Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Whizzy charts!

I've stopped doing them, so now some google-related programme can fill the gap!

Melanie Phillips on Marriage

Surely in this rant she contradicts herself in the space of four paragraphs:

Not only was this doctrine [the Law Lords recent decision] grossly unfair, but it effectively reinterpreted marriage from a spiritually-based fusion of selves into a self-centred business transaction between economic interests.


As for cohabitants’ ‘rights’, if those who merely live together are entitled to the same benefits as those who get married, clearly much of the rationale for marriage disappears.


If marriage is a spiritually-based fusion of selves, then surely it won't matter that those who are cohabiting get the same 'benefits', as presumably those benefits are based around only economic interest?

The emerging anti-Blair consensus?

The Sunday Telegraph, in a review of "England in particular", by Sue Clifford and Angela King, argues:

The book comes at the right time to join the critique of the Blair years that is emerging from Left and Right. His England carries the sheen of commercial success, but it is insufficiently local, insufficiently green, insufficiently happy; its only goal is retail expenditure; it is a restless, over-stressed place, mired in bureaucracy and an off-the-peg internationalism - a sort of giant, droning airport in which everyone, whether talking on mobile phones or plugged into broadband, is perpetually aspiring to be somewhere else

I'm not sure to what degree I agree with this. The idea that there is nothing more to life than retail expenditure was hardly unknown in the Major and Thatcher years, to put it mildly. Indeed the whole paragaph reminds one of that viewpoint common to right-wing think tanks, and indeed the Conservative Party until 2003, that Britain could and only should be like a version of America that existed only in their heads.

Yet if David Cameron's conversion of the party is to be believed, then maybe the Thatcherites have lost control of the party, to its apparent electoral benefit. And it is true, surely, that there has become a certain over focus among parts of the left - the Blairite left really - on Britain's relative economic success*, as measured by the simple averaging per inhabitant of GDP, and less on the quality of life for its inhabitants.

I wouldn't overestimate this 'emerging critique': if Cameron wins the next election most of the party's votes will be people hoping foremost that he will cut the rate of income tax. But it might be enough to shift the balance.

*Reaching its limit perhaps in the Henry 'Scoop' Jackson Society view that Britain is unquestionably the world's second strongest power.

Standard Life

There's not a lot of point voting, is there? I voted against the demutualisation proposal on the simple ground that if the board were proposing it, it must be a bad idea, and unfortunately we lost rather thoroughly:

1,545,314 voted for demutualisation with 32,474 against

A tale of two conspiracy theories and one where they're really out to get him

Apparently Milosevic wasn't poisoned, but there are new leads in the Diana case. Quite why Lord Stevens decided to announced this in Hay-on-Wye I don't know.

Meanwhile Anne Clywd has urged her fellow MPs and party activists to 'rally around' John Prescott. I think she might have missed the point. Normally you rally around a colleague or friend when external forces are out to get them. Here it is Labour MP and activists who are apparently behind the latest speculation.

Hastings falls to Cameron

With that effortless manner honed through decades of gentleman farming Max Hastings switchs his adoration from Tony Blair to David Cameron. Or is it Lord Hastings? The first few comments are quite funny.

He mentions an English Parliament, and so that gives me an excuse to show my picture of the Campaign for an English Parliament's stand at the Surrey County Show.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Surrey County Show

I'm waiting for the Excel circular reference box to download (incidentally I downloaded the Office 2007 beta version over the weekend - it's really nice, at least in Excel form, with very pretty charts, but sadly when any worksheet with charts done in previous versions was opened it slowed almost to a halt, so it's going) so I thought I would mention the Surrey County Show, which I took my middle-aged self to yesterday. Lots of food and farm animals, which is pretty much the same thing. Aren't cows magnificent creatures? I'm thinking of becoming a gentleman farmer. How do you go about it?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Sunday stuff

I've been for a nose around Marlow, which is quite a pretty place.

The Sunday Telegraph, which appears to have returned to its gothic masthead, attacks the Prime Minister's relationship with President Bush, noting that he changed much of his speech to please Bush, and saying that he gets nothing in return and offers too much. It's pretty hard hitting stuff and insofar as the S.Telegraph reflects British right-wing thinking seems to imply they've completely given up on Iraq.

