Archive for December, 2009

Headline news

December 28, 2009

I hope these story headlines from the BBC are NOT related news:

Labour MP dies after heart attack
Pope on first visit since assault
Six held on suspicion of murder
Cameron urges ‘good clean fight’
High-speed rail report expected
‘Simple’ anti-theft ads launched

The possibility that HH Pope Benedict XVI might have assaulted a Labour MP (who died of a heart attack), with six accomplices (including David Cameron) because simple anti-theft advertisements are launched to prevent the stealing of high-speed trains, would be disturbing, to say the least.

I need a new electorate

December 15, 2009

The people have spoken, again.

Changes in your ranks:
#41 cutest (lost 1 place)
#43 hottest (lost 1 place)
#43 person with the prettiest eyes (lost 1 place)
#44 sexiest (lost 1 place)
#45 most dateable (lost 1 place)

Not wishing to sound like a bad loser, but OUCH!!!

Faithful Igor

“So, Antoine, what’s it like to be Igor‘s ugly twin?”

Late thoughts on bigotry

December 14, 2009

I’m publishing here my response to a Wonkette piece about Sarah Palin’s Down Syndrome child, Trig. The article was written in June by Ken Layne, though my comments are aimed at the blog’s founder, not her flunkies.

antoineclarke says at 2:53 pm, December 14th, 2009
– Reply

Is that the best you can do? Lame.

If the stormtrooper is some kind of hint of Nazism, how come the people who are accused of being Nazis are the ones AGAINST eugenics, and the people supporting eugenics are the ones calling out “fascist.” Seems like disinformation to me.

As someone who would possibly have been gassed by real Nazis, and who had a relative executed by them (he was a hostage that was murdered because a prisoner escaped), I find the attacks on a woman (for not having an abortion) at the very least silly. Next you’ll be supporting some idiot who calls for conservative women to be gang raped. I honestly don’t recall your stance on that story, but I hope you condemned it.

There was me thinking pro-abortion people were in favour of choice. I guess “choice” is just a propaganda tool for collectivists to chip away at individual rights.

I used to consider abortion of a Down’s Syndrome foetus an unfortunate idea but on the whole the right thing to do. Until I traveled to work every day for a year on a train in London with a young woman who had the condition. Most people in the train were grumpy, cramped, seemed pretty miserable. She on the other hand listened to her music and seemed happy. I certainly do not have the right to decide if she had the right to live. And I don’t think you do either.

However, call me a bleeding heart if you like, but I would not condone physical threats or any assault on you, simply for being wrong on an issue. Let’s see how sane your readers are.

Bring back Ana Marie Cox, I reckon.

[H/T ] William A. Jacobson

Twittering exchange

December 8, 2009

Yesterday, I spotted this Twitter update:
“Problem on Paris metro – no trains running – trying to find a taxi”
[name withheld]

The author, a Californian who believes in global warming, government provided health care and public transport (no, I am not making this up!) was in France to take part in some global social media event. To be fair, he is an expert in this field.

My riposte: “Welcome to the public option”

I want my sharks with sharp teeth

December 7, 2009

A discussion in the New York Times about whether a law firm should refuse to hire qualified people on the grounds that they have worked with the Federalist Society (described as an U.S. conservative-minded group). The bigot who wanted an excuse to refuse to hire people who weren’t as “liberal” as himself admitted that the candidates had all the qualities for the job, apart from sharing the same ideology with him.

Although the NY Times “Ethicist” argued that political views should not be used to discriminate the following concludes the article.

UPDATE: Believing that all the applicants were qualified, but able to hire only a few, this person recommended rejecting each member of the Federalist Society.

[HT: Instapundit]

I say: Good. I want my sharks to be mean, nasty, spiteful, ruthless, vicious, vindictive and petty. I want the people who are generous of spirit on the jury, and then only if I’m the defendant.

There is just one tiny snag. I’m not sure that a law firm that only hires people with the same viewpoint, will be as effective at avoiding groupthink and losing cases because the attorneys all agreed on a bad case strategy. I wonder how one could avoid that?

