Friday, June 26, 2015

A possibly irrelevant point on something from a possibly irrelevant person

Today, the Supreme Court of the USA ruled in favour of gay marriage at a federal level. Not just ' Hey states, it's OK if you want to', but 'No seriously. All of you. Listen up.'

And this makes me happy, obviously, because justice. Full judgment here, and clock that closing para in the Opinion of the Court.

So, some people are cross. Including this guy:

Just going to have a little unpack here, because I'm in a bit of a spin and that's what I do when in a bit of a spin.

Firstly - religious liberty is a concept open to all people. Those of faith, those undecided, and those of no faith. Because 'religious liberty' really means liberty of belief, and the belief that religion should be rejected or discarded is as valid as that it (or a particular one) should be held.

There are many people who don't believe that religion has or should have any place in lawmaking. These - and this may surprise Mr Fischer - include some people of faith.

But even accepting that 'God' is a relevant concept in lawmaking, he's still got problems. The phrasing implies that he is referring to 'God' as a monotheistic concept, so possibly we should strike out the views of any poly/pantheistic believer.

And I'm guessing from the circumstantial evidence that Mr Fischer is a Christian rather than a member of another monotheistic faith with a shared God, so let's also lose believers in eg Judaism and Islam from this.

If we just look at Christians, he's still in something of a tricky position because, well...Quakers, Lutherans, Trinitarians, Methodists - all groups/denominations with (with national variations) positive stances on gay people marrying.

So he's really down to - "My church doesn't like it. I will therefore define 'God' for all churches in my denomination, all denominations in my religion, all religions in monotheism, and in general for everybody, whether they have faith or not".

Or - bref - "I am everybody".

The US Constitution, First Amendment, to recap, says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances
It specifically says that 'you are not everyone', religion-wise (no law respecting an establishment of religion). Mr Fischer and his church are free to exercise their religion (and tweet as above, etc). But their free exercise of their religion, as they see it, does not mean that they get to impose their religion, as they see it, on anyone else, whether that means imposing religion in general, or in particular.

Religious liberty is protected. Mr Fischer is under no obligation to marry another man, whether his disinclination to that is religiously motivated or otherwise. He is free to go about his heterosexual business, continue to believe that gay people marrying is wrong, and to tweet that.

He just doesn't get to be everybody.

I mean, imagine if another bunch of people got together, citing 'God', to support a federal ban on bacon (at least three major world religions involved there, I think) - I think I know who'd be one of the first to complain.

If 'everybody' encompasses such a wide range of beliefs, then nobody gets to be everybody. We are all somebody, and we get to decide for ourselves.

My particular love to two dear friends who are getting married this weekend. You are somebodies I love deeply. If you will allow me - que Dieu vous benisse...

And let's finish with a song.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Bunch of Lesbians

So, allegedly some chap in Italy has been talking in less than happening terms about women footballers and while this could all get rather involved and unpleasant, it prompts reflection on the positives of the women's game being a bit more open in terms of player orientation. Also, I like making lists, and the team formation builder from

So - how good could 'a bunch of lesbians' be?

Heh. Pretty damn good.

Some rules here - it's the World Cup in the summer (so excited) so let's stick to players for the qualified teams. Also, current players for those qualified teams, in the most recently announced squads (so Bresonik misses out, boo). And, most importantly, those openly gay or bisexual - no speculation, no rumours (just rude, apart from anything else).

And a 4-4-2 formation because that will both please and annoy different types of traditionalist in equal measure.

A little look at the details (mostly from Wiki so, y'know, stats could well be higher than this):

GK - 
  • Nadine Angerer, Germany: 2 World Cups, 5 European championships, 1 UEFA Cup, 4 German cups, 2 Bundesliga titles, 138 caps, FIFA World Player of the Year 2013
  • Abby Wambach, USA: 2 Olympic Gold, FIFA World Player of the Year 2012, 241 caps, 182 goals
  • Lianne Sanderson, England: 5 league titles, 1 UEFA Cup, 6 cups, 2 Community Shields, 1 Cyprus Cup, 46 caps, 15 goals

So. That's 1388 international caps and 343 international goals between them. And a shit-load of trophies. Let's add a coach - Pia Sundhage, 3 Algarve Cups, 2 Olympic Golds, FIFA World Coach of the Year 2012.

I realise that some people have a problem (theological or otherwise) with non-heterosexuality. But I also know that some non-heterosexual people have to deal with a problem - not of their own making - connected with their orientation. Because they don't see themselves in public, on the big screen, in the discourse.