The Economist reports on a new survey that shows social mobility is higher in Europe, particularly Scandinava but also Britain, France and Germnay, than in the United States. This is not the first survey to show this.

William Hague

I couldn't remember what position William Hague held in Michael Howard's Shadow Cabinet, and apparently - Wikipedia tells me - he didn't have any.

It's not a very good Wikipedia article. It seems to imply that the civil war in his Shadow Cabinet between him and Michael Portillo was over Portillo's abandoment of opposition, 'years' of it, to the minimum wage and the BoE independence. Hague was - to my surprise - a comically inept leader, probably the worst Tory head of the 20th century - but surely even he didn't think BoE dependence was a cause worth fighting for?

The Stoa is FIVE!

Britain's oldest blog keeps on going, with its 5th birthday today.

As is tradition, my present will be a Mad Mel quote:

This can only be explained, surely, by reference to the fact that this intelligentsia has a long and dishonourable history of telling itself lies and supporting evil movements – indeed, supporting not just communism but fascism, and totalitarian movements of various stripes going back at least to the French Revolution

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Britain's Last Hope?

Blast, I lost the game. Anyway once you've lost you might as well lose big, so I popped over to her site and found this remarkable interview, in which the New York Daily Sun describes Mel as 'Britain's Last Hope'. Apparently she has gone to America to ask them to rescue us.

Carol Gould

Yes our old fave, this time on the decline of good manners in Britain.

Beards

The FT today says that although it is not clear whether the American public would accept a female President, it is clear they wouldn't accept one with a beard. Over lunch we decided this was fair enough, and actually couldn't remember who the last American President to have a beard was. Apparently it was Benjamin Harrison, who I'd actually never heard of. We couldn't remember, and I can't find on google, who the last British PM was to have a beard.

I also asserted without any evidence (it's not just a blogging thing, I'm afraid) that more Americans have beards than British people. Is this true? Wikipedia has lots of interesting facts about beards, but not the % of people who have them.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Decentism in all its Decency

Norman Geras's opening speech to the Euston Manifesto "Real World" launch:

It happened in the days immediately following 9/11. Not just simple-minded, but cold, shameful, appalling responses to the crime that had been perpetrated, parading across the pages of the liberal and left press. You know the terms of it: blowback;...


Nick Cohen, Chair of Euston Manifesto "Real World" launch, in the days immediately following 9/11 (9/16 in fact), writing in the liberal, left press, in a piece titled "Too close for comfort: Standing shoulder to shoulder with the American people should not mean subjection to US policy", argued:

'Blowback' is the jargon word for his well-founded fears. 'We have nothing, you have everything,' the hijackers said in effect to the financial and military élites of the world's hyperpower.


It's not entirely clear to me that Cohen understands what 'blowback' means, he seems to be using it as meaning your technology is blown back into your face, not that it's a penalty for your foreign policy. But then again the latter view is certainly one that he held. Two months later, in his infamous 'Come on you liberals' piece, he declared that:

He [the Prime Minister] has ordered British troops to stand 'shoulder to shoulder' with the US military/He has - and there's no point being prissy about this - pinned a large target sign on this country.

The beginning of the end?

I noticed this morning on the way to work that Felicitious, the delicatessen owned by George Osborne's mother, is closing down and she is fleeing the country to live in Spain. Does she know something we don't?

Viz world

Via Sh*t this remarkable (and apparently, though I can't quite believe it, real) NHS guide to Yorkshire speak.

Alan Johnsons - A reference

Clearly the problem Dave had (see post below) was the lack of a handy guide in speech marks as is done with Alan Johnson, ie Neil "Not the anti-semite" Berry. For the former, for the first time and with the magic of photoshop, I can provide photographic help too.