Propaganda from UK’s CO2 reduction organisation

December 5, 2009

It should come as no surprise that what is supposedly a request for public responses to the Carbon Trust’s plans to destroy all business in the UK, is in fact a fraudulent propaganda stunt.

However, thanks to Guido Fawkes, I’m hopeful this will blow up in the bureaucrats’ faces. In his “Seen elsewhere” feature, Guido points to the survey, which has resulted in some interesting results.

Under the misleading title: CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme: What does it mean to you? we get the following six questions:

Question 1 of 6

Which of the following apply to you?

Owner of a business
Senior manager of a business

Question 2 of 6

If one group should bear the brunt of efforts to cut the UK’s carbon emissions, who should it be?


N.B. The question is loaded in several ways: 1) there is no option to either say “both government and consumers” for example, which is dubious, there should at least be the chance to indicate more than one; 2) where is the “none of the above” or “I don’t want UK carbon emissions reduced” option?

This is not a survey of people’s opinions, but a propaganda excerise designed to “prove” public support for a government programme. Sounds familiar?


Who has it easy at the 2010 FIFA World Cup? (3)

December 5, 2009

In my previous two postings [here and here], I’ve outlined the draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, attempting to work out which of the eight groups is the hardest. I’ve also used two methods to try to work this out, which I’ve described as “Group Type” and “The Minnows’ View.”

In this posting I look at the two other indicators I deployed for this exercise, which I call “The View From The Top” and “Mind The Gap.”

Just to recap, here are the first round groups:

Group A Group B Group C Group D
South Africa Argentina England Germany
Mexico Nigeria USA Australia
Uruguay South Korea Algeria Serbia
France Greece Slovenia Ghana
Group E Group F Group G Group H
Netherlands Italy Brazil Spain
Denmark Paraguay North Korea Switzerland
Japan New Zealand Ivory Coast Honduras
Cameroon Slovakia Portugal Chile

The View From The Top is the average ranking points of the bottom three teams in a group, therefore it is a true perspective of how it should look to the seeded team (apart from Group A, where unseeded France is the highest-ranked team).

Here’s how they look, using this indicator.

Group A: 736.33, equivalent to Columbia, the average would be ranked in 40th place.

Group B: 833.67, Bulgaria, ranked 27th.

Group C: 853, Nigeria, 22nd.

Group D: 834, Bulgaria, 27th.

Group E: 859.67, Nigeria, 22nd.

Group F: 668, Scotland, 46th.

Group G: 835.67, Denmark, 26th.

Group H: 862.67, Nigeria, 22nd.
[all ranking points taken from the November 20, 2009 update of the FIFA/Coca Cola World Rankings, with the relevant data cited here and here].

What the “View From The Top” indicator shows: This time Group H is the highest rated, this was also the case with the “Group Type” indicator (which established the average strength of each group). So the joint favourite, Spain, also ranked world number one, would seem to have the toughest average opponent in the first round. This is perhaps the least reported assessment from the World Cup draw to date and defies apparent wisdom.

The weakness of this indicator is that, like all averages, it gives no account to the range of teams. In a three-game contest, the prescence of two closely-ranked teams at the top would seem more complicated (see Group G where the 2nd- [Brazil] and 5th-ranked [Portugal] teams are drawn together). However, it is important to recall that the top two teams qualify for the later stages of the competition.

Perhaps this makes my final indicator worth a look: Mind The Gap. This is worked out by calculating the gap between the top and bottom teams in each group.

Group A: 745 points, equivalent to the gap between 1st-placed Spain and 21st-placed Australia.

Group B: 460 pts, equivalent to the gap between Spain and France (7th).

Group C: 307 pts, the gap between Spain and the Netherllands (3rd).

Group D: 431 pts, the gap between Spain and Portugal (5th).

Group E: 570 pts, the gap between Spain and Croatia (10th).

Group F: 782 pts, the gap between Spain and Israel (25th).

Group G: 1,193 pts, the gap between Spain and Uganda (78th).

Group H: 884 pts, the gap between Spain and Honudras (38th).

