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Sleepless in Fulham: Rambling and gambling by David Young
Tuesday, 4 March 2008
An attack on Global Warming from the left.
Topic: Politics

I've expressed scepticism about Global Warming before and been criticised for it. Part of the reason for this is that I'm known to be fairly right-wing and thus might be considered biased towards businesses whose profits come at the expense of the destruction of the environment. There is little I can do to reject this. I am not a corporation basher. I want businesses to create wealth and to prosper and I accept that some damage to the environment may be needed for this.

So perhaps readers might find it more interesting to read an attack on the theory of man-made Global Warming from someone who is a corporation basher, someone indeed whose views on most things are the polar opposite to mine (Iraq, Israel etc). Step forward Alexander Cockborn (brother of Patrick, who writes in the Independent). He is co-editor of a magazine called Counterpunch, which puts some of its content online. He's a long way to the left of me and indeed of most people. Here, for instance, he describes the rating agency Moodys as 'terrorists'!

It's therefore interesting that we both share intense scepticism about the theory of man-made Global Warming. In a recent book review on Spiked, he argues that the left's embrace of Global Warming alarmism is a consequence of:

"the decline of the left, and the decline of the left’s optimistic vision of altering the economic nature of things through a political programme. The left has bought into environmental catastrophism because it thinks that if it can persuade the world that there is indeed a catastrophe, then somehow the emergency response will lead to positive developments in terms of social and environmental justice."

Bingo! When the command economies of the former Soviet Union and its satellite states collapsed and their failure to match the living standards of the West was exposed, the left had to change the nature of its attack on capitalism. So from claiming that capitalism could not create and distribute wealth as effectively as socialism, many on the left switched to claiming that it did so too effectively - wrecking the planet in the endless quest to provide the proletiariat with bottled water, patio heaters and holidays on low-cost airlines.

Cockburn wants to save the left from this dangerous embrace and fears perhaps rightly, that Global Warming alarmism will be used by western corporations to cripple competition from developing countries - a terrible disaster for the poor. On this one issue at least, I am in complete agreement.

_ DY at 1:24 AM GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 4 March 2008 1:32 AM GMT
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Saturday, 23 February 2008
Poker thoughts for February (long)
Topic: Poker

It’s a while since I wrote about poker. Here are some scattered thoughts about the game.


Online –




I continue to be amazed at how blase people are about the whole Potripper fiasco at Absolute Poker. For those who don’t know, I should explain that late last year some players at one online poker site (Absolute Poker) noticed that some of their opponents had a win rate that was hard or impossible to explain away as being due merely to better play. Having gathered hand histories together, they realised that certain players had to be able to see the cards of their opponents. Nothing else could account for how these users (perhaps all the same person) never made a losing call on the river, among other things. They alerted Absolute and were initially given a denial. But they pressed on until Absolute investigated it again and concluded that something was seriously wrong. That’s a brief summary of the story. The upshot was that Absolute paid back $1.6m in compensation to those who were cheated.


What hardly anyone seems to comment on is that this shows how poor the cheating detection must have been at the site. How was it possible for certain players to have such a high win rate compared to their peers without suspicion being raised, especially users who played such a high proportion of the hands dealt to them? Doesn’t anyone wonder whether there are others out there who’ve done the same thing, but are much more subtle about it? What made people suspicious about the player named Potripper was that he made a big call with a Ten High to win a tournament when his opponent was bluffing with Nine High! What a giveaway! What if he’d been more sensible?


But nobody seems to care. Some people closed their accounts at Absolute, but others have joined up since the exposure of the security breach and the overall traffic is not harmed. I’ve heard some industry insiders tell me that Absolute’s turnover has increased. I have heard many people tell me their theory that only good players would know about the breach and close their accounts and that therefore the games must consequently be softer, so now might be a good time to sign up. I fear for the future of satire when I hear logic like that. Frankly, if I ran an online site with a well resourced cheating detection department I would wonder why I bothered given that customers don’t seem to consider security that important a feature.