On the right of the picture is Alan "Not the Minister" Johnson, whilst on the left is Alan "The Cabinet Minister, not the editor of Democratiya, not founder of the Unite Against Terror petition, not editor of Bloggers 4 Labour, not member of the Henry 'Scoop' Jackson Society, not lead figure in the Euston Declaration, all of these as of 26th May 2006" Johnson.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Chomsky and the Guardian

The Guardian ombudsman reports on the David Aaronovitch complaint over the Readers' Editor correction to an interview by Emma Brockes* with Noam Chomsky and finds that except for taking the interview of the website, the Reader's Editor behaved correctly. My own views are very similar to those expressed in this post, as it is where I took them from, and so I think the judgement (I've only read the summary because the link doesn't seem to work) is fair. I think the anger that Aaro has is because the apology appears to have exonerated Chomsky of all criticism, which is perhaps true, but I fear that is the nature of things - make a big mistake and the fact you were right on all the little points is really neither here nor there.

The Guardian ombudsman says, "is ironic that they are entertaining a complaint about their process when so few newspapers have any independent process at all" which is snarky and unnecessary, but rather hits the mark, I think, given Aaronovitch is a Times' journalist. Trying to get that newspaper to correct even major errors is almost impossible.

* Whoops, forgot to add the asterisk. It was going to be "Who I knew slightly at university (but haven't seen since). Then she seemed an excellent journalist and subsequently has proven to be so, so I have no idea what happened here."

Update: I have now read the full judgement and my view remains the same: it is the correct one. How the errors crept remains a puzzle - it seems a milder version of the time when Aaro wrongly labelled the Treasurer of Christian CND an anti-semite, merely because he had the same name as someone who was one. Presumably its just time pressure and a lack of checks, though I think there is an element of wanting something so badly - what Nick Cohen called 'wishful thinking' in last week's column.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Euston Declaration II

It's a broad church. This signatory has signed (and the signatures are monitored supposedly) because she (he?) believes that September 11th was carried out by the US government. Could there yet be a surprise at the "Real-World" launch?

Kerry Walter - We need a sea-change in America, or our great democracy will be mere history even within our lifetimes. She is already on life-support, and the religious right and neo-cons have become so powerful that I predict that the Bushies will not relinquish the White House even when their candidate loses. They will just devise another false-flag operation (see 911), and create pretense to place the U.S. under martial law, and then hang onto power indefinitely. The press will remain silent. The Democrats are spineless. God help us all

Sunday, May 21, 2006

You mean John Major, don't you

This Minette Marrin article in the Sunday Times on why we should be grateful to Thatcherism, and in particular rich people, is not very inspiring (interestingly though in its view about how much Britain has 'outpaced' Continental Europe its view is almost identical to the Henry Jackson Society's, except Marrin believes it's all Thatcher's doing, and the HJS believes it's all Blair's).

This bit, when she talks about the 'explosion of freedom and meritocracy' caught my eye though:

Bring on the barrow boys. Bring on the grocer’s daughter. Bring on the circus artist’s son. A woman prime minister! Top Conservative politicians who hadn’t been to university, let alone to Oxbridge!


The rather disjointed nature of this paragraph is because the grocer's daughter and woman prime minister did go to Oxbridge. But the most odd statement is the 'top Conservative politicians who hadn't been to university, let alone to Oxbridge'. Of Mrs Thatcher's last Cabinet, of the 16 I can identify where they went to university, 4 went to Oxford, 12 went to Cambridge, and then there was John Major, who famously didn't go to university*.

It's hardly novel to note the legacy of Thatcherism was John Major, but it's a bit unusual to be so thrilled about it. No wonder she didn't mention names.

* This of course is certainly a higher proportion at Oxbridge than Winston's Churcill's last cabinet, and no lower a number who 'hadn't been to university, let alone Oxbridge'.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

World Cup

The BBC has a good collection of longish (15mins or so) clips from famous world cup games, and their hour-long review of each tournament that apparently they do for each one. I remember the 1982 World Cup a bit, the ones from 1986 on (with the exception of 1994 which I can't remember at all) well. I didn't remember just how bad England were in 1990 - watch the victory over Cameroon which features comedy defender (Pearce and Wright particularly) and Linker surely diving for one of the two penalties he got.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Unquestionably Panglossian

Matthew Jamieson, who we discovered when he declared that "Britain is unquestionably the world's second strongest power" on the basis of reading it in an article by the Heritage Foundation, has a new article giving advice to Margaret Beckett.

