Saturday, 30 July 2011

Indian win even though they fail at Tebbit's cricket test

Norman Tebbit's cricket test means nothing when you're winning

Combined with its team's prowess on the field, India's economic clout has turned the tables on the old colonial master
  • cricket india england lords
    The incredible atmosphere at Lord's on Monday was due in part to thousands of British Indians cheering the India cricket team. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA
    The game of cricket should be thankful that so many British Asians continue to fail Norman Tebbit's "cricket test". In one of his less helpful contributions to social harmony, the old polecat suggested in 1990 that the side that ethnic minorities cheer for – England or their country of origin – should be a barometer of whether they are truly British. But what swells the gates and gives the current Test series against India an atmosphere that rivals the Ashes is the presence, particularly at Lord's on Monday, of thousands of British-based Indians cheering Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, MS Dhoni and other stars of the visiting team. Significantly, Tebbit directed his barb at Asians, not at Britons of Caribbean descent. The latter presumably pass his test, most having long ago lost interest in cricket and, like everybody else, become obsessed with those unimpeachably English institutions (not), Manchester United and Chelsea. Black people are now hardly seen at English cricket grounds and the West Indies team, once the game's biggest draw and a source of pride and inspiration to African-Caribbean people, is regarded as poor box-office material, usually invited to play here before sparse crowds on rainswept days in May. It is not, however, just memories of Tebbit that give this series its political edge. India is currently the master of the game. On the field, it stands at the top of the world rankings, though England hope, in a few weeks, to have usurped that position. More importantly, India increasingly controls how the game is governed and organised. It generates 70% of world cricket revenues and doesn't hesitate to exercise the power and influence that brings. Though the Dubai-based International Cricket Council (ICC) is nominally in charge, it rarely defies Indian wishes, just as it didn't defy the wishes of the English, as expressed through the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), in the days when it was based at Lord's and called itself the Imperial Cricket Conference. It has declined, for example, to rule that ball-tracking technology should be used in all Test matches to review umpires' decisions. The Indians, for obscure reasons, don't like it and that, as far as the ICC is concerned, is that. India's power is most evident through the Indian Premier League, a Twenty20 competition between city-based teams with names such as Delhi Daredevils and Royal Challengers Bangalore, which, for a few weeks annually, attracts nearly all the world's best players by offering previously unimaginable sums of money. Some players no longer bother with longer forms of the game such as Test matches, and concentrate entirely on lucrative IPL contracts. The titled gentlemen of Lord's – who invented Twenty20 to entice English proletarians into cricket grounds and thus rescue ailing county clubs – think this a desecration of cricket's true, Corinthian spirit. But the millions of Mumbai and Chennai, who now rarely turn up to watch Tests, have fallen in love with Twenty20 and, much as the purists may object, that and other short forms of cricket will probably dominate in future. So, the tables have turned. Just as the English once used cricket to assert the ideology of empire – to play the game honourably, said Lord Harris, governor general of Bombay and a former captain of Kent, "is a moral lesson in itself" – so Indians now use it to assert the brash, go-getting, commercial values of the new, upwardly mobile India. It is not, it must be admitted, a particularly pretty sight, but then nor was the period of English hegemony. When the Australians were getting uppity in the 1930s, cheekily putting tariffs on British cricket balls and other goods, the English establishment concocted bodyline bowling to teach them a lesson. The Australians responded with accusations of "unsportsmanlike" behaviour – a judgment which, in the MCC's view, it alone was qualified to make – and threats to leave the empire. Without admitting its own culpability, the MCC settled the matter by blaming it all on Harold Larwood, the Nottinghamshire miner who carried out the instruction to bowl fast at Australian bodies. He was driven from the game and ultimately into exile (in Australia, ironically). Even worse was the MCC's record not only of playing all-white South African teams – cricket being racially segregated even before the advent of official apartheid – but of contriving to omit anyone with a non-white skin from English touring teams there. As the recently released film Fire in Babylon recalls, West Indians once used cricket for black self-assertion. In a Britain that seemed to regard West Indians as nothing but "a problem", recalled the black writer Caryl Phillips, "the West Indies team … appeared as a resolute army, with power and creative genius in equal measure". For 15 years, the West Indies dominated world cricket. But those poor islands lacked the economic muscle to carry their dominance into cricket's corridors of power. India's success, on and off the field, is the most palpable evidence of its rising global status. Whatever the outcome of the present series, India, unlike the West Indies, will continue to matter. No wonder British Indians don't care about Tebbit's test. They are backing winners.

'La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life'

Liberté, égalité, flirtation: How I learnt to play France’s national sport of seduction

When Elaine Sciolino arrived in Paris as correspondent for The New York Times, she quickly learnt how to play the French national sport - a subtle game of seduction that shapes everyday life
Saturday, 30 July 2011
The first time my hand was kissed à la française was in the Élysée Palace. The one doing the kissing was the president of France, Jacques Chirac. It was 2002, the Bush administration was moving towards war with Iraq, and I had just become the Paris bureau chief for The New York Times. Chirac was announcing a French-led strategy to avoid war. He welcomed me with a baisemain, a kiss of the hand.
Chirac reached for my right hand and cradled it as if it were a piece of porcelain. He raised it to the level of his chest, bent over to meet it halfway, and inhaled, as if to savour its scent. Lips made contact with skin. It was not an act of passion. Still, it was unsettling. Part of me found it charming and flattering. But in an era when women work so hard to be taken seriously, I also was vaguely uncomfortable that Chirac was adding a personal dimension to a professional encounter. Catherine Colonna, who was Chirac's spokeswoman, told me later that he did not adhere to proper form. "He was a great hand kisser, but I was not satisfied that his baisemains were strictly executed according to the rules..." she said. "The kiss is supposed to hover in the air, never land on the skin." If Chirac knew this, he was not letting it get in the way of a tactic that was working for him.
The power kiss of the president was one of my first lessons in understanding the importance of seduction in France. Over time, I became aware of its force and pervasiveness. I saw it in the disconcertingly intimate eye contact of a diplomat discussing dense policy initiatives; the exaggerated, courtly politeness of my elderly neighbour; the flirtatiousness of a female friend that oozed like honey at dinner parties. Eventually, I learnt to expect it. In English, 'seduce' has a negative and exclusively sexual feel; in French, the meaning is broader. The French use 'seduce' where the British and Americans might use 'charm' or 'engage' or 'entertain'. Seduction in France does not always involve body contact. A grand séducteur is not necessarily a man who seduces others into making love. (Neither is he usually a man in the mould of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, more of whom later on.) He might be gifted at caressing with words, at drawing people close with a look, at forging alliances with flawless logic. The target of seduction – male or female – may experience the process as a shower of charm or a magnetic pull.
How to play the game

'Seduction' in France encompasses a grand mosaic of meanings. What is constant is the intent: to attract or influence, to win over, even if just in fun. To play, several weapons need to be mastered. The first is le regard, 'the look', the electric charge between two people when their eyes lock and there is an immediate understanding that a bond has been created. The concept is a classic component of French seduction, rooted in antiquity. I decided to learn more about le regard. I knew in advance I would never learn how to do it properly myself, as I am hopelessly shortsighted, which means that my eyeballs get reduced to the size of peas behind my glasses. But as a journalist, I'm a trained observer. In real life a sexually tinged regard may also be used to disarm. On a visit to Strasbourg in April 2009, Carla Bruni found herself in front of a swarm of photographers calling her name. She decided to give herself to one of them. For five minutes she posed, looking only at him, ignoring all the others. He was gobsmacked. Le regard is not done with an open, wide, American-style grin but mysteriously and deeply, with the eyes. Never with a wink. "French women don't wink," one French woman told me. "It disfigures your face."

Words are the second weapon. Verbal sparring is crucial to French seduction, and conversation is often less a means of giving or receiving information than a languorous mutual caress. When words are used as a tool of sexual seduction, indirection and discretion may work best. The frontal approach can be considered brutal and vulgar. Private coaches can be hired in Paris to teach professional women how to rid their voices of chirpiness and men how to cultivate lower tones.

The kiss, the next natural weapon, is subject to its own rules. The most social kiss is la bise, the kiss on each cheek. I always have considered it a straightforward ritual. But Florence Coupry and Sanae Lemoine, my researchers, ganged up on me and explained how cheek-kissing could come with extraordinary power. "You can give la bise to say 'hi' to people you know, and there would be nothing special about it," said Florence. "But... let's say that one day... I also kiss someone I've been dreaming about... I'm so close to him for a second... and it will be absolutely delicious and maybe troubling. Maybe only I know what's happening... Or maybe he guesses it and then what could happen?" Sanae chimed in: "Sometimes his lips will touch your cheek, or he'll try to come as close as he can to your lips and touch your waist lightly with his hand. La bise allows you to get intimate."