World Series Sats


I see in one or more of the poker magazines floating around card rooms these days that online sites are being told by the UK Gaming Commission that they can’t offer satellites for main events taking place outside the European Economic Area. That might prevent the giant sucking sound that I’ve heard in previous years when thousands of Britons splash their money away trying to qualify for the World Series. Most come back with nothing.


Saving time


One of the key advantages of online play is that it deals many more hands per hour than the live game. I’m all for speed, so can I suggest that online sites with a large contingent of Scandinavian tournament players install an ‘Auto-Squeeze’ button? It would save a lot of time.


Live poker –


Solving the drugs crisis in Britain


The War on Drugs can be won! Here’s how. All the government has to do is legalise all drugs, on condition that they can only be distributed at British casinos. Ensure that card room managers are put in charge of customer service and sit back and watch the fun. Picture the scene if you will. A keen newbie junkie comes to the room and asks to be put on the list for Heroin


Manager: Sorry, but we don’t have any dealers yet. If you wait a couple of hours we might.


Junkie: But I want some now.


Manager: We’ve had three dealers phone in sick today and I can’t get any more from the pit bosses. Etc


The rigid way that British casinos are staffed is totally archaic and is one reason why I go to Gutshot from time to time rather than licensed casinos. You never have to wait for hours to get a dealer at Gutshot, because the staffing system is so much more flexible. Casinos can’t forecast with absolute certainty what demand for their services will be. It’s crazy that they are held to staffing rotas that don’t reflect reality. The upshot is that you feel that the business is orientated towards minimising costs rather than maximising profits.


While I’m on this subject of casino mismanagement, can I ask whether I’m the only person who keeps thinking of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore and the character of Sir Joseph Porter, who becomes Head of the Navy without ever having been on a ship?


He explains his career in this hilarious song -


ending with this vital advice:


Now landsmen all, whoever you may be,

If you want to rise to the top of the tree,

If your soul isn't fettered to an office stool,

Be careful to be guided by this golden rule.

Stick close to your desks and never go to sea,

And you all may be rulers of the Queen's Navee!


It seems like that’s the way to go if you want to rise to a position where you make decisions about card rooms. On no account should you ever actually have played or worked in one. So many things are wrong that would never happen if seasoned players had any say in the matter at all. The lighting of most rooms is wrong. The kidney-shaped tables have a pointless indent for the dealer that means players One and Nine can’t see each other. Sometimes player One can’t see seat Eight either (ditto Nine/Two). I’ve long thought that this makes a mockery of the idea that poker is a game of observation of physical tells.


The City Boys Myth


For a long time I used to believe that there was an huge missed opportunity for poker clubs to get ‘City Boys’ playing poker. I’m not the only person who’s fallen into this trap. It seems to make sense that people who earn money trading shares, currencies and derivatives for a living would enjoy using their wits to play card games for money.


Yet it never seems to work like that. In my experience, City Boys tend to come to card rooms only when they are with a few friends from the same career and whilst totally pissed. They only want to play for a couple of hours and are incredibly slow. They are also the worst slow-rollers you’ll find anywhere and seem to think that giving people the rub-down when they beat them is part of the game. I actually walked out of one very slow game recently because of one such player who thought for about a minute on the turn whilst holding the nuts against a player who’d bet all-in. The long dwell up served no purpose except for the pleasure of springing an unpleasant surprise. There’s no need for that.


Aggressive Calls


Do you remember the great furore when Vanessa Rousso talked about making some "aggressive calls" in an interview she gave last year? It’s on YouTube somewhere if you look for it. It caused great hilarity on 2+2. But why did Dan Harrington not get the same abuse for implying the same thing in his second ‘On Hold’em’ Book? I can’t find the exact references now, but on more than one occasion he describes making certain calls as "aggressive".