There will be a wonderful tournament this summer, and it will involve people who are like us. That Casey Stoney interview is on the official FIFA WWC website. Yes.

If you think this doesn't matter, or is 'PC gone mad', then please go about your business. I'm not really talking to you, I'm talking to the legions of little girls who get told stuff and called names when they just want to play the sport they love.

I believe that we will win.


Thanks to Marco Bantani for helping out when the team was short of defenders in formation. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Barclays Academy

I was watching Arsenal v Liverpool, with the traditional manager sideline shots (Wenger, putting a coat on; Rodgers, hands in pockets; both, in V-neck sweaters).

It occurred to me that, collectively, Premiership managers look like the staff of an under-performing boys' independent school.

Who really don't get on.

So obviously I went with that.

Arsene Wenger is headmaster. He's been there forever and has to deal with balancing the books, admin, student recruitment, basically everything. But he wouldn't have it any other way. Also teaches French. He has a very different approach from Deputy Head Brendan Rodgers, who takes PSE.

In the Humanities department, it's something of a mixed bag. Newly-appointed Louis van Gaal teaches Geography, and while he has some very interesting anecdotes about his own travels, tends not to stick to the lesson plan so students can become confused, as can everyone else. Tony Pulis takes History, where he has comprehensive knowledge and is very organised, although has had some unfortunate disciplinary issues in the past. Jose Mourinho is in charge of both Politics and Philosophy, and does get results, but can make some contradictory arguments, and many of his students are prevented from expressing themselves fully and at risk of burn-out. Mark Hughes takes Critical Thinking, and on RE, it's Gus Poyet, who has some difficulty getting his students to actually turn up.

In the Arts department, Mauricio Pocchettino is in charge of Foreign Languages, which has quite a high influx of students each year. On English and Drama, it's Chris Ramsey - we'll be honest, they aren't very good, but he manages to stay cheerful. Manuel Pellegrini looks a little tired and put-upon as Classics master, as many people believe he should be getting better results. Steve Bruce takes Art.

In the Sciences department, Ronald Koeman is head, focussing particularly on Chemistry. Sam Allardyce is the slightly aggressive Maths and Economics master who may need to be replaced in the summer, while Garry Monk is an extremely popular younger teacher for ICT students. Sean Dyche's position is possibly in danger as the school may stop offering CDT courses in the future, and Alan Pardew is a little aggrieved as he thinks that Business Studies should be more highly rated by the school.

Elsewhere, Roberto Martinez takes Home Economics, and is rather well thought of, but there were some criticisms of that trip to Europe he organised recently (although he is by no means the only teacher who had that problem). Tim Sherwood heads up the PE department, but yearns for more responsibility. Nigel Pearson is in charge of extra-curricular activities including the CCF and Duke of Edinburgh schemes (lots of hiking). John Carver sort of fills in wherever. There's some doubt as to his qualifications.

Obviously, many more staff are needed to run a school. In the admin office, Greg Dyke tries to keep on top of things. Dr Carneiro has mostly given up explaining to people that she isn't just the school nurse. And with numerous former staff and students, including former Economics teacher Harry Redknapp, working in the media, there's a lot of attention that isn't always helpful.

But they bumble on. While results may not compare favourably to similar schools on the continent, they have solid financial backing, so despite some concerns from parents about the financial model, they are in no immediate danger of going to the wall.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

I might be Charlie...

Today, I had a booking to spend the day training clients and their other advisors in Paris. To make the most of this opportunity, I went up on the train yesterday morning, with the intention to spend the afternoon pottering around the Musee d'Orsay and so on. About an hour out of Paris, the news broke.

I've reaggravated a muscle injury from last year so am in a fair amount of pain which isn't allowing me to sleep, and yet my brain is still wide awake in a slightly squirrel way, so...

This is France's worst terrorist attack for decades. It's a tragedy. It's an assault on freedom of speech. Watching the numbers roll in, the estimates of how many people went out last night, stood up, held pens or presscards high, was amazing. The pictures of the manifs, the responses. On the TV, the Imam of the Lille Mosque, Philippe Val on the verge of tears, Richard Malka struggling to hold it together. This morning, walking to the training day, being asked to take a detour by a cop in front of Invalides - police cars everywhere, vans, barricades - and the elderly woman who reached him first not questioning him but saying "mes condoléances pour vos confrères - courage".

In amongst the hashtags and the signs there have been some articles, posts, tweets, that have been critical - questioning - of "je suis Charlie".