Finally, the deal must be clinched. Christophe, a French man in his mid-twenties who is both clever and handsome, has a strategy. "I always play by the rule of the three Cs – climat, calembour, contact," he confessed. Climat is context. "You want to establish a specific atmosphere, which can be somehow magical," he said. "You can transform a random situation into an atmosphere where you feel you are going to kiss each other." Calembour, which literally means 'pun', comes next. "You need to make her laugh," he said. "But it has to be subtle." The clincher comes with contact. "At the fateful moment, you manage to establish physical contact," he said. "Not a big slap on the back. But... you touch her arm. Or crossing the street, you take her arm. This is a very strong signal. And if she does not reject it, you can almost be sure you can at least kiss her."

It doesn't matter whether the French are better at sex. What matters is that they take so much pleasure in all that surrounds the sex act. They make the before and after, the process and the denouement, seem just as important and thrilling and worthwhile as the climax.
Be prepared at all times

It took years before I fully understood French attitudes to public space. I found it both sexist and offensive that strange men felt entitled to comment on what I wore or how I looked. Yet in Paris, women and men are supposed to please each other on the street. You never walk alone but are in a perpetual visual conversation with others, even perfect strangers.

My own style is relaxed, even in the upscale neighbourhood where I used to live. Take the Saturday afternoon I was making cookies with my daughters and ran out of butter. Dusted with flour, still in my jogging clothes from a morning run, I dashed out to the shop. But this was the Rue du Bac, a chic place to see and be seen on Saturdays. I heard my name called and turned to face Gérard Araud, a senior Foreign Ministry official. He was wearing pressed jeans, a soft-as-butter leather jacket, caramel-coloured tie shoes, and an amused look. In his hand was a small shopping bag containing his purchase of the morning. Gérard invited me to take a coffee with him. We sat outdoors at a café on the corner of the Rue de Varenne. I should have known better and invited him into my kitchen. This was one of the premier people-watching intersections in all of Paris. I was inappropriately dressed.

The Swedish ambassador and his wife rode up on their bikes and stopped to say hello. Both were in tailored tweed blazers, slim pants, and expensive loafers. Then Robert M Kimmitt, the American deputy treasury secretary at the time, who happened to be visiting Paris, walked by. He accepted Gérard's invitation to join us. "I see that Paris hasn't done much for your style," Kimmitt joked. "At least I'm wearing black," I replied. When he left, Gérard made what he considered an important point with as much seriousness as if he were delivering a diplomatic démarche to a recalcitrant ally. "The Rue du Bac is not the Upper West Side," he said. "All right, all right," I conceded. I knew the rules: jogging clothes (shoes included) are to be removed as soon as one's exercise is over. Then I got a bit defensive. "This is my neighbourhood," I said. "I belong here. So I can dress however I want!" "You can," he said, with the sangfroid that makes him such a good diplomat. "But you shouldn't."
Why scent matters

Modern perfume was invented in France in the 19th century. It belongs to French culture, the same way lingerie and wine do, and I smell it a lot more often in Paris than in New York. Proximity is one factor. Since everyone does a lot more cheek kissing than hand shaking in everyday life, there are opportunities to get close.

The custom is to wear only enough perfume so that it can be detected when one is near enough to kiss. A sophisticated and alluring perfume can play a central role in a seduction campaign. Drawn to the scent, one is drawn to the person. Lured by sensations that cannot be expressed in words, one is tempted to suspend rational thought and follow the lead of emotion. After an interview with Olivier Monteil, the communications head of Hermès perfumes, he kissed me on both cheeks. I asked what he was wearing. "An experiment," he said. "Rose, spicy, peppery. You cannot smell it from afar, only when I kiss you."

Each year the French spend more than $40 per man, woman, and child on fragrances, more than any other people in the world. Americans spend only about $17 and the Japanese, $4. Spaniards and Brazilians consume more perfume than the French, but they spend less money on it. And there is more. The sense of smell itself is more important in France than many other places. As children, the French are taught to identify smells; there is a popular board game called Le Loto des Odeurs (The Lottery of Smells) that asks players to identify 30 smells, including eucalyptus, mushrooms, lily of the valley, hazelnut, grass, biscuits, fennel, strawberries, honeysuckle, and the sea.

I heard my favourite perfume story at the International Perfume Museum in Grasse where a young assistant offered to show me around. I'll call her Pauline. I asked Pauline about the relationship between perfume and seduction. To put it bluntly, she didn't seem to be trying very hard. Her full body was hidden under a loose black-and-white dress that nearly reached the floor. Large glasses sat crooked on her nose; her fringe fell into her eyes; no lipstick or rouge adorned her face. Her black shoes had square toes and clunky heels.

But Pauline and I found a connection, and the conversation turned to her own life. "If you don't seduce in France, you're a nobody," she said. "I'm very shy, and if you're plain or if you're shy... you don't fit the mould. I tell myself that if I stay in a corner, it won't work, but if I'm smiling and really show I want something, then it comes. It's a kind of game." "Do you wear perfume?" I asked. "Of course," she replied. She smiled. "My husband knew I always wanted Chanel No 5, and a few years ago he gave it to me. When I opened it, I asked him, 'Must I do like Marilyn?' Marilyn said that all I wear when I'm in bed is Chanel No 5," she explained. "My husband said he would like that. So I said to myself, 'Let me be quite crazy'. And I took off all my clothes." Suddenly, right before my eyes, Pauline became a sex goddess. I think I was beginning to understand the power of perfume.
Seduction and politics

The spring of 2008 was a particularly uneasy moment in France. Nicolas Sarkozy had been president for a year, and a recent poll had determined that the French people considered him the worst president in the history of the Fifth Republic. His failure to deliver quickly on a campaign promise to revitalise the economy was perceived as a betrayal so profound that a phenomenon called 'Sarkophobia' had developed. Around this time I read a new book written by a 34-year-old speechwriter at the Foreign Ministry named Pierre-Louis Colin. In it, he laid out his "high mission": to combat a "righteous" Anglo-Saxon-dominated world. The book was not about France's new projection of power in the world under Sarkozy, but dealt with a subject just as important for France. It was a guide to finding the prettiest women in Paris.

"The greatest marvels of Paris are not in the Louvre," Colin wrote. "They are in the streets and the gardens, in the cafés and in the boutiques. The greatest marvels of Paris are the hundreds of thousands of women whose smiles, whose cleavages, whose legs bring incessant happiness to those who take promenades." The book classified the neighbourhoods of Paris according to their women. Just as every region of France had a gastronomic identity, Colin said, every neighbourhood of Paris had its "feminine specialty". Ménilmontant in the north-east corner was loaded with "perfectly shameless cleavages – radiant breasts often uncluttered by a bra". The area around the Madeleine was the place to find "sublime legs". Colin put women between the ages of 40 and 60 into the "saucy maturity" category.

The book was patently sexist. It offered tips on how to observe au pairs and young mothers without their noticing and advised going out in rainstorms to catch women in wet, clingy clothing. It could never have been published in the United States. But in France it barely raised an eyebrow, and Colin obviously had fun writing it. The mild reaction to a foreign policy official's politically incorrect book tells you something about the country's priorities. The unabashed pursuit of sensual pleasure is integral to French life. Sexual interest and sexual vigour are positive values, especially for men, and flaunting them in a lighthearted way is perfectly acceptable. It's all part of enjoying the seductive game.

The sangfroid about Colin's book made for a striking juxtaposition with the hostility toward France's president. To be sure, the flabby economy was one reason Sarkozy was doing so badly at the time; another was that he hadn't yet mastered the art of political or personal seduction. But he was trying. Sarkozy's second wife, Cécilia, had dumped him after he took office. As president of France, he couldn't bear to be seen as lacking in sex appeal. In the United States, mixing sex and politics is dangerous; in France, this is inevitable.
In the weeks after Cécilia's final departure, Sarkozy had presented himself as lonely and long-suffering, but that had seemed very un-French. Then he had met the super-rich Italian supermodel-turned-pop singer, Carla Bruni, and married her three months later. On the anniversary of his first year in office, Sarkozy and Bruni posed for the cover of Paris Match as if they had been together forever. Sarkozy looked – as he wanted and needed to – both sexy and loved.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn was long known as a grand seducteur. Hints about his behaviour were the source of rumours for years. In a kind of French parlour game, journalists and authors quoted one another as a way to avoid responsibility for the stories (and lawsuits). Press articles appeared with enough detail and innuendo that any reader could connect the dots and draw conclusions. So many sources told so many stories that at least some of them had to be true, the French said. But the stories also made Strauss-Kahn a living legend, and some people expressed quiet admiration that such a high-profile political figure could find time for such an active social life.

The stories didn't seem to trouble his wife, Anne Sinclair, one of France's most respected TV journalists. Asked in 2006 if she suffered because of her husband's reputation as a seducer she answered, "No, if anything I am quite proud! For a political man, it is important to seduce. As long as I seduce him and he seduces me, that's good enough." Nor did Strauss-Kahn's reputation seem to hurt his political aspirations. He was planning to announce his intention to run for president in next year's election and was ahead of Sarkozy in the polls. Then suddenly, Strauss-Kahn was accused of being a violent criminal. He has been charged with rape of a chambermaid in New York and attempted rape of a writer in Paris.

