Friday, 30 September 2016

Why you need to count time, not money

by Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian

Should you choose time over money, or money over time? This is one of those so-called dilemmas of happiness that isn’t really a dilemma at all, because the answer’s so painfully obvious. Circumstances might oblige you to choose money over time. But if you truly, ultimately value a large bank balance over meaningful experiences, you’re what’s known in the psychological literature as a doofus. Money, after all, is just an instrument for obtaining other things, including time – whereas time is all we’ve got. And to make matters worse, you can’t save it up: if money worked like time, every new deposit into your account would be immediately eliminated by a transaction fee of exactly the same size. However much you hate your bank, it’s surely not that bad.

And yet we do choose money over time, again and again, even when basic material wellbeing doesn’t demand it. Partly, no doubt, that’s because even well-off people fear future poverty. But it’s also because the time/money trade-off rarely presents itself in simple ways. Suppose you’re offered a better-paid job that requires a longer commute (more money in return for less time); but then again, that extra cash could lead to more or better time in future, in the form of nicer holidays, or a more secure retirement. Which choice prioritises time, and which money? It’s hard to say.

Thankfully, a new study sheds a little light on the matter. The researchers Hal Hershfield, Cassie Mogilner and Uri Barnea surveyed more than 4,000 Americans to determine whether they valued time or money more, and how happy they were. A clear majority, 64%, preferred money – but those who valued time were happier. Nor was it only those rich enough to not stress about money who preferred time: after they controlled for income, the effect remained. Older people, married people and parents were more likely to value time, which makes sense: older people have less time left, while those with spouses and kids presumably either cherish time with them, or feel they steal all their time. Or both.

The crucial finding here is that it’s not having more time that makes you happier, but valuing it more. Economists continue to argue about whether money buys happiness – but few doubt that being comfortably off is more pleasant than struggling to make ends meet. This study makes a different point: it implies that even if you’re scraping by, and thus forced to focus on money, you’ll be happier if deep down you know it’s time that’s most important.

It also contains ironic good news for those of us who feel basically secure, moneywise, but horribly pushed for time. If you strongly wish you had more time, as I do, who could accuse you of not valuing it? At least my craving for more time shows that my priorities are in order, and maybe that means I’ll savour any spare time I do get. We talk about scarce time like it’s a bad thing. But scarcity’s what makes us treat things as precious, too.

In his victory speech Jeremy Corbyn spelled out exactly why the establishment hates him so much

Youssef El Gingihy in The Independent

Jeremy Corbyn's conference speech yesterday underlined exactly why he has been subjected to a ferocious smear campaign. We have heard an endless catalogue of critiques: That Corbyn lacks leadership; that he is not electable; that Labour has become a protest party infiltrated by the far left. Yet the real reason behind these attacks is that Corbyn is a clear and present danger to powerful, vested interests.

For the first time in a generation, a Labour leader is truly challenging the cosy political consensus extending through the Thatcher-Blair-Cameron axis. The policies taking shape represent a clean break from several decades of deregulated free market economics.

Corbyn has positioned Labour as an anti-austerity party. He emphasised that the financial sector caused the 2008 crisis not public spending. This is important as Miliband and Balls mystifyingly failed to make this argument. One can only surmise that they were eager not to offend the City of London.

Corbyn promised to reverse privatisation of public services. This would mean renationalisation of the railways. It would mean restoring a public NHS reversing its privatisation and conversion into a private health insurance system.

It would mean an end to the outsourcing of council services. It would mean returning public services into public hands. And none of this is radical. Polling shows the majority of the public, including Conservative voters, is in favour.

It is no surprise that Richard Branson and Virgin seemingly used Traingate in an attempt to discredit Corbyn. Virgin would stand to lose billions in contracts if such policies went ahead. As would many other corporate interests - the likes of Serco, G4S, Capita and Unitedhealth to name a few.

Corbyn promised Labour will build enough social housing and regulate the housing market. Again, property developers, investors and construction firms would stand to lose from the restoration of housing as a social good rather than a financial instrument.

Corbyn vowed that bankers and financial speculators cannot be allowed to wreak havoc again. Regulation of the financial sector will have the City running scared - the party may well be truly over for them. Deregulated finance has resulted in industrial scale corruption profiting a tiny elite at the expense of ordinary people. This was evident not only during the crash but in the raft of scandals since, including LIBOR and PPI.

Corbyn added that the wealthy must pay their fair share of taxes. Labour would take effective steps to end tax avoidance and evasion. This would need to start with winding down the offshore empire much of which comes under the influence of the UK and the City of London.

Corbyn highlighted the grotesque inequalities driven by neoliberalism. The result has seen millions of ordinary people abandoned by a system that does not work for them. Here, Corbyn again broke with the consensus pointing out that immigration is not to blame. Scapegoating of migrants is convenient for elites keen to distract from the damage that they are causing. Corbyn emphasised that it is exploitative corporations, which are to blame for low wages not migrants. Over-stretched public services are down to Conservative cuts not immigration. However, after years of xenophobic anti-migrant rhetoric, winning this argument will require plenty of hard work.

On the economy, Corbyn promised investment with £500bn of public spending and a national investment bank. He also promised investment in research and development, education and skilling up of the workforce.

Yet none of this is especially controversial. Much of it is increasingly accepted as common sense amongst economists.

It is Corbyn's reset on foreign policy, which is truly intolerable for the establishment.

Corbyn spoke of a peaceful and just foreign policy. There would be no more imperial wars destroying the lives of millions; generating terrorism and migration crises. Arms sales to countries committing war crimes would be banned starting with Saudi Arabia. This will have set alarm bells ringing amongst the nexus of intelligence agencies, defence contractors and corporates. Corbyn is directly challenging the Atlanticist relationship paramount to the US-UK establishment and its global hegemony, particularly in the Middle East.

It is no surprise that the Conservatives and their mainstream media cheerleaders have therefore attacked Corbyn. The most damaging attacks, though, have come from his parliamentary party. The process of disentangling from the New Labour machine captured by corporate interests may still generate more damage.

As Corbyn and McDonnell have both made abundantly clear, socialism is no longer a dirty word. Corbyn's Labour - the largest party in Western Europe - is powering forward with a vision of forward-looking 21st century socialism.

The Labour plotters are right: it‘s definitely Jeremy Corbyn who needs to ‘learn lessons’ from the last few months

Mark Steel in The Independent

Well, that was a highly successful three-month campaign to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn. There’s nothing like spending all summer on a project that proves worthwhile and repays the effort.

If Angela Eagle and Owen Smith were generals in a medieval army, they would report back to their commander: “We fired incessantly for three months and have brought such damage to our opponent’s army they now have 100,000 more soldiers than when we started, sir. And I’m not sure how, but although we’re fighting in Belgium, we seem to have given them Wales.”

Corbyn should ask them to do it every year; by 2025 he’d be crowned King of Europe.

Even more impressive was the way the plotters all agreed, after the result, that “this shows the lessons Jeremy needs to learn, and he has to reach out”.

Next they’ll ask Owen Smith to fight Tyson Fury, and as Owen is dragged away by paramedics, Stephen Kinnock will announce: “This shows the lessons Tyson has to learn. From now on he needs to look more skinny and wear glasses and reach out if he knows what’s good for him”.

This is an exciting development in democracy, that the side who won the least number of votes decides what the lessons are that have to be learned. Maybe this is how the anti-Corbyn section of Labour hopes to govern after a general election. They’ll say to the Tories: “As you won a majority of 190, you have to learn to reach out and fill your cabinet with me and my mates”.

Even so, the plotters made an important point: that Corbyn must reach out to those who already tried to unite the party by calling him a moronic pitiful unelectable pile of steaming goat sick for the last year.

Instead of being divisive, as he was last time by offering them jobs in the shadow Cabinet from which they resigned, he should let them pick their own jobs, and if they don’t fancy doing them one day, let them bring in games.

All the plotters agreed on the need for unity, and many of them displayed that straight away by not turning up to Corbyn’s speech. But Corbyn himself ruined the unity by turning up to it himself, rather than uniting with his colleagues by saying he couldn’t be bothered to say anything so he was popping down the pub.

Some MPs will soon resume their commitment to unity by insisting Corbyn is hopeless, on every TV station, one by one through the news channels, the cartoon channels and the GOD channels. Then on a porn channel, John Mann will knock on a door to say: “Hope you’ll be voting Labour in the council by-election”. But a woman in rubber will reply: “I certainly won’t be voting for you”, so he’ll say: “I suppose that’s because we’ve been very, very bad and chosen an unelectable leader”, then lay down and scream: “We’ve been so irresponsible by saying we’ll renationalise the Royal Mail!” while getting thrashed on the arse with an egg whisk.

Others will prove their loyalty as they did before, by texting helpful snippets of information to journalists from meetings, such as: “OMG! Apparently Corbyn wants to abolish the army and replace it with a salad”.

The other demand from the side celebrating its achievement of getting fewer votes than someone they say is unelectable is there can be no threats of deselection. There should be no half measures with this; if Jess Phillips announces: “I’d rather vote for Donald Trump than Corbyn, that’s why I broke into his house and poisoned his fish”, that’s her right as a loyal party member and any talk of deselection would be divisive.

