absolutely outraged if we came out of the EU and then carried on paying them £15bn a year, £20bn a year, whatever the figure is - no I don't think it's going to happen”. Iain Duncan Cough managed “I don't think there's any way in which you can reach a deal where you can say 'I'll pay some money in and therefore you allow us access' because you might as well have tariff barriers”, thus showing his basic stupidity. No payment and there WILL be tariff barriers.

Fantasist Tory Steve Baker claimed that paying into the EU budget “would not be free trade”. Think it would, Steve. But the reason for the Outers’ horror and deflection is not hard to fathom: this comes after it was reported thatForeign Secretary Boris Johnson has privately told at least four EU ambassadors that he supports freedom of movement - despite the Government's hard stance on Brexit”. And there was more.

The high-ranking diplomats were speaking under the Chatham House rule, which allows their comments to be reported, but not directly attributed”. So we don’t know whose ambassadors leaked, but we know they leaked, and a Pound to a Euro cent they were authorised by their respective Governments to leak.

Paying into the EU budget for full access to the Single Market would put us in the same position as Norway, which pays as much per head as we do now - but is not part of the CAP or CFP. So we’d still have to separately subsidise farmers, and it would cost just as much. And we’d have to accept free movement. So perhaps someone would like to explain what the point of leaving would be? Don’t all shout at once.

Still No War On Christmas

And so we arrive at December, which means that Christmas will soon be upon us. This may mean family gatherings, a welcome break from work, journeys to warmer climes, or even getting ready for the sales that come afterwards. But to the press, and particularly the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre at the Daily Mail, it means just one thing - to frighten readers by reminding them they are under attack.
What the f***'s wrong with scaring the crap out of my readers, c***?!? Er, with the greatest of respect, Mr Jay

Yes, many of the Mail’s readers may not attend church services regularly, but they identify as Christian. So the Dacre doggies have served up plenty of frighteners, to remind them that there is a War On Christmas, and that Christians are under attack, living in fear of having their religious freedom curtailed, and even losing their jobs.

The Mail has today combined this mildly paranoid and wholly untrue storyline with its continuing adoration for Theresa May as it tells “Theresa stands up for Christmas: PM says Christians must feel free to celebrate and discuss their beliefs without fear … Prime Minister said employees should able to talk about their faith at work … Equalities watchdog said employers were victimising Christians … Businesses that unnecessarily drop Christmas references were criticised”. And there was more.

The PM, who is not unelected, “said that, in the run-up to Christmas, it was particularly important that people felt able to speak freely about their faith at work … The Equality and Human Rights Commission criticised organisations which unnecessarily drop references to Christmas and use secular phrases such as ‘Season’s Greetings’ and ‘Winterval’”.

It didn’t stop there: readers also gotChristians are 'fearful' about celebrating their faith and marking Christmas at work, a Tory MP claimed today … Fiona Bruce cited a think tank report which warned religious freedom was being eroded in Britain … Think tank ResPublica has warned teachers, magistrates and other professionals have been disciplined and sacked for living according to their beliefs”. It should be noted that the last sentence does not specify Christian beliefs.

Add to that a story off the PA wire that claims “Some Christians feel so ‘picked on’ they are too scared to speak about their faith in public, a bishop has warned … The Right Reverend Nick Baines, the Bishop of Leeds, said some secularists ‘have a problem’ with religion being talked about”, and last weekend’s Mail On Sunday claimingThe Government’s equalities watchdog has hit out at politically correct public bodies and employers who victimise Christians because they fear offending others” and it looks truly frightening.

The reality is that there is no war on Christmas, and never was. This is the annual outing for the Mail’s version of the manufactured controversy that has been going on for years across the North Atlantic, fuelled by hosts like Bill O’Reilly at Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse), seeing evil intent in greetings like “Happy Holidays”. Seriously.

But the Mail has to flog papers, and Dacre needs to keep his readers scared. So no change there, then.

