Monday, July 31, 2006

Sir Cliff Richard

The day after the last Top of the Pops, a singer who was already past it when Top of the Pops began, Sir Cliff Richard, wants copyright protection on sound recordings (not writing) increased to 70 years from the present 50 years. It's not hard to imagine why - some of his earliest recordings are now out of copyright. Indeed with the 1960s soon 50 years ago this is a whinge we are going to hear more of.

Tim Worstall has a good post on the subject on the ASI, and it is good to see it coming from a 'libertarian'. Some libertarians take the view that intellectual property is exactly the same as normal property, and thus the limit should not be 70 years but an infinite number of years.

As Tim says the issue should be creativity. The easy joke which both Tim and I can't avoid is that anything which limits Sir Cliff's creativity would have been a positive step. However even for fans of the man, I would love to see how they can argue that in the 1950s he reduced his output because he knew the recordings would be out of copyright in the 2000s.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

October 12th

Reading the Wikipedia Terrorism page I was struck by how many incidents there were in their list of international terrorist incidents that occurred on October 12th - the IRA Brighton bombing, the USS Cole bombing, the 2002 Bali bombings and the 2005 Bali bombings.

Checking however apparently the second Bali bombing was on October 1st, so it's not quite as bad as it seemed (I've changed the Wikipedia entry).

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Tory views on Israel/Lebanon

Remarkable set of articles in today's Sunday Telegraph. William Hague, Tory Shadow Foreign Secretary, and hitherto not known for ever taking a different position to George W Bush, says our foreign policy does not have to be identical to America's, calls Israel's actions disproportionate and says its actions are not in Israeli's best interests. Matthew d'Ancona, on the following page, attacks Hague, claims it might be due to his having a Muslim advisor, and then says that basically Hague is too old (he's 46) to understand the decades of dealing with Islamism that are to come, and instead we need people of the age and like Micahel Gove - he really does say that - who do. (I can't link as the telegraph website is down).

Update: Telegraph readers appear very anti-Israel on this issue. There are five letters on the issue, of which 3 are against and only 1 is for - with one calling for a boycott of Israeli goods. Unless the letters page is unrepresentative, which of course it could easily be, then perhaps this explains Hague's position?

Interesting weather in Oxford or thereabouts

I decided to go to Oxford for the first time this millennium yesterday. As the Oxford Tube stop near my house I decided to get that. About 20 miles outside Oxford the driver said something incomprehensible and pulled off the motorway and proceeded to do a detour on single track roads in nearby villages (Wallingham?). Naturally we got stuck behind a tractor. At which point the sky turned black, and the most powerful rain storm I've ever seen began. About an hour later we were now aqua-planing through the countryside, fording puddles, and a man behind me was 'phoning his friends to tell them that a wedding or similar event they were attending was in trouble because the 'marquee had blown away'. Took about three hours in the end, so basically had a few drinks in the Turf and went back to London.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

A mystery solved

We've discussed before the apparently (as read through the newspapers) strange life led by those who are pretty, blonde and female. The best comes early in adult life, when they account for a remarkable 80% of the people who get Five grade-A A-levels. However things take a turn for the worse when they jet off on a celebratory holiday and they terribly unfortunately account for about 80% of the people who get stuck at airports due to Spanish air-traffic control strikes.

After that all it seems to go quiet. However reading our national papers today I am pleased to say that the men from the press have caught up with them again. Apparently - and I presume this is to get over the disappointment of the cancelled holidays - they tend to make up about 80% of the adult people who like to play in fountains when they should be at work.

Demographic forecasts

We've touched on the accuracy or inaccuracy of long-run demographic forecasts before. They shouldn't be too inaccurate, because as least some of the people alive in the fuure are alive now. However that doesn't apply to these from Mr Kummer, Chief of the Swiss Bureau of Statistics. He calculated in 1884 the population of various European countries by 2000 (the first figure is in 1870-1880, the last the actual 2000 figure).