No Limit has finally beaten Pot limit at the entry levels of the game at the Vic


It used to be that all the cash games at the Vic were pot limit. Now I would say that the No Limit games have taken over at all but the highest levels. All the games below £100 buy-in are now No Limit games and the £100 No Limit is now spread more often than the Pot Limit game of the same price. In fact the latter is often not spread at all. The increasing frequency of £250 buy-in games has sucked a lot of money upwards. The £100 games are now a lot shallower than they used to be and I may have to adjust my play accordingly.


Conspicuous Consumption in Las Vegas


From time to time I’m reminded that some poker players don’t like Las Vegas. To be honest I was pretty bored during my trip there last year. I found a lot of the games tighter than the ones I was used to at home and I was bored by the sterility of the conversation at the tables. I began to miss listening to David Binstock (yes really) babbling on about the issues of the day. It annoyed me that so many people there had no idea what was going on in the outside world.


But that isn’t the reason that Miriam from Gutshot dislikes Vegas. Apparently she’s put off by the sight of ‘Conspicuous Consumption’. I suggested to her that she should play Downtown, where the Consumption was a great deal less conspicuous … unless you’re looking for the Tuberculosis variety.


Don’t flatten the prize structure


I came second in a competition a few weeks ago. It didn’t have many players and so there were fewer prizes than players on the final table. When we got down to six players, with five prizes, the guy with the smallest stack started asking that there be an extra prize for 6th. I vetoed this and got the usual insults in return. The player in question is fairly tight and had done little in the final apart from waiting for others to knock themselves out. I saw no reason to reward this. Pleasingly, despite doubling up in the next hand, he still went out 6th and got nothing.


The next day I played a competition at other casino and he came up to talk to the woman sitting opposite me on my starting table. She asked how he’d fared and he explained that he’d won nothing because of me (pointing at me). When he left I said that I generally don’t do deals on tournament finals until the very late stages and even then don’t usually bother.


She said she would have agreed to his deal because she thought it was polite to ‘give something to the bubble’ – an unfortunate choice of words given the ethnicity of the man in question – but I strongly disagree. He was low stacked at that particular stage of the tournament for a good reason. It’s the way he plays. And there is no reason for that style to be rewarded. It’s not "polite". If anything it’s an insult to the people who went out just before him trying to build a decent stack.


Shuffling Machines


The Vic has bought and installed shuffling machines on two of its tables. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they are only being used on the raked £50 No Limit games. Quite why I felt shocked by learning this I don’t know. The only reason to use them on hourly-charged games would be enhanced customer satisfaction and we all know how important that is in the UK gaming industry.


League Deductions


On a couple of occasions last year I went to Brighton and Luton and found that there were league deductions being taken from tournament prize pools. The money raised was set aside for a free tournament held on a given day in the future for those who accumulated points from play in other tournaments. 


I am dead set against this idea. It penalises people who can’t play regularly at the same place, as well as anyone who has other plans for the day of the Freeroll. The manager at Brighton said that they wanted to reward the regulars. That’s fine by me if it comes from their profits but I don’t see why out of town visitors should have to pay for it. I am pleased to see that so far this madness hasn’t been repeated when I’ve been to Luton this year.

_ DY at 5:23 PM GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 4 March 2008 1:30 AM GMT
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Wednesday, 23 January 2008
Roger rants, you decide.
Topic: Politics

Over at Roger's Rants, Ipswich-based Roger Kirkham is blogging about the trial of Steve Wright, accused of the murder of five women (the reports started on January 14th). Roger himself met one of the victims, as she solicited for business near where he lives - which is also not far from the home of the accused. He was also interviewed by police four times.

I can't tell from the reporting we've had on this case whether the police really have much on this man that a good defence brief can't swat away fairly easily. Wright admits having sex with four of the five victims and that could account for some, if not all, of any DNA evidence submitted.