Breitbart Ad Ban Hypocrisy

Those who think the Stop Funding Hate campaign in the UK, which is no more than an effort to gently persuade advertisers not to place their business with media outlets that demonise the less fortunate, like refugees and minorities, is being rotten to the poor media  might complain a little less vocally after seeing the viciousness of the reaction from the convocation of the terminally batshit that is Breitbart to their own loss of ad revenue.
His legacy endures, and it is poisonous

As the Guardian has reported, “On Tuesday, the Kellogg Company pulled their adverts from the site, saying that it wasn’t ‘aligned with our values’ … ‘We regularly work with our media-buying partners to ensure our ads do not appear on sites that aren’t aligned with our values as a company,’ Kris Charles, a spokeswoman for Kellogg’s, told Bloomberg. ‘We recently reviewed the list of sites where our ads can be placed and decided to discontinue advertising on Breitbart.com. We are working to remove our ads’”.

There was more. “Other companies have pulled ads from the site, including Allstate, Nest, EarthLink, Warby Parker, SoFi and the investment group Vanguard. Many did not realise they were advertising on Breitbart because their campaigns are run through automated systems which distribute ads across a large network of sites”.

Why should this happen? Ah well. The level of hatred and bigotry spewing out of Breitbart of late can be summed up in these three sample headlines, taken from the site: “‘Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive And Crazy’; ‘Data: Young Muslims In The West Are A Ticking Time-Bomb’ and ‘Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism Or Cancer?’

The reaction from Breitbart was furious: the site urged readers toDump Kelloggs” and a statement told “Kellogg's decision to blacklist one of the largest conservative media outlets in America is economic censorship of mainstream conservative political discourse. That is as un-American as it gets”. This is, of course, plain flat wrong: Kellogg’s had exercised their freedom of choice, which is not un-American at all.

What frightens Breitbart is that several key advertisers have already exercised that freedom of choice, and others may follow, which means this is going to hit their operation where it really hurts - in its pocket. The batshit Breitbarts know all about this, because it is a tactic of which they approved wholeheartedly - when it was them doing it to someone else, as happened at the height of the GamerGate ruckus two years ago.

The Guardian again: “The targeting of advertisers recalls a similar campaign perpetrated against the now-defunct Gawker Media by the Gamergate movement which Breitbart vocally supported”. It was OK for Breitbart when they were helping the campaign that forced Gawker to take a seven-figure ad revenue hit, but when Kellogg’s makes the choice, of its own volition, to pull ads from them, it’s suddenly terribly unfair.

All of which makes Breitbart nothing more than a shower of rank hypocrisy. It’s also possible that they’re missing their morning bowls of Froot Loops. I thank you.

[Those interested in this campaign can follow the @slpng_giants Twitter feed]

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Sun Officially A Political Campaign

The Murdoch goons at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun are well known for their wilful hatred of the EU. It is also not news that the paper consistently, and stridently, took a not just Eurosceptic, but Europhobic, stance in the run-up to last June’s referendum on Britain’s EU membership. What might not be widely known is that the paper’s campaigning went so far that it had to register as an official Leave campaign group.
We know this only through the reporting of the Guardian and Independent - not even Press Gazette has thus far touched the story - which has revealed thatThe Sun spent more than £96,000 publishing a pullout poster backing Brexit, forcing its parent company, News Group Newspapers, to register as an official leave campaign group with the Electoral Commission”. So blatant, they couldn’t get it past the Electoral Commission.

There’s more: “The poster featuring a union flag and the words “BeLEAVE in Britain”, which had appeared on an earlier front page, was published just a week before the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU … Editorially the paper was one of the most vocal backers of leaving the EU, but the double-page spread fell under the Electoral Commission’s rules regulating campaign spending because it was designed to be displayed, even though the money was reported as a payment from NGN to itself”.

And yet more: “The cost of the poster made NGN one of the largest spenders among 48 groups who had their campaign finances revealed by the Electoral Commission on Tuesday, all but two of which spent under £250,000 … The only organisations on the list spending more than NGN were the pro-remain Global Britain Limited, and leave backers Grassroots Out, Veterans for Britain and fashion student Darren Grimes, who ran the youth-focused group BeLeave” (that excludes Vote Leave and Britain Stronger in Europe).

As the Independent told, the kinds of stuff the Sun published which didn’t have to be declared included a less than totally impartial editorial in which the EU was described as “greedy, wasteful, bullying and breathtakingly incompetent in a crisis … Outside the EU we can become richer, safer and free at long last to forge our own destiny - as America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many other great democracies already do. And as we were the first to do centuries ago. If we stay, Britain will be engulfed in a few short years by this relentlessly expanding, German-dominated federal state”.