Certainly, the scandal has nothing to do with seduction à la française. When seduction works, it's magic: it is hidden, mysterious, and oriented toward a glorious, crystallised, ideal image. But it can also entail inefficiency, fragility, ambiguity, and a process that at any time can end badly. It can degrade into the antithesis of seduction, what I call anti-seduction. The DSK scandal has rocked France, a male-dominated country, where women's salaries are 20 per cent less than men's and 18 per cent of the deputies in parliament are women. Suddenly, a serious national conversation has been opened about the abuse of power in France. Some French women have begun to speak out about an atmosphere that condones sexual behaviour that crosses the line and may even be criminal. The scandal has also challenged the assumption that the private lives of the rich, famous and powerful are off-limits to public scrutiny. No matter what the outcome of the two judicial cases against Strauss-Kahn, he has emerged as an anti-seducer.

i had gone off to live in Paris. And it has seduced me. "Every man has two countries, his own and France," says a character in a play by the 19th-century poet and playwright Henri de Bornier. In our years living there, my family and I have tried to make the country our own, even though we know that will never entirely happen. We will never think like the French, never shed our Americanness. Nor do we want to. And like an elusive lover who clings to mystery, France will never completely reveal herself to us. Even now, when I walk around a corner, I anticipate that something pleasurable might happen – just the next act in a process of perpetual seduction. I often find myself swept away without realising how it happened. Not so the French. For them, the daily campaign to win and woo is a familiar game, instinctively played and understood.
This is an adapted extract from 'La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life' by Elaine Sciolino (Beautiful Books)
France vs Britain: Seduction techniques

A smile is bestowed as a gift to those carefully chosen
Make-up: either eyes or lips, never both
Scent is subtle, a mysterious invitation
Mealtime is part of the seduction ritual
Secrecy is paramount, even in the media
Le regard, the look with an electric charge
Two to four kisses to greet, depending on social class

Indiscriminate smiling, particularly when intoxicated
Make-up all over the face, plus fake tan
Perfume tends to be overpowering
Dinner on the sofa, plus TV
Kiss and tell
Either blatant ogling or complete avoidance of eye contact
One kiss, then an awkward hover

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Divorce cases in Mumbai soar 86% in less than 10 years

MUMBAI: As the stigma around divorce dissolves steadily, an increasing number of couples in the city are choosing to end their marriage, sometimes soon after exchanging their wedding vows. Between 2009 and 2010, the number of divorces in Mumbai rose from 4,624 to 5,245, a spike of over 13%. Last year's figure is even more startling when compared to 2002's statistic of 2,805 - this means that the number of divorces has climbed by more than 86% in less than a decade.

Social scientists and psychiatrists explain this as a sign that the till-death-do-us-apart class of marriage is under strain. "Young couples marry impulsively and separate equally spontaneously. Divorce is now seen more as a corrective mechanism and a way to move forward in life," says psychiatrist Harish Shetty. Shetty states financial independence, multiplicity of relationships and ample career opportunities as some of the reasons for the increase.

"Gone are the days when the mother-in-law was the villain. Now you alone can save or break a relationship," he says. 'For today's women, divorce no longer carries a stigma'

As the number of divorce cases in the city rise, psychiatrist Harish Shetty cites financial independence and more career opportunities as some of the reasons behind this trend. There are enough instances to back Shetty's assertion.

Varsha Bhosle, who is in her late 20s, decided to end her two-year marriage after she realized that she and her husband "did not have any time for each other". Both of them worked in an IT firm at Malad. What proved the catalyst for the divorce was the husband's choice to move cities. "He wanted me to shift to Pune too. But I felt I had better career choices here. We were both ambitious anyway," Varsha says.

Kusum Singh, a financial consultant, got separated from her husband in January. "It was not that my husband was a bad person. But somehow we just drifted apart and I began seeing someone else. I felt bad for my husband, but after the initial heartburn even he understood ours was a loveless relationship," Singh says.

Lawyers say a major reason for the rise in divorces is that women have become more independent, financially and emotionally. They do not feel that ending their marriage would bring upon them a lifelong stigma. A majority of young couples these days, in fact, separate by mutual consent. "This saves them from the headache of going to court many times. One can get a divorce within six months and maybe two hearings," says Sajal Chacha, a family court lawyer.

Chacha adds there have been cases where young couples have divorced within six months or a year of marriage. "Elders in the family have become more accommodating and do not force their children into a second marriage if the first one fails," she says.

Having cancer is an education, and this is what I have learned

Illness introduced me to a beautiful network of dependence – and a struggle for autonomy I can't win on my own
  • Student Nurse
    The discipline of nursing converts science into care. Photograph: Bert Hardy/Getty Images
    Now entering my fifth year of living with multiple myeloma, a haematological cancer, I reflect back on a roller-coaster ride of symptoms, treatments and side effects. Whatever else this experience has been, it's been an education. But what exactly have I learned? To begin with, that any glib answer to the question misses the core of the experience – the complex dialectic of being ill, which is a social as well as physical condition. For me the experience has led to a heightened awareness of both our intricate dependence on others and our deep-seated need for independence. Sitting with my IV drip, I like to think about all the human labour and ingenuity that come together in this medical moment. I could dedicate the rest of my life to this exercise and still not complete the inventory. The first circle of dependence is immediate and sometimes intimate. Partners, friends, doctors, nurses, cleaners, porters. Beyond them is a vast network of people I never see: pathologists, pharmacists, IT engineers, appointments managers. Everyone who has anything to do with maintaining the supply of medications or the functioning of equipment or getting me to and from hospital. Everyone who makes sure the lights are on and the building safe. The whole intricate ballet that is a functioning hospital. One misstep, and the whole breaks down, with potentially dire consequences. Beyond that, I'm dependent on a long history of scientific development to which individuals and institutions in many countries have contributed. From the British chemist Bence Jones identifying the protein associated with multiple myeloma in the 1840s to the pathologist and one-time film star Justine Wanger developing the IV drip in the 1930s; from the first experiments with chemotherapy (a byproduct of chemical warfare) in the 1940s, through the protracted struggle to master the art of toxicity (a dialectic of creation and destruction, if there ever was one), to the discovery of proteasome inhibitors in the 1990s and the creation of new "targeted therapies", like the one I'm currently receiving. Without innumerable advances in immunology, biochemistry, chemical engineering, statistics and metallurgy, to name but a few, I wouldn't be where I am now – in fact I wouldn't be at all. The drip flowing into my vein is drawn from a river with innumerable tributaries. It is an entirely rational, intelligible process but no less miraculous for that. And it's not just a story of science. Alongside that – and necessary to it – is the long history of the hospital, of the discipline of nursing, of the social developments that made it possible to convert raw science into practical care. I'm acutely conscious of how dependent I am on those who built and sustained the NHS – including, pre-eminently, generations of labour movement activists and socialists. And as I sit with my IV drip, I'm mindful of those in government and business who would smash the delicate mechanism of the hospital and shatter the network of dependence that sustains me. I'm being kept alive by the contributions of so many currents of human labour, thought, struggle, desire, imagination. By the whole Enlightenment tradition, but not only that: by older traditions of care, solidarity, mutuality, of respect for human life and compassion for human suffering. The harnessing of science, technology and advanced forms of organisation and information to compassionate ends is by no means automatic. It leans on and is only made possible by the conflict-riddled history of ethical and political development. Beautiful as it is, this network of dependence is also frightening. Restrictions in capacity and mobility are hugely frustrating, and relying on others to supplement them is not a straightforward business – for patient or carer. I often feel I'm engaged in a never-ending battle for autonomy. I fight it out in relation to institutions, experts, medications, means of mobility, forms of diet. Not to mention the vital effort to live a life beyond illness, to hold on to that kernel of freedom that makes you who you are. Paradoxically the struggle for autonomy is one you can't win on your own. You need allies, and part of being a carer is being an ally, not a nursemaid or controller. Independence is the stuff of life. But you can achieve it only through dependence on others, past and present. That's a truth driven home to the cancer patient but applicable to all of us. Illness is not an ideology-free zone. Certainly not for the government, which aims to divide sufferers into acute cases deserving of support, and less acute ones that must be forced back into the labour market, where our only function will be to undercut wages. This is one reason why resistance to the attacks on benefits for the disabled ought to be a central plank of the anti-cuts movement. The crisis facing the ill is an extreme form of the crisis facing the majority of the populace. We don't want charity – the form of dependence that makes independence impossible – but rights, and the resources to exercise those rights. Speaking for myself, taking part in anti-cuts activity is some of the best therapy available, an unashamed acknowledgement of social dependence and at the same time a declaration of political-spiritual independence.

India named world's most depressed nation

By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor in The Independent
Tuesday, 26 July 2011

One of the oddities of the human race is that people living in wealthier nations are less happy and more depressed than those in poorer ones. In France, the Netherlands and America, more than 30 per cent of people have suffered a major depressive episode, compared with 12 per cent in China, according to research from the World Health Organisation.

