November 23, 2007

The Dickens Football Team

James Hamilton has just offered up his Wodehouse team, I think though they are good, they would come unstuck against this team that I offer up from the novels of Charles Dickens- it would be a good game, but for creativity and thuggery I think this team would have the beating of anything that the effete cricket playing toff Wodehouse could produce!

The team I have set out plays a 3-5-2 formation.

Goal: Always a difficult position but Joe Gargery seems an automatic choice. Dependable and thoroughly individual, Joe can be relied upon not to make any mistakes and to always take the simple option. A thoroughly modest man, Joe is not one for hissy fits or attempting fantastic saves at the wrong moment.

Left centre half- A problematic position but Ebenezer Scrooge is a natural in it. Miserly in the beggining of the game when he never misplaces a pass in possession, his game becomes more expansive as the game advances. He is always though keen to stop the other side scoring and his grim determination to win means that he is a ferocious competitor and absolutely merciless in the tackle.

Centre-half- Betsy Trotwood fits right in here- she is strong and stubborn and has an innate positional sense. She is also a great captain for the team- a leader of men and women who has the ability both to comfort those in distress and to be ferocious with fraudulent divers. She is tough but fair.

Right centre half- Bill Sikes the thug in this lineup. Sikes is the Norman Hunter of the team- he will bite your legs and leave you on the floor afterwards. He isn't adverse to aerial challenges either and has an ability to intimidate even the most seasoned striker.

Left Midfield- Jack Dawkins, the Artful Dodger, so known because he picks the pockets of opposition fullbacks when they aren't looking, is a skilfull young player, he nips through the midfield and is very creative and cunning. Can send the ball through the smallest gap and is very good at getting away from trouble.

Right midfield- Sam Weller- on the right because of his attitudes to his master Mr Pickwick, this chirpy Cockney can run all day, he is athletic and good at saving situations. But he also poses an attacking threat, he has good vision, he can see the play develop.

Centre midfield- Fagin- the master tactician, Fagin controls the passing of the team, controls the tempo of play and receives the ball. He can pass long ambitious attempts right out into the country, but is happiest with the ball at his feet masterminding intricate moves with the artful dodger on the streets of London. The only player who can control Sikes's temprament, he is vital to the unit.

Centre midfield- Sir Leicester Dedlock stern veteran in the centre of the midfield. Very concerned with the team's shape and maintains tactical discipline. Not the quickest but a very good recycler of the ball from the defence. A traditional style defensive midfielder who minds his estate in front of the defence with the utmost skill. He also serves as Vice Captain.

Centre midfield- Mr Micawber whereas Fagin and Dedlock are masters of the pass and the intelligent positioning, Micawber is the Gerard or Lampard of this midfield. He bustles everywhere always with the same hopeful optimism. Sometimes he can be ineffective- but at his best he can destroy any heep of opposition possession and furthermore surrounded by a supportive team can set moves going towards the Antipodean side of the pitch.

Centre-Forward Ghost of Jacob Marley- a ghostly presence on the field, often people don't notice he is even there but when he arrives he can be absolutely devestating and change the storyline of a game. Has a habit of rising out of fireplaces right onto the pitch into great offensive positions- he is a vital player for the team, motivated purely by a duty to recover his career.

Centre Forward- Mr Tulkinghorn- operates again secretly but a real team player, sometimes too cunning for his own good, he ticks along in the centre of this team with his great authority causing opposition centre backs shock and awe when he arrives on the field. Deceptively fast, deceptively deceitful and always with enough knowledge of the law to bend it using his vast authority to deceive the referees and the courts. Tulkinghorn is absolutely vicious in sending the ball away into goal- he is an imposing centre forward.

Substitutes:

Sub Goalkeeper- John Jarndyce- cheerful and thoughtful Jarndyce is another who is totally reliable even when things are going badly. He always puts in 110% and he has mysterious resources of self knowledge to turn to when things are going badly. Not so good with a high east wind but apart from that curious liability he is a safe pair of hands.

Sub Defender- Ham Peggoty- Dogged and determined, Ham never gives up and is willing to toil against the most skilfull of strikers. He is courageous, rushing into flood and storm in order to get to the ball, he is also a team player, affectionate and friendly in a quiet way.