Nor was the infamous “QUEEN BACKS BREXIT” considered as political campaigning, although that is rather obviously what it was - apart from the headline being totally untrue, of course. And why did the Sun do this? The Independent again. “Mr Murdoch has long been vocal in his opposition to the EU. When questioned as to why, he reportedly  once said: ‘That’s easy. When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice’”. And now they’ve admitted the political campaigning.

If only the Sun, and the rest of the Murdoch empire, would have the backbone to stick around and own up when everything goes belly up, which it is already showing every sign of doing. Sadly, the words of Stanley Baldwin, “What the proprietorship of these papers is aiming at is power, and power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages”, are still true. Murdoch wants to meddle. But not carry the can.

Julia Hartley Brewer - Brexit Clueless

[Update at end of post]

Now relocated from LBC to Talk Radio, occasionally in print in those reassuringly right-leaning papers that want to hear what she has to say, and still inexplicably allowed a platform by the BBC and other broadcasters, wilfully misinformed pundit Julia Hartley Brewer has made no secret of her fervour for Britain departing the EU. Her problem, as shown once more today, is that she has little idea what this might entail.
Stick to facts? How very DARE you!

Ms Hartley Dooda has taken the news that British citizens living in other EU member states will not have their right to remain there confirmed, before the start of those negotiations which follow the triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, particularly badly. In doing so, she has taken it upon herself to find a suitable ghastly foreigner to blame for her confused state of mind, and concluded that it’s The Krauts Who Done It.
Armed with this unique finding, she took to Twitter to tell anyone prepared to listen that “Merkel is happy to welcome 1mill Syrians to Germany but not to guarantee Britons a life there. I think that tells us all we need to know”. Bzzzt! False equivalence. Worse, she manages not to realise that those negotiations have yet to start.
But that was no obstacle to her remaining as badly informed as possible, and to double down, she swiftly declared “I have a funny feeling that many Germans may feel rather differently though. So much for European ‘friendship’”. Ah yes, all those silent voters who don’t approve of all those refugees. Sadly, as was pointed out to her, Angela Merkel’s popularity is, despite her eleven years in office, at around 71%. That means Ms Hartley Dooda is plain flat wrong. And she still hasn’t addressed the real issue.
Not only that, she was going to make damned sure she kept Looking Over There. After the suggestion was made that not everything in the Brexit garden was quite as rosy as advertised, she snapped back “No, I'm very happy with how Brexit is going. But Merkel's position shows just how fake this European ‘Union’ is”. It shows nothing of the sort - the real reason for the uncertainty is not the EU, but the UK’s imminent departure from it.
That point was then made plain to her by Jon Worth, who is a British Passport holder who lives in, and works out of, Berlin. He put the point directly: “For me as a Brit in Germany there’s one thing that made my position insecure: #Brexit. That’s the problem, not Merkel!” Merkel cannot say what the UK’s final status will be, and so cannot make any offer.
This met with the stern disapproval of Ms Hartley Dooda, who was once again determined to ignore the fact of the matter and deflect elsewhere: “Those bloody voters making democratic decisions in a free and fair referendum, eh?” So let’s take this nice and slowly, shall we? The status of EU nationals in the UK, and UK nationals elsewhere in the EU, is unchanged, but what it will be after the Article 50 negotiations is not known. So no-one, not even Angela Merkel, can give guarantees to anyone - yet.

If Julia Hartley Brewer is unable to grasp that straightforward point, one has to assume she is just being wilful. After all, she isn’t stupid - if she was, they would’t have her on the telly so often. Or something like that. I’ll just leave that one there.

[UPDATE 1605 hours: David Allen Green at Law And Policy has tried his best to point out the obvious to Ms Hartley Dooda, but sadly she was not listening.
After he asserted "UK citizens losing their EU-based rights is the essence of Brexit ... Any person supporting Brexit should have realised this", she maintained her previous level of wilfulness.
She countered "we'd lose our right to live/work in the EU.But that's not the same as those already living in EU nations losing their rights", but sadly for her, that is exactly what it is.
Allen Green had to point out "If those rights are based on EU law then, of course, that is what Brexit would mean ... Brexit could not mean otherwise", thus demonstrating that Ms Hartley Dooda has been shooting from the hip without first doing her homework.