The next issue Corbyn must address now he’s been humbled by winning the election is the problem of all these new members. For example, an investigation into Liverpool Riverside complains there has been “an explosion in membership” which now “meets several times a month”.

That sounds sinister, because when has there ever been any need to do two things in a month?

And what are they all doing, joining like that? No wonder proper Labour members are suspicious. They should have to pass a test, clambering across an assault course, or swimming through piranhas.

As any business leader will confirm, there’s nothing more damaging to an enterprise than an explosion in people demanding your product. This is why Bill Gates always insists, when a new version of Microsoft Windows comes out, that anyone who asks for one is told they can’t have it as they’re almost certainly a member of the Workers Revolutionary Party.

One MP grumbled: “It’s all right these new people joining, but will they go knocking on doors at the election?” We can’t know the answer to that, which is why the best way to ensure they’re enthusiastic enough to knock on doors is to tell them they’re all infiltrating scum and they can sod off somewhere else with their several meetings a month.

If they still join, they should have to prove their loyalty by not only knocking on doors, but when someone answers, say: “Our leader’s unelectable so I don’t know why I’m bothering”.

But most importantly, not one of the plotters has fallen into the trap of accepting they may have made the odd mistake, and perhaps shouldn’t have all resigned to get rid of their elected leader, or whined too many people have joined their party, or gone to court to ban their own voters, or insisted people supported Corbyn because they’d had their arm twisted by Trotskyists, because it’s obviously Corbyn that needs to learn the lessons from the result.

The biggest benefit of Brexit might be the economic hit we take

If the City of London were to take a hit and the economy were to suffer as a result – which, as a Remainer and a Europhile, I tend to think it will – there is an argument to be made that the UK would actually be all the healthier for it.

Mary Dejevsky in The Independent

One of the messages declaimed most loudly by the Remain campaign before the UK referendum was a warning that Brexit would spell disaster for the City of London and the financial services that were now this country’s economic lifeblood. That message was also one of the most ill-judged of any during the whole campaign. Yet it seems that neither side has still quite got the point.

After denouncing what they branded “Project Fear”, victorious Brexiteers are now exulting in figures that supposedly show everything in the economic garden to be lovely. There you are, they say, the Remainers were just scaremongering, as we said all along. There is nothing to worry about in going it alone; indeed, if anything, the UK will benefit. They cite an upturn in consumer spending, no serious fall in house prices, no flight of the brightest and best, and no real uptick in inflation.

The Remainers for their part insist that the shocks are already creeping up on us and the worst is yet to come. The de facto devaluation in sterling may be helping exports and bolstering share prices, but it has already increased the cost of most foreign holidays, and higher prices of most imports will start to come through just as winter sets in. Any impression of economic strength, they go on, is mainly illusory, reflecting the effect of devaluation on the stock market and the Bank of England’s pre-emptive cut in interest rates. Only when the Government finally gets around to invoking Article 50, they maintain, so triggering the withdrawal process irrevocably, will the economic fallout really start to be felt.

This bickering over the economy, however – its talking up by one side and talking down by the other – is not only premature in the extreme, but misses one simple point. When the former Chancellor, George Osborne, and his friends in the City spread doom and gloom about the future of the city should Leave prevail, the response in many quarters was not entirely as they had scripted. Yes, there were some howls of empathetic anguish, but there were also shouts of hooray – some articulated, many not.

To forecast, as Osborne and others did, that the sky would fall in on London and the City’s hugely profitable financial services was also to hold out the promise of a time when there could be a return to a real economy made up of real things, rather than a virtual economy derived from onscreen speculation in funny money. To add, as some Remain frontpeople did, that there would also be a flight of foreign banks from the City and that house prices in London could fall only compounded the rebel calls to “bring it on”.

In trying to defend the city from what they saw as the Brexit threat, its advocates were – unwittingly, it must be assumed – making a compelling case for the opposition. One person’s high-paying City job is another person’s precarious gig existence. One person’s security from high and ever-higher house prices is another person’s exclusion from home ownership. You could hardly find a better illustration of the clash of interests and cultures exposed by the referendum.

And here I must admit that I have a lot more sympathy for the rebels than a London-based home-owning Remainer should. It also strikes me that, in insisting that the economy will continue to flourish, the Brexiteers risk giving a hostage to fortune and perhaps missing a trick. Because if the City of London were to take a hit and the economy were to suffer as a result – which, as a Remainer and a Europhile, I tend to think it will – there is an argument to be made that the UK would actually be all the healthier for it.

Now it may be that the city will not shrink. It may be that all the foreign banks and finance houses with a presence there will continue to regard London as a necessary base for their global operations, whether or not it remains a gateway to the European Union. We know all the arguments about the time zone, the language, the quality of life, the schools and the shopping, and perhaps they will prevail.

But if – as appears likely – London banks post-Brexit lose the “passporting” system that gives them direct access to the EU single market – a threat much bandied about during the campaign – and if foreign companies start to transfer their operations across the Channel; if the number of people able and willing to pay high-end London property prices falls (and the pool of such people seems to have been vastly overestimated by construction companies anyway); and if – just if – as a result the high tide of cash flooding the capital starts to recede, what then?

The Remain campaign predicted that the UK as a whole could be drastically poorer. Another possibility, though, is that London starts to dominate the national picture less than it does now. The “great sucking sound”, complained of by pro-independence Scots during their referendum, would quieten down, and the enormous disparity in wealth both within the south-east and between London and most of the rest of the country would be reduced.

Of course, nothing will change the fact that political and financial power are centred in one city in the UK, unlike, say, in the US or in Germany. But the outsized contribution that London currently makes to national GDP - 22 per cent for 12 per cent of the population - is disproportionate, and leaves most other parts of the country far behind. Even George Osborne conceded that the economic dominance of London had its downside and is one reason why he championed the “northern powerhouse” - that, and perhaps his Cheshire constituency.

At a time (2014) when he was riding high as leader of Ukip and the referendum was barely a glint in David Cameron’s eye, Nigel Farage told an interviewer that if a decline in GDP were the price to be paid for greater social cohesion, he would accept the trade-off. I suspected then, and believe still more firmly now, that many – and not only Brexiteers – would agree with him.

Given that recent increases in national GDP have been shared more inequitably in the UK than in almost any other developed country; given, too, the extent of London’s economic dominance, some evening out of the disparities is surely overdue. Could it even be that a necessary internal economic and social rebalancing is eventually judged – even by reluctant Remainers – to be an actual benefit of Brexit?

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Stop Brexit and save the EU

Anatole Kaletsky in The Guardian

The EU face five crises that could destroy it, and Brexit could be the detonator. But only modest changes could stop an implosion
Copies of German magazine Der Spiegel featuring the headline “Please don’t go!” Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

“Never let a crisis go to waste” has always been one of the European Union’s guiding principles. What about five simultaneous crises? Today, the EU faces what Frans Timmermans, the European commission vice-president, describes as a “multi-crisis”: Brexit, refugee flows, fiscal austerity, geopolitical threats from east and south, and “illiberal democracy” in central Europe. Rather than wasting its crises, the EU could be laid to waste by them.
If so, Brexit will be the detonator for that demolition. By legitimising the concept of an EU breakup, and so turning a fantasy among political extremists into a realistic option of mainstream politics throughout Europe, Brexit threatens to trigger an irresistible disintegration process. It will also transform economics, by paralysing the European Central Bank in the next euro crisis. The ECB can always defeat market speculation, but it is powerless against breakup pressures from voters.

The EU urgently needs to put the genie of disintegration back in its bottle. That means persuading Britain to change its mind about Europe, which, according to conventional wisdom on both sides of the English Channel, is impossible. But many “impossible” things are happening in politics nowadays.
The referendum majority on 23 June was much narrower than that in Scotland’s 2014 independence referendum, or the negative votes on EU treaties in Ireland, Denmark and the Netherlands, all of which were subsequently reversed. More important, the 52% who voted for Brexit were sharply divided in their aims, with some prepared to accept economic sacrifice for a “hard Brexit” - total separation from Europe - and others hoping for a “soft Brexit” that would minimise the impact on the UK economy.

According to post-referendum polling, three-quarters of leave voters expect Britain’s economy either to strengthen or to be unaffected by Brexit, and 80% believe the government will have more money to spend on public services as a result of their vote. Brexit voters are so optimistic because they were told - most prominently by the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson - that Britain could have its cake and eat it, a new deal that would preserve all of the economic benefits of EU membership with none of the obligations or costs.

When these expectations are disappointed, public opinion will change. Already,66% of voters say that maintaining market access is more important than restricting immigration if Britain is unable have both. This directly contradicts the prime minister Theresa May’s stated priorities, and probably explains why she refuses to talk about her Brexit strategy.

Because public expectations of an economically innocuous soft Brexit will be impossible to reconcile with the rejection of all EU obligations demanded by the Conservative party’s hard Brexit faction, May cannot win. Whichever course she chooses, she will antagonise half her party and a large proportion of Brexit supporters, not to mention the 48% of voters who want to stay in the EU.