I'll be honest, I've never read it. I tried reading Le Canard Enchaîné, on the advice of the Oiseau, but struggled with the in-jokes and level of previous knowledge assumed (imagine trying to read about Ugandan Affairs in a second language and making sense of it - this is way more involved). And some of the cartoons in that made me wince. Charlie Hebdo was - is - different from that.

I thought it crude, offensive, juvenile, and not very funny. Of all the covers being shared right now, that of Mohammed, his head in his hands, saying "c'est dur d'être aimé par des cons", strikes me as good. The responses by the cartooning community have been better - more balanced, more pointed, less 'cheap laughs' - than a lot of the content they were supporting.

So however much I support freedom of speech, press freedom, the importance of satire, resistance against terror - can I say, je suis Charlie? Not at that level. Being that wilfully offensive - whoever the recipient - isn't my style. I've had problems with a lot of the covers I've seen over the years. I'm not that.

But in another way, je suis Charlie doesn't need to mean that you were A-OK with the editorial content of Charlie Hebdo. The people that did this did not have a reason to do it, in any logical sense - they had a motive. And you can come up with a sick, twisted motive for anything, if you are a heavily armed dogmatist with a self-appointed God-given role to seek vengeance. For crashing planes into buildings, blowing up a public transport system, hacking a man to death in the street... Anyone can be a victim.

Yesterday, and today, there was a slightly strange atmosphere in Paris. Police everywhere. But no...fear. That was very different from 7/7 - my primary frame of reference for this because it was there right next to me, rather than images on a TV screen - maybe because this was so targeted whereas that was so random. Also in another way (and thank God my parents had forgotten I was due to be in Paris yesterday) - then, we were frantically ringing round trying to locate staff members (an audit firm - staff were all over the place on client work), trying to find out what was happening, mainly through overseas press and having info passed on from a friend at a news outlet that they weren't broadcasting because it wasn't corroborated. Now there's Twitter.

Twelve people died yesterday. By no measure was that reasonable. It was sick and twisted and a tragedy and all twelve will be in my thoughts and my prayers, as their families are, as the people still in hospital are, as the people dealing with the backlash are. Because we all know there'll be a backlash. Nobody demanded that Christians rejected Breivik, witness the surprise when it turned out that David Copeland, white guys with pipe bombs are lone wolves - McVeigh really wasn't a lone wolf - somebody bombed the NAACP yesterday and yes, I found out about that from Twitter, those people pointing out the casualty numbers in other countries yesterday and being told they were missing the point when they weren't, they were making a point...

Marine Le Pen is going to fall on this like the smallest, nerdiest, most annoying wolf in the pack feasting on an already injured deer and making out that she's fucking White Fang. If she hasn't already.

And in a world with no reasons, just motives - or 'grounds', if you're a nation state and on the Security Council - then you can fashion a motive for anything. Press freedom matters. Freedom of speech matters. Lives matter. Wherever they are lived.

So, if I say je suis Charlie, it's not because I agreed with them. It's because I don't agree with the people who murdered them.

First they came for the cartoonists...

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The top top top top team

So, that happened. As Kirsten Schlewitz puts it, "So, uh..."...

Chelsea are top. On alphabetical order. 

Now, OK, I accept that something adminny has to kick in here when the points, GD, goals scored, conceded, etc etc are all equal, and as the ever-reasonable Simon Gleave points out, "I think you're looking at the wrong sport if you want creativity in this area."

But that doesn't mean we can't try. How to differentiate Chelsea and Manchester City in a way that reflects something they've actually done, rather than an accident of orthography? If this was happening in cyrillic, M beats Ч, after all.

There were some suggestions - for Schlewitz, it was goal sexinessBen Stanley suggested 'irritatingness' (I suspect he has no dog in this particular race) and Kevin Williams went with 'fragile Argentines'. All good suggestions, but the first two are a bit subjective - we all know that stats are the thing, so if we're not giving Opta this one to sort out based on pass completion rates and possession, it should still be something that can be measured. Number of Belgians? Variety of pies available? Paying non-playing staff the living wage? Number of wheelchair spaces? Homegrown players in starting XI? 

The obvious one - which French TV seemed to think was the actual reason, possibly because they were reading the LFP rules - was fair play rankings. It's a route into the Europa League, after all! And who doesn't want a route into the Europa League. Anyway. There is a table for that - although helpfully for the Premiership, this was last updated after 13 games, on 9 December. It also looks rather more complicated than the French version - I tried reading the explanation of the calculations but I'm ill and it makes the FIFA ranking calculations seem straightforward. 