Switzerland - 2.7m growing to 6.2m (7.2m)
Italy - 28m growing to 56.1m (57.7m)
France - 36m growing to 64m (59.4m)
Belgium 4.8m growing to 17m (10.3m)
Holland - 3.6m growing to 15.8m (15.8m!!!)
England - 22m growing to 129.2m (50m)
Scotland - 3.4m growing to 13.3m (5m)
Ireland - 5.4m falling to 3m (4m)
Germany - 41m growing to 165m (82m but note borders have changed)
Sweden - 4.2m growing to 13.7m (9m)
Denmark - 1.8m growing to 6.5m (5.4m)
Norway - 1.7m growing to 3.8m (4.5m)

I think he deserves a pat on the back. With the exception of Belgium, Germany, and perhaps Sweden he gets continental Europe pretty good. Then there's England and Scotland, which he forecast to be on 142m, and which in fact was 55m. Not so good. Better though perhaps than a 1937 letter to the Times, which presented 3 scenarios for population by 2037, the "high" one which was 21m and the low one - the "most likely" one, 4.1m.

Of course people making predictions helps to change behaviour so we must be thankful, not critical of such things. Though to be fair London house prices would be cheap if there were 1/10th as many of us.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

David Horowitz writes!

As I write, Hezbollah rockets are raining down on Haifa in the latest attempt by the Islamic jihad to destroy Israel, the only democracy and non-Muslim state in the Middle East.

This war is the same war America is fighting in Iraq. The enemies are the same- Islamic terrorists backed by Syria and Iran- and the stakes are the same, whether Islamic totalitarianism or democracy will prevail.

Israel is capable of defending herself. But behind Syria and Iran are Russia and China, and therefore she has always depended on her ally, the United States. I'm writing to you today because just as the Fifth Column left in this country has attempted to sabotage America's war in Iraq, so America's support for Israel is being undermined in alarming ways, and I badly need your support to help me fight back.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Football finances

In the comments section in the post on the this subject we've been discussing whether players are paid more relative to turnover now than in the good ol' days. In keeping with the traditions of this site, we haven't really had a clue.

Delving into the Times' archives however might allow me to have a stab. Apparently the club with the highest turnover in 1958/1959 was Manchester United, at £178,312. The club with the highest turnover in 2003/2004 was also that delightful club, on £173m. It fell to £157m by 2005, but I'm going to stick with that as it is basically 1000 times higher. For what it's worth scaling up the 1958/1959 by RPI gives you £2.6m, or £8.7m by the GDP, which is perhaps more relevant in this case. So club turnover was about 70 times higher in real terms than in 1958/1959, or 20 times higher in terms of other firms.

In terms of profit in the earlier year they made £26,501, which is just under 1/7th of turnover. In 2003/2004 it was £30m, which is a slightly higher 1/6th (though this was an exceptional year - by 2005 it was just £11m).

At the other end the smallest club in the league (Southport) in 1958/1959 had a turnover of £20,055, which saw them lose £7,556, a whopping 1/3rd of turnover. It's much harder to find such figures today, Southport are out of the league so wouldn't be a fair comparison. Rotherham who were recently deducted points and demoted to Div Four (as it used to be) for going into Administration had a turnover of aorund £2.5m, a 100 times larger but only a 1/10th of the size relative to Manchester United. Incidentally Rotherham's turnover in real terms is about the size of Manchester United's in 1958/1958, which is worth remembering if people make RPI-based historical comparisions without any explanation.

Onto wages. In 2003/2004 Man U spent 45.5% of its turnover on salaries, of 528 people, which is something like £80m. This is remarkably low by the league's standards, the average was 60% . 13 players earned more than £67,500 a week in August 2004.

Figures for 1958/1959 are hard to find. Only 12 players earned more than £1,000 a season, which is about £19/week (this typically would be the maximum wage of £20 a week when the season was on, and a bit less when had finished!). So these top players are earning 3,550 times more than their equivalents in 1958/1959, compared to club turnover of just 1000 times as more. However a caveat, by 1960/1961 apparently 500 players were earning that much. Thus if we knew how much they might make the figures more comparable. On the other hand the article says that 'players wages eat up 1/3rd of the turnover' and that 'managers, trainers and ground staff also take a bite'.