Once this backlash starts, plenty of ambitious Conservative politicians whom May purged from government will be eager to exploit it. George Osborne, immediately sacked as chancellor when May took office, has already thrown down the gauntlet, challenging her democratic mandate: “Brexit won a majority. Hard Brexit did not.” Even the weakness of Britain’s opposition parties works against May, allowing opponents to plot against her, secure in the knowledge that they are unlikely to lose power.

All this implies that British politics will become very fluid as economic conditions deteriorate and voters start to change their minds. The EU should encourage such second thoughts, which means that it must stop treating Brexit as inevitable and instead offer the possibility of a compromise that would meet British voters’ concerns, but only on the condition that Britain remains in the EU.

The obvious way to accomplish this would be to conclude an EU-wide agreement on greater national control over immigration and other symbolic issues related to national sovereignty. Such an agreement need not be seen as a concession to British blackmail if it were extended to all EU countries and presented as a response to public opinion throughout the union.

By making a virtue of its response to democratic pressures, the EU could regain Europe-wide support. To send a positive message to voters European leaders will, however, have to rediscover the knack for pragmatic compromise and inter-governmental bargaining that used to be the hallmark of EU diplomacy.

For starters, defusing both Brexit and the refugee crisis will require some modest changes in immigration and welfare rules. Such reforms, which would be popular in almost all member countries, need not conflict with the EU’s founding principles if they preserve the right to work throughout Europe, but return some control over non-economic migration and welfare payments to national governments.

German business leader issues warning over post-Brexit trade with UK

Second, the interaction of the refugee and euro crises demands new fiscal rules. Dealing with immigrants is expensive and should ideally be funded by mutually guaranteed EU bonds. Alternatively, Mediterranean countries must be offered budgetary leeway, in exchange for assuming frontline responsibility for immigration controls.

Third, the need for immigration reform, combined with “illiberal democracy” in central Europe, calls for changes in EU spending priorities and foreign policy. Poland and other countries will accept restrictions on their citizens’ mobility only if offered additional structural funds and stronger security cooperation. Such incentives, in turn, could provide more levers to ensure respect for human rights.

Finally, restoring the EU’s democratic legitimacy means ending the institutional tensions between the eurozone and the broader union. The EU authorities must acknowledge that many member countries will never join the euro, which means abandoning their rhetoric about a “two-speed Europe,” with all heading – whether at high or low speed – toward the “ever closer union” that a single currency implies. Instead, the EU must reshape itself into two concentric circles: an inner core committed to deeper integration, and an outer ring whose voters have no interest in a single currency and a shared fiscal space.

Such reforms may seem impossible, but EU disintegration seemed impossible before the Brexit vote. In revolutionary periods, the impossible can become inevitable in a matter of months. This week, former French president Nicolas Sarkozy called unexpectedly for a new European treaty and a second British referendum on its EU membership. In Europe, a revolutionary period has begun.

Corbyn is an atheist – but his ideas are true to the Bible

Giles Fraser in The Guardian

Readings in the Church of England and the Roman Catholic church are set in advance on a three-year cycle. That’s partly to stop priests from constantly picking their favourite bits and partly to make sure all parts of the Bible are covered, even the tricky passages. Which means that, last Sunday, up and down the country, the same readings were read out to congregations. First we heard a stinging condemnation of wealth from the book of Amos: “Alas for those who lie on beds of Ivory, and lounge on their couches.” Then a psalm about God sustaining the widow and the orphan. Then a long passage about money – “Those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” – from Paul’s first letter to Timothy. Then, to top it all off, the story from Luke of a rich man (“who was dressed in fine linen and feasted sumptuously every day”) burning in hell and a poor man, who lived homeless at his gate, being carried off to heaven by the angels.

Absolutely nothing that has been said by Jeremy Corbyn over the past few months is anything like as hostile to the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few as the Bible. Indeed, compared to the book of Amos and the gospel of Luke, the campaign group Momentum are a bunch of bland soft-pedalling apologists for the status quo. So how, then, can middle England sit through these readings without storming out, but apparently find Corbyn unelectable? Have they not been listening?

It’s five years next month since the Occupy protest arrived at St Paul’s cathedral. Though originally aimed at the London stock exchange, its impact on the cathedral and the wider church was, if anything, much greater. For what the protest dramatised was the deaf ear that the church and its members often turn when it comes to any reference to their wallets.

This week saw the 90th anniversary of the BBC broadcasting choral evensong. During every one of these the choir will have been encouraging revolution – bringing down the mighty from their thrones and lifting up the lowly, again from Luke’s gospel. On Thursday, they were singing this from Westminster Abbey, the heart of the establishment. Sedition hiding in plain view. And no one batted an eyelid. Which I suspect is evidence that people were listening to the wonderful music and ignoring what they were singing about.

But despite all the aesthetic chaff that the church throws out to misdirect the ear, it remains gobsmacking that, of all people, it’s the Tories that are still most likely to profess their commitment to the church. For heaven’s sake, Theresa May is a vicar’s daughter. There is the brilliant little bit in Godfather part III when Cardinal Lamberto is talking to Michael Corleone by a fountain in a cloister of the Vatican. “Look at this stone. It has been lying in the water for a very long time but the water has not penetrated,” the cardinal explains, “The same thing has happened to men in Europe. For centuries they have been surrounded by Christianity, but Christ has not penetrated.”

Even so, can it really be so inconceivable that Jeremy Corbyn’s political philosophy is inimical to the British people when he – atheism notwithstanding – is the only one who even approximates to Christian teaching about wealth. After all, Christianity is, like it or not, still the official religion of this country. And the Queen is its head. So you’d think that the Queen would be cheering on Corbyn, encouraging his bold redistributive instincts, and dismissing the Blairites for their fondness for Mammon. For, unlike Peter Mandelson, the Bible is not intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich.

And if the Bible is to be taken literally, Donald Trump is headed for the fiery furnace. He shouldn’t boast how rich he is. He should be ashamed about it. After all, Trump says it’s his favourite book. Funny, isn’t it? When the Bible speaks about something like homosexuality, it has to be taken literally. When it speaks about money, it’s all a metaphor.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Britain is no paragon of sporting virtue – let’s stop pretending otherwise

Mary Dejevsky in The Guardian

As the latest scandal involving the ex-England manager Sam Allardyce and questions over cyclists’ drug exemptions show, the UK plays no fairer than anyone else

It started on the Iffley Road running track in Oxford, with Roger Bannister and the four-minute mile. It continued with Chariots of Fire, the filmed version of the same, and it was reinforced in the national consciousness with London 2012, the glorious festival of sport that everyone thought was going to be a disaster, but wasn’t.

Along the way came England’s victory (over Germany) in the 1966 World Cup, whose anniversary has been celebrated this year with mawkish nostalgia. And when the medals kept on coming, in this year’s Olympics and the Paralympics in Rio, the self-image of the UK as a highly successful and, of course, squeaky clean sporting nation seemed secure.
That image has been thoroughly discredited this week with the departure, by mutual consent, of the new England football manager, Sam Allardyce, after a mere 67 days. He was the subject of a Panorama exposé 10 years ago – and even I, as a football ignoramus, had caught the drift – which helped to explain why this “obvious” candidate for the England job had never been offered it before.

But now there he was, on camera, courtesy of a classic journalistic sting (by the Daily Telegraph), setting out how the rules of the transfer market could be circumvented, and considering a nice little supplement to his salary.

Nor, it would appear, is he alone in regarding the Football Association’s rules as an inconvenience to be challenged rather than a standard to be upheld. At least eight more guardians of the supposedly “national” game, it is claimed, agree with Sam Allardyce that ethics are for others upright or unambitious enough to heed them. The real pros know different.
If dubious practices were unique to football, that would be one thing. After all, everyone knows – do they not? – that there is far too much money sloshing round in the game generally, not least in England’s Premier League – money that is taking ticket prices out of reach of ordinary families and stifling the growth of homegrown talent.

We also know about the rot that set in long ago at Fifa, the headquarters of international football, so it is hardly surprising if something putrid also contaminates national organisations – including, alas, our own.

But it is not just English football, is it? Football may be the richest and most egregious example, but revelations in recent weeks suggest that question marks hang over other areas of UK sport. Nothing illegal, mind, nothing so crude as the“state-sponsored doping” we so loudly deplore in others, but little tweaks here and there, and especially close readings of the rule book that identify the opportunities between the lines.

So it is that the stellar success story of our times, Britain’s emergence as a world leader in cycling, looks slightly less glorious now that hacked reports have revealed the chemical help some cyclists were receiving – quite legally, it must be stressed – in order, as the people’s hero and multiple Olympic gold harvester Bradley Wiggins put it, to ensure “a level playing field”. Is a doctor’s note now to be considered part of sportsmanship?

And on the eve of the Rio Paralympics, there were reports of unhappiness within the British camp over allegations that classifications were being – how shall we say? – manipulated in the pursuit of more medals. We are sticklers for observing the letter of the law, it would seem, where the spirit of sport is concerned. But the story is starting to look a little different.