Julia Hartley Brewer appears surprised that rights based on EU law might be lost if a country ceases to be an EU member state. One can only wonder what else that should be on the Bleeding Obvious List is going to prove challenging for her. And her fellow Brexiteers]

Has Simon Danczuk Snared Another?

While most of the outpourings from Rochdale’s still nominally Labour MP Simon Danczuk are routine right now, it appears he has been unable to shake off his continuing pursuit of female company, despite the litany of failure in his wake - as well as all those regrettable incidents in pubs, at and outside the Lowry Hotel, over social media, and very publicly around his holiday home in the Anglophone town of Algorfa.
Most Danczuk observers will see the usual bandwagon jumping, such as this morning’s attempt to suggest he is taking an interest in the recent revelations about sexual abuse of young men and boys at football clubs, taking to Twitter to tell “Impressed with what @DamianCollins had to say about child abuse in football, on @VictoriaLIVE just now. FA need to be more accountable”. Joining a cause when the bandwagon has already passed by the front door - yes, that’s Simon Danczuk for you.
Also on the Danczuk support list is the supremely irrelevant attempt by his pal Richard Farnell, still leader of Rochdale Council, to whip up indignation about the service provided to Rochdale by the Metrolink tram network. “Oldham & Rochdale Fight For Tram Link To Piccadilly … Council bosses say it's unfair that the two Boroughs are the only ones in Manchester who don't have direct access by tram” reads the report.
Anyone would think that Metrolink doesn’t go to Oldham or Rochdale - but of course it does. So what’s the beef? “Oldham and Rochdale Councils have secured talks about a direct tram link to Manchester Piccadilly station”. Er, what? “The Oldham-Rochdale line is now the only branch of the regional Metrolink network without an uninterrupted link to Manchester’s key station”. Oh, come off it. That is desperate.

The train service that Metrolink replaced didn’t go to Piccadilly, and if punters want to get there from Rochdale or Oldham, they just have to make a same-platform change at Victoria, Shudehill or Market Street. It’s just attention seeking rubbish. In any case, what Danczuk isn’t Retweeting is his latest female encounter.

To see this, we have to mosey over to the Twitter feed of one Edel McCaffrey, who is Head of Communications for Healthcare At Home. Ms McCaffrey attended the Political Cartoon Awards last night, which were held at St John’s Smith Square, conveniently close to Parliament. From there she Tweeted “With @SimonDanczuk at the political cartoon awards @EllwoodAtfield”. And there they are together, happy and smiling.

Who knows, this may be nothing more than a chance meeting. But it looks rather more serious than that. It looks very much as if despite two less than successful marriages, the failed liaisons with Claire Hamilton, Louise Dickens, a Twentysomething who was snapped with him outside the Lowry Hotel, the other young woman snapped outside the Lowry Hotel after the MEN party, the “sexting” shame, and claims of at least two relationships with women he had worked with, Spanker Si is still on the pull.

And if he was, then I’m sure any or all of those mentioned will be more than happy to provide a suitable character reference for him. Or maybe not.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Eric Bristow - Say Sorry

Whatever one’s opinion of the sport, darts has always had more than its fair share of characters, and none has been more significant and enduring than the “Crafty Cockney” Eric Bristow, part of whose persona is that he doesn’t much care what people think - and has been dismissive of many journalists over the years. In any case, the arrows can do the talking for him, and a whole slew of titles stands testament to that.
Eric Bristow

Sadly for Bristow, his tendency to shoot from the hip has not served him well when combined with an ill-advised excursion on Twitter in the wake of the revelations over the sexual abuse of young men and boys at a number of football clubs in the past. Much of the abusive behaviour is alleged to have been down to coaches like Barry Bennell, who was suddenly sacked by Crewe Alex in 1992 for reasons that have never been made clear.

The Tweet that began Bristow’s downhill slide read “Might be a looney but if some football coach was touching me when i was a kid as i got older i would have went back and sorted that poof out”. Homosexuality and paedophilia confused yet again. And his later claim “bet the rugby boys are ok” didn’t endear him to anyone in that sport who had suffered abuse.