Overall, one in seven people (15 per cent) in high-income countries is likely to get depression over their lifetime, compared with one in nine (11 per cent) in middle- and low-income countries.

But there are exceptions to the rule. India recorded the highest rate of major depression in the world, at 36 per cent. It is going through unprecedented social and economic change, which often brings depression in its wake. The global study, based on interviews with 89,000 people, shows that women are twice as likely to suffer depression as men.

People in wealthier countries were also more likely to be disabled by depression than those in poorer ones. The findings are published in BMC Medicine. Depression affects over 120 million people worldwide. It can interfere with a person's ability to work, make relationships difficult, and destroy quality of life. In severe cases it leads to suicide, causing 850,000 deaths a year.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

What is GDP?

Q&A: What is GDP?

From the BBC website

GDP, or Gross Domestic Product, is arguably the most important of all economic statistics as it attempts to capture the state of the economy in one number.

Quite simply, if the GDP measure is up on the previous three months, the economy is growing. If it is negative it is contracting.

And two consecutive three-month periods of contraction mean an economy is in recession.

What is GDP?
GDP can be measured in three ways:
  • Output measure: This is the value of the goods and services produced by all sectors of the economy; agriculture, manufacturing, energy, construction, the service sector and government
  • Expenditure measure: This is the value of the goods and services purchased by households and by government, investment in machinery and buildings. It also includes the value of exports minus imports
  • Income measure: The value of the income generated mostly in terms of profits and wages.
In theory all three approaches should produce the same number.

In the UK the Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes one single measure of GDP which, apart from the first estimate, is calculated using all three ways of measuring.

Usually the main interest in the UK figures is in the quarterly change in GDP in real terms, that is after taking into account changes in prices (inflation).

How is GDP calculated?

Calculating a GDP estimate for all three measures is a huge undertaking every three months.
The output measure alone - which is considered the most accurate in the short term - involves surveying tens of thousands of UK firms.

The main sources used for this are ONS surveys of manufacturing and service industries.
Information on sales is collected from 6,000 companies in manufacturing, 25,000 service sector firms, 5,000 retailers and 10,000 companies in the construction sector.

Data is also collected from government departments covering activities such as agriculture, energy, health and education.

New GDP figures are released every three months, but they get revised in the interim. Why?

The UK produces the earliest estimate of GDP of the major economies, around 25 days after the quarter in question.

This provides policymakers with an early, or "flash", estimate of the real growth in economic activity. It is quick, but only based on the output measure.

At that stage only about 40% of the data is available, so this figure is revised as more information comes in.

They are two subsequent revisions at monthly intervals. But this isn't the end.

Revisions can be made as much as 18 months to two years after the first "flash" estimate. The ONS publishes more information on how this is done on its website.

What is GDP used for?

GDP is the principal means of determining the health of the UK economy and is used by the Bank of England and its Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) as one of the key indicators in setting interest rates.

So, for example, if prices are rising too fast, the Bank would be expected to increase interest rates to try to control them. But it may hold off if GDP growth is sluggish, as higher rates could damage the recovery. That is the situation at the moment.

The Treasury also uses GDP when planning economic policy. When an economy is contracting, tax receipts tend to fall, and the government adjusts its tax and spending plans accordingly.

UK GDP is used internationally by the various financial bodies such as OECD, IMF, and the World Bank to compare the performance of different economies.

The European Union also uses GDP estimates as a basis for determining different countries' contributions to the EU budget.

Also read:
About Economic Growth and Well Being

About Economic Growth


Sunday, 24 July 2011

Abolish The Death Penalty in Cricket; I Mean the LBW

by Giffenman

In modern times many societies have abolished the death penalty as a form of punishment even for the most heinous crimes. One reason is that the judicial process is based on convincing a jury that such a crime was committed. Therefore one could say that a jury’s verdict is an opinion about an event and not a fact. I’d like to suggest that an LBW decision in cricket is the death penalty for a batsman and like the judicial process is based on opinion and not on fact. Hence it should be abolished.

When an appeal of LBW is made the umpire has to determine ‘whether the ball would have gone to hit the stumps if its progress had not been impeded by the batsman’s leg’. This is a point of opinion and not a point of fact.

Even in modern times where the form of pre-emptive justice is proving increasingly popular, no ‘suspected terrorist’ is given the death penalty because s/he may have been plotting a crime. The reason being that a crime has not been actually committed. Thus juries are loath to condemn such individuals to the gallows.

Similarly in the case of an LBW decision, since the ball has not hit the stumps there is no way one can be sure that the ball would have hit the stumps if unimpeded. It may have hit the stumps 99% of the time but there is no way of being sure. Hence a batsman in my view should not be declared out since that is akin to awarding the death penalty for a crime not committed.

Those opposed to this idea will immediately say removal of the LBW decision will be an incentive to batsmen to use their legs to prevent the ball from hitting the stumps. My suggestion is that every time the batsmen is found LBW in the opinion of the umpire and the DRS then he should be docked 25 runs. But a death penalty, i.e. an LBW, is too harsh a punishment for an event that has not occurred.

A spinner's flight plan


The great spinners visualised their wickets and deceived the batsmen in the air. But why are today's bowling coaches almost always fast men?

Ashley Mallett in Cricinfo
July 24, 2011

In my first over in Test cricket, to Colin Cowdrey at The Oval in August 1968, I appealed for lbw decisions for the first four balls. The fifth ball was the decider. Cowdrey went well back and the ball cannoned into his pads halfway up middle stump. Umpire Charlie Elliott raised his index finger, and "Kipper" touched the peak of his England cap and said to me, "Well bowled, master."

In hindsight Cowdrey was a pretty good wicket, given that he had conquered the spin of Sonny Ramadhin and Alf Valentine at a time when I was trying to track down an ice-cold Paddle Pop in Perth.

Test cricket is the ultimate challenge for the spin bowler. Sadly Twenty20s and ODIs bring mug spinners to the fore. They skip through their overs and bowl "dot" balls, which their legion of hangers-on believe to be something akin to heaven. Test spinners are all about getting people out. After all, the best way to cut the run rate is to take wickets.

Before getting into big cricket I felt the need to have a coaching session with Clarrie Grimmett. I was 21, living in Perth, and Clarrie, a sprightly 76, was based in Adelaide. To my mind a spinner cannot be doing things all that brilliantly if he thinks he is a pretty good bowler but doesn't get many wickets. That was my lot, and I sought Clarrie's advice. Two days in the train from Perth to Adelaide, then a short bus ride to the suburb of Firle, found Clarrie at home. He was up the top of an ancient pepper tree.

There he had hung a ball in a stocking. He handed me a Jack Hobbs-autographed bat, and having dismissed my protestations that I wanted to learn spin bowling, not batting, he said with a broad grin: "Well, son, there was a youngster I taught to play the square cut on the voyage to England in 1930 and… Don Bradman was a fast learner."

Clarrie swung one ball towards me and I met it in the middle of his bat. We then went to the nets. Clarrie had a full-sized turf wicket in his backyard. He wandered to the batting end. He wore no protective equipment - no box, no pads or gloves. Just his Jack Hobbs bat. "Bowl up, son," he cried.

My first ball met the middle of his bat. He called me down the track. "Son," he said, "Give up bowling and become a batsman… I could play you blindfolded."

As it happened I had a handkerchief in my pocket. He put that over his horn-rimmed glasses and my second ball met the middle of his bat. When he had stopped laughing he proceeded to give me the best possible lesson on spin bowling. He talked about spinning on a trajectory just above the eye line of the batsman. 

Eighteen months later I was playing a Test match in India. The Nawab of Pataudi was facing, and while he was not smashing my bowling all over the park, he was clearly in control. I had to find a way to arrest the situation, so I thought of Grimmett and the necessity of getting the ball to dip acutely from just above the eye line.

It worked. The dipping flight fooled him to the extent that he wasn't sure exactly where the ball would bounce. Pataudi pushed forward in hope rather than conviction, and within four balls Ian Chappell had grabbed another bat-pad chance at forward short leg.

A spinner needs a plan to get wickets at the top level. Even a bad plan is better than no plan at all, but it is not about reinventing the wheel.

Grimmett had many a plan. He told me that he often saw the image of a batsman he was about to dismiss in his mind's eye. When the wicket fell, he was nonchalant, for this was the action replay. Nowadays visualisation is an official part of cricket coaching.

The key to spin bowling is how the ball arrives. If the ball is spun hard and the bowler gets lots of energy up and over his braced front leg, he will achieve a dipping flight path that starts just above the eye line and drops quickly.

Grimmett firmly believed, as does Shane Warne, that a batsman had to be deceived in the air. Warne's strategy at the start of a spell was to bowl his fiercely spun stock legbreak with subtle changes of pace. Similarly my idea was to stay in the attack. There is nothing worse for a bowler than to go for 10 or 12 runs in his first over. Psychologically you are then playing catch-up to make your figures look reasonable.