The shock here – if it is a shock – should not be that UK sports officials are as adept at playing the system as anyone else – within but sometimes also outside the law. It should rather be the persistence of the myth that only foreigners (especially Russians) cheat, and that British sport across the board – just because it is British – is cleaner, more honest and, yes, more innocent than everyone else’s. It isn’t.

The tyranny of numbers can often stymie selectors

Suresh Menon in The Hindu

Selectors must make inspired choices relying on instinct rather than the calculator.

In an essay, The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes, Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the hierarchical nature of Korean society that might have led to a plane crash. The junior pilot was so deferential to his senior that when the latter made a mistake, he didn’t point it out. Hierarchy in Indian society is well-established too.

Also, numbers slot people. Hence, the highest tax payer versus average payer, 100 Tests versus 10 Tests. It is the last that concerns us here.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India is being criticised for picking a five-man selection committee with a combined playing experience of 13 Tests and 31 one-dayers. The argument here is that only those who have played a large number of Tests are qualified to choose a national team (or perhaps even write about it!). The Cardusian counter is that one need not have laid an egg to be able to tell a good one from the bad.

If that sounds too cute, there is the empirical evidence available to those who have followed Indian cricket for long. A player with 50 or 60 Tests is not automatically qualified to recognise talent at an early stage or see a world in a grain of sand as it were.

Not all international cricketers are students of the game. I would rather talk cricket with someone like Vasu Paranjpe, the legendary coach, than with some players. To be able to play is a wonderful thing and admirable. Many players can demonstrate, but few can explain. Often the experience of 50 Tests is merely the experience of one Test multiplied 50 times.

Selectors must make inspired choices relying on instinct rather than the calculator. There are spinners or batsmen lurking in the thicket of Indian cricket who may not have the record but who are long-term prospects.

Retrospective judging

The successful selector can only be judged retrospectively. Often former players, conscious of how corrosive criticism can be, would rather be praised for sticking to the straight and narrow than invite censure for taking a chance or two.

I have advocated for years that the best selectors should pick the junior sides. Most intelligent watchers of the game can pick 20 national team players without too much effort. Ideal selectors are special people. They bring to the table an instinct for the job which is independent of the number of internationals they have played.

After all, if it were all down only to scores and stats, a computer would do the job just as well. I have no idea how the current committee will function, but the five-man team should not be dismissed out of hand merely because they haven’t played 100 Tests.

Vasu Paranjpe who didn’t play a Test would have made a wonderful selector. In fact, off the top of my head, I can think of many without Test experience who would have. From Mumbai, Raj Singh Dungarpur, Kailash Gattani, Makarand Waingankar, from Delhi Akash Lal, from Kolkata Karthik Bose, from Chennai A.G. Ramsingh, V. Ramnarayan, Abdul Jabbar and from Karnataka V.S. Vijaykumar, Sanjay Desai. Dungarpur and Lal were National selectors in the old days. The list is by no means exhaustive.

Temperament matters

It has often been argued that only someone who has played a bunch of Tests can understand the off-field pressures a young debutant may be subjected to. Hence the call for those who have experienced that. But a good selector will take temperament into account too.

Some of the heaviest scorers and highest wicket takers in the national championship have not played for India; clearly the selection committee has worked out that runs and wickets alone are not enough.

The question of hierarchy, however, is a valid one. At least two recent selectors, Mohinder Amarnath and Sandip Patil, respected internationals both, have admitted that dealing with the senior players with more Tests than they played is no picnic.

Within a committee too, if there is a big gap in experience or popular stature, those who may have better ideas but fewer Tests have been forced to go with the flow. Lala Amarnath, for example, was known to browbeat the panel.

I remember a respected former player, when he was manager of the national side being asked, “How many Tests have you played?” in a nasty sort of way. This is the hierarchy of numbers.

If M.S.K. Prasad (Chairman), Sarandeep Singh, Devang Gandhi, Gagan Khoda and Jatin Paranjpe bring to their job a professionalism, integrity and an instinct for the right pick, they would have rendered irrelevant numbers pertaining to their international experience. All this is, of course, assuming the Supreme Court endorses the BCCI’s stand.

There will be criticism — that is part of the job description of a selector. But if the BCCI is throwing its net wider to include those with the skill, but without the record, then there’s a hint for the selectors here. Sometimes you must take a punt on perceived skill regardless of record.

Monday, 26 September 2016

On the right to photocopy

S Sivakumar and L P Lukose in The Hindu

The DU photocopy judgment is a victory for access to education. But is it successful in balancing the competing interests of the academic community and the copyright holders?

On September 16, the Delhi High Court dismissed the copyright infringement petition filed by three international publishers against a photocopy shop located in the Delhi University premises (The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford v. Rameshwari Photocopy Services). The court ruled that making course packs for suggested reading for students by photocopying portions of various prescribed reference books does not violate the copyright of the publishers.

Right to reproduction

Section 14 of the Copyright Act, 1957, grants a bundle of exclusive rights such as the right to reproduction on copyright owners for commercial exploitation of the work. Making photocopies amounts to reproduction. Photocopies made in violation of Section 14 thus constitute infringement unless it is listed under Section 52 as an act not constituting infringement. The judgment holds that if any provision of the Act permits any person other than the owner to reproduce any work or substantial part thereof, such reproduction will not amount to infringement (Para 27).

The Copyright Act, to prevent stagnation of the growth of creativity, seeks to maintain a balance between the competing interests of the copyright owners on the one hand and the interests of the public to have access to works on the other. Copyright’s basic rationale is that there should be promotion of creativity through sufficient protection; and at the same time it also caters for dissemination of knowledge and access to copyright material through the doctrine of fair dealing. This doctrine, which is essential for research and academic purposes, is an exception to copyright holders’ exclusive rights. The Indian copyright law uses the term ‘fair deal’ (where listed purposes are statutorily embedded) whereas the U.S.’s copyright law adopts ‘fair use’ (which is merely illustrative). As per Article 13 of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement, these exceptions must confine to “special cases which do not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the right holder”. Since the term ‘fair dealing’ is not defined in the Act, the judiciary determines its scope on a case by case basis.

Fair dealing

Section 52(1)(i) of the Copyright Act treats as fair dealing “the reproduction of any work (i) by a teacher or a pupil in the course of instruction; or (ii) as part of the questions to be answered in an exam; or (iii) in answers to such question. Section 52(1)(j) uses terms such as “staff and students of an educational institution” whereas Section 52(1)(i) uses “teacher or a pupil in the course of instruction.” On analysing this difference, the judgment holds that “there is no reason to interpret Section 52 (1)(i) as providing for an individual teacher and an individual pupil.” The word ‘instruction’ is not defined in the Act. According to Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw, the words “in the course of instruction” would include “reproduction of any work while the process of imparting instruction by the teacher and receiving instruction by the pupil continues during the entire academic session... imparting and receiving of instruction is not limited to personal interface between teacher and pupil but is a process commencing from the teacher readying herself/himself for imparting instruction, setting syllabus, prescribing text books, readings and ensuring, whether by interface in classroom/tutorials or otherwise...” Hence it would be fair dealing if the students click photographs of each page of portions of the prescribed book.


Copyright must increase and not impede the harvest of knowledge. When the judgment reads, “Copyright is to motivate the creative activity of authors in order to benefit the public”, what is left for the copyright owners? The judgment places no limitation on photocopy if the material is prescribed in the course of instruction. Copyright holders invest considerably in creating works. Can this be ignored while interpreting Section 52(1)(i) as a license for reproducing unlimitedly everything prescribed in the suggested reading? If the legislature had intended to give such a wide interpretation to the words “in the course of instruction”, why does it add, “as part of the questions to be answered in an exam or in answers to such question” which should also be covered automatically? If the suggested reading provides for the whole book, does Section 52(1)(i) permit reproduction of the whole book or only reasonable excerpts? The judgment has conveniently avoided any direct reference to this aspect. The Court Commissioner had reported that “8 books were found being photocopied cover to cover”. Was the court successful in balancing the competing interests of the academic community and the copyright holders? When the university is entitled to free photocopy of 3,000 pages every month(Para 4), can the possibility of commercial interest be overruled? In that context, does it comply with Article 13 of TRIPS? Is it justified to cover the private photocopy shop in the university premises within the expression “in the course of instruction”? Doesn’t the judgment provide blanket immunity to the university to meet the demands of all the students by purchasing a single book?

Undoubtedly, the judgment, which is a breakthrough in the Indian copyright jurisprudence, is a major victory to access to education in a developing country like India. It will certainly have a far-reaching impact in academic circles as well as on the copyright industry. When access to education itself is a challenge, none of the students can be expected to purchase expensive textbooks, especially when syllabi prescribe certain portions from various books. Universities are expected to cater to students’ reading requirement without prejudicing copyright holders’ legitimate economic interests. Are the Indian universities honestly utilising funds earmarked for libraries for that purpose? The students’ demands can be met reasonably by permitting reproduction of reasonable excerpts.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

If you can’t beat Jeremy Corbyn, you’d better try to learn from him

Andrew Rawnsley in The Guardian

Speaking shortly before the re-coronation of Jeremy Corbyn, one Labour MP gloomily remarked of Owen Smith’s failed challenge: “It was always a kamikaze mission.”