Then came the backlash: first, as the Guardian has reported, “The former darts world champion Eric Bristow has been sacked by Sky Sports after he tweeted comments about the football sexual abuse story on Monday … Bristow, 59, had been a regular contributor to the channel’s darts coverage since the early 90s but Sky announced on Tuesday morning that he would no longer be used by it. ‘He was a contributor to our darts coverage in the past but we will not be using him in the future,’ a spokesperson commented”.

Soon afterwards, the Manchester Evening News told its readersCharity reports Eric Bristow to police over tweets on football sex abuse scandal … The five-time world darts champion stunned fans last night with a stream of messages in which he labelled footballers who have recently revealed they were abused as ‘wimps’ … Survivors Manchester, a group which supports boys and men affected by sexual abuse, rape and sexual exploitation said they had forwarded them to his local police force”.

Then Sky News reported thatNewcastle United have said they will never work with darts player Eric Bristow again after he posted inappropriate tweets about the football abuse scandal … The former darts world champion has been heavily criticised after calling footballers ‘wimps’ on social media, adding: ‘Glad I am a dart player proper men’ … Newcastle United are one of the clubs involved in investigations after the Guardian newspaper reported that a former player had contacted police to make allegations against George Ormond … Ormond was a coach in the North East who was jailed for six years in 2002 for carrying out numerous assaults across a 24-year period”.

Nothing like engaging brain before firing up the Twitter feed, it seems. But thus far, Bristow has not done the one thing that could provide him with some respite from the gathering storm of bad publicity and the serial shunning of those who had previously been happy to provide him with work opportunities - hold his hands up and say sorry.

I’m sure Bristow is a proud man. But now he needs to swallow that pride and admit he got this one very wrong indeed. It would be better to remember him for all the right reasons.

Ofcom - The Regulator For Murdoch

[Update at end of post]

The Murdoch press has been lobbying for some months now for BT to be broken up, and specifically for the parent company to be split off from its Openreach division, that part of BT that deals with Britain’s broadband and telephony network. It was not just the Sun that ranted about alleged Openreach shortcomings - the supposedly upmarket and independent Times was also corralled into carrying knocking copy.
The true beneficiary of any BT break-up is revealed

This tide of unfavourable publicity has had a gradually corrosive effect on public perception in the same way that press attacks on social workers, foreign aid, the EU, the judiciary, climate change, and anyone not born in the UK has done. It has reinforced the idea that Openreach is being held back by being part of BT, and that it must therefore be split from it. The reality, that Murdoch is trying to hobble a competitor, is not allowed to enter.

BT has parked its tanks on Murdoch’s lawn by buying up the rights for some Premiership matches, as well as those for the UEFA Champions’ League and Europa League. Rupe doesn’t like that, and prefers a playing field tilted a little more in his favour. So he and his fellow Mafiosi will have been celebrating today at the news that Ofcom has chosen to do his bidding and order the legal separation of Openreach from its BT parent.

Ofcom’s excuse was its “concerns about BT's ability to favour its retail business when making investment decisions in Openreach … It wants Openreach to become a distinct company with its own board, with non-executives and a chairperson not affiliated with BT. It also wants Openreach to have control over its branding and budget allocation … Openreach would also have a duty to treat all of its customers equally, the regulator said”.

More specifically, Ofcom claimed “We are disappointed that BT has not yet come forward with proposals that meet our competition concerns. Some progress has been made, but this has not been enough, and action is required now to deliver better outcomes for phone and broadband users … Some progress has been made, but this has not been enough, and action is required now to deliver better outcomes for phone and broadband users”.

Exactly how much action Ofcom expected BT to have taken since they decided only as recently as July not to force the company to initiate any kind of split, is unclear. The kinds of timescales that large corporates work to are years, rather than months. But the Murdoch mafiosi were back with their demands in September, and it seems their lobbying, including having a former Sun hack as a SpAd to the Culture Secretary, has paid off.

As I said in February, the Murdoch strategy was straightforward: “Sky’s flat revenues have to be transformed. And that happens not merely by offering mobile services and set-top boxes, but also by hobbling the competition. The circle is squared by having the BBC diminished and the assault on BT ramped up. For this, the Murdoch’s press and PR machine will, as ever, be deployed in support”. And so it has come to pass.

Theresa May is so weak and insecure she went to pay court to Rupert Murdoch on her first trip to the USA. Her Culture Secretary is being worked by a Murdoch SpAd. And now we have Ofcom becoming The Regulator For Murdoch. All of this should trouble those who believe in level playing fields and free competition. But most media outlets won’t bother.