His super-confience in both Blair and Britain remain. It's good news that Straw has gone - and it shows Blair in command:

By ruling out armed intervention as ‘inconceivable’ and ‘nuts’, he built a box for himself and the Foreign Office which limited Britain’s room for manoeuvre on this critical threat. The Prime Minister has demolished that box with Mr. Straw’s removal as Foreign Secretary, re-asserting his control over foreign policy and eradicating an irregularity in the American and European approach towards Tehran. Mrs


None of that free-thinking from Margaret Beckett, sorry, 'The scandal free, ultra competent Mrs. Beckett', he's pleased to say:

Mrs. Beckett, true to her record, will be a loyal and faithful advocate of New Labour’s foreign policy doctrine.


Well moving on, the good news is that the world's second most powerful nation - unquestionably - is in the ascendency once again.

With a weakened Bush administration, handicapped by low Presidential and Vice-Presidential approval ratings, a France debilitated by internal stagnation, Britain stands among the five permeant UN Security Council powers as the most robust political democracy.


Those low President and Veep ratings, eh? Anyway, Blair's own difficulties are just a 'parochial Westminster intrigue', you'll be pleased to know.

The rest is pretty boiler-plate Decency, though it looks like whilst we Decency watchers were all obsessed with Iran we failed to see the rise of Russia, as it's 'simply a glorified gas station'.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Matt Central Station

Across the liberal mainstream media you may have seen reports saying that President Bush is the least popular President since Richard Milhouse Nixon. But guess what? It's not true. Not at all. In fact even today, despite all of the LMSM's attempt, he has a higher approval rating than five US presidents had at their least popular (since Dwight D Eisenhower).

This chart is what you might have seen. The line shows the approval of US presidents since the war, ranging from Eisenhower to Bush II. Now it looks, or more accurately, the MSM wants it to look, as if President Bush has lower popularity than anyone since Nixon.



And indeed that is true, if you are interested in the views of 'percents'. What are 'percents' you may ask? Good question. An accurate description is too complex to go into now, but believe me when I tell you they aren't of much interest, mainly because it is slightly foreign. Like kilometres. And they were invented by the French.

What we want to know is what Americans think, not percents. Honest, tax-paying, hard-working, family-supporting, Americans. Well opinion polls still insist on using a randomised non-biased sample, so we can't yet work that out. But bloggers are working on it, and with typical American ingenuity they'll find a solution. In the meantime the best we can do is look at what all Americans are thinking. And now we see the LMSM's trick - it's not fair to expect President Bush to have as high proportion of the population supporting him as previous President's did, as there are now far more Americans than there used to be.

To give an example. You know your immediate neighbours, get on well with them, like to have them around for a Bud and a steak? Then the people a bit further away, you see them from time to time, discuss the latest National Review column. But the ones yet further away - you don't know them well, perhaps wave at them as you drive past their homes. And people in Canada - you hardly know them at all. Some of the lilly-livered socialists you may even dislike and they dislike you.

The same goes for President Bush. Of course Eisenhower had 80% popularity. There were only a few million Americans. President Bush has to deal with nearly 300m of us. How could he ever be that popular? This corrected chart shows the number of Americans who approve of the President. Not only was Bush the most popular president in history a few years' ago, when 225m Americans approved of him, but even today 86.6m Americans approve of him. That's more than the population of Germany.

It's also more than the 81.0m who approved of President Bush I in July 1992, or the 84.4m who approved of the Gipper in January 1983, or the 61.3m who approved of Jimmy Carter in July 1980, or the 79.5m for President Ford in July 1975, or the 51.3m for President Nixon in July 1971, or the 70.3m for Lyndon Johnson in August 1968, or even the 86.5m who approved of President Eisenhower in March 1958. In other words only President's Bush's predecessor and John K Kennedy have enjoyed more Americans approving of them in their worst moments. And they were both Democrats, so do you believe them?