Oh no, it has turned out much more desperate than that for Labour’s parliamentarians. Back in July, when the challenge was launched off the back of a no-confidence vote by MPs and mass resignations from the frontbench, few of his colleagues thought Mr Smith could win. The purpose of the exercise, or so they calculated, was not to install a new leader but to take the shine off the incumbent. Mr Smith was designed, and in more than one sense, to be the anti-Momentum candidate. If Mr Corbyn could be run reasonably close, so backers of the challenge hoped, it would diminish the “mandate” that he and his supporters have spent the last 12 months brandishing in the face of Labour MPs.

When the result was announced from the conference stage in Liverpool, it was instantly clear that the reverse has happened. Jeremy Corbyn has not only been reanointed as leader, he won by a larger margin than last year, he won in all three segments of the selectorate and he won on a higher rate of participation. The challenge has not diminished him; it has swollen the size of his congregation. The immediate fear of Labour MPs is that this will now be self-reinforcing. Mr Corbyn will further consolidate his grip on the commanding heights of Labour if centre-left members who have stuck with the party despite all the ugliness of the past year are so demoralised by his victory that they give up and quit.

Examining the entrails of defeat, many who originally backed it now acknowledge that this was the wrong challenge at the wrong time with the wrong candidate. Mr Smith ended up as the anti-Corbyn standard bearer on the grounds that a relative unknown from the soft left – “a clean skin” – had the best chance of getting a hearing from Labour activists. His first handicap was that he spent the beginning of the campaign having to say who he was. He had barely started to introduce himself before a ruthlessly efficient effort by Team Corbyn had already defined him as a former employee of big pharma and a “Trojan horse” for Blairite revanchism. He largely positioned himself in the same ideological zone as the incumbent in the belief that this would be the best way to appeal to Corbynistas. That strategy would have been no more effective had he also put on a fake beard. For this invited and received an understandable response from that constituency: why vote for an imitation when you can re-elect the real thing?

His claims that he would make a more credible and competent leader were undermined by his propensity to gaffe. One hundred and sixty-two of his parliamentary colleagues nominated Mr Smith. The more conventionally minded of us might think that, in a parliamentary democracy, it is quite important for a party leader to command the confidence of his MPs. Yet for those to whom Mr Corbyn is an appealing figure, it is one of his virtues that his parliamentary party are so hostile to him. Being the MPs’ candidate was not an asset for the challenger – it was massive liability. I have talked to a lot of Labour MPs who spent time canvassing members. They universally report that many activists blamed the party’s predicament and Mr Corbyn’s abysmal personal poll ratings not on the leader, but on the mutinous behaviour of Labour parliamentarians. The depiction of the challenge as a “coup” and the framing of the contest as Members v MPs, Grassroots v Westminster was toxic.

So Labour is back to where it was at the beginning of the summer, with a vast chasm between a leader with a mandate from the members and MPs claiming a rival mandate from their voters. With this difference. Those divisions are now more starkly exposed, more deeply entrenched and more poisonously bitter. One MP speaks about “taking bodyguards” to protect him at the conference. Another expresses genuine fear that fist fights – or worse – will break out in Liverpool.

If there can’t be a genuine peace between the two sides, could there at least be some form of truce? In his victory speech, a much crisper and more polished performance than 12 months ago, Mr Corbyn made magnanimous-sounding noises about wiping the slate clean. His campaign manager and shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, tells us that the party can move on from the venom that has flowed over the summer. “What is said on tour, stays on tour.” Even some of Mr Corbyn’s most implacable critics know that it would sound churlish to snipe this weekend and have largely fallen silent for the moment.

Beneath the surface, though, it is already evident that the party is as riven as ever. There will now be a struggle for control of the party machinery at both national and local levels. There is also the question, of importance to the country as well as to the Labour party, of whether it can become at least semi-functional as an opposition to the Tories in parliament. I can find some MPs willing to unresign and return to take on a frontbench role. Some will do so for fear of retribution in their constituencies or for careerist reasons. Some argue that the parliamentary party now has to make at least a show of being co-operative or the membership will carry on blaming the MPs, rather than the leader, when things go wrong. One of this tendency says: “We have to stop being an excuse for his failings.”

Others are prepared to return to the frontbench on the grounds that it is their duty to be a voice for the 9 million people who voted Labour at the last election and to provide an opposition to the Tories. Yet many say they will only do so if the parliamentary party is allowed to elect at least some of the frontbench. That would give them a way of returning on their terms and with at least some shreds of dignity. Mr Corbyn’s circle sound extremely resistant to that. From their point of view, they have good reasons not to accept the demand. They don’t see why he should agree to elections that would surround him with hostiles in his top team.

Nor do they see why he should concede to the demands of the parliamentary party when he has just seen off its attempt to unseat him. The general emollience of his victory speech had a streak of menace when he warned Labour MPs “to respect the democratic choice that has been made”.

With or without shadow cabinet elections, a lot of senior Labour figures will not serve in his team anyway. They say they cannot bite their tongues for long when, as they see it, the Labour party they love is being destroyed. They ask how it is possible to sit on Mr Corbyn’s frontbench when 172 of them have publicly declared him unfit to be leader of the opposition.

One thing they will now have time to ponder on is why their advice was rejected by the party. It might be convenient for moderate Labour MPs to blame the failure of the challenge entirely on the flaws of the challenger, but it would also be wrong. What the last three months have exposed again are fundamental weaknesses on the centre-left. Labour MPs often express dismay at Mr Corbyn’s claims to be building a “social movement” superior to his parliamentary party. They mock it as the politics of protest and a betrayal of Labour’s founding purpose, set out in Clause I of the party constitution, to aim for power. The former frontbencher Tristram Hunt wittily despairs that his party is becoming “the political wing of the Stop the War coalition”. They are right to say that there is a big difference between rousing rallies of the already converted and the harder challenge of moving enough of the wider population into your column to win a general election.

Sound as that analysis might be, you can see why Team Corbyn are not receptive to lectures about electability from critics who can’t win – can’t get anywhere near winning – an election in the Labour party. Comprehensively out-organised by Team Corbyn and their union backers in last year’s contest, the anti-Corbynites vowed to do much better this time. They have developed some infrastructure in the form of the groups Labour Tomorrow and Saving Labour. The latter claims to have signed up 120,000 new members. But the result speaks for itself. Momentum out-recruited and out-organised them. Labour has now become the largest political party in western Europe. That may say nothing about its capacity to win a general election under its current leadership, but it does say something.

Love him or loathe him, Mr Corbyn – or what he represents – is capable of attracting and enthusing support. If they are ever to get their party back, his opponents will have to do the same. And they will have to offer a more enticing prospectus than begging people to join Labour to save the party from itself. They have again failed to beat Jeremy Corbyn. Perhaps the best thing Labour moderates could do now, strange as this may seem, is to try to learn from him.

My difficult relationship with Wasim Akram

Dennis Freedman in The Dawn

Young Michael Slater is fidgeting at the crease.

Scratch. Shake. Rub. Repeat.

His career is off to a flyer. The New South Welshman averages nearly 50. In 1995, openers don’t average anything near that much. For context, Mike Atherton only averages 38.

The Hobart pitch looks clean. Wasim has the ball. The recipe is complete.

New wicket, master tradesman and some chilly dense Hobart weather.

The cable knit sweaters are on. Even those with extra natural padding are wearing them.

Old timers predict that there will be some cut and swing. In their minds, it’s as certain as death and taxes. But it is likely to only last a few overs until the shine is gone from the ball. If Slater can connect with a cut shot or two, the danger will quickly subside.

Wasim has a lazy 12 step run up. Perhaps it is only 10? The left arm swings around like an angry propeller on a Spitfire. The ball pitches on a length, cuts in hard and strikes the pad.

Slater had no chance. His fidgeting hasn’t been demonstrative enough to wake up his feet. They didn’t move.

An appeal. A really good appeal. Not Out.

Hitting outside the line? Too high?

The replay indicates that many an umpire would have raised the finger.

The Pakistanis share a knowing wink. Darrell Hair looks concerned. He has just realised that this will be a tough morning for him.

Slater shakes it off. We expected this, right? It is not as though Wasim wastes too many new balls in these conditions.

Ball 2.

Same shape. Slightly quicker. Slightly shorter.

The 25-year-old Slater gets in behind it and scrubs a defensive prod to short cover.

It looked awkward.

Where feet were expected to move, they didn’t. Michael Slater often looked awkward.

Back in 1995, openers were expected to look in control. Stylish. Dapper. Like Fred Astaire dancing in the rain. Slater could be that guy, but it wasn’t his natural happy place. He was more Vanilla Ice. In your face. New, exciting and baggy clothes.

He just wanted to make runs. Quickly.

Ball 3.

The sucker ball.

Pushed across the right hander and holding its line. The keeper takes it in front of first slip. A nervous Slater doesn’t bite. He wanted to. It was his ball. That mad cut shot wanted to come out of its cage. It didn’t.

Maybe if it were Steve Harmison bowling and not Wasim Akram? Surely he would have pounced at it then?