I'm a bit worried about something that he says in an aside:

There is one other piece of circumstantial evidence that the jury will know. If the killer isn’t Steve Wright, then how come the killings stopped the moment he was arrested?

I've often wondered whether prosecutions ever advance this argument and would be interested to hear from Roger whether it's used. It's going to be an interesting case and I shall be following his reports with interest.

Separately, I'm a little bit disappointed with Roger for what I consider to be a fairly disingenous comment he's made on Melanie Phillips' blog (now hosted on the Spectator website). On the 21st January, he wrote:

"What an embarrassment Mel's blog is becoming. She accuses one of the world's great civilisations of being uncivilised because it refuses to condone theft."

It's the use of tense in the first sentence that bothers me. 'Is becoming' implies that there was a time, not too long ago, when Roger thought Mel's blog wasn't embarrassing. Yet in the years that I've been reading Rogers-Rants, I can't recall a single time he has said anything nice about her. For as long as I can remember he's portrayed her in a negative light: as "Mad Mel" and "Smelanie". Why suggest that there's something recent about his disapproval?

_ DY at 4:21 PM GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 23 January 2008 5:10 PM GMT
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Saturday, 12 January 2008
Take it from one who knows.
Topic: Misc.

Welcome back in 2008. Happy New Year.

There are lots of serious topics to write about already this year - the future of Pakistan and the US primaries for instance. Huge amounts have been written about both, much of it already proved wrong. Pakistan has been calmer than Kenya, despite hundred of column inches in the press forecasting total meltdown (though it still can't be ruled out). The polls and the pundits have been taken by surprise in New Hampshire.

Perhaps the real truth is that nobody knows anything.

Except for one lady - Alexyss Tylor. Last year ended with me criticising some of the "women's" writers in the Times. Their advice appeared contradictory and inane. What a relief then, to discover Ms Tylor, who broadcasts on Public Access Television in Atlanta. Accompanied by her mother, she offers informed and reasoned commentary on relationships and sexual matters. Her mother, a retired minister of 34 years experience, acts as consiglieri, refraining from comment most of the time, but occasionally interupting proceedings to cross-examine her daughter's thinking with the forensic skills of the late Robin Day.

Tylor doesn't shy away from using graphic language to educate her viewers, so it's perhaps advisable not to watch the following nuggets of wisdom if you are at work. Instead, wait until you get home and get a pen and paper ready to make notes as you learn things you simply never knew.

Such as:

All Black Vaginas are made of Gold.

A lot of penises are looking at women like they are the credit union.

Dick will make you slap somebody.

A man's life force is in his nuts.

Men ration out dick like Government Cheese.

"Don't let every man hit the bottom"

A warning about acrobats.

Sunday, 23 December 2007
Women and the Times.
Topic: Misc.

A cousin of mine (female) sent me a link to an article in the Times about a month ago. It was about the need for commitment in relationships. She strongly agreed with the sentiment expressed, as did most of the respondents, and asked my opinion. I can't recall what I said at the time, except that I mentioned financial factors behind men's unwillingness to commit to marriage. Looking at the comments again, I see that Liz from Plymouth says it best:

Many men don't want to marry for fear of being stripped of their economic status should it go wrong. Who can blame them?

When I put this to my cousin she wasn't impressed that I'd brought money into the calculation, but I pointed out that a link on the same page she'd sent me argued that mothers mostly need male partners for financial support.

Although I've read the Times on and off for years, I had never really noticed that it has a strand of comment pieces concerning women and their relations with men (written by women of course). Now that I've found it I'm hooked. Today I read someone called India Knight writing about girls who have sex with footballers without asking for payment in return! Apparently a 19-year girl who had sex with some famous footballers is a victim. Can that be right? If the 19-year old David Young had slept with his favorite Hollywood actresses of the late 1980s, I don't think anyone would have called him a victim. Ho hum.