If a spinner doesn't plan he doesn't change his pace and thus does not break the rhythm of the batsman. It is crucial to a Test spin bowler's success that he attacks with subtle changes of pace

As an offspinner I found if my off-side field was in order the rest fell into place. My basic plan against a right-hander was to have the ball arriving in a dangerous manner: spin hard and drive up and over the braced front leg. And I wanted to lure the batsman into trying to hit to the off side, against the spin, to look at the huge gap between point and my very straight short cover. When a batsman hit against the spin and was done in flight, the spin would take the ball to the on side - a potential catch to bat-pad or short midwicket. Sometimes this plan doesn't work - the batsman might be clean-bowled, or if the ball skipped on straight, caught at slip, or it would cannon into his front pad for no result.  (Also a leg spinner's plan to a left hand batter)

If a spinner doesn't plan he doesn't change his pace and thus does not break the rhythm of the batsman. It is crucial to a Test spin bowler's success that he attacks with subtle changes of pace.
I had played 10 Test matches and taken 46 wickets when Bob Simpson, the former Australia opening batsman and Test captain, sidled up to me and said: "You need a straight one."

I eyeballed Bob and said that some of my offbreaks went dead straight and "they don't pick them". He went on to say that I needed a ball that, to all intent and purpose, looked as if it would turn from the off but would skip off straight. I could "bowl" what they call a doosra today, but when I played, offspinners did not have ICC carte blanche to throw the ball. I felt it was wrong to throw, so I discarded the whole thing.

In Tests a batsman is challenged by pace and spin. My aim was to take 100 Test wickets in 20 Tests. But I got there in my 23rd - the same as Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Garth McKenzie - after which circumstances changed. Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson joined forces, and man, you tried to grab a wicket anyhow while those two were on the hunt. My next 15 Tests brought little in way of wickets, but my experience helped me in a coaching sense. I knew how unloved and untried spinners felt.
Somehow the cricket world brought forth a bunch of national coaches who didn't know the difference between an offbreak and a toothpick. Some were celebrated ones, like South Africa's Bob Woolmer. His idea of combating spin was ludicrous. He had blokes trying to hit sixes against Shane Warne's legspin. As splendid as he was against any opposition, no wonder Warne excelled against Woolmer-coached sides.

It is amazing that all national sides pick ex-fast bowlers as their bowling coaches. At least in England, Andy Flower, easily the best coach in world cricket, recognises the role of the spin coach. Mushtaq Ahmed, the former Pakistan legspinner, teams with David Saker, the fast-bowling coach, to help the England bowlers.

For years Australia have floundered in the spin department. Troy Cooley, the bowling coach, is a fast-bowling man, not one for spin. Australia has suffered; a lot of the blame can be attributed to the stupid stuff going on at the so-called Centre of Excellence in Brisbane.

Australia have had three great spinners: Grimmett, Bill O'Reilly and Warne. If Grimmett had played 145 Tests, the same as Warne, he would have taken 870 wickets. Different eras, of course, but you get the idea of how good Grimmett was. However, the best offie I ever saw - by a mile - was the little Indian Erapalli Prasanna. Now there was a bowler.

Offspinner Ashley Mallett played 38 Tests for Australia

Saturday, 23 July 2011

I'm starting to think that the Left might actually be right

 Charles Moore in The Telegraph on 23/7/2011

It has taken me more than 30 years as a journalist to ask myself this question, but this week I find that I must: is the Left right after all? You see, one of the great arguments of the Left is that what the Right calls “the free market” is actually a set-up.

The rich run a global system that allows them to accumulate capital and pay the lowest possible price for labour. The freedom that results applies only to them. The many simply have to work harder, in conditions that grow ever more insecure, to enrich the few. Democratic politics, which purports to enrich the many, is actually in the pocket of those bankers, media barons and other moguls who run and own everything.

In the 1970s and 1980s, it was easy to refute this line of reasoning because it was obvious, particularly in Britain, that it was the trade unions that were holding people back. Bad jobs were protected and good ones could not be created. “Industrial action” did not mean producing goods and services that people wanted to buy, it meant going on strike. The most visible form of worker oppression was picketing. The most important thing about Arthur Scargill’s disastrous miners’ strike was that he always refused to hold a ballot on it.
A key symptom of popular disillusionment with the Left was the moment, in the late 1970s, when the circulation of Rupert Murdoch’s Thatcher-supporting Sun overtook that of the ever-Labour Daily Mirror. Working people wanted to throw off the chains that Karl Marx had claimed were shackling them – and join the bourgeoisie which he hated. Their analysis of their situation was essentially correct. The increasing prosperity and freedom of the ensuing 20 years proved them right.

But as we have surveyed the Murdoch scandal of the past fortnight, few could deny that it has revealed how an international company has bullied and bought its way to control of party leaderships, police forces and regulatory processes. David Cameron, escaping skilfully from the tight corner into which he had got himself, admitted as much. Mr Murdoch himself, like a tired old Godfather, told the House of Commons media committee on Tuesday that he was so often courted by prime ministers that he wished they would leave him alone.

The Left was right that the power of Rupert Murdoch had become an anti-social force. The Right (in which, for these purposes, one must include the New Labour of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown) was too slow to see this, partly because it confused populism and democracy. One of Mr Murdoch’s biggest arguments for getting what he wanted in the expansion of his multi-media empire was the backing of “our readers”. But the News of the World and the Sun went out of the way in recent years to give their readers far too little information to form political judgments. His papers were tools for his power, not for that of his readers. When they learnt at last the methods by which the News of the World operated, they withdrew their support.

It has surprised me to read fellow defenders of the free press saying how sad they are that the News of the World closed. In its stupidity, narrowness and cruelty, and in its methods, the paper was a disgrace to the free press. No one should ever have banned it, of course, but nor should anyone mourn its passing. It is rather as if supporters of parliamentary democracy were to lament the collapse of the BNP. It was a great day for newspapers when, 25 years ago, Mr Murdoch beat the print unions at Wapping, but much of what he chose to print on those presses has been a great disappointment to those of us who believe in free markets because they emancipate people. The Right has done itself harm by covering up for so much brutality.

The credit crunch has exposed a similar process of how emancipation can be hijacked. The greater freedom to borrow which began in the 1980s was good for most people. A society in which credit is very restricted is one in which new people cannot rise. How many small businesses could start or first homes be bought without a loan? But when loans become the means by which millions finance mere consumption, that is different.

And when the banks that look after our money take it away, lose it and then, because of government guarantee, are not punished themselves, something much worse happens. It turns out – as the Left always claims – that a system purporting to advance the many has been perverted in order to enrich the few. The global banking system is an adventure playground for the participants, complete with spongy, health-and-safety approved flooring so that they bounce when they fall off. The role of the rest of us is simply to pay.
This column’s mantra about the credit crunch is that Everything Is Different Now. One thing that is different is that people in general have lost faith in the free-market, Western, democratic order. They have not yet, thank God, transferred their faith, as they did in the 1930s, to totalitarianism. They merely feel gloomy and suspicious. But they ask the simple question, “What's in it for me?”, and they do not hear a good answer.
Last week, I happened to be in America, mainly in the company of intelligent conservatives. Their critique of President Obama’s astonishing spending and record-breaking deficits seemed right. But I was struck by how the optimistic message of the Reagan era has now become a shrill one. On Fox News (another Murdoch property, and one which, while I was there, did not breathe a word of his difficulties), Republicans lined up for hours to threaten to wreck the President’s attempt to raise the debt ceiling. They seemed to take for granted the underlying robustness of their country’s economic and political arrangements. This is a mistake. The greatest capitalist country in history is now dependent on other people’s capital to survive. In such circumstances, Western democracy starts to feel like a threatened luxury. We can wave banners about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, but they tend to say, in smaller print, “Made in China”.

As for the plight of the eurozone, this could have been designed by a Left-wing propagandist as a satire of how money-power works. A single currency is created. A single bank controls it. No democratic institution with any authority watches over it, and when the zone’s borrowings run into trouble, elected governments must submit to almost any indignity rather than let bankers get hurt. What about the workers? They must lose their jobs in Porto and Piraeus and Punchestown and Poggibonsi so that bankers in Frankfurt and bureaucrats in Brussels may sleep easily in their beds.

When we look at the Arab Spring, we tend complacently to tell ourselves that the people on the streets all want the freedom we have got. Well, our situation is certainly better than theirs. But I doubt if Western leadership looks to a protester in Tahrir Square as it did to someone knocking down the Berlin Wall in 1989. We are bust – both actually and morally.

One must always pray that conservatism will be saved, as has so often been the case in the past, by the stupidity of the Left. The Left’s blind faith in the state makes its remedies worse than useless. But the first step is to realise how much ground we have lost, and that there may not be much time left to make it up.

Friday, 22 July 2011

How many inquiries do we need?

