Tottenham Versus West Ham Is No Choice At All.

It's amazing how easy it is to manipulate people into choosing between two totally unacceptable alternatives. A classic example would be the economic and political choice between Tory cuts and Labour cuts. It's a clever ploy. By presenting one draconian programme of cuts against a slightly less draconian programme the electorate conveniently forgets who was responsible for the economic mess in the first place. Instead of focusing on the casino capitalists and their off shore tax havens we get sidetracked into debating which austerity programme is the most appropriate for the country. You've got to admit, they are clever bastards. That private school education at ten thousand pounds per term turns out to be money well spent after all. With their classical Oxbridge education that daddy bought them, they can spend the rest of their days hoodwinking us peasants while living off the fat of the land.

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Declare War on Murdoch

Remember Glenn Hoddle? He was that towering intellect who, while employed as the National English Football manager, suggested that disabled people were being punished by god for some nasty misdemeanour they had committed in a previous life. What a jerk.

Remember the homophobic taunts Graeme Le Saux had to endure week in week out for the heinous crime of being a little less blokish than the average footballer, a little more cultured, a little more thoughtful. The clinching evidence of this crime he read The Guardian rather than The Sun.

Remember the tens of thousands of football supporters who would throw bananas and make monkey chants every time a Black player touched the ball  even their own Black players in the case of the Chelsea boneheads.

Remember Richard Keys and Andy Grey. They are/were the two Sky TV football commentators who were very recently caught off guard expressing their dinosaur

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Chris Blackhurst in Fantasy Land

Chris Blackhurst, City Editor for the London Evening Standard, produced a pretty fair piece of journalism 20/1/11 when he called on the City of London to end its indifference to the plight of the poor. The only real flaw in the article, entitled, Why Goldman Must Repay Its Debt to Society was its timing. Had it appeared, some 150 years ago, along with similar well meaning pleadings by well meaning Victorian philanthropists like Charles Dickens, it might be regarded as a progressive and even radical piece of journalistic agitation. Instead, coming as it does at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, it can only be described as a piece of fantasy fiction.

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The East End's Fading Olympics

Rushanara Ali, Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow spells out precisely how the promises of an Olympic legacy for the East end of London made by Lord Coe and his team to the IOC will very likely come to nought. The high flying promises are one by one being reneged upon and in their place are the usual corporate demands that are designed to maximise profits for the corporate sponsors. The only surprise is that the likes of Rashanara Ali believed any of the promises in the first place. It is not for nothing that the Olympic Games are now frequently referred to as the Corporate Games.

First up for Ali was the mind numbing statistics for local employment at the Olympic site. In what was promised as a bonanza for local job opportunities, it turns out to be the very opposite. Ali reports,

When I asked last year how many local residents from the host boroughs were employed on the Olympic site, I was informed that of the 6,000 onsite jobs created, only 201 were held by residents from Tower Hamlets and 133 from hackney. The host boroughs have invested in making sure the local workforce have the right skills, especially for the construction industry, but many local people feel excluded and are resentful they can't break through.

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Libraries Deserve a Sporting Chance.

About a year after the collapse of the Soviet system, which now seems a lifetime ago, domestic matters led me to visit Poland, during which time I had the pleasure of staying with some family relatives on my partners side. I soon learned that the lady of the house had recently been made redundant from her job as a librarian and I naturally enquired as to why that was so. I was duly informed that her library had been closed down as part of the new wave of capitalist austerity measures. Ah I hear you say  how very familiar.

The interesting thing in this little story is not so much the closure of the library depressing as that is, but the type of library that had been forced to close. It was, it transpired, not a community library as we know them, but in fact a work-place library, which I learned were a common feature of the socialist system in Eastern Europe. With the reintroduction of capitalism, these worker friendly amenities were now considered surplus to requirements. No immediate profits to be made from them so they would have to go. And here we are, some twenty years later and the very same logic is forcing the imminent closures of hundreds of libraries across austerity Britain.

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Full Time; The Secret Life of Tony Cascarino, Paul Kimmage, Simon & Schuster 2000, Dublin

While perusing the selection of sports books in my local charity shop I was faced with the daunting choice of biographies/autobiographies concerning Dennis Wise, Ruud Gullit, Gianfranco Zola and Tony Cascarino. What didn't strike me then but is glaringly obvious now is that all four have had a substantial Chelsea link, some illustrious others not quite so.