Sub Defender- Thomas Gradgrind- harsh and dogmatic in his ways, Gragrind is a useful defender. He doesn't regard fancy play as anything other than extravagance and is always able to detect the ball moving and tackle it. Perhaps not the greatest passer of the ball- though towards the ends of games he often improves, he is definitely a traditional stopper and as such can be relied upon.

Sub Midfielder- Nicholas Nickleby always willing to try, always willing to pick himself up after disaster and run towards trouble, Nickleby is a vital substitute who can come on in almost any position from wealthy inheritor to struggling actor in order to help the side. His versatility, knowledge of the game throughout the country and youthful enthusiasm make him the perfect substitute midfielder.

Sub Midfielder- Miss Havisham- one of the most thoughtful plotters of the downfall of men ever to grace the game. She is the mistress of the psychologicla arts, enticing opposition forwards into her imposing lair and then playing balls through to her pupil Estella Drummle. Miss Havisham is one of the great players of her day, if perhaps now a little traditional.

Sub Forward- Estella Drummle- beautiful and skilfull player of the game- if occasionally forgets strategy for tactics, Estella has all the skills you would want a fine player of the game to have. She fascinates centre halves with her intricate footwork before leaving them gaping in astonishment at the beauty of her play, she scores often and a lot and is absolutely heartless in her attacks. She is also supremely confident.

Sub Forward- Amy Dorrit- perhaps too shy and ascetic sometimes but her single minded devotion to the cause demonstrates that she has a talent worth developing. Is a hard worker and a team player and she contributes fully when brought on.

Manager- Jaggers. The formidable lawyer has the personality to intimidate even the strong personailities on this team. By nature he is cautious allowing players to play their natural game but his strong psychological insights into human frailty and his powers of perception are real weapons in the tactical game that modern football is today. Jaggers is quite simply the best in the world at what he does and he knows it.

Team: Gargery; Sikes, Trotwood, Scrooge; Weller, Dawkins, Fagin, Dedlock, Micawber; Marley, Tulkinghorn. Subs Jarndyce, Peggotty, Gradgrind, Nickleby, Havisham, Drummle, Dorrit.

Electability

Reflecting on my earlier post on Ron Paul, made me move to consider something else. Based on this rather interesting article on Powerline concerning how Republican voters should vote in a possible primary made me consider what it is that we actually request from our politicians. For example Paul Mirengoff on Powerline suggests that there are two Conservative candidates running for the Republican nomination (Thompson and Romney) and two Electable candidates (McCain and Giuliani), irrespective of whether you agree with the precise division of the candidates, his point boils down to how a Republican conservative primary voter should choose in such a case. The point could be transposed to the Democratic party too- and furthermore is universal to any political system. Conservatives in the UK in 2005 struggled with whether to vote for the electable David Cameron or the more ideologically hardline Liam Fox and David Davis, the question has bedevilled Labour party politics as well.

Some politicians seem to set a course which leads them to become perfect governors. Bill Richardson on the Democratic side would be a good example of someone whose career has been perfect for attaining high office- a cabinet member, foreign policy experience, a successful executive career and nothing to frighten the voters- Mitt Romney has also spent most of his career proving his competence in a variety of contexts. One thinks of previous Presidents of the United States- Richard Nixon for example or Dwight Eisenhower who brought formidable CVs to their roles. But others don't. The leading example in the UK would be the Labour MP for Birkenhead Frank Field. Field has only once served as a minister, he was number 2 at social security for a year just after Blair came in- but he has always been one of the more incisive and intelligent thinkers about social policy and in some ways has had more effect on UK policy than some of the ministers in that department have had. Field is respected and highly thought of and his contributions are intelligent enough to make ministers stop and think. Field's brand of politician seems to be a diminishing species, but in recent Parliaments investigative thinkers like Tam Dallyel or ideological animals like John Redwood also come to mind as people whose ministerial careers were limited by their influence.