What the “Mind The Gap” indicator shows: The narrower the gap, the more likely there will be a “shock” result, e.g. the lowest-ranked team getting a draw or a win over the top team. Here, England’s Group C is the most interesting, which shouldn’t be a surprise. At ninth place, England is the weakest team to be the top in a group, while Slovenia at 33rd are the strongest of the minnows.

Because of the tendency of English soccer fans to assume that, because they haven’t drawn Germany, Brazil or Argentina in the first round, then naturally “we’re going to win it,” I think there’s a very strong reason to fear that, Algeria, for instance will be totally understimated. This is especially problematic when one considers that England will be the least well-suited team in Group C to play in the South African climate next June. (more…)

Who has it easy at the 2010 FIFA World Cup? (2)

December 5, 2009

In my previous posting, I described the results of the 2010 FIFA World Cup draw in South Africa. Here I look at two methods of working out which are the toughest groups. Group F is the weakest group using all but one of my indicators (the final one, “Mind The Gap” which is covered in my next posting).

Here are the Groups for the 2010 FIFA World Cup:

Group A Group B Group C Group D
South Africa Argentina England Germany
Mexico Nigeria USA Australia
Uruguay South Korea Algeria Serbia
France Greece Slovenia Ghana

Group E Group F Group G Group H
Netherlands Italy Brazil Spain
Denmark Paraguay North Korea Switzerland
Japan New Zealand Ivory Coast Honduras
Cameroon Slovakia Portugal Chile

The consensus seems to be that Groups G and A are the hardest. Italy has the easiest and England has a good chance. I beg to differ.

Although South Africa is the host country and on paper a seeded team, France (with almost three times the ranking points) is the real favourite in Group A. Therefore, in this analysis, I have considered France the top team in Group A.

The two methods of evaluating the strength of groups I’m using here are “Group Type” and the “Minnows’ View.”

Group Type is simply the average ranking of the four teams in a group. I then find the team(s) in the FIFA world rankings which comes closest to matching this average, this gives us:

Group A: 832.75, equivalent to Denmark or Bulgaria, the average would be ranked in 27th place.

Group B: 896.5, Serbia or Australia, ranked 21st.

Group C: 905.5, Uruguay, 19th.

Group D: 918, Switzerland or Uruguay, 19th.

Group E: 964.5, USA or Mexico, 15th.

Group F: 804.75, Paraguay or Norway, 31st.

Group G: 1,024.75, Greece or Russia, 13th.

Group H: 1,052.5, Croatia, 10th.
[all ranking points taken from the November 20, 2009 update of the FIFA/Coca Cola World Rankings, with the relevant data cited here and here].

What the “Group Type” indicator shows: I think it’s a reliable guide to the average quality of the teams. The surprising result is that Group H comes top, suggesting this is where the teams will tend to be of the highest standard. The reason for this result is that Spain is the world number one (1,622 ranking points) and Honduras, the weakest team in that group (738 pts), is the second strongest outsider (the others ranging from 756 pts to only 377 pts). The average team in Group H is equivalent to Croatia, the 10th ranked country.

I think one weakness of this indicator (apart from the fluctuation in rankings between now and June 2010) is that it’s easy to forget that Brazil, for instance, doesn’t play Brazil. In other words, a strong team in a group of minnows will actually have an easy time, but the group looks harder than one where all the teams are more evenly matched. This is why the other indicators were created.

The Minnows’ View is simply calculated by taking the average ranking points of the top three teams in a groups, which assumes that the lowest ranked is an outsider, with no serious chance of coming first or second over three matches, and therefore being eliminated.

Group A: 984.67, equivalent to USA, the average would be ranked in 14th place.

Group B: 987, USA, ranked 14th.

Group C: 955.33, Mexico, 15th.

Group D: 977.67, Mexico, 15th.

Group E: 1,049.67, Cameroon, 11th.

Group F: 928.67, Ivory Coast, 16th.

Group G: 1,233.33, Italy, 4th.

Group H: 1,157.33, France, 7th.

What the “Minnows’ View” indicator shows: This time Group G is the highest rated, due to the exclusion of North Korea. Close behind is Group H again, but more significant is that the average difference between the other groups is small: equivalent to only five ranking places, which suggests that the qualifying process to produce 32 teams for the finals was broadly fair (I know Irish readers will disagree).