I don't know what drew me to the Cascarino book over and above the others, all of whom I would imagine have something worthy of reporting from their footballing lives. Perhaps it was the promotional snippets that were provided front and rear of the main text that swung it. Tom Humphries of the Irish Times is quoted as saying; 'I can only describe it as the best sports book I've ever read and among the most courageous ever written.' Or for even greater hyperbole try this from The Guardian; 'Compared with the standard-issue footballer's autobiography, this is Tolstoy. What it says is astonishing. And if the potential reader is not yet hooked, Eamon Dunphy of The Times declares; Belongs with the finest sports books ever written.' I was hooked. I grabbed the dog-eared paperback, paid my 99p and started reading immediately on the bus journey home.

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Pornography Penetrates Sport

Two excellent pieces of journalism appeared in the press today though I suspect few commentators will choose to make a connection. Firstly, The Times 5/1/11 chose to run with a damning front page expose on UK sex gangs where young vulnerable white working class girls in Britain's northern cities are being lured into prostitution by Asian gangs, principally of Pakistani origin. The hidden agenda to this story being that British authorities have been complicit in a 'conspiracy of silence' for fear of being accused of racism. Fortunately for the present and future victims of this ugly piece of domestic human sex trafficking, a prominent member of the Muslim community in Britain has had the courage to speak out, even it transpires, at the risk to his own safety. Plaudits must go to Andrew Norfolk for his thorough investigative journalism and to Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation for having the courage and principle to draw a line. It should be added though, that no one ethnic, religious or national group has a monopoly on sexual abuse and trafficking. This is a global crime damning all cultures and all nationalities.

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The Queen's Speech

After blabbering on about the wonders of the King James Bible, the House of Windsor's long serving, immaculately preserved top dog, tried her hand at something a little more common; the earthly wonders of sport. In the context of her hopelessly ahistorical understanding of the real repressive role of Christianity (and indeed all religion) and the much hyped Protestant version of the Bible, her cliched sentiments on the role and value of sport are consistent and equally inept. No mention in our monarch's speech about the cheating, the corruption and the national chauvinism that is the daily staple of globalised sport. No mention of the corporate greed that has totally transformed an honest working class diversion into a new global religion, a new opiate for the masses. No, for old Lizzy, it's still all about the Victorian spirit of muscular Christianity and 'abiding by the rules'. The dear lady, as if mimicking a headmistress from a snooty public girls school, spells it out to her plebeian subjects;

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Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections

There are three human institutions that I have long argued are holding back human development; religion, the nation and the family. On the first two it is relatively easy to make a fairly persuasive case and gain a sympathetic hearing, but when it comes to 'the family' far fewer people are prepared to entertain its demise. Yes, there are numerous psycho-therapeutic texts outlining the typical neuroses of the family and how best to come to grips with the life long guilt, the buried resentments, the sibling rivalries and the silent Freudian tensions, but very few conclude that the institution of family is fundamentally and irreparably flawed. Psychologists, sociologists and novelists tell us how to comprehend and eventually survive the family, but rarely suggest a model beyond.

Unlike the daring Bolshevik women in the heady days immediately following the Russian revolution, women who called into question anything and everything from the old order, from monogamy and patriarchal dominance to the very institution of marriage and the family itself, most theorists and commentators content themselves with simply trying to unravel the mess that is the modern family, accepting that for all its limitations and neuroses we are essentially stuck with it. Jonathan Franzen, the hugely successful American novelist, seems to be no exception.

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Wikileaks: A New Global Sport

What have we learnt from the latest tranche of secret documents heroically dragged into the public domain by Wikileaks this week? Simply, that the entire planet is run by a shady cabal of gangsters, both government and freelance, sometimes in loose cooperation and sometimes in fierce rivalry. Nothing really new there then.

The Russian government, we are told, are in league with and up to their necks in organised crime. Yes, we know. Some of their most celebrated gangsters have UK resident status and one owns a very well known football club.

We learn that the UK government has been complicit and therefore culpable for the use of widespread torture both in Iraq and generally in the US manufactured 'war on terror'. It transpires that the most frightening terrorists invariably have been wearing UK and US uniforms in a war that is totally devoid of any form of international legality. Nothing new there then.


We also learn that large swathes of autocratic, Islamic, women hating, Middle Eastern regimes have a fear and loathing of another Islamic, Middle Eastern, autocratic and woman hating regime. A regime, that may already have a nuclear capability, and one that might well want to use that capability against another nearby, nuclear armed, gangster state. Same old story.

We learn that a prominent member of a certain very well known UK family, whose huge wealth and influence has very little to do with hard work and very much to do with forcible land-enclosures of common land carried out by their direct descendants some tears earlier, has been strutting about on the world stage like a royal gangster, being rude, arrogant and generally neo-colonial in his dealings with everyone he comes in contact with. Just like his old man, I hear you say. Nothing new on this front.