Conclusively therefore I have proved that far from being the 2nd least popular President in our history, President Bush is the most popular President with real Americans. And when your effete, latte-drinking neighbours tell you otherwise, ask them what would they rather have fighting the Terrorists? 50% of the US Army, or 100,000 true American heroes?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Italy

Conversation in Five-Star* Rome hotel

Me: Excuse me the phone in our room doesn't work.
Staff member on reception desk speaking in the manner that a patronising primary school teacher might speak to a slow-witted pupil: This is Italy. Many things don't work.

Being an optimistic I always like to focus on how many things in Italy do work, and Rome in particular, despite the many obstacles. Anyway Rome is always remarkable. That's why you come to this site - for controversial, original, hard-hitting stuff.

Particularly interesting if you have ever been to the Colosseum is this book, which I picked up in a Rome bookshop and takes you authoratively (if such a word is right in this context) through the myths and facts and how our (non-Romans) interpretion of it has changed over the centuries. The Victorians, apparently, were obsessed with seeing it by moonlight.

* This is slightly misleading, it was more of a four-star really and quite cheap by Rome standards, but it did have a groovy roof-top pool which I think in the Italian star system helps you get a fifth. If you ever wish to stay in Rome and are very rich or are on expenses that aren't limited, stay in the Hotel Eden, which is by far the best hotel on all counts I have ever stayed in. But it has no swimming pool.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Off on hols

Yes, I am off on holiday to Berlin and Rome, to check they're not up to anything naughty. The hotel promises 'free wireless access' so you might not even know I've gone.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Addition to the blogroll

There's an update to Cuthie's site! But not a return to blogging. So he's not being added back to the blogroll. Given I don't think the site has an RSS feed its remarkable how the same old gang - Bob Briant (who managed a whole comment without googling), the Grim Reaper, anonymous (who presumably is Lurker or someone like that), and of course Me, managed to turn up within two weeks of it being posted.

Anyway the new addition is sh*tsandwich, who is as angry about misued apostrophe's as he he i's about our Nation's Future. Truly a man made for blogging.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Cynics beaten

Well me and Peter at least. For I have just completed another YouGOV survey, and the account now only has 40p in it, with a cheque on its way!!!!!!!!!

I've just thought though - presumably I'll have to declare it as income? Particularly as I have now told everyone. So that's 30 pounds.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Boring Arsenal

Rather annoying results today, meaning Arsenal pip Tottenham to the Champions' League place, though it does mean I can now support Arsenal in the final of that tournament, which is good news.

However on Sky's coverage they were waxing on nostalgically about it being the last game at Highbury, and how Arsenal had always played in a certain 'Arsenal Way' at the ground. This is surely historical revisionism. Wenger has made his Arsenal teams into exciting ones, and perhaps the 1970s and much early saw similar, but this wasn't the case for the team for much of the 1980s and 1990s prior to his arrival.

After Sky's coverage, World Wrestling Federation, or whatever it is called came on. Who actually finds that fun? Is it purely for children?

Talking of fun, the Sunday Telegraph business overdoes the smarm in this article about leading hedge fund players raising money for charity. Nevertheless surely an easier way to raise money next year would be to start Sir Elton John off singing and then conduct a Dutch auction where the first bid gets to pull the plug on the old warbler.

This blog is FOUR! (and one month)

In all the excitement over the Euston Declaration, my YouGOV account, and whatever else has been exciting us recently, I missed out the most important - this blog is now Four Years Old, and one Month*.

Looking at those early posts one would never have believed it was going to be the start of something big. Nevertheless ever year since then we've had exponential readership growth - at first there was Me, then I think in the first year there was Nick and Peter, year two saw two or three Chrises and another Nick, then in year three eight names of which none were called Chris or Nick. At this rate we will have more readers than the News of the World in 2024 though I'll never know as I forgot to put the readers counter into the new look design.


*I've just lost the game of course, as I was going to add that I believe the Stoa is at least a year or more older, and that reminded me I once gave a b'day present of a Mad Mel quote.

Update: Checking the Stoa I find it is FIVE years old on the 27th May. And what makes it all the better is it began its life with this Nick Cohen quote, which seems rather more than five years old.