Finally on income, ticket receipts to the premiership in 2003/2004 were £363m. I couldn't find figures for the other divisions, but using the same proportions as for wages, ie Div 1 = 25% of premiership and Div 3 and Div 4 = combined 1/2 Div 1, I get £500m. In 1958/1958 it was £46.5m. This is 1/10th of the 2003/2004 figure, and hence in real terms far higher. In terms of attendance, there was just under 30m in 2003/2004 and 33.6m in 1958/1959. This makes the average ticket price £17 in 2003/2004 and £1.4 in 1958/1959. That's equivalent in terms of the CPI of £20 today, and in terms of average earnings, £50. So football has actually got cheaper.

Note: A good stat size is this.

Monday, July 17, 2006

More things that are liberals fault

In an (unintentionally I think) very funny post, "DumbJon", a blogger who was named by his readers, manages to blame "Liberals" (the capitalisation is not meant to mean the Liberal Democrats, btw, I think It's Meant To Be Scary or Something) for headlines in the Daily Mail.

I think this is actually the most confused blog post I have ever read. The argument begins, as I understand it, is that the Daily Mail is used by "Liberals" (be brave, I'll only mention them a few more times) as an idea of all that is wrong with right-wing politics, but in fact over the Iraq war that newspaper is more loony than the "Liberals" (almost done, I promise). So far, so strange (or to adopt this particularly blogger's language, 'an odd mindset').

It gets much stranger though. That's not the point of the post. The point of the post is that "Liberals" (that's the last time, come out from behind the sofa), used to complain about these tactics when it was used against them, but aren't now, which basically makes them hypocrites.

So in something that would make even Nick Cohen blush, headlines in the Daily Mail are "Liberals'" (ha ha tricked you) fault too, because they haven't in the time it's taken "DumbJon" to come up with this "argument" and post it, taken to the airwaves in droves to condemn that newspaper.

Incidentally now it has been drawn to my attention, you can quite easily defend the Daily Mail from his main criticism (I'm not going to read the article to defend the rest). "DumbJon" rants:

The Daily Mail chose to report this story under the headline ‘Driven To Kill By His Gulf War Past’....What it’s all about – of course – is creating yet another victim of Chimpy McHitlerBurton ‘War’ ‘on’ ‘Terror’. It’s only when you read past the opening lines that the embarrassing truth appears. Psycho Boy was a veteran of the 1991 Gulf War...

Er..."Gulf War" was the 1991 Iraq/Kuwait conflict. That's how it's known.

Coming soon, "How "DumbJon" is the fault of "Liberals".

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

All Quiet on the Decent Front - until August 1st

The Decents haven't done much in the last few months - no think tanks, online petitions, manifestos, wars, the usual kind of thing. Somewhat worrying. Luckily the power of mathematics has come to the rescue. These are the launch dates of the primary Decent Projects.

Unite Against Terror 16/07/2005
The Henry 'Scoop' Jackson Society 22/11/2005
The Euston Declaration 29/03/2006

There were 129 days between the UAT and the H'S'JS. And 127 days between the H'S'JS and the Euston Declaration. Thus a simple extrapolation tells us that there will be 125 days between the Euston Declaration and the new project. That means August 1st 2006 is the all-important date.

The Daily Telegraph

I've not read the Daily Telegraph for a while (unlike its Sunday sister) and I was surprised by anti-Americanism [1] which seems to have taken its hold. The explanation is not hard to guess - the "NatWest 3". Occasionally it's slightly embarassing. Today it is trumping a petition that has - wait for it - 7,457 of its readers, which I make about 0.5% - demanding the Home Secretary intervene. This is front page news.

Let's be clear - I don't think Britain should have signed that extradition agreement. But what exactly is the argument that it would have been alright if the US had signed too? Would that have changed the requirements on the US justice system?