We learn that some rather gangster-ish goings on occurred just prior to the recent British elections by a very prominent member of the Bank of England, who just may have a case to answer for political meddling when his real job is to serve the democratically elected government of the day.

And we also learn that the US state department behaved in a most thuggish manner by instructing its diplomats to spy on UN personnel whenever and wherever they got the chance. A classic case of big power gangsterism if ever there was one.

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Naomi Campbell Speaks Out

Once again, top model Naomi Campbell has spoken of the obvious racist dimension to the western fashion industry, her latest condemnation making page three headlines in The London Evening Standard 8/12/10. Despite her high profile modelling career, Campbell stresses that it is still near impossible for models of Black and Asian origin to capture the top fashion posts. Pandering to the Eurocentric notion that blond is beautiful, the industry ensures there remain very few people of colour strutting the catwalks in London, Paris, Rome and New York, despite the fact that these cities are demographically multinational and pride themselves as being global cities.

Sporting Polemics takes up this issue given that sport, fashion, film and popular music have virtually fused into one gigantic entertainment industry, the obvious and grotesque failings of the one clearly tainting the reputation of the others.

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Blitzkreig- School sports partnership

Driven by an ideological hatred of all things public, Michael Gove has taken the axe to the national network of successfully functioning School Sports Partnerships. By statistical or anecdotal evidence, the SSP's established under Labour's watch, have been a success. More kids at school are playing more sport than we'be seen for many a year. Some kind of genuine claim to an Olympic legacy might even be made. But Gove cannot accept that some things are better planned and delivered by the public hand. He pretends that local is always better. What he really means is that private is always better.

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Government to Measure Happiness!

There is very probably no pre-ordained purpose to human existence at all. In fact, we should only use the word, probably out of deference to the principle of scientific scepticism. On a day to day basis we should have absolutely no truck with any manner of primitive obscurantist superstitions that pass for modern day religious belief. The word probably does not come into the equation.

The world is round and orbits the sun and was formed some 5 billion years ago. It is part of a much, much larger universe which exploded into physical being some 13.7 billion years ago. We can actually measure the radiation from that explosion today! The Earth is not flat, neither is it at the centre of the universe, as the self-appointed high priests tried to dictate for centuries. Nor was the Earth formed twelve thousand years ago, in six days, by an omniscient creator, whereby dinosaurs and humans wandered around together in some imagined Garden of Eden; a ludicrous and childlike concept that our modern high priests are still labouring to sell us. There are no prophets from god, nor sons of god because there are no gods, other than those created by highly manipulative people to fill the minds of primitive and frightened people.

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FIFA The wrong type of globalisation

Twenty years ago the anti-globalisation movement blasted onto the world stage with all the right motives and a whole new generation of young idealists, conservationists and trade unionists at the helm. Credit to them. Then along came 9/11 and the embryonic movement lost its bearings. Who was the main enemy now, rapacious global corporations or the feudal, obscurantist backlash? History rarely moves in a straight line.

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The Murdoch Empire Knows No Bounds

The one feature that unites all recent commentary on Rupert Murdoch's audacious bid to completely buy out BSkyB TV is that such a move would give one man a disproportionate control over Britain's media. In this respect they are all barking up the wrong tree. Rupert Murdoch and his international News Corporation already have a massively undemocratic control over British affairs and I'm not just talking about sport. Whether he succeeds in buying the remaining part of Sky that he does not already own is largely immaterial to his already massive, unaccountable, undemocratic influence over British politics. Yes, the proposed buyout will be a bad thing for what passes for British democracy, a wafer thin phenomena at the best of times. Yes, a Murdoch total buyout of Sky will place Murdoch in a similar position to that of Berlusconi in Italy. And yes, with total control of Sky, Murdoch will be able to further manipulate our TV viewing habits by linking his press and TV interests even more closely. But the unpalatable truth is that he can and does do all of this and much more already. Journalists are at least ten years late in their Armageddon style articles. The beast is already here.

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George Monbiot for Chancellor

If there's one certainty in history, it's that empires that rise are certain to fall. There has been, to my knowledge, not one exception to this rule. Britain is certainly no exception, as the British resignedly witness the inexorable waning of its star. Apparently Britain is so broke that it can't even afford to continue the network of School Sports Partnerships carefully constructed by the Youth Sport Trust over the past decade. A mere £136 million is all it takes to fund this extremely productive extracurricular scheme, but it seems the once mighty British Empire is just too poor these days. Or is it?

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