Slater continues to fidget at the crease. Perhaps this is where Steve Smith learnt it from?

Ball 4.

A half volley outside off stump. Not super quick, but still sharp. The batsman strides out to meet it. Almost overstretching.

Then he defends.

Wasim has got inside his head. Why didn’t that ball swing? Why didn’t I give it hell? It was there to hit. I’ll get him next time.

Mark Taylor is at the other end. He is practising the flick off his pads. It would be a dangerous shot against Wasim. Across the line. An invitation to produce a leading edge.

Ball 5

It is a repeat of ball 2. This time Slater jumps a little as he plays it. But to be fair, he is well behind it. Surely he feels more comfortable now? Apart from the first ball, the others have offered little danger to a set batsman. Like jelly in a blast chiller, Slater sets at a rapid speed. But he is not set yet. However, he is close.

Ball 6

Like Slater, Wasim also sets quickly. This is his effort ball. A full in-swinging yorker. We’ve seen it before. Close your eyes and you can picture it. Mitchell Starc took this dream and copied it.

Slater gets hit on the toe. His bat is still on its journey towards the ball. His bat is too slow. Wasim is too fast.

Umpire Hair fires him.

Peak Wasim. Classic Wasim. Just Wasim.

A tease of what he could do. A sense of what he would do. Then he did it.

He is like a gift from the gods. What is not to love?

What is not to respect?

Fast forward five years.

The dark clouds of match fixing would soon fall over Pakistani cricket.

They were always threatening to come in from the north, as they circled above the Kyber Pass. Now they had arrived.

These clouds set a waypoint for Wasim Akram. They threatened to unleash a thunderstorm from hell.

Winds. Hail. Lightning.

Instead, when one looks up at them, they are full of potential menace, yet never quite create more than a minor inconvenience.

These clouds are known as the Qayyum Report.

The typed pages of investigation that are contained within it are Pakistan’s attempt to look into corruption within the national team.

It opens up like a well laid out crime novel. A slow and steady start. A scene being set. Some explosive twists. Inconclusive conclusions and a reader left wanting for more.

Justice Qayyum, the author, is also fallible as we discover later. A cricket lover. A man working essentially with many contradicting first hand accounts and hearsay. His heroes are under attack.

But one in particular gives him the most troublesome time.


The Qayyum Report is clear in its condemnation of Pakistan’s greatest ever swing bowler.

Ata-ur-Rehman swore on oath that he was offered 200,000 rupees by skipper Akram to perform poorly in an ODI against New Zealand in Christchurch in 93/94.

Aamir Sohail had, on oath, also spoken ill of Akram.

Akram then, using his own personal credit card, paid for Ata-ur-Rehman to fly to London. Here, Rehman visited Akram’s lawyer and signed an affidavit supporting Wasim against the existing one penned by Sohail.

Essentially, Akram paid for Rehman’s travel so that he could perjure himself.

Akram does not dispute that he paid for Rehman’s ticket.

Rehman originally alleged that Akram threatened to have him “fixed” if he didn’t follow orders. Rehman then retracted his story after Akram paid for that flight to London to visit his lawyer. Rehman decided that, in fact, Sohail had coerced him to speak against Akram.

Perjury. A broken witness.

However, the great Imran Khan also testified that Rehman had told him of Akram’s approaches.

It is recorded for all eternity in the Qayyum Report.

Imran doesn’t lie, does he? (Politicians don’t lie?)

Other allegations are made against Wasim Akram in the Qayyum report. However, they are the classic ‘he says / she says’-type argument. They focus on Akram feigning injury, bowling badly and manipulating batting orders so as to lose matches.

They are difficult to prove either way. There is little corroboration.

Justice Qayyum dismisses them.

However, back on the match fixing charge where there are elements of corroboration, Quyyam states the following:

“As regards to allegation one on its own, this commission is left with no option but to hold Wasim Akram not guilty of the charge of match-fixing. This the Commission does so only by giving Wasim Akram the benefit of the doubt.”

In isolation, natural justice clears Akram.

Not guilty.

We can all move on with our lives. Akram is still a national hero.

Or is he?

Qayyum goes on to say:

“However, once this commission looks at the allegations in their totality, this commission feels that all is not well here and that Wasim Akram is not above board. He has not co-operated with this Commission. It is only by giving Wasim Akram the benefit of the doubt after Ata-ur-Rehman changed his testimony in suspicious circumstances that he has not been found guilty of match-fixing. He cannot be said to be above suspicion.” [Emphasis added.]

So Akram is found not guilty because he helped finance a witness to change his story under oath?

What nonsense is this?

Think about it for just a second. Pause and reflect.

If this were a criminal trial, it wouldn’t be hard to argue that Akram tampered with a witness.


“It is, therefore, recommended that he be censured and be kept under strict vigilance and further probe be made either by the Government of Pakistan or by the Cricket Board into his assets acquired during his cricketing tenure and a comparison be made with his income. Furthermore, he should be fined Rs300,000.”

The classic Clayton’s verdict. You aren’t guilty, but please pay a fine for the little bit of guilt that you do harbour.

“More importantly, it is further recommended that Wasim Akram be removed from captaincy of the national team. The captain of the national team should have a spotless character and be above suspicion. Wasim Akram seems to be too sullied to hold that office.” [Emphasis added.]

Stained. But not guilty.

It is important to note that the Qayyum report was not a criminal trial. This impacts the burden of proof.

“ must be stated that the burden of proof is somewhere in between the criminal and normal civil standard.”

Akram argued that the burden of proof should be high. But of course, he would. The higher the burden of proof, the harder it is to convict him.

“It is not as high as the counsel for Wasim Akram recommended, that the case needs to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

This is a commission of inquiry and not a criminal court of trial so that standard need not be high.”

Its outputs are recommendations. Typically, outputs from these inquiries are followed by prosecutors and governments. As they should.

Pakistan moved on after this event. They purged themselves. Apparently, they chose to reject corruption in cricket.

Then Butt, Asif and Amir.

Then Amir back in the Pakistan national side after those with memories, including Misbah and Hafeez, initially protested.

Corruption - 1

Sanctity - 0

But the story takes another turn.

While all this is happening, Wasim Akram remained a powerful man. He took more power. His voice is now the most powerful in Pakistani cricket.

He becomes a commentator. He models. He tries coaching in the IPL and being an ambassador in the PSL.

He is Pakistan’s Mr Everywhere.

But if you don’t clean up filth properly, it festers and mould grows and eventually it rears its head once again.

Justice Qayyum later recalls that he had a “soft corner” for Wasim.

“He was a very great player, a very great bowler and I was his fan, and therefore that thing did weigh with me.”

Qayyum admits he was lenient to “one or two of them” based on reputation and skill.

Qayyum, like all men, is guilty of being fallible. But what a time to lose control to your weakness.

Can we deduce from this that without personal bias, Qayyum may have found Wasim guilty of match fixing?

For a swing bowler, Akram knew how to live right on the slippery edge of right and wrong.

He was almost a match fixer, but paid a fine for being one.

He coerced a witness to change his sworn testimony against him by using his own funds.

He was stripped of the captaincy.

All facts. Indisputable.

Yet, you all still adore him like a god.

You place his playing deeds ahead of the damage he did to the game.

Does being good at something absolve one from society’s judgement about what is right and wrong?

Should we allow that Akram is afforded a voice on our television screens, our newspapers, mingles with players and coaches professional teams?

Would you allow Chris Cairns to do it? He was found not guilty by a UK court of lying about match fixing.

Why is Wasim any different? Is it because Wasim was a better player than Cairns?

Then how about those actually found guilty of crimes against the sport of cricket?

Shane Warne is a convicted drug cheat and took money from bookies. Why do you cower to him?

Mark Waugh is an Australian selector. An official position. He also took money from bookies. Having said that, Cricket Australia has official bookmaker partners, so they aren’t even pretending to take this seriously.

I am not talking about those who get a speeding fine here.

I am talking about individuals who cheated the game. Put their selfishness ahead of the greater good. Frauds.

Why does the game owe these people anything?

Cricket is not society. It does not automatically have to bestow a second chance on anyone. Instead, it is the duty of everyone associated with the game to protect it.

Yet when it comes to our heroes, those who swung a ball in mysterious ways or batted like silk, we turn a blind eye.

Wasim is Wasim. He has made his choices. He has vandalised the sport. As has Warne. As has Mark Waugh.

Rod Marsh once placed a bet against a team he was playing in. Australia lost. Rod Marsh won big.

Rod Marsh is now the Chairman of Selectors for Cricket Australia.

If I were caught breaking serious rules at work, I would get fired. There is no way in hell that my employer would ever have me back.

In some industries, if I break the rules, I can never work in them again.

The legal profession. Working with children. Policing.

No second chances. Respect the fortunate position you have obtained or leave forever.

If cricket really wants to see corruption as a significant foe, why does it not take the same stance?

So next time you share a view with me about what Wasim has said, or what Warne did on the pitch, forgive me if I don’t partake in your idolisation.