Looking at Ron Paul in the US, what is interesting to me about it is that he looks like this second type of politician. Its probably a reason why he is so popular and it is the reason why inevitably he will fail to get either the nomination or the Presidency. He seems to me to be the kind of candidate who makes other people think. He has ploughed a lonely furrow in Congress- whether you agree or disagree with him. He has also argued with considerable skill for positions which I suspect very few people hold- if so he has perhaps forced people to evaluate why they beleive in the conventional wisdom, even if they still hold to it afterwards. That function is crucial to any political process- and just like Field, Redwood and Dallyel, he is a neccessary part of the political system. It also explains though why I think he could never become party leader- because ultimately following those arguments rigourously to their ends means abandoning the neccessary blindness that goes along with comforting a vast coalition and becoming electable. Paul's virtue is his uncompromising stand for libertarianism as an ideal and that is his ultimate vice as a candidate as well.

Turning back to the Powerline column for a second, it is interesting to think about what this implies for politics. I think what is going on here is a tension between the ideal of what political engagement is and the reality of what a political party is. Everyone involved in politics wants to do what they think is right for their country. That's why people get into politics and don't use their often impressive talents in other ways. But in order to do that people have to form coalitions, and the reality of politics is that none of us precisely agree with anyone else. Consequently most politicians and most people involved in politics look up to the principled evangelists but also look down on them- using words like irresponsible and luxury to describe the way that they express their ardently held opinions. To be consistant is seen as an indulgence because it doesn't reflect the fact that politics is about coalition building as well as being about describing the best way forwards. That tension I reckon will always be with us, so long as we don't slip into dictatorship and the dilemma that Powerline evokes is therefore one that will endure long after Messrs McCain, Romney, Giuliani and Thompson have become obscure footnotes in history.

Internet Fraud

is nothing if not imaginative. Here is a great example of a 419 scam (so called after the point in the Nigerian legal code which outlaws it) about the British National lottery- any British tv watcher will see its a scam, but its worth seeing just to how all these things work, are too good to be true and evaporate with any knowledge of what actually happens, in this case in the National Lottery.

November 21, 2007

Ron Paul's odd followers

Apologies for sparce posting this week has been in a lot of ways very stressful for me.

Right on to the main agenda of this post, which is Ron Paul. A controversy has blown up in the States about Paul's odder supporters- from white seccessionists to anti-semites to a whole bag of idiots and fools- Paul has attracted his share of weird and sometimes mad supporters. David Bernstein from the Volokh conspiracy and Mona Charen from the National Review certainly think that this support and the fact that Paul hasn't disavowed it create enough of a reason to vote for someone with saner supporters.

Its an interesting objection. To some extent they are wrong- all political movements are coalitions and contain vile and often seriously mistaken people. There are degrees though- and it is worth remembering that one of the best ways to know someone is by their friends. That's why for example the UK Conservative Party was so keen to jettison its former candidate Nigel Hastilow for racist comments and why Ken Livingstone should jettison Miranda Grell. Paul though is in the position of having supporters who he might wish to disavow, a slightly different category- should for instance John McCain or any of the other pro-life candidates explicitly stand up and say that they don't want any violent pro-life enthusiasts to vote for them, should Barack Obama say that he doesn't want the black power movement to vote for him.

To an extent I think Paul is suffering from this partly because he is seen as being an extremist himself. He has positions which he has never explained properly and not been questioned fully on- for instance withdrawing US troops from everywhere around the world that they are stationed at the moment, withdrawing the US from international free trade agreements, abolishing the IRS. Paul has made a career from being an iconoclast- and that's a good career but the point is that then in some cases you need to prove your orthodoxy. Paul hasn't shown himself to be very savvy either in avoiding odd and sometimes racist radio shows and films- as Charen comments- he has allowed himself to appear on them- furthermore he hasn't returned cheques from people operating in the Klu Klux Khan. Partly this is just mischief making from the Republicans as well- Paul is popular because of Iraq- somebody like Charen would scorn any Democratic tactic to use this argument against her 'guy' in November but in this context is quite happy to use the same argument to suppress a Republican insurgency.

I'd be interested to know more about this- whether there are links between Paul and the madmen- I suspect there aren't- how serious Paul is as a candidate- given what he's said I suspect his effect is more of a useful corrective on the Republican party than a serious Presidential prospect.