8:50PM BST 21 Jul 2011

After the past three extraordinary weeks, do you know how many inquiries have now been spawned by the hacking scandal? The answer – unless I have missed some – is 13. As well as the Leveson inquiry, in two separate parts, there are: two criminal inquiries, Elveden and Weeting; two parliamentary inquiries, one now concluded, by the home affairs and media select committees; inquiries by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the Inspectorate of Constabulary; a probe by the former parliamentary watchdog Elizabeth Filkin into relationships between the police and the media; an inquiry by the Met’s directorate of professional standards; a News International internal inquiry; a Press Complaints Commission review; and, finally, my own personal favourite: an inquiry into how the Commons security authorities can best interdict future supplies of shaving foam. All British scandals tumble eventually into farce. What a tribute to the information age that this one is toying with it already.

On top of all this, there is talk of further action by the Metropolitan Police Authority, the London Assembly, the Serious Fraud Office and HM Revenue and Customs. And that is without the inquiries likely to begin in America. Soon, I predict, there will be more people investigating the News of the World than actually worked for it, and the only official bodies not scrutinising the despicable crimes of the rogue Murdoch regime will be the Drinking Water Inspectorate and the Care Council for Wales.
Yet as the scandal begins to cede the top slot on the news, I sense that more and more people are asking: has
this gone too far? Four days ago, as John Yates, the Met’s assistant commissioner, was forced to resign, even the crime correspondent of the Guardian, the paper whose admirable journalism and persistence opened the Augean stable doors, called the affair a “mad witch-hunt of a story” which had claimed “another decent copper”.

The danger of this extraordinary brood of inquiries is twofold. First, they crash against each other like dodgems in a rink. Witnesses are already refusing to answer questions because it might prejudice their case before other inquiries. Second, they will leave nobody in power or in the police with time to do their actual jobs – jobs that concern more important matters than phone hacking. John Yates ran Britain’s counter-terrorism effort, which has now been decapitated. Let us cross our fingers that no terror attack occurs while his successor is still learning the ropes.

Mr Yates, by his own admission, didn’t look carefully enough at the Guardian’s new allegations of hacking. But he did have the country to protect from al-Qaeda at the time. And as I watched him being attacked by that well-known pillar of virtue, Keith Vaz MP, as an “unconvincing” witness to Mr Vaz’s home affairs committee, I thought: I would rather have 50 John Yateses than one Keith Vaz.

Older readers may remember that while John Yates has been found guilty of nothing, Mr Vaz is the man who received one of the longest Commons suspensions on record – for actively obstructing, not just neglecting, an official investigation. On the day that Sir Paul Stephenson, Yates’s boss, resigned as Met commissioner after taking free stays at the Champneys health spa from a friend, Stephen Purdew, Mr Vaz appeared on television to praise Sir Paul for “accepting responsibility”. Mr Vaz neglected to mention that he, too, is a personal friend of Mr Purdew’s, attended his wedding, endorsed one of his other spas and has himself stayed at Champneys.

Throughout the crisis, too, a certain Alastair Campbell has been touring the television studios in his exciting new role as an apostle of truth and enemy of Rupert Murdoch. Mr Campbell has provided much amusement for politicians and journalists – but has the poor man not even an atom of self-awareness?

Last week, almost entirely unnoticed amid the Dresden-like firestorm, there emerged perhaps the most significant evidence yet about an earlier phase of Mr Campbell’s career. The Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war published the testimony of a senior MI6 officer that “there were from the outset concerns” in the intelligence service about “the extent to which the intelligence could support some of the judgments that were being made” in Tony Blair’s famous WMD dossier. Note those words: from the outset.

What that shows us is not just that our worst fears over the dossier were correct. It also shows just how misplaced may be our hopes in the current slew of hacking inquiries. Over Iraq, there were a mere five inquiries – none, interestingly, operating under oath, though the hacking inquiry will. Clearly, the lies and misjudgments that caused the deaths of 150,000 people are not quite as serious a matter as journalists intercepting voicemails.

But the striking fact is that despite all those inquiries, last week’s potentially conclusive piece of evidence has only just come out – nine years after the dossier was published. We hoped that earlier inquiries would yield the truth about Iraq and punish those responsible. Broadly, they did not. They did reveal a great deal of valuable information but in their own findings, the inquiries glossed over that evidence, and held back from the conclusions it warranted.

Nor is that in any way unusual. Of course, some much-anticipated judicial inquiries do achieve what is widely accepted as justice. But many others have been, by consensus unsatisfactory – Lord Devlin’s 1950s inquiry into British massacres of the Mau Mau; Lord Denning on Profumo; Widgery into Bloody Sunday; Scott on arms-to-Iraq; and Hutton.

Still others, while less controversial at the time, have proved damaging: the last big inquiry into the police, Lord Macpherson’s into the death of Stephen Lawrence, wielded too broad a brush, painting the entire Met as institutionally racist. The destabilising effect of Macpherson’s judgment on force morale, and therefore on crime, was considerable. And inquiries can cost enormous amounts of money. The second inquiry into Bloody Sunday, by Lord Saville, lasted 12½ years and cost almost £200 million.

Inquiries do, of course, go down paths that can be deeply uncomfortable for everyone, government included. But broadly, each of these inquiries found more or less what the governments who set them up wanted them to find – that no one was wrongly killed on Bloody Sunday, that the Iraq intelligence had not been misrepresented, that the Met was insufficiently progressive and needed a kicking.

The various Iraq inquiries were additionally used by the Blair government, and its supporters, as ways of attacking its enemies. As a witness in them myself, and watching the grilling of my source, David Kelly, I developed a particularly low opinion of the partisan hectoring of the foreign affairs committee, under its Labour loyalist chairman Donald Anderson (a worthy predecessor of Keith Vaz).

It is quite clear what the Government wants this inquiry to find. Though press, police and politicians are almost equally at fault, Lord Leveson’s remit is simply to “inquire into the culture, practices, and ethics of the press”. Leveson has also been asked to investigate the “relationships between national newspapers and politicians”. But several anti-hacking campaigners and the lawyer for Milly Dowler’s family protest that there is no mention of officials and special advisers such as Andy Coulson and Alastair Campbell.

Leveson’s first task is to “make recommendations for a new, more effective policy and regulatory regime” on the press: in other words, how they should be forced to behave. As far as the police and politicians are concerned, however, he will only make recommendations for their “future conduct” – how they should merely be asked to behave.

Yet hacking was not a failure of press regulation. There already is a rather strong regulation against hacking people’s telephones – the law. And no future press regulator, however strong, could possibly have the power to kick down doors at newspapers, seize emails and question journalists under caution. Those are police powers – powers which the police had, but refused to exercise.

Over virtually every issue that judges have inquired into, it was the media that got more of the facts, more quickly, than any Lord Justice. Now, however, with regulation coming and the likes of Keith Vaz in the driving seat, getting the facts will be harder. Not for nothing is the phrase “judge-led inquiry” one of the scariest in the language.

So you thought Britain wasn't corrupt?

Mary Dejevsky:

Two of the most deep-rooted maladies of British society are freebies among friends and jobs for the boys
Friday, 22 July 2011 The Independent

Anyone who had expected to drowse through the Home Secretary's Commons statement on the Metropolitan Police might have awoken with a start when she began with "allegations about police corruption". It was the flat, almost casual, way in which Theresa May appeared to accept at least the possibility, that surprised and the use of the actual words "police corruption". She went on to announce a review of "instances of undue influence, inappropriate contractual arrangements and other abuses of power in police relationships..."

The reason this bald catalogue shocks is that Britain has long projected an image of itself as a paragon of good governance and the rule of law, to the point where experts on such matters earn a good living advising other countries how to emulate our standards. It also happens to be an image that the vast majority of its citizens share. We regard ourselves as mercifully free of the sort of corruption that blights the lives of, say, Nigerians, Egyptians or Russians, and a cut above most southern Europeans.

That may be how we see ourselves, but it is not quite how others see us. Transparency International, an independent organisation which monitors this sort of thing, places the UK 20th in its latest (2010) corruption perception index. Overall, this may not look so bad – 178 countries are listed. Look closer, though, and you will see that the UK comes well below all the Nordic countries, below Luxembourg, Ireland and Germany, and just below the small Gulf state of Qatar. It is only marginally ahead of the United States, France and Spain. Is this where Britain should be – in 20th place, and falling?

Corruption, of course, takes many forms. In some countries, bribery is so prevalent as to be tantamount to a tax. Indeed, a theory has recently been advanced that this is how it should be regarded and that it is perhaps not so reprehensible after all. In others, an unofficial tariff – ranging from a box of chocolates to a luxury holiday – dictates access to the best educational establishments, the best hospitals, the best flats. In yet other countries which would not generally be regarded as particularly corrupt, contributions to political parties constitute a perennially murky area in which even otherwise distinguished politicians have come to grief, such as the former German chancellor Helmut Kohl. You might argue that the US system of lobbying is a form of legalised corruption.

Generally, these are not ills that afflict the UK. If you live here, you can probably be fairly confident that you will not have to offer teachers a backhander for admitting your child or ensuring a decent grade. (Although I have heard tell of quite lavish gifts offered.) You will not have to pay a doctor for decent NHS treatment or a fast track up the transplant waiting list. (Although, again, there is apocrypha that hints at exceptions, and it was once intimated to me that a consideration might keep my husband classified as a UK resident when we were living abroad, so that he would still qualify for expensive drugs on the NHS.)