If not, then the "NatWest 3" would be in exactly the same position and there are only two arguments I can see that make sense. The first is that if the US had signed it would have only agreed to sign a much weaker form of the Agreement. This would have been so weak the "NatWest 3" would not have been extradited. We wait and see, I suppose. Or people are saying that the US justice system is simply not fair, or not up to the standards we in Britain expect. This would be a remarkable thing for the Daily Telegraph to say.

Google translate

I've found during the world cup that Google translate works well with the German tabloid, Bild, but not so well with the French Le Monde. However even with the former it takes a bit of getting used to when it refers to "Franz basin Farmer".

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Top Salary for new England manager

Announced The Times, on Jun 28th 1974. Apparently the FA were 'ready to pay a top salary to get him'. Ted Croker, FA secretary, declared that 'It will certainly be more than Sir Alf [Ramsey] received. I personally think Sir Alf was underpaid, but that was not my responsibility'. In the frame, it says, are Don Revie, Ron Greenwood, James Bloomfield (Leicester), Ken Furphy (Sheffield United), James Adamson (Burnley) and Don Howe (West Bromich). Of course in the end it was Don Revie, then Ron Greenwood.

Anyway the salary that the FA were prepared to pay was ... £20,000. And apparently Alf was on a bit less than half that.

So how much is that in today's terms? There are various ways to calculate the value of a salary today. The method which gives the lowest result is to look at the purchasing power of that salary, ie to inflate it by changes in the RPI. This gives you £160k a year for Don Revie, and about £75k for Sir Alf. The method which gives the highest is to use GDP. This shows you what proportion of national wealth he was taking (or producing). That gives £330k for Don Revie and about £150k for Sir Alf. Average earnings is someway in between.

The Times' archive has some more information for comparision, Francis Lee, who played for Derby in 1975, was said to be earning £10,000 a year. So a little bit less than the Alf Ramsey figures in today's money. Furhermore for the 1976 European Championships the FA announced win bonuses of £5,000 per player. This was sometime before the Championships and presumably given high inflation might have been revised - though England didn't win.

England seems still to be suffering from the after effects of the maximum wage. That was abolished in 1961, but by 1970 there was a plan by the League to introduce it at £50 a week, or £2600 a year, which is £3861 in 1974 terms. In Brazil by 1976 a top international was said to be earning £3500 a month, or £42,000 a year. This is equivalent to £205k to £410k a year today. In Italy in 1974 it was reported as being up to £60k a year, which is in today's money is between £415k a year and £950k a year (actually probably higher on the latter measure as Italian GDP might have grown a bit faster since 1974 than ours, though I'm not sure). When Liam Brady joined Juventus in 1980 it reports he was on £150k a year, which is similar to the Italian figures quoted above. Trevor Francis, also in Italy, in 1984 was reported to be earning £375k a year, which is between £800k and £1400k today.

My conclusion? Football players have increased their relative position in the economy.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Nick Cohen just after September 11th

Writing in the New Statesman in October 2001 he managed to criticise the BBC for NOT debating whether UK support of the war in Afghanistan hade made us more of target:

British involvement doesn't merely endanger the luckless citizens of Afghanistan. Like so many others, I had resolved to be coy about the consequences for "homeland security" of British subservience - no one wants to be called a coward in wartime. I changed my mind when a New York radio station phoned. "Aren't the British scared that Blair is turning them into a target for Bin Laden?" asked a concerned interviewer. Well, yes, many are, I replied, astonished that broadcasters in New York of all cities were asking questions that the BBC dodged.

...So there you have it. A prime minister who discards parliamentary democracy and cabinet government, then spins against his colleagues so that his indiscriminate love for the United States can override national interests. Britain reduced to being the American poodle my comrades on the left always said it was. Perhaps it is time to embrace the Pinters and Pilgers as brothers and accept that, although they got Kosovo horribly wrong, they have Afghanistan just right.

Coming soon - "Why it is right to be Anti-American" by Nick Cohen (really, I am not making this up).

London pubs

One of the services now available from the initative noted in the post below is a fully searchable database of stories from the Times since 1785, all nicely scanned in so you can actually see what they look like.