So if sex with attractive famous people isn't what women really want or should want, what is? Well according to another Times Women's writer, that answer is 'attention'. I have to say that I found this last article to be one of the most insulting pieces about women I've ever read. I don't think the woman who wrote it meant it that way, it's just that if you read it and mentally substitute 'six-year olds' for 'women', it makes just as much sense. Try it yourself - here are examples:

You can also guarantee that any woman [6 year old] – with the possible exception of the hedge-fund huntress – will resent being given what she wants if she has had to ask for it or prompt the giver in any way. This is because what a woman [6 year old] really wants, above all things, is for someone (a man) [(a parent)] to be so focused on her desires, so attentive to her every whim, that he will know what she needs....

... We want attention and we want attentive presents. Indulgent presents. Spoiling, decadent, surplus-to-requirement presents that flatter the most superficial aspects of our nature. Maybe even presents designed to get us more attention, like a little gold jacket, some big gold shoes or one of those cashmere scarves that looks as if it was knitted for a giant in a fairy tale.

Deeply depressing reading. It makes you understand why men who can't play football turn to guys like this for his gems of dating advice, such as why you should never take a woman to dinner until after you've slept with her.

_ DY at 3:53 PM GMT
Updated: Sunday, 23 December 2007 3:55 PM GMT
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Monday, 17 December 2007
Winter of Content.
Topic: Politics

Here's some grounds for Yuletide celebration. It looks as though sanity is returning to the UK housing market. It's long overdue.

Let me explain why. I share a flat with a Pole. He's been here nearly three years. I sometimes have to correct his English. In particular he struggles with the inversion of auxiliary verbs. So he'll say 'How they can do this?' rather than 'How can they do this?'. I must have heard him get this wrong a thousand times over the time he's been here. On 5th November this year, while the fireworks were going off I thought it would be amusing to tell him that Britons were celebrating the failure of a Catholic terrorist plot. He's a Catholic of course - takes his religion fairly seriously.

He had no idea what I was talking about. When I explained, he asked me whether that was why people were wearing 'badges'. I explained that they weren't badges, they were poppies and they symbolised British losses in World War One. Nothing to do with Guy Fawkes.

His job? He's a teacher ... and sometimes he teaches English to 11-year olds! Mostly he does RE and PE for which he is qualified, but I can't help thinking that someone who teaches our country's children should know a little bit more about British culture. I know I do go on and on about the ridiculous price of property in Britain and the south-east in particular. But here's one reason that has nothing to do with me. The price of accommodation in my part of Britain is so high that people on teachers' salaries can't afford to live here unless they want to live like 'The Young Ones', as I do. Most educated British people don't want to live like that. The result is that the vacancies must be filled by foreigners. Our children's education is suffering because of a shortage of accommodation.

_ DY at 2:38 PM GMT
Updated: Sunday, 23 December 2007 5:50 PM GMT
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Wednesday, 12 December 2007
Not all violence is equal.
Topic: Politics

There was a revealing exchange concerning Iraq in Prime Minister's Question Time today, between Vince Cable and Gordon Brown.

Cable: "When he [Brown] was in Basra this week was he told that 40 women, at least, have been executed for personal immorality ... [I]s this why 173 British troops have died? Transferring power from the fascist regime of Saddam Hussein to the terror of the fascist militia who run the streets of Basra."

My first thought was to wonder what Cable thought of World War Two. Did Britain win? That war began when Chamberlain demanded that German troops leave Poland. When it ended, Poland had transferred from the totalitarian regime of Adolf Hitler to the totalitarian regime of Joseph Stalin. Is that why thousands of British troops died? It's a shame that in 1945 Cable was too young to denounce the government of the day.

However, there is a deeper point I want to make and it concerns two different kinds of violence. To illustrate them, I shall use examples from American history.

Situation One - You are a black slave in the early 19th century. You own nothing. Your master beats you.