Rupert Murdoch is once again bending Governments to his will. No change there, then.

[UPDATE 30 November 1145 hours: anyone believing the Ofcom move was to the benefit of anyone other than the Murdoch empire should consult today's Times editorial, which tells "BT and Openreach are to be forced further apart. About time too" and goes on to underscore this by claiming "Openreach's corporate parent is BT. Together they are holding back broadband Britain".
Later in the article comes the dead giveaway: "[BT] has spent more on sports broadcast rights ... than on broadband upgrades". In other words, parking its tanks on the Murdoch lawn, to the clear disapproval of the assembled mafiosi.

The Murdoch goons aren't interested in fairness, pricing or other competition issues. They want to see a competitor hobbled. End of story]

Paul Nuttall - Bad Bootle Meff

[Update at end of post]

The Liverpool Echo is one of those evening papers that defines the area it covers, gives outsiders the authentic voice of Merseyside. The Echo was supportive of the Hillsborough families from the very start, right through to the new inquest verdicts. It has also accurately reflected the revulsion of many in Liverpool at the antics over the years of the Murdoch Sun. And it has caused considerable discomfort to new UKIP leader Paul Nuttall.
Ullo Nige, got a new motor?

Nuttall sets great store by his Merseyside origins, specifically that he hails from Bootle, immediately to the north of central Liverpool, and that this makes him an authentic Scouser. However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, the enthusiasm for Nuttall as a representative of Liverpool is not shared by many of his fellow Scousers.
Indeed, when BBC Question Time featured both Nuttall and the equally appalling then Tory MP Esther McVey, and the Echo live-blogged the event, one particular Tweet set in train a Meme that has endured. After the Echo Tweeted “Question Time Scouse takeover with Esther McVey and Paul Nuttall - readers respond”, Tweeter @lipglossjill snapped back “they're not proper Scouse one’s a horrible Tory wool the other’s a bad Bootle UKIP meff”.
For those not familiar with the Merseyside vernacular, “wool”, short for “woolyback”, means someone from out of town who merely pretends to be Scouse. And as for “meff”, well, here’s the Urban Dictionary definition: “n. Derogative. Meff is to describe an alcoholic homeless person, or a 'tramp' who lives in a house … The word first originated in Liverpool, England, where it is still used as an insult”.
Nuttall went ballistic at being characterised as a jumped-up tramp, perhaps because that reinforced the comparison between him and Eddie Hitler, the Adrian Edmondson character in the nihilistic sitcom Bottom. The Echo reportedUKIP MEP Paul Nuttall brands BBC Question Time reaction ‘appalling’ … Bootle politician hits out after ECHO readers after being referred to as a 'bad Bootle UKIP meff’”.
In any case, it was too late - the Meme has stuck with him, and after he was declared the new leader of UKIP yesterday it was out in force, including “Nuttall. You've been disowned by the Scousers. You're just a #BadBootleMeff”, “UKIP picked a leader that isn't ever going to be voted in his home city, town or council. #BadBootleMeff”, and “UKIP leader #BadBootleMeff wants to privatise the NHS” (with Eddie Hitler photo).
There was more: “Wish news channels would stop saying ‘Liverpool born’ about the #badbootlemeff - it's not something we're proud about”, “I know this is of little consequence but that is a fucking shit tie that could only be worn by a #BadBootleMeff”, and “.@paulnuttallukip If you had 17 Euros for everyone who voted for you... your party would still be up to its knackers in debt. #BadBootleMeff”.

Paul Nuttall is now, in the minds of many voters, the northern embodiment of Eddie Hitler. And he’s a jumped-up tramp. Never was the Bad Bootle Meff moniker more deserved.

[UPDATE 30 November 1335 hours: Nuttall's first Little Local Difficulty appears to be a photo that has been circulated by the EDL News Twitter account (an account that is not pro-EDL, by the way).
This has told "Picture of the EDL's Stockport area leader, Andy Edge, cuddling up to new UKIP leader, Paul Nuttall. Please retweet".

I'm sure there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this. So let's hear it, eh Are Paul?]