For Wasim is not my idol and it is him who is to blame.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Hype, Hypocrisy And Hooch

R K Misra in Outlook India

Gujarat and its 'model' have been the toast of the Indian season ever since its Chief Minister, Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister in 2014.This includes its liquor prohibition policy which has adherents like Bihar now where Nitish Kumar came to power after knocking the wind out of Modi's sails!

Billowing in the political clouds ever since, are propounded perceptions of a 'dry' India. Kumar could do with a closer look at adversary Modi's 'model' state before giving wings to his national vision.

Proud and boastful of the fact that it has been the only state in the country which was born 'dry' and continues to remain so till date, Gujarat's much hyped liquor 'totalitarianism' took a humpty-dumpty like fall last week when over 20 people died after consuming hooch near Surat. What has now become a standard drill after decades of practice, is in place. Newly anointed Chief Minister Vijay Rupani is making all the right noises. Top cops and district heads-transferred, smaller fry suspended. The anti-terrorist squad (ATS) chief took charge of investigations. A three-man top cop panel headed by additional director general of police (ADGP), looked into the matter and submitted its report to the state home department head. Within 24 hours over a thousand country liquor cases registered. Carton loads are being seized at entry checkpoints into the state. A full blooded search for the culprit methanol is under way. Blah, blah, blah and the farce goes on.

Consumption or possession of liquor without a valid permit is a non-bailable offence in the state. A person arrested on either count has to be produced in court to be bailed out. And yet it oozes Bacchus brew from every nook and cranny of its ample frame.

Booze, as the upwardly mobile call it, is lucrative business and according to conservative estimates, a Rs 30,000 crore annual turnover, pure black money spewing industry. While Prime Minister Modi may have pulled out all the stops to unearth Indian black money stashed abroad, his decade and a quarter year stint as chief minister of the state, failed to dent the business. In fact, to be fair to him, no chief minister who held office in the state was ever able to stem the flow.

The business has three components. At the bottom of the pyramid is the poor man's drink--hooch, lattha or moonshine. Then follows the desi or country liquor which is the preferred drink of rural Gujarat followed by brewery liquor at the apex (rum, whisky, gin, vodka etc). Hooch is the preferred drink of the urban labour class while 'desi' distilled, largely for captive consumption in villages, ranks safer and a notch higher. The fruit liquor 'mahua' ranks in this category. With a consumer base of the middle and affluent class in cities and towns, Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) as brewery made liquor is called in official parlance, holds sway. Country liquor is a cottage industry but brewery liquor flows into the state from MP, Rajasthan, Maharashtra even Punjab and Haryana.

Let's take the case of Gujarat's biggest city Ahmedabad. A network of about 1000 bootleggers sell anywhere between 1.5 to2 lakh litres of moonshine per day. Women outnumber men in this business. This is besides the IMFL business where the brand of your choice is home delivered to you. The trade is tech-savvy and 'whats app' and other suchn mobile applications come in handy. Surat is reported to guzzle 50,000 litres per day and almost 70 per cent of the 18,000 villages in the state brew their own country liquor. All major cities report high consumption and rural areas are no exception. There are 61,000 health permit holders in the state and worth of the average daily consumption of alcohol to permit holders is put at around Rs 75 lakhs.

No bootlegger can operate in Gujarat without police connivance. At every 'point' of the operation, negotiations have to be done with the cop for a certain amount of money and this goes right up to the top and from there to the political top brass. The cops may be sloppy in policing but would be the envy of management experts in planning and distribution of ill-gotten spoils.

Thus it is the huge amount of unadulterated black money greasing the administrative-political system in Gujarat that ensures a high decibel sound and light show only for the benefit of the masses with little or no follow-up action. Take the case of the 2009 hooch tragedy in Ahmedabad where 150 people lost their lives. Modi, then the chief minister, made all the appropriate noises. A Commission of Inquiry was instituted with former High Court judge K M Mehta as the chairman. The panel submitted its report in 2011 and there has been pin drop silence thereafter. The Gujarat Vidhan Sabha was quick to amend the pertinent act provisioning for even death penalty for those convicted in spurious liquor cases. The Bill was cleared by the then Governor Dr Kamala Beniwal. Not a single person has got life imprisonment thereafter, let alone terminal punishment.

The whole business of prohibition in Gujarat is a big charade in which everyone is happy and the only ones who stand to lose out are the people. Gujarat is soggy wet so those who want to drink, get enough of it but for a price. The cop is happy, he gets his cut and the politician in power more so because he gets a fair share as well besides the rip off from transfers and postings by playing favourites. Right from the sub-inspector to the DGP, the transfers are all at the behest of the Home department and the politicians who preside over it. The bootlegger is happy because he still manages to make money for himself despite all the pricks and cuts. It is only the honest tax payer who gets fobbed because the state loses a huge amount of money in excise and allied duties. Never mind this common man, he was in any case, born to bear the burden of the cross. Moonshine for the earthy, sunshine for the dirty.

Do we really want post-Brexit Britain to be the world’s biggest tax haven?

Molly Scott Cato in The Guardian

Of all my political activities in the European parliament my work on challenging tax-dodging by wealthy individuals and corporations is perhaps the area where the most has been achieved.

Yet as a British MEP it has been a constant source of embarrassment to learn the central role played by the City of London and the UK’s overseas territories in the network of tax havens that facilitate a tiny minority to live beyond tax law.

Amber Rudd facing calls to clarify involvement in tax havens

This was first demonstrated by the Panama Papers and now confirmed by theBahamas leaks. I am left wondering, in post-EU referendum Britain, whether we will see the UK government challenge or collude with this tax-avoidance industry. If the response to the discovery that home secretary Amber Rudd was previously director of two asset-management companies based in the Bahamas is anything to go by, alarm bells should be ringing.

My own attempts to challenge Rudd have led me to believe that rightwing media figures, along with the Conservative government and the banks, are keener to shut down legitimate lines of inquiry on tax dodging than they are to shut down tax havens.

This was most clearly demonstrated to me during an interview with Andrew Neil on the Daily Politics show. Neil defended Rudd’s actions on the grounds there was no proof she had done anything illegal. Yet the whole purpose of tax havens is to allow the wealthy to hide behind a wall of secrecy legally.

Indeed, we only know of Rudd’s past career because of the Bahamas leaks. When asked in interview some months ago if she had money in any offshore trusts, Rudd replied that she didn’t. She also defended David Cameron over his father’s investment fund in the Bahamas that was exposed by the Panama Papers. At least Cameron had the defence that the decision to set up a trust in the Bahamas was taken by his father. It was Rudd’s own decision to become embroiled in two offshore companies in the Bahamas, something she failed to disclose.

Generally, people do not set up companies in the Bahamas to enjoy the subtropical climate. They are more likely drawn there by the fact the islands demand no income, corporate or wealth taxes from individuals investing in offshore companies. No evidence has emerged that Rudd herself or the companies avoided paying tax but at the very least, a fuller statement explaining the purpose of the directorships and whether she personally profited from them seems reasonable.

Unless Rudd makes such a statement it is difficult to see how Theresa May can continue to have confidence in her as home secretary. During her short leadership campaign and on the steps of No 10, May spoke noble words about the need to turn Britain into a country that works for the many, not the few. This is precisely the opposite of what tax havens do. They are a system used by a tiny elite composed of the super-wealthy precisely to avoid contributing their fair share to society.

So is Rudd on the side of the many, whose services have been cut to the bone because of insufficient tax revenues, or is she on the side of the wealthy few who avoid paying taxes?

Follow the money: inside the world's tax havens

Far from being a sideshow, what some are calling Ruddgate goes to the heart of the question of what type of society we want in the wake of the EU referendum. Will we follow the lead taken by Europe in promoting fair taxation, most notably demonstrated in recent weeks by EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who ordered Apple to pay €13bn in back taxes? Or will we follow the route being pushed by some hard-Brexit supporters and become one of the globe’s leading tax havens? The answer depends on the actions we take now, and whether we have the courage to demand the highest standards of those who govern our country.

The European parliament’s committee investigating the Panama Papers leaks already has the chancellor Philip Hammond, his predecessor Osborne and former prime minister David Cameron on our invitation list. Following the latest revelations, we will be adding the name of the home secretary.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Labour MPs are finally accepting the terrifying victory of Jeremy Corbyn's mass movement

Fraser Nelson in The Independent

At lunchtime tomorrow, most Labour MPs will be sinking to a new depth of despair. The party will announce the results of a leadership challenge that was intended to either weaken or depose Jeremy Corbyn but will instead make him stronger than ever. The race has been decided by a Labour Party now 70 per cent composed of people who signed up after last year’s general election, delighted with the direction of the Corbyn project and convinced that he’s going to win. We have just witnessed something unprecedented in Western democracy: the takeover not just of a party’s leadership, but of its membership.

It’s not just that Owen Smith will be crushed tomorrow, it’s that the whole premise of his leadership bid was flawed. Just a few months ago, most Labour MPs signed a motion of no confidence against their leader and regarded his election as a freak, a historical burp from the Seventies. Now, they are coming to realise that he is the unlikely face of a very modern phenomenon where radical politics combines with digital technology to mobilise thousands of people who agree to click petitions. And even spend £3 (or, this time, £25) to join Labour, vote for Corbyn and shake things up. This army, once raised, represents a force that is very difficult for MPs to overcome.