If you vote for Blair you will also be lending your good name to the curtailment of the right to trial by jury, the turning of demonstrators into 'terrorists', the persecution of asylum-seekers, the imposition of tuition fees, the incessant manipulation of the media, the rigging of elections, the refusal to renationalise the railways, the abasement before corporate interests. I thought myself pretty cynical on 1 May 1997, but if a stranger had told me that this would be the record New Labour would be defending at the next election, I would have dismissed him as a raving fantasist.

Nick of course is not a raving fantasist. Incidentally two years (December 1999) before that he also attacked David Aaronovitch for "betraying an "honourable" tradition of journalism which has existed only fitfully in this country" because he "implied that he was "a man who could be relied on to write as No 10 required"" - an allegation Aaronovitch called "a spiteful crime".

Friday, May 05, 2006

Almost there!

Another YouGov survey - just 10p to go

Total Credit- 49.90

The last throes of Blairism

So a reshuffle, and we wait to find out which bit has been mucked up. Good news is that Clarke is off to the back benches, and Straw has been demoted to Leader of the House. It's hardly a government of all the talents though - Margaret Beckett will be a perfectly good Blairite foreign secretary, which isn't saying much, and John Reid will bring his unique knowledge to the Home Office.

Update: Blimey, the Education Secretary has gone too, which clearly is good news in the sense she didn't seem particularly up to the job, and bad news in the sense that the new chap is only going to be around for a year or so as well, and this can't be good for the department. But that applies to all government ministries these days, almost.

Anyway the new Education Secretary is Alan Johnson, so well done to him for leveraging off the various Decency campaigns he has launched to get into such a high office. What is Domain Name Registrars loss is the country's gain.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Local Elections

So who to vote for? There were only four parties amongst the candidates - the three plus the Greens. So I decided to adopt a policy of 'localism'. Anyone with a W11 or W1o or W8 postcode got the vote. This gave me one each for Labour, Lib Dem, Con, & Green. Four votes apparently is wrong, so I went for...well that's between me and the Ballot Box.

ps The people outside the polling station who ask for your number. I assume they are party hacks so I was rude to them. Inside the station however the official said to me that my number was '8453' (or something) and I might need that if they asked me outside. So what do they do?

pps That three votes thing. I understand it is for three positions to fill, but presumably they aren't three separate elections, so is there some form of PR going on?

Anyway the results are in, with the Conservatives beating off the challenge of Labour for another four years:

Conservative - 45 (+4)
Labour 9 (-3)
Liberal Democrat 0 (-1)

So it's LibDemfrei, eh? I would feel a bit guilty, but the Labour councillor told me they'd been going around the area saying they had done this and that (I think saved Portobello Road market and tried to stop Westbourne Grove Post Office closing) when in fact it was Labour, and I always believe things I'm told on my doorstep by men with beards*.

* This normally sees me voting Lib Dem, obviously, but Labour were the last to pop around. In fact the Tories didn't - I think they don't need to bother.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Almost there!

YouGOV - Total Credit - 49.40

[For new readers who have found this site through the New York Times 'Best Blogs' column, when it gets to 50.00 pounds I receive a cheque for that amount!]

Will Melanie Phillips sign the Euston Manifesto?

The female Stephen Pollard...agrees with Stephen Pollard, that the left is actually the enemy of the West, or in her words 'causing so much lethal damage to the west'. Thus she likes the EM, as it is n 'Open denunciation of the left for being the wrong side of history', apparently. Is there a secret version of it circulating for those considered decent enough?

Good stuff. There are items in this document that I don’t agree with, but it’s great to see such a brave statement of decent principles and an open denunciation of the left for being on the wrong side of history. Such a challenge from within its own ranks is essential if the left is ever to stop causing so much lethal damage to the west. Let’s see what kind of reaction the Eustonians now get from the comrades.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Cricket consistency

Normblog also links to this Wisden article on cricketer's consistency. Essentially it says that an average can conceal large variations, and (implicitly) that a batsman who scores 1,1,100 is worse than one who scores 34,34,34, so consistency should be taken into account. The way in which this is done is to divide the average by the standard deviation of the batsman's innings, to get a "batting index". Bradman falls from 1st to 8th.