One article that caught my eye was "Haunts I like", by Charles Elliot, written in March 1969, and a guide to London pubs. These are his favourites - you'll note tht all are still with us today (and by and large in the same form). Cheering to your traditionalists though I suspect this sample is somewhat biased by Elliot's preference for 'smaller, more cosy house'.

Red Lion, Crown Court [now Crown passage, I think], St James - He says: "certainly sometimes necessary to squeeze your way in but it is worth it if you are near Pall Mall or St.James Street".

Coach & Horses, Wellington Street, Covent Garden - He says: "very handy for market or theatres".

Fox and Hounds, Passmore Street, SW1 - He says: "One of the last surviving examples in this part of London of what must have once been typical 100 years ago or more - a one-bar house at the corner of a street of small terraced houses".

Uxbridge Arms, Uxbridge Street, Notting Hill - He says: "Manages to be one of the pleasanter houses to visit without aiming at the chi-chi some in that area provide".

Feathers, Linhope Street, NW1 - He says: "Not even on a street corner, but halfway down a side street. Handy for Baker Street or Marylebone".

Elephant and Castle, Holland Street, W8 - He says: "perhaps more fashionable than some. But a haunt worth knowing".

Star and Garter, Poland Street, W1 - He says: "Full of office workers and snacks at one o'clock, but the type of small, old-fashioned house where one feels welcome".

Dolphin, Red Lion Street, WC1 - He says: "Noting pretentious, but a friendly welcome and good drop of beer and much more convivial regulars than most in the Holborn area".

Seven Stars, Carey Street - He says: "Perhaps too well known for a reminder to be necessary but quite a few drinkers who lack Fleet Street or Law Courts contacts have not heard of it and are glad of an introduction"

Friday, July 07, 2006

Library access

It's a few months old now but I've only just noticed it. Most people with a UK public library membership can now access a range of services which previous needed a subscription such as the OED, DNB, and NewsUK, which seems to be a searchable database of UK newspapers since 1991* **, and loads more.

* This is really good and will come in useful in blog arguments. I've already been reduced to looking up bloggers. I'm pleased to note that Oliver has been getting his teeth into Chomskyism since at least 1997.

** And a 10 years of Nick Cohen idiocies! This truly is a gift that will go on giving. His dislike of Rory Bremner seems to be as post-Berman as his support for US foreign policy, he was quite chummy pre-2003. On him an Aaro, here's one reason why they don't seem to get on -

Right of Reply - Dec 30th, 1999

THE WHINGEING style as much as the meagre content of consensual pundits provides the best reason for believing that Blairism is a continuation of Thatcherism. Once again we hear the self-pity of received opinion as well-heeled columnists announce that they are persecuted dissidents; brave voices of truth who risk all to tell it like it is with only the Prime Minister, the BBC, big business and their editors standing between them and the gulag - or, at least, a snub at a dinner party. In the Christmas Eve edition of The Independent, David Aaronovitch shared the pain that I, the New Statesman and Private Eye had caused him when we implied that he was "a man who could be relied on to write as No 10 required". My "spiteful" crime - I cannot answer for others - was to mention his Osric role in the Millbank assault on the independent-minded Rhodri Morgan when he sought to become Labour leader in Wales...

The Power of the Blog

I've taken on the might of Tesco and won. Back in January 2005 I noted that the main complaint against Tesco Express was:

Nevertheless I also have a problem with Tesco Express, which is just how ugly an addition to the High Street they are.

Today, 18 months later, the Guardian reports that:

Tesco is promising bespoke shop fronts for Tesco Express convenience stores to try to make them more acceptable to local communities.

The new-look stores, which will be less garish and designed to fit in with local architecture, are part of Tesco's community plan - a 10-point programme to make it a "good neighbour" and underline its green credentials

Good news. Not 100% good news - the stupid lower-case 'e' is to remain (according to the artist's impression in the print edition). But the Power of the Blog is moving things in the right direction.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Grammar Schools

On the journey Nick Cohen is making to being Melanie Phillips, the necessary conversion to grammar schools was made long ago. Yet there remains a difference between Cohen's view and Phillips' view. Phillips believes in grammar schools because they give middle class children a better education. Cohen (usually, not all the time) believes that they will give poorer children a better education. In particular one of Cohen's favourite lines is to note that the comprehensive system is 'selection by house price', ie rich parents move to the catchment areas of good comprehensive schools (or good comprehensives schools are in the rich areas).