In a rare BBC radio interview this week, Mr Corbyn said that things must be going well for Labour because he doesn’t recognise the people he sees at rallies nowadays. He wasn’t joking; for most of his political lifetime, he has been shaking fists with old friends. The hard Left spent decades scattered across Britain feuding with one another and selling (or, rather, not selling) copies of Socialist Worker outside stations. There are no more Trots now than there were then, but the digital era has allowed this happy few to join forces with thousands of “clicktivists”.

This is one of the great gifts of modern technology: the ability to turn a political party upside down without leaving your bedroom. Studies show just one in seven of Labour’s fiery new members are prepared to hit the doorsteps. Two thirds admit they put in no time campaigning in local, mayoral and devolved elections. But it’s amazing what trouble you can cause on a mobile phone nowadays. Before Andrew Feldman quit as Tory chairman, he told me he’d found that the most effective way of mobilising voters – other than doorstep visits – was persuading people to share Tory messages on Facebook.
In this way, the exigencies of the digital age have created a seemingly inexhaustible supply of Corbynites.
Some 400,000 have signed up to Labour, in one way or another, since the general election. A YouGov poll of these members found a gulf between their views. The new ones loathe Trident, America and military action. They admire the SNP and the Greens (a party from whom many Corbyn-era members have defected). They think Ed Miliband lost last year because he was not Left-wing enough. The old Labour members tend to oppose all such views, as do most Labour MPs.

If the Labour MPs could run off with the old Labour Party members they’d be fine. This option is discussed. It happened in 1981 when Shirley Williams, Roy Jenkins, David Owen and Bill Rodgers left Labour to create the Social Democratic Party. But these were well-known and substantial figures; a former home secretary, education secretary and foreign secretary whose personal brands embodied the values of a new party. Who does Labour have to do this now? The likes of Chuka Umunna and Tristram Hunt are ambitious, but not delusionally vain. To have another Gang of Four, you need a four.

The Labour frontbenchers who resigned en masse following the Brexit vote thought they were making a break for freedom. Now they themselves are trapped in a political equivalent of a Sartre play, an electoral hell with no exit. No tactical options are now open to them, but they face plenty of tactical threats. The emboldened Corbynistas can be expected to start a purge of their enemies, which should be easy when so many Labour MPs are having their constituencies redrawn and face reselection battles. Momentum, the hard-Left militia behind Corbyn, can be expected to fight for every seat.

To many MPs, Mr Corbyn’s offer to “wipe the slate clean” after tomorrow’s election result sounds more like a Mafioso threat than a peace offering. Already, Labour’s civil war has moved the jungle of the party’s rules and committee procedures. On Tuesday, Labour’s 33-member National Executive Committee spent eight hours fighting over whether to appoint Scottish and Welsh representatives. It sounds self-indulgent, until you remember that the power balance on the NEC will decide Labour’s future (or lack thereof).

The Labour moderates now have only one option left. They shouldn’t do any more plotting, something they were never any good at. Nor should they set up a splinter party, and abandon the ship to the pirates. They need to stay, if they’re spared, and work out: what do they stand for? What’s the moral case against Jeremy Corbyn, and how to convince people of it? If the far-Left can persuade new people to join the Labour Party, moderates can too – but first they need a cause in which to enlist people. To work out where the Labour Party should fit in following the most extraordinary British political drama for 75 years.

Things look rather bleak for Labour now, but British politics tends not to stand still for long. There are several scenarios for recovery. Imagine, for example, that David Cameron’s progressive Conservatism project, which robbed Labour of a plausible agenda, is abandoned by Theresa May – not because it didn’t work, but because it was his rather than hers. When Cameron occupied so much of the middle ground, Labour was forced to extremes. But if the Tories now edge back towards their comfort zone, abandoning their one nation agenda, Labour moderates would have an obvious opening.

Ever since Mr Corbyn’s first victory, Labour MPs have been walking about in disbelief – obsessing about what trick, or what candidate, might dislodge him. They should have started with a more basic question: why oppose him? Why should people join Labour to back their side of the argument? It’s a tougher question, and one that requires great thought. Their only consolation is that they will, now, have plenty of time to do the thinking.

For the first time, Saudi Arabia is being attacked by both Sunni and Shia leaders

Robert Fisk in The Independent

The Saudis step deeper into trouble almost by the week. Swamped in their ridiculous war in Yemen, they are now reeling from an extraordinary statement issued by around two hundred Sunni Muslim clerics who effectively referred to the Wahhabi belief – practiced in Saudi Arabia – as “a dangerous deformation” of Sunni Islam. The prelates included Egypt’s Grand Imam, Ahmed el-Tayeb of al-Azhar, the most important centre of theological study in the Islamic world, who only a year ago attacked “corrupt interpretations” of religious texts and who has now signed up to “a return to the schools of great knowledge” outside Saudi Arabia.

This remarkable meeting took place in Grozny and was unaccountably ignored by almost every media in the world – except for the former senior associate at St Antony’s College, Sharmine Narwani, and Le Monde’s Benjamin Barthe – but it may prove to be even more dramatic than the terror of Syria’s civil war. For the statement, obviously approved by Vladimir Putin, is as close as Sunni clerics have got to excommunicating the Saudis.

Although they did not mention the Kingdom by name, the declaration was a stunning affront to a country which spends millions of dollars every year on thousands of Wahhabi mosques, schools and clerics around the world.

Wahhabism’s most dangerous deviation, in the eyes of the Sunnis who met in Chechenya, is that it sanctions violence against non-believers, including Muslims who reject Wahhabi interpretation.Isis, al-Qaeda and the Taliban are the principal foreign adherents to this creed outside Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The Saudis, needless to say, repeatedly insist that they are against all terrorism. Their reaction to the Grozny declaration has been astonishing. “The world is getting ready to burn us,” Adil Al-Kalbani announced. And as Imam of the King Khaled Bin Abdulaziz mosque in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, he should know.

As Narwani points out, the bad news kept on coming. At the start of the five-day Hajj pilgrimage, the Lebanese daily al-Akhbarpublished online a database which it said came from the Saudi ministry of health, claiming that up 90,000 pilgrims from around the world have died visiting the Hajj capital of Mecca over a 14-year period. Although this figure is officially denied, it is believed in Shia Muslim Iran, which has lost hundreds of its citizens on the Hajj. Among them was Ghazanfar Roknabadi, a former ambassador and intelligence officer in Lebanon. Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, has just launched an unprecedented attack on the Saudis, accusing them of murder. “The heartless and murderous Saudis locked up the injured with the dead in containers...” he said in his own Hajj message.

A Saudi official said Khameni’s accusations reflected a “new low”. Abdulmohsen Alyas, the Saudi undersecretary for international communications, said they were “unfounded, but also timed to only serve their unethical failing propaganda”.

Yet the Iranians have boycotted the Hajj this year (not surprisingly, one might add) after claiming that they have not received Saudi assurances of basic security for pilgrims. According to Khamenei, Saudi rulers “have plunged the world of Islam into civil wars”.

However exaggerated his words, one thing is clear: for the first time, ever, the Saudis have been assaulted by both Sunni and Shia leaders at almost the same time.

The presence in Grozny of Grand Imam al-Tayeb of Egypt was particularly infuriating for the Saudis who have poured millions of dollars into the Egyptian economy since Brigadier-General-President al-Sissi staged his doleful military coup more than three years ago.
What, the Saudis must be asking themselves, has happened to the fawning leaders who would normally grovel to the Kingdom?

“In 2010, Saudi Arabia was crossing borders peacefully as a power-broker, working with Iran, Syria, Turkey, Qatar and others to troubleshoot in regional hotspots,” Narwani writes. “By 2016, it had buried two kings, shrugged off a measured approach to foreign policy, embraced ‘takfiri’ madness and emptied its coffers.” A “takfiri” is a Sunni who accuses another Muslim (or Christian or Jew) of apostasy.

Kuwait, Libya, Jordan and Sudan were present in Grozny, along with – you guessed it – Ahmed Hassoun, the grand mufti of Syria and a loyal Assad man. Intriguingly, Abu Dhabi played no official role, although its policy of “deradicalisation” is well known throughout the Arab world.

But there are close links between President (and dictator) Ramzan Kadyrov of Chechenya, the official host of the recent conference, and Mohamed Ben Zayed al-Nahyan, the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince. The conference itself was opened by Putin, which shows what he thinks of the Saudis – although, typically, none of the Sunni delegates asked him to stop bombing Syria. But since the very meeting occurred against the backcloth of Isis and its possible defeat, they wouldn’t, would they?

That Chechenya, a country of monstrous bloodletting by Russia and its own Wahhabi rebels, should have been chosen as a venue for such a remarkable conclave was an irony which could not have been lost on the delegates. But the real questions they were discussing must have been equally apparent.

Who are the real representatives of Sunni Muslims if the Saudis are to be shoved aside? And what is the future of Saudi Arabia? Of such questions are revolutions made.