Situation Two - You are a gold prospector (of any race) in the late 19th century. You work in a remote region where the forces of law and order are weak. You find gold but it is stolen from you, along with everything else you have. You are also beaten. If you go back to prospecting there is a significant chance that this will happen again.

Is one worse than the other? Vince Cable might say there is no difference, as in both cases you are beaten and have nothing. But I think that there is a significant moral difference. In the first situation, the person who beats you and lets you own nothing is acting entirely within the law. In the second situation, the people who robbed and beat you are outlaws. They may escape justice, but there is always the possibility that it will catch up with them. Although both situations are appalling. I find the first situation more morally repugnant than the second.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007
Money well spent.
Topic: Misc.

This news just in:

"The average age of teenagers murdered on the streets of London is just 16, an Evening Standard study has revealed."

Is it heartless of me to point out that the average age of ALL teenagers is 16?

_ DY at 1:47 AM GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 11 December 2007 1:48 AM GMT
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Friday, 9 November 2007
A hand from live play.
Topic: Poker

There used to be a time when it was considered an insult to describe someone as an 'online player'. Now I think it's more of a compliment. You still see a lot of terrible play in slow-clock tournaments from online qualifiers, but in terms of cash play, I think it's a lot tougher to make money online than live.

Here's a hand that I won at the Victoria a few months ago. I wrote down the detail immediately after it happened because I think it so perfectly illustrated the difference.

The game was £100 Pot limit hold'em, with two equal blinds of £3. In this hand nobody posted an optional straddle.

I was in the big blind with JJ.

Two people limped from middle position and the 'small' blind raised £12. I re-raised another £30 and the two limpers folded. The small blind called.

The flop was 442.

The small blind bet £75. I raised another £125 to £200. The small blind called.

The turn was a 4.

The small blind checked and I bet £240 all-in.

He called and announced 'There's no way I'm passing this hand!'.

I showed JJ, he showed TT. I won a pot of £976.

If you've played online cash no-limit hold'em lately you'll know that it's almost impossible to win a pot of 325 big blinds with my hand on that board. If your online opponent were in this spot he would either have a lot less money or he'd only call you on the flop and turn if JJ was losing.

You don't win $1,300 pots with JJ over TT in $2/4 NL hold'em online. Period.

Friday, 26 October 2007
Idiot culture.
Topic: Misc.

A few months ago a contestant at the Miss Teen USA contest was mocked for an answer she gave in the Q&A section. Told that twenty per cent of Americans could not find the USA on a world map and asked why this was, she rambled incoherently:

Some TV executives felt sorry for her and invited her on to a breakfast show to give a better answer (after showing her in her bikini). The second time around she said that she doubted the accuracy of the survey but, if true, it showed the need for a greater emphasis on Geography in school. She was wrong. The real reason that so many Americans don't know the answer to the question is that they just don't care. There is no great penalty for being ignorant if you live in an idiot culture.

Before any British readers start pointing the finger though, I think they should read this next story. A Polish schoolboy who came to Britain two years ago, hoping to improve his education, has gone back to Poland, complaining that he was 'treading water' in the British school system.

I find this story interesting, because he doesn't just blame the system. His chief problem was the the apathy of the other students -

"The boys were childish, they didn't read papers and weren't interested in anything ... And the girls only talked about shopping and what they were going to do on Friday night... In Poland you have to know the names of all countries, even the rivers. But in England hardly anyone could place Kenya or Poland on the map. The teachers didn't test knowledge, only effort."

It's the idiot culture again. You can walk into a newsagent store here and find half a dozen magazines full of fluff about Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie. How can people buy this garbage without embarrassment? Is it just an Anglo-Saxon thing or is it a feature of all prosperous countries - that general knowledge and current affairs are seen as irrelevant to people who have enough to live on?

To fix this, what's needed isn't more money thrown at education. It's the return of ridicule. We need to make fun of people who don't take an interest in the world around them. It would cost nothing.