The implication is that a system where 25% go to a grammar school and 75% to secondary moderns (where the distinction is made by an exam at age 11) would avoid this effect, and hence be better for poor children (I do not see how it would for the other 75%. Indeed given 75% of the richest 25% now have to send their child to a secondary modern one can easily see how it would exacerbate this problem).

There are three claims. First, that poorer intelligent pupils (or 'bright, poor, kids' as it is usually put) will get to the grammar schools, second that they will benefit enormously from the grammar schools and finally, that the others won't be disadvantaged. Opponents of grammar schools tend to think the first and third claims are wrong, and that grammar schools tend to essentially increase the advantages that middle-class kids already had.

The latest research has some interesting findings. There are three broad conclusions - first that very few 'poor' children go to grammar schools, even when they are academically good enough. Second, selective areas have marginally better exam performance all other things equal. Third this is because children who go to grammar schools do significantly better (than in a non-selective system), bought at the cost of children who do not doing slightly worse.

Taking the first point, they used as a proxy for 'poor' children eligible for free school meals (FSM). They found that "some 12% of pupils in non-grammar schools in these areas are entitled to free school meals (FSM), whereas in the grammar schools only 2% have FSM entitlement", and perhaps more damning, "Among FSM eligible children in selective LEAs just 5.8% attend grammar schools as opposed to 26.4% of other children".

Why do so fewer children from poor backgrounds attend grammar schools? First, because there education attainment at 11 is much less. But also for other factors - ony 32% of those in the highest attainment at Key Stage II (at test from age 9-11) attend grammar school compared with 60% of non-FSM children. So in short there are fewer poor, bright, kids than rich, bright, kids (where bright means ability in tests at age 9-11) and those poor, bright kids that there are don't get into grammar schools.

On the second point, they find that "selective LEAs raise attainment by 3.6 grade points, slightly less than equivalent to raising four GCSE grades from a ’C’ to a ‘B’". This 3.6 points is somewhat sensitive to certain schools entering pupuls for high numbers o GSCEs, capping these makes it 2.4 points (and adjusting for value-added makes it lower still). This is before adjusting for the differing characteristics of LEAs, such as FSM eligibility, special-needs, ESL, and ethnicity, and importantly, single sex schools . Once this is done the advantage of selective LEA is either zero if you take all the impact of single-sex schools to be because they are single sex, and 1 GSCE point if you assume there is some gain because they also tend to be selective.

Third, the reports finds that there are "large positive effects for the minority of pupils attending grammar schools and small negative effects for those not attending grammar schools in selective LEAs". For FSM pupils who do make it, "the gains to attending a grammar school are more substantive (around 7 to 8 grade points)"..."conversely, the majority of poor high ability pupils who are in non-grammar schools are disadvantaged by 1.3 grade points". However the benefits to grammars appear partly because there are less FSM children.

Basically then the Phillips' view is correct - grammars are about educating a middle-class elite. Grammar schools give 25% of children, preponderantly from middle-class families, a better education than the current system. This is bought at the cost of the other 75% getting a worse education. It is possible that the grammars' aggregate effect outweighs the secondary moderns, though it is marginal (and of course there is a marginal utility of education problem here - are two pupils with 5 GSCEs worse than one pupil with 11 and one with 0?). Poor children do very well if they get to grammars, but the vast majority don't (94.2% of those on FSM), even when they are intelligent enough (in terms of testing at 9-11), and overall the impact of grammars on poor children will be negative.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Oswald Mosley

There's a good book review on Oswald Mosley in the LRB (by Ferdinand Mount). It's subscription only, but here are some excerpts:

F.E. Smith, another unscrupulous chancer whom Mosley idolised, called him ‘the perfumed popinjay of scented boudoirs’.