Monday, 28 November 2016

Paul Nuttall, You’re A Bigot

The motley convocation of saloon bar propper-uppers otherwise known as UKIP has today elected a new leader, and to show the world just how serious they are about their politics, the man elected was Paul Nuttall, the party’s resident comedy Scouser, whose schtick is an amalgam of Pub Landlord and early Alexei Sayle.
What a day Missus! What a day!! How tickled I ham!!! What a day for shoving a grilled kipper through the vicar's letterbox!!!!

Nuttall is loud, he’s in your face, he’s insistent, and he’s a 24 carat, gold plated, copper bottomed, ocean going bigot. He told the BBC’s Daily Politics that “We will be focusing on the issues that really matter to working-class people on doorsteps - immigration, crime, defence, foreign aid, ensuring that British people are put to the top of the queue in the job market”. So plenty of discrimination against all those ghastly foreigners, then.

Losing candidate Suzanne Evans claimed that the result gave Nuttall “a ‘huge mandate’ to unite the party”. And the size of that “huge mandate”? “Mr Nuttall, who was born in Bootle, Merseyside and was UKIP deputy leader from 2010 until September this year, attracted 9,622 votes … Ms Evans came second with 2,973 votes (19.3%) and Mr Rees-Evans third with 2,775 votes (18.1%). There were 32,757 ballot papers sent out, with 15,405 votes cast”. He received fewer than 10,000 votes. Remember that number.

Why so? Because Nuttall also claimed “I want to replace the Labour Party and make UKIP the patriotic voice of working people”. A word in your shell-like, Are Paul. In Labour’s leadership contest earlier this year, Jeremy Corbyn polled more than 313,000 votes. Hell, even losing candidate Owen Smith polled over 193,000. And Paul Nuttall, positively endorsed by less than 10,000 people, wants to replace them. Yeah, right.

It gets worse: the turnout in the Labour leadership election was 77.6%. In UKIP’s contest, fewer than 50% of the ballots sent out were returned. This is a joke party sustained by a credulous media. And Nuttall has serious past form for rank bigotry.

Take, for instance, his attitude to the LGBT community, as Pink News has told: Nuttall “has called for people with HIV to be banned from the UK … is an opponent of LGBT rights … [LGBT-inclusive sex and relationship education] ‘is just politically correct nonsense’ … Mr Nuttall has specifically courted the anti-LGBT vote [he has said] ‘On moral issues, we, more than any other political party, are more in line with Catholic thought. Whether it’s on gender-choice abortion or same-sex marriage, we are absolutely 100 percent behind the Catholic Church’”. And he’s been elected leader of an allegedly serious political party.

As Alex Andreou noted, Nuttall claimed “Brits fear all immigrants, regardless of where they would come from”. He has, as Adam Bienkov observed, “called for the the National Health service to be privatised … He is also against adverts which inform women about family planning and abortion … while Nuttall is in favour of removing the right of Muslims to wear what they please, he does not believe there should have been any restrictions on the right of Christians to express religious discrimination”.

He’s defended the use of blatantly sexist language. He’s a climate change denier. And he wants to bring all of that to bear in … replacing Labour. The reality is that he’s another fundamentalist right-winger, only with a Merseyside accent and a big gob.

Paul Nuttall may not be a serious politician. But he is potentially dangerous.

Kavanagh Brexit Fantasy BUSTED

The reality of what life outside the EU might mean became a little clearer last week, after the Autumn Statement revealed an impending increase in Government indebtedness and the prospect of a decade-long pay squeeze, meaning all those hard working readers of the Murdoch Sun facing a drop in their living standards, fewer nights out, forgetting all those long haul holidays, and no more lording it over mainland Europeans.
Why did Kavanagh cross the road? To score more and bigger paycheques for Himself Personally Now

But the Murdoch goons are still telling readers that this is all “Project Fear”, and what we really face is wall-to-wall good news. So to keep everyone’s spirits up, faithful retainer Trevor Kavanagh has been sent out to do what he does best - talk well, and lie badly. “Brexit Britain is going to need a hero … time to unleash Boris Johnson” is his refrain.

The idea of “unleashing” someone who has proved that he is terminally inept is the first sign that Kavanagh has been on something not only strong, but perhaps even illegal, something that is confirmed by his continuing “Right now, Britain needs a cheerleader … It need not be Mrs May herself who takes on this role. She has a Foreign Secretary who is designed and built to keep up public spirits”. Do go on.