I doubt any of this will interest Miss Teen South Carolina though. She's now living in a luxury appartment in Manhattan with a modelling contract that according to reports 'could earn her $30,000 per day'.,23663,22450632-10229,00.html

_ DY at 7:24 PM BST
Updated: Friday, 26 October 2007 7:35 PM BST
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Wednesday, 17 October 2007
A fool and his house.
Topic: Poker

So the International Monetary Fund has 'warned' that Britain may be facing a fall in house prices similar to that currently being endured in the US. I always wonder why the media pre-supposes that this is a bad thing for everyone. About time too, say I and a lot of my friends.

I'm glad I haven't put any predictions of a housing market crash down in writing, because I've been expecting a fall for several years now, in which time prices have been bid ever higher. One person who has done so is Roger Bootle. Despite this, he's done it again in this Monday's Telegraph. Bootle's article prompted an interesting discussion on the Motley Fool Property Market and Trends forum.

I find myself in strong agreement with one poster who explains why his (and my) expectations of a correction have been wrong:

"I would just like to applaud many of the resident uber Bulls on this board for seeing what was coming post 2005 in the property market, I (and Roger Bootle and many others) failed to see...

1. That lenders would loan a nurse for example, on £25,000 wages a year, £500,000

2. That 55 year olds who have no wages coming in and who are on welfare and also handicapped given huge mortgages

3. That you could apply for a mortgage with some of the British sub-prime lenders and using self-cert create your own pay slip (15 x not uncommon).

4. Estate Agents actively and in large numbers guiding buyers into how to get a mortgage in the 2000s, from getting fake passports (the first Panorama mortgage scandal) to downloading fake pay slips.

5. FSA releasing mis-leading information (I won't risk posting what I really want to say), ie repossession figures higher than what they release, their excuse being they do not submit the sub prime.

6. A substained and constant barage of property porn on TV and the media that even Adolf Hitlers propaganda machime would have been proud of.

7. And a Labour (LABOUR) Government whose active policy was to NOT build houses and NOT release land

8. 750,000 official (some would argue far more) Eastern Europeans allowed to swamp an already over-populated country without a backlash from the more deprived areas of the UK who have to take most of the pain.

No Guys, I would never of guessed that any of this would be allowed to stand in the UK, but you got it right, I take my hat off to you."

Add in the favourable tax treatment of non-domiciled foreign millionaires and that pretty much says it all.

_ DY at 11:47 PM BST
Updated: Wednesday, 17 October 2007 11:58 PM BST
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Friday, 5 October 2007
So how do you want to help Burma?
Topic: Politics

I've seen a few people indicating support for the Burmese people in their struggle against an oppressive regime. If you're one of them I want to know what level of military action you'd support.

Who should be killed?

Saturday, 29 September 2007
I had a recurring dream, once.
Topic: Misc.

There's a dream I get from time to time in which I am looking at a map or a globe and I notice a country that I've never seen before. It's usually landlocked in Canada or Russia. Nothing much happens. I just stare at it.

I had a similar experience this week while reading a comment on Pete Birks' blog. Birks had written about the various 'stans' of Central Asia, some of which are nation states, others merely regions of Russia and that prompted someone else to post a map of the regions of Russia and the remark: 'I'm intrigued by the autonomous oblast in the lower right-hand corner, labelled "Jewish"...'

I assumed it was some sort of joke but, lo and behold, there it was:


It's the blue one in the far east. It turns out that in the 1920s Stalin had some idea of promoting a dedicated Jewish region. It's a fascinating story and I recommend you read about it - 

Check out the flag and the coat of arms too. The former is a bit like the 'gay rainbow' flag, while the latter has a tiger on it!

Intriguingly, Russia also has a republic that is officially Buddhist. It's Kalmykia, the green-coloured one in the west, marked with an 8, just above Dagestan. It amuses me that the jewish region is in the Asian part of Russia, just above China, while the Buddhist one is in Europe!