The easiest group for an outsider team would be Group F, because Paraguay and Slovakia are among the weakest teams from their respective pots (South America/Africa and Europe, respectively).

A weakness of this indicator is that it fails to provide a perspective from the point of view of the strongest team in a group. In a couple of instances, where the lowest rated team is close to others in the group, the possibility of an upset is likely to be underestimated.

I address both these concerns in my next posting.

Who has it easy at the 2010 FIFA World Cup? (1)

December 5, 2009

The draw has been completed and we now know who plays who, where and when, at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Now of course, with about six months to go, the expectation will heighten as people start to wonder, hope and fear for their favourite country. In this post, I’ve decided to calculate which is the hardest group and find out who has the easy ride.

My quick answer is South Africa had it tough, Italy has it easiest in the first round, Spain, not Brazil, is in the hardest group but England is the most likely top seed (other than the host) to fail to qualify.

The rankings used for the event were the FIFA/Coca Cola World Rankings [precise linking not easy] for October 16, 2009. For my analysis, I’ve taken the most up to date data, from November 20. The main difference is that Portugal, not England, should have been seeded. One wonders if the size of television audiences and advertising markets in any way influences the choice of ranking. But hey! No one manipulates the data to come up with the results one wanted, do they?

A poll on FIFA’s website suggest the following order from hardest to easiest group (I’ve added teams and latest FIFA/Coca Cola rankings in brackets, ranking points in angle brackets “[” and “]”):
1. 49.7% said Group G was hardest
(Brazil 2 [1,592], North Korea 84 [399], Ivory Coast 16 [927], Portugal 5 [1,181])
2. 23.41% Group A
(South Africa 86 [377], Mexico 15 [931, Uruguay 19 [901], France 7 [1,122])
3. 7.97% Group D
(Germany 6 [1,170], Australia 21 [863], Serbia 20 [900], Ghana 37 [739])
4. 4.7% Group H
(Spain 1 [1,622], Switzerland 18 [924], Honduras 38 [738], Chile 17 [926])
5. 4.49% Group E
(The Netherlands 3 [1,279], Denmark 26 [835], Japan 43 [709], Cameroon 11 [1,035])
6. 3.82% Group B
(Argentina 8 [1,085], Nigeria 22 [848], South Korea 52 [625], Greece 12 [1,028])
7. 3.39% Group C
(England 9 [1,063], USA 14 [980], Algeria 28 [823], Slovenia 33 [756])
8. 2.53% Group F
(Italy 4 [1,215], Paraguay 30 [816], New Zealand 77 [433], Slovakia 34 [755])

I think the host country, South Africa in Group A, has reasonable grounds to consider the draw somewhat harsh: France was (barely) the second hardest team from Europe to face in the opening round, Uruguary the second hardest option from South America and Mexico the second hardest (barely) from the rest of the world.

It might have been too easy to get North Korea, Paraguay and Slovakia, respectively 84th, 30th and 34th in the FIFA world rankings. But at 86th in the world and the lowest-ranked country in this competition, nine places behind 77th-placed New Zealand, a little luck in the draw would not have gone amiss.

The obviously weak group is that of defending champions Italy (4th in the current rankings), which has Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia. How Fabio Capello, the Italian manager of the England team, must have quietly wished he could swap places…

As a half-French half-British soccer enthusiast living in London who supports Liverpool F.C., I hope England does well.

This is not rugby, where I would rather have root canal treatment than listen to “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and watch oafs with the sporting intelligence of steroid-pumped pantomine wrestlers struggle to score a try against Argentina. (No, I’m not claiming the English rugby team uses steroids, only that no one could tell the difference from the amount of flair in their game, with a tiny smattering of exceptions.)

I’ve used four indicators to determine the strength of each of the eight groups in the first round of the World Cup. I call them “Group Average,” “The Minnows’ View,” “View From The Top,” and “Mind The Gap.” I don’t know which of these is the most reliable guide, we shall have to wait and see.