He should be unleashed without constraint on his jokes or his ripe language. They are what give him star quality”. Which won’t succeed in the hard-nosed negotiations to come. Try again. “EU negotiators pretend to be grumpy, but they love him, too. He speaks their languages, after all”. Why, do they all speak Pidgin Latin? But there’s more.

In any case, we don’t need to keep our cards close to our chest. We hold nearly all the trumps. We can tell Brussels what we want and let them decide how to respond”. We can indeed tell Brussels what we want. And they can go into Smash advert mode.

The UK has plenty of ammunition. Pessimists search for dark clouds behind the silver lining but nobody can ignore our boom in jobs, growth, exports and retail sales since the referendum”. Like what? “Jaguar plans 10,000 new jobs and a million new cars a year”. Bullshit. Jaguar has guaranteed precisely zero new jobs and will only consider some if the Government bungs it £450 million in bribes (remember the Nissan non-deal?).

America, Canada, India and Australia are queuing to sign trade deals”. Bullshit. NONE of these countries is queuing to sign a trade deal. Any more whoppers? “China wants to splurge £4billion on a new Canary Wharf”. It just hasn’t committed as much as 5p yet, though. Still, minor point, eh Trev? Oh look, here comes another porkie.

German firms want to expand here too and are begging Chancellor Angela Merkel to cut a deal with us”. Are they stuff. Name one (he can’t). Have another go. “In addition, the PM has more subtle cards to play … The EU is perhaps already in a death spiral”. Like the collected goons at the Murdoch press have been pretending for decades. It isn’t

Squabbling EU states need us more than we need them”. No EU member states are squabbling. “Chancellor Merkel is terrified of being left alone with France and the others without our £14billion a year to keep them afloat”. Yeah, she looks dead scared. Not.

All that Bozza would do is screw it up a bit more - if the PM and her pals had the first idea what they were doing, which they haven’t. So stuff off Kav, and get real for once.

The President-Elect Is Paranoid

After Combover Crybaby Donald Trump apparently won the US Presidential Election earlier this month - results are still merely “projected”, and have not been finalised - it became apparent that, while he had won just over 300 of the 538 Electoral College votes, easily enough to get him into the White House, he had lost the popular vote, and by more than two million votes. And then came demands for recounts.
This move has been spearheaded by Jill Stein, who stood as the Green Party candidate. Ms Stein certainly isn’t going to win any of the states in which she is advocating a recount, but if sufficient extra votes accrue for Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump could be in big trouble. And that has sparked a petulant, paranoid, and most certainly non-Presidential outburst from The Donald, now back in control of his Twitter feed.
The Green Party scam to fill up their coffers by asking for impossible recounts is now being joined by the badly defeated & demoralized Dems” he declared at the weekend, which is odd as Ms Stein is having to pony up somewhere north of $6 million to get the recounts. But then, Trump rarely makes sense in his Twitter rants.
It got worse: “The Democrats, when they incorrectly thought they were going to win, asked that the election night tabulation be accepted. Not so anymore!” Did they? Hell, he doesn’t care. But he would be right to worry - if the vote had been tampered with. That is because the three states concerned - Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania - carry 10, 16 and 20 Electoral College votes respectively - enough to lose Trump the election.
Were all of those states to switch from red to blue, Trump would have only 260 Electoral College votes, and Ms Clinton 278. It is the longest of long shots, but Trump has been unsettled, reduced to asserting “Hillary Clinton conceded the election when she called me just prior to the victory speech and after the results were in. Nothing will change”. How would he know that? Does he have access to the election machinery?
He even returned to Twitter yesterday evening to double down on his claims, ranting “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally”. It wasn’t a landslide, and he’s so far been unable to bring forward any evidence of illegality. And the vote margin in Wisconsin, at just over 10,700, is larger than has ever been overturned after a recount.
What is Trump’s problem? He’s still at it, claiming overnight of “Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California - so why isn't the media reporting on this? Serious bias - big problem!” Something of a “look over there” tactic, as Trump lost all three states. If he won the three states now being discussed, he should just be able to sit back, agree to let due process take its course, and carry on assembling his team for Government.

This is the man who, if he is inaugurated President in January, will have his finger on the nuclear button. After the weekend’s ranting, we should all be very afraid.