Three completely unrelated things

Wooden thing

It has become apparent today that a team composed nominally of Englishmen are statistically better than every other geographically-bounded popular ball sport team on the planet. And there was much rejoicing. Actually I’ve bloody enjoyed every second of the Indian test series, in part due to the exciting on-field action but largely due to the eager sense that Geoff Boycott is going to say something a little bit racist. It’s the verbal equivalent of Formula 1; 99% of the audience are only tuning in because they know there’s going to be a serious crash. Except obviously replace the twisted metal with jingoistic opinions delivered angrily in a frothing Yorkshire burr…

As an Englishman and longtime follower of all things English and crickety I can’t help feeling a wave of trepidation at this new-found and now official success. I grew up when Andrew Caddick was our most feared bowler and the mere mention of Glenn McGrath had most of us in cold sweats. So ingrained was I in English sporting failure that when a tree came down in a storm outside the house one night I heard the splintering timber and instinctively got up, tucked my pillow under my arm and made solemnly for the wardrobe.

Seeing the current crop slouching around the outfield and battering every opponent  standing is great, but it’s just not how it should be. Where’s the fun in watching English sporting teams if you can’t watch them to this music?

Fighty thing

It has become apparent today that people have become notionally interested in Libya once more, now that the chaotic groundwar has reached the gates of moose-faced ‘leader’ Muammar Gaddafi. The general consensus is that this is undoubtedly a positive thing, and whilst a leprous rabbit would be a preferable leader to the outgoing head of state the important question almost nobody is asking right now is “Who the hell is taking over?”

Colonel Gaddafi is thought to be hiding in an old Simpsons episode

“Jeff, weren’t you supposed to be doing the background checks on these people?…Where? V?…Look Jeff, I don’t care how inspiring Rihanna was, you’re still fired.”

Or something like that. There has been a sum total of one commentator on one news channel saying anything on the lines of “Just a sec…”, but it’s ok because if you look on Wikipedia it says that the rebels are “composed primarily of civilians, such as teachers, students, lawyers, and oil workers, and a contingent of professional soldiers that defected from the Libyan Army and joined the rebels.”

Which sounds a bit unrealistic if you ask me. Either that or they include some serious combat training at law school these days.

It’ll all be fine. Probably.

Burny thing

It has become apparent today that Richard Branson’s house has notionally burnt down. Correction, one of his houses has burnt down. Totally. As well as the obvious sympathy that you can’t help but feel, the incident leaves me with two overriding thoughts. First, celebrity fires are much cooler than normal house fires. No chip pan fire in a council flat here. No, no, this house was set on fire by lightning. From a hurricane. And no family of four making there way from the burning building; this time there were 20 people. One of them was 90, and another one was Kate Winslet. This will be a film by the end of the year, mark my words.

Second, it has become apparent today that Richard Branson may notionally be a bit of a knob. For one thing, the house which burnt down was called the Great House. Without any irony or anything. And when questioned about the unfortunate occurrence, Branson said “It’s very much the Dunkirk Spirit here. We want to rebuild the house as soon as we can.”

I’m sure the people who risked life and limb to save thousands of lives in terrible danger and against unfathomable odds would be glad that you share their noble dedication as you rebuild your luxury mansion on your massive private tropical island, Richard.


“Killing is wrong, Mr Gaddafi. We’ll kill you if you kill people.”

“Hypocrisy and double standards”. These tenets are actually written into the UN Charter, just in Latin so that everybody thinks it means something like “Peace and kittens for all”.

In recent days, the entire UN, namely France, the US and the UK, have arbitrarily decided that it doesn’t much like the violent rumblings in Libya and has come up with a masterplan: prevent the aerial bombardment of Libyans by aerially bombarding Libyans.

If the majesty of this plan wasn’t quite evident enough, then the added spice of shelling Gaddafi-friendly tanks, which are approximately the size of a tank, with smart bombs so smart they eviscerate everything in a 200ft radius should be enough to make even the most venerated military tactician doff the proverbial cap.

"We only got the tank. Those cars were already on fire."

The justification is stunningly arrogant: “[The Libyan opposition have] expressed a clear and overwhelming wish for Gaddafi to go and we agree with that too.” – David Cameron

Fair enough, Dave, but it’s not the Libyan people en masse; a significant minority must still be loyal to the scruffy old tyrant else he’d be out on his arse already. In addition, DC himself isn’t exactly the most popular PM at the moment, but as yet I haven’t heard the unmistakable roar of an F-16 haring towards Downing Street recently. There’s still time.

Of more pressing concern than whether Ban-Ki Moon will crack out the jets next time students take to the streets is the question of what on earth the UN is playing at. This, of course, is a question which has followed the organisation since roughly the very beginning. The majority of the time the international community is perfectly happy to sit back and have a nice cup of tea whilst oppressive regimes tear their people to shreds. In Rwanda they actively stood there and watched, and that’s not an isolated occurrence.

So the incisive international action in Libya seems a little baffling, especially given that Yemen, Syria, and to a lesser extent Saudi Arabia are also currently engaged in enthusiastically ‘repressing’ their own civilians. Apparently the UN doesn’t agree with those people.

The befuddling lack of any kind of consistency only serves to highlight that the whole institution stinks to high heaven when it comes to interventions. Whilst ostensibly an egalitarian forum for collective action, the major behavioural pattern effectively mirrors the whims and cares of the dominant states. Big guns like, big guns get. Big guns no like, Big guns veto. Simples.

“Col Gaddafi, we strike at you safe in the knowledge that the whole world is behind us. Except most of the world, but it’s okay because we can’t really pronounce them and they’re probably not important. I mean, pretty much all of them agreed with the whole no-fly zone thing but then I guess they didn’t see the obvious inference that we saw that by having a no-fly zone you automatically have to bomb anything that moves in order to enforce it, but I suppose that’s not their fault and we’ll just decide for them anyway and we’ve decided that the best way to stop things from flying is just to bomb everything on the ground in case it does start flying and breaks the no-fly zone rules, I mean you wouldn’t think tanks and buildings could fly but I saw an ant do it once so you can’t be too careful, know what I mean?”

The organisation is almost set up not to work; the security council and the veto are utterly ludicrous and do nothing except block majority-led consensus. The self-appointed permanent members effectively decide on all matters of international peace, and a no vote from any of them means no resolution and no UN backed action, which then leads to the big states going off and doing it anyway. Hi Iraq. Obviously this shuts out the rest of the world, unless you’re on the non-permanent committee that year, in which case you don’t have a veto anyway so you might as well be wanking furiously in the corner for all the effect your nation has on proceedings.

If there is to be a global forum for action on international peace, then fine. But let the whole world decide, and let it decide on the appropriate action too. Hold states who invade other nations without consent accountable, properly, and don’t let the big players get away with this cavalier bullshit.

The western powers have got a tentative agreement to stop the Libyan conflict being horribly one-sided, and have used that as an excuse to launch a bombing campaign against somebody they don’t like. The UN shows itself to be either a puppet to western whim, as it has this week, or incapable of holding the west to account when it goes on oil jollies around the globe.

Global democracy? Bollocks.