So, as if to load on the excitement to a day that saw 33 goals scored across 10 games (actually nine - Aston Villa and Crystal Palace, take a long hard look at yourselves)...nobody is top. Both are top. It's a kind of Schrodinger's Cat situation in the Premiership table right now. And if there's a time and a place for metaphysical argument, it's clearly the day when most of football Twitter is getting over a massive hangover.

Well done everybody. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Speaking whatever to power

Concepts belong to nobody; everyone gets to have a say, everyone gets to contribute to define what that concept means. So, get involved in a concept. The more the merrier - meaning, the more useful. Don't be seen off (although, obviously, self-protection is the priority).

What is potentially problematic is getting involved in organisations. Organisations, the bastardised end-points of concepts, because humanity apparently can't deal if there isn't admin.

(See also organised religion)

The problem comes with people having a narrow view of the concept and assuming that their way is the only way, and that their narrow way defines the concept to the exclusion of other ways.

"Nobody likes women's football"

Erm. < nervously raises hand >

The default set approach to concepts has been discussed here before; football is set apart from women's football, African football, youth football, non-league football...

The default set is the most powerful, is the subset of the concept that needs no adjective. Well done, default set. You win. In organisational terms. In financial terms. In structural terms. But not actually in conceptual terms. Those other footballs? They exist. You can't erase them, only sideline them - and that, well, you're very good at that. But then huffing and puffing about your subset of the concept, seeking to dismiss the other elements of it, just makes you look foolish. You may think the concept belongs to your organisation, but it doesn't. It may be assumed to do so, by you (your organisation), by the media (another organisation), but... it doesn't. You can only own an organisation - and you do - but not the concept.

And the fact that your subset is the most powerful, organisationally, structurally, financially... doesn't actually mean you're the biggest. In pure numbers. Just something to remember.

For football, read feminism.

Concepts have more in common than you might initially think. And default sets and marginalised interests, likewise. And bigness.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

UEFA from the Maddening Crowd

So, after CSKA Moscow were punished for racism by fans with a 'behind closed doors' game against Manchester City, which included some doors that were slightly ajar, if not actually open, given that there were a couple of hundred CSKA-supporting guests, mascots, parents, what-have-you, inside the stadium, a new idea from UEFA President Michel Platini.

Hold onto your hats, everybody. This could be a doozy. 

An extract: 
UEFA chief of press Pedro Pinto told Press Association Sport: "The president has suggested an idea where instead of having empty stadiums only women and children are allowed into the match". 


The thinking here seems to be that UEFA considers discrimination based on race to be a bad thing (with them so far) and that this would be best stressed with an approach that basically says that all racists are men, and that all women and children are harmless little flowers who will bring only sweetness and light to a stadium and can safely be allowed in as they aren't any danger to anything.

Which sounds nice, maybe, on first hearing and before thinking about it too hard, but ... yeah. Not so much.  

Apart from anything else, have you met any children recently? Anyway.

There's so many questions in this one. What's the cut-off age for boys? Is some UEFA suit (and it will be a suit) going to say, "well, up to the age of x they clearly don't count as members of a particular gender but above that age they are all potential racists and a threat to the fabric of society"? Are they expecting chants along the lines of "slugs and snails and puppydog tails, that's what referees are made of"? Is the implication, "you're being punished - women and children being present is part of the punishment"? Elaborate mosaic tifos in the form of flowers, and kittens, and My Little Pony? 

< heavy sigh >

Look, I'm all for football matches being more welcoming of all people. At Mosson that might involve putting a steward on the door of the women's toilets so young girls (as well as the rest of us) don't open a cubicle door and find themselves looking at a bloke zipping himself up. To be fair, other women fans often play that role, but on a more ad hoc (and sweary) basis. I've had a great time when MHSC's women's team get to play in the main stadium and there's little girls running around in Lattaf shirts. When I went to a football match in England for the first time (Emirates Cup) I could see a rainbow flag from Gay Gooners up in the stands. It's nice. I feel welcome. Why shouldn't I?

But this 'idea' puts a significant group of fans in a 'safe' category purely by virtue of age and/or sex. And another in the 'dangerous' category, ditto. That's no help to anybody. 

If UEFA really wants to punish racism, they can do. Of course they can, if FIFA can change national tax and criminal law if they see fit. Not this way. 
"This is just an idea at this stage"
Please, please, please - keep it that way.