Spode (PG Wodehouse's character based on Mosley), a huge man with piercing eyes and a moustache, can be brought to heel by the mention of the word ‘Eulalie’, because in private life he designs ladies’ underwear under the name of Eulalie Soeurs. Mosley, it turns out, had a plan for a range of Blackshirt cosmetics which were to be marketed on a commercial radio station secretly controlled by himself.

But only a year later again he was telling Bruce Lockhart that his new organisation was to be ‘on the Hitler group system: members to wear grey shirts and flannel trousers. Storm troops: black shirts and grey bags.’ ‘You must be mad,’ Harold Macmillan told him when he heard the news. ‘Whenever the British feel strongly about anything, they wear grey flannel trousers and tweed jackets.’ Or that is what Supermac later said he said: he was rather anxious to make light of his own dabblings with the New Party.

Mount's conclusion from the two books under review is that Mosley was basically Hiter-ite or -lite in his policies and hatred of Jews (and who was funded by either Mussoline or Goebbels), and other biographers have tried to hard to excuse parts of his life; however he never came anywhere near power and fascism really wasn't a British thing.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

How the French see Americans and vice-versa

A blogger called "Squander Two" has this to say on the above subject:

In the last couple of years, you might have noticed a general lowering of the regard Americans have for the French. There's been a lot of discussion about what might have caused this, and a lot of that discussion has concentrated on recent events such as the Iraq War. Well, bollocks. What caused it is that, on the whole, the French have held everything about the USA, including its citizens, in absolute contempt for most of the time since the Americans helped liberate their country....The French detest America, loathe it with all their hearts, and mention so at every opportunity. All that changed in the last couple of years is that more Americans started to notice, and decided they were fed up with it.

Realising it sounds a bit absurd, he then goes on to make a qualification, which is that he is not talking about all the French, or even a majority (though he thinks in this case it is likely that is the case) but that "There is an impression conveyed by every nation".

This 'impression' seems to play a similar role to that right-wing favourite, 'common sense', in that essentially it allows the author to assert questionable things without concern about being shown the opposing facts.

These would show that in fact 65% of French people have a favourable/very favourable opinion of Americans, sharply up in the last two years and about the same as Indians/Germans/Britons and far higher than the Spanish. On opinions of America itself, rather than its citizens, it is true that the French, at 39%, have a lower opinion than the British or Japanese, although it is higher than the Germans or Spanish, or those who live in any Middle Eastern country. However in 2001 and 2002 this was higher than 60%, only falling in 2003. So it does seem to have been the Iraq war that did it.

In any case the US view of France has not been declining in the last few years, in fact it rose from 46% in 2004 to 52% in 2005. This was from a low of just 29% in March 2003, for reasons that we are expected to believe is unrelated to Iraq. This rising trend is in the face of falling French popularity in all other countries.

It's almost as if she chose her answers deliberately... annoy me. Susan Hill, this week's Normblog profile and a friend of Norman Geras's, is perhaps not quite on the same level as a few previous profilees, such as Andrew Ian Dodge, Andrew Bolt and Michelle Malkin, but she sure says some silly things:

Who are your intellectual heroes? > Keir Hardie and Christopher Hitchens.

If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Abolish private education so that the most motivated and powerful parents and the brightest children and the best teachers would be forced to enter the comprehensive system and improve it out of all recognition. And I speak as one who was privately educated and sent her daughters to private schools. But I would not have done if the local state system had been as good as the private sector in which they were so well educated.

If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be Prime Minister, who would you choose? > The Prince of Wales.

Which English Premiership football team do you support? > Manchester United.

England's World Cup Failure - who is to blame?

I think this list and its order will change over time but having read the papers and watched the TV I think the current favoured villians are:

1. The Portuguese population of Jersey
2. Christian Ronalado
3. Sven-Goran Eriksson
4. The referee and the Great International Anti-England Conspiracy
5. Wayne Rooney

Definitely not in any way culpable are those who missed the penalties or couldn't take one.