And you probably won't find a speed cop or parking warden suggesting that a small transaction "between us" would "fix it" before he writes out the ticket, or a frontline immigration officer nodding through someone with some crisp banknotes, but no visa, in his passport. Or election officers stuffing ballot-boxes after the polls have closed.

But you will find ways in which Britain falls very far short of Scandinavian-level probity; areas where complacency has meant a blind eye is turned to abuses, and grey zones where transactions take place that are not actually illegal, but which would – and should – embarrass one or both parties if they became public.
Several such instances emerged earlier this week when the Commons Home Affairs Committee questioned the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Paul Stephenson, and the Assistant Commissioner, John Yates – both of whom had just resigned – as well as the head of public affairs, Dick Fedorcio. The most blatant was Sir Paul's acceptance of hospitality from Champney's health farm.

The commissioner may have been recovering from very serious illness (as he was), he may have declared the gift in the register as required (which he said he did on his return to work), and the owner of Champney's may have been a family friend (though it is unclear how close). But the value of this gift – around half the average Briton's annual pre-tax salary – and Sir Paul's apparent inability to understand that accepting it sat uneasily with his position as the country's most senior police officer on a salary of more than £250,000, suggests a blind spot. It left the impression that there was one law, and one set of subsidised living standards, for the well connected, and another for everyone else.

Something similar applied when it came to the hiring of Neil Wallis, former deputy editor of the News of the World, as a media consultant. Despite some close questioning – notably from two sparky new female Tory MPs, Nicola Blackwood and Louise Mensch – there was precious little clarity about how Wallis actually got the job. Between the lines, however, it could be deduced that there was no open advertisement, no standard recruitment procedure, no formal interview and no public disclosure of the appointment. This was a public-sector, tax-payer funded position, yet contacts and networks appear to have been all.

What we have here are two of the most deep-rooted maladies of British society: freebies among friends and jobs for the boys. And there will be many who shrug and say that this is just how the country works. Yet these ingrained ways of doing things are part of the reason why the UK comes below Finland, Australia and Canada in TI's corruption perception index. They are also a reason, along with our segregated schools, why social mobility in Britain is so relatively poor. Advantage compounds advantage.

At root, much of the disparities come down to information and the way so much is still kept from "prying" eyes. The UK-based American journalist Heather Brooke, who has made opening up what she calls Britain's "information cartel" something of a personal crusade and whose work led to the publication of MPs' expenses, notes that records available to US journalists as a matter of course are "off-limits" here, where access to information "depends on one's wealth, power or privilege". She is right – yet the responses, when she argues this, are not all approving. Some accept that it was ever thus; others accuse her of poking her nose into places it does not belong.

Nor has the Freedom of Information Act so far brought the transformation it should have done. Quite basic information still has to be applied for. This government's efforts to open up details of department and local council spending are laudable, but there has hardly been a rush to comply. Until our patronage system is tackled, British boasts of incorruptibility will remain boasts – discredited by our 20th place on the global corruption index and our continuing fall, as those below us move to clean up their act.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

On Test Cricket

Ave Test cricket

Many premature reports of its death later, the five-day game still stands, a byword for excellence in an era that encourages, and even worships, mass mediocrity
June 21, 2011

Say what? You start about 11am and go till around 6pm, right? Why? Oh, never mind…
You break for lunch? And for afternoon tea? You play in the open air, so that rain and darkness can ruin everything? And you play for five days and still might not get a result?
Look, no offence, fella, but it will never catch on. You have to understand: we're too time poor, we're too attention-challenged, there aren't enough sixes, there isn't enough colour, you can't squeeze it into a tweet. I think you have to face it: sports marketing isn't for you. Have you considered a career weaving baskets?
The Test match, eh? Not even Lalit Modi could sell it. Fortunately he doesn't have to. Here we stand on the brink of the 2000th, and frankly the prospect could hardly be more mouth-watering. Tendulkar at Lord's? No dancing girls required here; no cricketainment necessary.
Cricket spaced 803 Tests over its first century, meaning that 1197 have been shoehorned into the 34 years since, despite more than 3100 one-day internationals having been wedged in over the same period. But there don't seem too many Tests; arguably there are too few, even if this is probably better than a surfeit.
Not everything is rosy in the garden, of course. During their recent series in the Caribbean, West Indies and Pakistan looked like schoolboys trying to solve differential equations by counting on their fingers, so technically and temperamentally ill-suited were they to the rigours of five-day cricket. But the essence of a Test is that some must fail. Identifying inadequacy helps us recognise excellence.
In an age in which it has been deemed obsolete countless times, the Test match somehow sails on, not so much a mighty ship of state any more as a reconditioned windjammer - not the fastest thing around, but somehow the lovelier for that. Administrators busily infatuated with cricketainment have rather neglected it of late - no bad thing, really, given the damage administrators do without trying.
Players, praise be, still value it. You could feel the joy in England's cricket this last Australian summer. You could see a couple of weeks ago how much runs at Lord's mattered to Tillakaratne Dilshan. And some days just sweep you away, like the last in Cardiff, where four days of slumber preluded a fifth of nightmares. Test matches do loudquietloud better than the Pixies.
Test matches survived a nasty brush with malpractice last year, better than seemed possible at the time; India's No. 1 status has been a boon for interest and relevance; Australia's decline probably has, too, in addition to representing a stern cautionary tale, a punishment for hubris. For what a falling-off is here. England might have invented cricket, but it was Australia that more or less invented the Test match, as a literal "test" of its prowess, as an expression of rivalry and fealty. 
The origins of Test cricket lie in the primordial ooze that was early Anglo-Australian competition. There was then no structure, no schedule, no over-arching organising body - just an interest in settling who was better, and let it be said, making a few quid. The Marylebone Cricket Club would not come along with its ideas of fostering the bonds of empire until early in the 20th century; likewise there was no notion of providing for the rest of the game out of the profits on Test matches until the advent of the Australian Board of Control for International Cricket in 1905. The first 30 years of Test cricket are in the main the work of private entrepreneurs, jobbing professionals and local officials, all busily making up the rules as they went along.
The edge in competition mattered to the English, but to Australians it always mattered that little bit more. So it is that cricket owes an unacknowledged debt to the Adelaide sports journalist Clarence Moody, who wrote under the pseudonym "Point" in the South Australian Register. As a kind of five-finger exercise, Moody set out in a section of his book South Australian Cricket (1898) a list of what he regarded as the "Test matches" played to that time. Moody was hard to impress. He must have been tempted, out of national pride, to instate Australia's 1878 defeat of MCC at Lord's, honouring Spofforth's 10 wickets for 20, but on Australia's inaugural tour of England he decided that no Tests had been played; nor would he recognise the games played against "Combined XIs" by the rival English touring teams of 1887-88. Perhaps because he was so discriminate, and also in the absence of anything better, the list became canonical.
The other aid in the propagation of the Test match was, strange to say in an era that regards it as staid and unchanging, its pliability. Draw what inferences you will about the national characteristics they reflect, but the English preferred their Test matches to last three days, in order to minimise interference with the County Championship, while Australians insisted on a result, and cared not how long it took to obtain. All cricket down under was timeless, in fact: the first Test of the 1886-87 series, for example, actually began at 1.45pm after the completion earlier that day of the Victoria-New South Wales intercolonial match. When Sydney's gift to Somerset, Sammy Woods, originated his oft-quoted mot about draw(er)s being useful only for bathing, he was expressing a national, not just a personal, partiality.
The Test match resisted standardisation, furthermore, well into its evolution. Only after more than a century was the five-day format made entirely uniform; only in the last quarter-century have 90 overs in a day been the enforced minimum. And while ICC playing conditions make certain stipulations about arena dimensions, cricket in general has unconsciously preserved a pre-modern variety in the specifications of its grounds - a reminder of cricket's bucolic origins that Test cricket in its unregulated early development helped preserve.
Well established after half a century - no, nothing about this game happens in a hurry - Test cricket then took its other seminal step. Two Imperial Cricket Conferences at Lord's in 1926 agreed to England's exchange of visits with West Indies, New Zealand and India - a remarkable, seemingly unconscious expansion of the game on the stroke of a pen and a handshake or two. Had the step been contemplated twice, it may not have happened; as it was, cricket began an imperceptibly slow tilt from its Anglo-Australian axis. 
What is sometimes ignored in the modern relativist custom of embracing cricket's "three forms", in fact, is that cricket owes the Test match everything. The one-day international was born into the global estate Test cricket created, like an heir with all the advantages; Twenty20 has come along in the last five years like the proverbial third-generation thickhead with a silver spoon sense of entitlement, good for nothing but money. Its future, moreover, will depend on the degree to which cricket can be preserved as something other than a scam for sharkskin-suited spivs and third-rate politicians.
One of the several ways in which cricket has been turned topsy-turvy in recent times is that after a hundred and more years as a bastion of conservatism, the sanctum sanctorum of the establishment, the Test match is the rebel game: uncompromising, unpredictable, ineffably appealing, immutably long, difficult to understand, resistant to commodification, and apparently unfriendly to the young, or at least to the condescending conception of the young as too dumb for anything but the bleeding obvious.
Here it stands, plumb in the way of the marketers and money men who see their role as sucking up to people who don't like cricket, and quite probably never will. Here it stands, relentless in its demands on players for excellence in an era that encourages, and even worships, mass mediocrity. Here it stands, kept alive by a love of the game that can't be bought, or feigned, or mimicked, or manufactured. Want to be the man? Want to fight the power? Celebrate Test cricket.
Gideon Haigh is a cricket historian and writer
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Test cricket - a primal contest

