English football- B teams or plan B?

The FA released a report over the past week identifying sources of potential reform in order to strengthen English football. Amongst the issues raised, player development featured prominently, and was the source of arguably the most significant proposal- a league of B-teams. Players stuck behind deep teams filled with established talent would get a chance to play more competitive football, and fans could see more of them.

The idea is one that aims to treat symptom, not cause.

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Isolationism is the UK politics word of the week. Osborne spoke yesterday on the decision not to launch military action against Syria, but stopped short of actually calling the move isolationist.

“I think there will be a national soul-searching about our role in the world and whether Britain wants to play a big part in upholding the international system, be that a big open and trading nation that I’d like us to be or whether we turn our back on that.”

Lord Ashdown provided his opinion through the medium of twitter.

“We are a hugely diminished country this am. MPs cheered last night. Assad, Putin this morning. Farage too as we plunge towards isolationism.”

The FT published a comment piece today titled

“Isolationism is beneath Britain- Staying out of Syria must not presage a broader retreat.”

The recurring narrative is that the refusal of Parliament to sanction military action in Syria could be the first step on the path to diminishing British activity and influence in the world. Given the likelihood that both the US and France will engage in military action shortly, it may seem a plausible suggestion. However, the refusal to engage in conflict was far from a rejection of our place in international politics.
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Syria and the aesthetics of violence

Once again, Britain stands poised to launch a military campaign against a middle eastern country. The effects of such action feel distant, but real bombs will be dropped on real people- any justification for intervention has to be based on serious and considered grounds, not newspaper editorial logic. So why attack now?

The obvious spur is the chemical attack in Damascus that killed at least 350 people. The act is clearly repugnant, but why does death by chemical weapon result in military intervention, when the death of many more in Egypt and Syria by more conventional means attracts no response?

Etchingham wrote about the differing and inconsistent responses to violence in ice hockey. Many strongly support the role of fighting in the NHL, claiming that a sanctioned punch in the face contest mid-game was justifiable as part of the rough style of the sport. Sure, consecutive concussions are terrible for you, and the recent deaths of Boogard, Rypien and Belak have highlighted the potential for serious long term damage in enforcers, but the fans enjoy the violence, the players support it and the league has used it for marketing for a long time. Suggestions of greater regulation have been extremely unpopular. However, when the league examined no touch icing, it was considered a no-brainer. Players would chase the puck dangerously to the boards and occasionally a broken femur was the unfortunate result.

Why the difference in attitude? Read the rest of this entry »

Pro-recovery and pro-cyclical

The Financial Times ran two pieces about the newer and stricter capital requirements for banks today, one comment and one news, and neither of them was particularly favourable. The news article concerned Nationwide’s decision to not expand into the SME loan market in the face of concerns about their ability to meet capital requirements “by organic means.” The decision highlights a problem that many policy makers face at the moment- whether to be seen as “pro-recovery” or learn from earlier errors and avoid pro-cyclical policy.

Capital requirements for banks are particularly pertinent because when fundamental errors of risk calculation were made prior to the 2007 financial crisis banks and financial institutions had extremely slim margins compared to the size of the problem faced. As in many instances of debt, the ultimate problem proved to be one of solvency through cash flow, not absolute size. It was clear from an early stage in the response to the financial crisis that stricter capital requirements would be inevitable.
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Polling notes- Miliband and Labour, separate narratives

There has been a great deal of speculation over the past few weeks as to the fate of Ed Miliband’s leadership. Senior members of the Labour Party, Conservative commentators and members of the media have been quick to bury Miliband, and with him Labour’s chances of winning the 2015 election.

Yougov has been conducting daily polls since the last election, which now constitutes a large quantity of data. Despite this, most referencing of these polls in the media is unreliable. Single polls are cherry-picked, and there is rarely any context given. In an effort to better understand Ed Miliband and the Labour Party this data can be put to good use.
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Operational decisions and political motivations

The whole world and his wife is currently blogging about the decision to detain David Miranda and request that the Guardian destroy hard drives that contained information the government did not want released. I don’t think its possible to draw and meaningful conclusions at this point, given that the controversy seems likely to roll on for a few days at the least. However, there were a few thoughts and questions that I wanted to raise.

There have been a few moments during the coalition government’s administration that have struck me as highlighting how easy it is for individuals, political parties and movements to become co-opted into a certain way of talking or acting. This happened last when the Liberal Democrats enthusiastically sanctioned military intervention in Libya. Using a spurious mandate and misinformation, the Liberal Democrats supported the invasion of a Middle Eastern country with little idea of who they were supporting and no plan for the long term stability of the region. Sound familiar?
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Review: Buckminster Fuller, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth

Buckminster Fuller’s Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth is one of the strangest books I’ve read in a long time. Fuller was an intelligent person, and is generally credited with being extremely inventive. Spaceship Earth is clear evidence of this mind, but Fuller’s writing style raised a single important issue for me.

Fuller writes in metaphors and narratives- his first few chapters discuss the historical development of an awareness of the world as a whole, rather than just the knowledge of a tiny part of the globe. He calls them Great Pirates, and tracks their political conquest of both geography and the means of production. Part of this was a strategy Fuller calls “anticipatory divide and conquer,” involving the co-opting of intellectual and strategic talent.
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