_ DY at 4:35 AM BST
Updated: Saturday, 29 September 2007 4:40 AM BST
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Tuesday, 11 September 2007
A sad story.
Topic: Misc.

Is it a contradiction to be a staunch believer in capitalism and the right of individuals to spend their money as they please and yet still be disgusted by nonsense like this? 

The basic story - a rich kid goes with an even richer friend and some assorted hangers-on to an expensive nightclub. They notice a famous basketball player. They order the most expensive champagne in the house, at $1,500 a bottle, and it is brought to them with some fanfare. The basketball player orders three bottles. The rich kids order six, the basketball player orders ten and the rich kids order the remaining stock of twenty-six bottles.

Rich kid says: "I cannot even begin to explain the energy going off at our table at this moment in time. Most of us were standing on top of the cushions, jumping out of control, and screaming at the top of our lungs."

Really? Did nobody point out how sad and empty this all was?

Conspicuous consumption has long struck me as the hallmark of the truly pitiful. Am I the only person who looks at footballers wives blowing quarter of a million on clothes and feel sorry for them that their lives are so empty that they have to waste money in order to be happy?

Saturday, 8 September 2007
Some people need a double-life.
Topic: Misc.

I saw a very interesting film earlier this week. "Breach" is the true story of the FBI agent and Soviet spy Robert Hanssen, who was arrested in 2001. His treachery is described as "possibly the worst intelligence disaster in US history". I recommend you see it while it's still in cinemas. It stars the excellent Chris Cooper.

Hanssen wasn't what you'd expect a spy to be. He was nothing like Burgess, Philby or Maclean. He had no ideological affinity to communism or socialism. In fact he was ferventy anti-communist. He also was extremely religious, devoutly Catholic; a member of Opus Dei, who went to church every day. He criticised the Soviet Union for its godlessness and believed that it was a lack of religion that caused its collapse. But notwithstanding the above, he supplied it with classified information and thereby caused the deaths of dozens of people. And despite his conservative views on sex, he secretly videotaped himself in bed with his wife and posted copies to friends. He even wrote about his sex life on fetish websites, using his own name!

He wasn't motivated by money. Although he took $1.4m over many years, he told his Soviet handlers on one occasion that he did not want more than $100k as he had no need for it and couldn't spend it without drawing attention to himself.

Something else, something much darker lay behind Hanssen's betrayal. An abusive father can't have helped, but what appears to be the underlying motivation was a desire to lead a double-life. As a youth he was inspired by hearing of Kim Philby's espionage. He later told the Soviets that he decided on his course of action at the age of 14.

Meanwhile in the present day, another high-ranking American has been brought down by the exposure of a double-life. Senator Larry Craig has pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in a men's lavatory in Minneapolis airport. He insists that he's not gay, but as Christopher Hitchens points out, many men who seek out such activity do not believe themselves to be gay. This was demonstrated nearly 40 years ago in a doctoral thesis by Laud Humphries (see the Hitchens link). In public life, they will profess conservative opinions on such matters. Craig for instance voted to prohibit homosexual marriage. 

What might seem more shocking than the thought of a hypocritical politician is the fact that in this day and age, police are being paid to entrap homosexuals in this way. It seems a bit excessive to me, but as a straight man who wants to be able to use public lavatories without being approached for same-sex activity, perhaps I should be grateful for it. Now that homosexuality is legal, gays can meet in their own homes and leave the men's room alone.

I shudder to think what it must have been like for a normal man to need to use a public convenience for its intended purpose back in the old days. As one, unnamed source told Hitchens, the men's facilities at Clapham Common were so popular with those seeking sex that "If someone comes in there for a good honest shit, it's like a breath of fresh air."

_ DY at 7:08 PM BST
Updated: Saturday, 8 September 2007 7:19 PM BST
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