The primal contest

The game's essential match-up, of batsman against bowler, finds its best expression in Test cricket

Cricket is a contest between bat and ball, a struggle that reaches its highest form in the Test arena. In most games the players are attempting the same skills and the result depends on the quality of the execution. Boxers and tennis players land the same sorts of blows, play the same type of shots. In cricket, as in baseball, the teams have the same aim but the process involves a primeval battle between batsman and bowler.
It is a confrontation between prey and predator, collector and hunter, reason and fury. Both sides strive with every power at their disposal to emerge triumphant. At first the bowler presses for a quick kill, for he knows his opponent is at his most vulnerable before he has settled. If the batsman survives his period of reconnoitering, his opponent might change his strategy, play a waiting game, set a trap, seek an opening, probe for weakness, mental or technical, or else invite his rival to reach too far. Victory alone matters and it can be attained by means slow or swift, fair or foul.
For his part the batsman strives to calm his nerves and become accustomed to light and pitch and ball. He tries to take his time and to give no hint of shakiness, even as the elephants dance in his belly. Most likely he will endeavour to play a tried and trusted game honed over the years. Every innings is different, though, and no bowler is quite the same, so the willow wielder needs to have his wits about him.
The attack might include a tearaway, a crafty veteran, an innocent-looking swinger, a mean fingerspinner, and a wristy one, capable of giving both ball and bottle a fearful rip. By and large all of them will fulfill their caricature. At the lower levels the aged chap is the one to watch. Bowlers learn a thing or two as they go along. Hence the saying, "Never underestimate a grey-haired bowler."
Not that a fellow ever learns that lesson. One of the delights of cricket is that even experienced and supposedly intelligent players keep making the same mistakes and keep berating themselves with the same curses. Pitted against a touring Australian side not so long ago, I managed to survive the opening onslaught and then licked my lips as the ball was thrown to a creaking purveyor of slow curlers. Too late I realised that the accursed pensioner was not as guileless as he seemed, and that his deliveries were not so much easy meat as poisoned chalice. By then the trudge back to that place of eternal wisdom and endless regret, the dressing room, was well underway.
Ordinarily the batsman will begin to widen his range of shots once established at the crease. It is not always a conscious decision. As often as not, the change of tempo happens of its own accord. Confidence, a tiring attack and frustration can combine to hasten the flow of runs. Unless the field is pushed back, innings advance in fits and starts. Placement, too, is less common than supposed. Batsmen might manoeuvre the ball into a gap or loft into empty spaces, but piercing the field with a full-blooded shot usually depends as much on luck as skill. 
Of course batsmen and bowlers sometimes switch sides. Then the batsman becomes the predator, attacking from the outset and so changing the course of the contest. Even opening batsmen have become audacious. Previously the movement of the ball and a wider insecurity caused by Depressions and wars dampened ardour. Charlie Macartney, an incorrigible Australian (that might be repetitive), was an exception. By his reckoning an opener ought to dispatch a drive back at the bowler's head at the first opportunity, thereby informing him that he was in for a proper scrap. Nowadays the spread of briefer formats, the dryness of the pitches and the mood of the era encourage early attempts to seize the initiative.
Test cricket provides the opportunity for every player to express his talents to the utmost. Whereas the one-day game, to some degree, dictates terms to those taking part, limiting their overs, reducing their time at the crease, influencing field placements and bowling changes, a five-day match is as liberating as it is daunting.
Unsurprisingly the most compelling exchanges between bat and ball take place in the Test arena. Here the greatest players of the era are given the chance to try their luck against their equivalents, and the freedom to score 200 or a duck, take 10 wickets or concede a stack of runs without reward.
Bowlers, especially, relish the opportunity to prove their worth. At last they can set their own fields anyhow - so long as they don't copy Douglas Jardine - and bowl as many overs as captain and body allow. Inevitably the leading practitioners have produced their best work in this environment, constructing dazzling, tormenting spells that linger as long in the memory as the brilliant innings played by their temporary foes. Along the way they have reminded observers that bowling can be as rewarding as batting, and a lot more destructive.
Every cricket enthusiast will recall occasions when bowlers surpassed themselves. Michael Holding's stint at The Oval in 1976 was unforgettable. At once he was graceful and mesmerising, not so much running to the crease as gliding to it. Head upright, shoulders swaying slightly, toes barely touching the grass, he gathered himself at delivery and without apparent effort sent down thunderbolts that contained the charm of the antelope and the wrath of a vengeful god. Stumps kept toppling over like skittles and shaken batsmen came and went, knowing they had been undone by an irresistible force.
Richard Hadlee's performance in Brisbane was more surgical than stunning. Operating off a seasoned run, summoning formidable expertise, cutting the ball around off a track that helped him a little and others not at all, he worked his way through the local order. Even by his precise standards it was a tour de force. Like so many of the best spells, too, the wicket-taking deliveries were defined not so much by their deadliness as by the company they kept. Superb batsmen were harried and humiliated into error. The Kiwi did not bruise a single body but he damaged many egos.
Wasim Akram's virtuoso display at the MCG stands out because he had the ball upon a string, made it bend both ways at a scintillating pace and left accomplished batsmen gasping and groping. It's hard enough countering a bowler sending them down at 90mph and swinging it in one direction. When they start moving it both ways, it's downright unfair. Wasim streamed to the crease and with a gleam more mischievous than menacing, produced an astonishing spell. 
Malcolm Marshall's most remarkable contribution came on a slow pitch at the SCG. West Indies had already won the series, and some suspected that the track had been prepared for the home spinners. Certainly West Indies were below their best. Amongst the flingers only Marshall rose to the challenge. Shortening his run, adjusting his length, he transformed himself from fearsome fast bowler to relentless, precise, probing swinger. And he kept at it for two days, even as the Australians piled on the runs. It was a thrilling, stunning piece of controlled, resourceful, pace bowling.
Among the modern masters, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne stand apart. McGrath looked like a hillbilly and bowled like a scientist. He was consistent and accurate, controlled and masterful, nagging away, securing extra bounce and movement, relying on skill alone to remove batsmen. He worked his way through an order as a rodent does a hunk of cheese, constantly nibbling, taking it piece by piece. If Lord's, with its inviting slope and disconcerting ridge witnessed his deadliest spells, it was because it suited him better than any other surface. But McGrath's greatness was most clearly revealed in his hat-trick taken in Perth against West Indies. His dismissals of Sherwin Campbell, Brian Lara and Jimmy Adams were notable for the precision of his analysis, the coldness of the execution, and the degree of craft required and revealed in the space of three balls. McGrath's combination included a perfectly pitched outswinger to an opening batsman inclined to hang back, a cutter landing on the sticks that drew a worried response from a gifted left-hander, and a bumper that rose at the shoulder of a tormented captain. Every delivery was inch perfect.
Warne's stature was revealed in his first and final contributions to Ashes series in England. His genius was shown by that very first delivery, to Mike Gatting, even as his character was confirmed by the fact that he dared to try his hardest-spun and least reliable offering. Twelve years later he was back in the old dart and trying to win an Ashes series off his own back. His performance in claiming 40 scalps in that ill-fated campaign stands alongside any contribution from any spinner in the history of the game. Although his powers were in decline, Warne's mind remained sharp, his determination was unwavering and his stamina superb. It was an unyielding, magnificent performance from a sportsman blessed with artistry, audacity, grit and bluff.
Of course many other great bowlers and bowling feats could be mentioned. The sight of Jeff Thomson unleashing another thunderbolt, Bishan Bedi lulling opponents to their doom, Murali spinning the ball at right angles in his early years, Waqar changing games with his sudden sandshoe crushers, Mike Procter in full flight, Derek Underwood landing it on a threepenny, and so many others pass easily into the mists of time.
That bowling has a beauty of its own is proven by these expert practitioners. They were as big a draw card as any batsman. The buzz that went around grounds as Warne marked out his run, the hush as the fast bowler stood at the top of his run, reinforces the point. Test cricket brings out the best in batsmen and bowlers alike, allows the game to reach its highest point. Confrontations between the giants - Lillee and Richards, Marshall and Gavaskar, Warne and Tendulkar - can be as exhilarating and satisfying. Then spectators and players remember what it was that that drew them to the game in the first place, and why they remain somewhat under its spell.
Peter Roebuck is a former captain of Somerset and the author, most recently, of In It to Win It
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