Leaving aside the issue of not outs (which is raised in the article) and the argument over whether consistency really is such a good thing, or to what degree it is a good thing, the measure seems very flawed. There seems no good reasons, and many bad ones, to divide the average by the standard deviation.

A simple example shows what odd results it is likely to throw up. A batsman with this scoring history - 60, 55, 59, 64, 61, 56, 58 has an average of 59, a s.d. of 2.82, and hence a consistency index of 20.8. One who scores 22,23,22,23,22,23,22 has an average of 22.4, a s.d. of 0.5, and hence a consistency index of nearly 45, or more than twice as high. But clearly player one is the better player.

The problem is that the "batting index" is no such thing - it is a consistency index. Wasn't that meant to be the standard deviation itself? It was, and indeed the standard deviation tells us the spread of runs each batsmen gets. So one with a s.d. of 50 has a wider spread than one with 5. But it's not obvious this is a good measure of what we mean by consistency. To give an example a batsman who scores 0,15,0,15,0,15 has a lower standard deviation than one who scores 75,100,75,100,75,100. But more consistent?

One way to compare standard deviations which might be better would be to divide the standard deviation by the mean. This is in fact the inverse of what the Wisden writer has done, which doesn't really matter as it just means his figures are the inverse of what we want. Thus using his figures (so higher means more consistent) we can say that Kallis is a more "consistent" player than Bradman, and indeed so are the other 6.

But it has told us nothing about which is the better player, even if we agree that 'better' is some combination of runs and consistency, as we haven't looked at their averages. When we do we find that what we know is Kallis is slightly more consistent in scoring his 56 on average than Bradman is in scoring his 99.

How do we then trade-off consistency and averages? We could now divide the average by the index, but there is not particularly good reason to do so. It might be best simply to look at the distribution. But importantly, what is remarkable about the Wisden table is just how similar the adjusted s.d of the leading batsmen are, suggesting there is very little to choose between them in terms of consistency. In fact so little that it's pretty obvious that Bradman would still top the league on most people's definition of the optimum mix.

Crazed delusions

Apparently the idea "that the anti-war movement and its points of view haven't had their fair share of coverage in the media" can be dismissed as the "same old crazed delusion", because George Monbiot writes for The Guardian.

On the other hand the "claim that our [the Decent Left] broad viewpoint has been under-represented in the liberal media" is an "empirical claim" which should be discussed in a "serious way", and which can only be rejected with "material relevant to establishing proportions", and so "cit[ing] two or three names [showing the opposite] doesn't begin to resolve" it.

Down The Edgware Road

[Or the CGRS]

During a long walk down Edgware Road, a heavily Muslim-populated thoroughfare in central London, I noticed a branch of the department store chain Marks and Spencer, or Marks and Sparks as it is reassuringly known to millions of Britons who, the fact is, would never buy their underwear from anywhere else.

To my horror however I noticed it did not prominently declare it was called Marks and Spencer, instead merely signing itself with the anodyne M&S. What had happened to Marks and Spencer? Examining further gives you an insight into what has changed in Britain over 100 years, and not for the better.

The eponymous Michael Marks was a Jewish immigrant to Britain in the 19th century. He came from Russia and through hard work built up one of the most succesful retailing industries.

And for what?! Now merely to pacify Muslim opinion his name has been replaced by a single letter "M". Can they not put up with any evidence of Jewish life in this City? I'm not just outraged, I am hurt and bewildered. As an American living in London I have come to rely on Marks and Spencer, and it is being sacrified on the altar of anti-semitism. So far it is only the Edgware Road branch, but whose to say how far this will spread? Never has the Edgware Road flyover looked so much like Berlin's Opernplatz.

Dazed, and slightly confused, I dared myself to look at the sign once more. And - the reader will no longer be surprised to learn - it is not just the M&S. It also has a "Your". Yes! "Your" Marks. Not content with wiping out evidence of our existence, they are now trying to claim that we belong to them, in a servitude not seen since 1850s America.

Friends from that Great Democracy will find it hard to believe but Britain today - as seen on the Edgware Road - needs an Abe Lincoln. Meanwhile I'm going to shop at Harrods.