Thursday, 31 March 2005

Ton Up Tom

Y'all will be utterly indifferent to hear that I managed to bench 100 kilos the other day.

We all have to start somewhere.

A Home from Home

Please cast your beautiful eyes over http://conservativehome.com.

Launched recently by m' great mate Tim Montgomerie, Conservative Home promises to have a huge impact. Tim is one of the most thoughtful (in every sense of that word) Conservatives I know, and he has created a forum that I think will prove immensely useful in developing a way forward for politics in this country.

He also has had the very good sense to carry some articles from your humble blogging correspondent ...

Friday, 25 March 2005

How Do Ya Like Them (Florida) Oranges?

Hey Steve,

Thanks a lot for taking the time to email me. As ever you offer your views with commendable verve. I certainly do hope to hear from you when you disagree with the blog in future. I’m amused by the implication that harrassment is somehow more welcome than criticism! Mind you, I’ve always seen you as the kind of guy who thinks ‘harrass’ is two words. [This joke only works in an American accent, and it is only a joke – Steve’s NOT like that.]

In terms of the first quotation from my blog, I added the word ‘nutty’ not simply to burnish the term ‘religious fundmentalist’, but to be specific. I don’t think all religious fundamentalists are nutty, for the record. My point was that some free marketeers are irrational and dogmatic. No insult was intended. If I wanted to insult you I’d tell you that I am inclined to believe you fellate horses for money, and let middle-aged men film you on a webcam. For example.

‘Hello comrade’? Just because I believe there should be a MINIMAL redistribution of wealth?! Phew – that’s pretty hardcore. Maybe you want to live in a society with no welfare payments whatsoever. But I’d be incredulous even if someone vastly more selfish than you took that stance – just think of the impact that would have on the quality of life for the rest of us. Crime and disease would soar for a start. I hardly think I’m a Commie for wanting to live in a civilised society.

The last piece you picked out from my blog, and the Neal Boortz quotation that you juxtapose it against, interested me the most. As I said in my original post, I’m not sure what I think about actually legislating to limit working hours. All I’ll say for now is that I commend the state of not being sure to you – it’s something we should all experience occasionally. Those of who never do tend to round millions of people up for slaughter.

Mr Boortz (I increasingly believe that the last two letters of his surname are superfluous), is of the view that anyone who works less than 40 hours a week is a ‘loser’, and that ‘winners drive home in the dark’. OH NO THEY DON’T.

Winners get home in time to play with their kids. Winners play football twice a week with their friends. Winners take a succession of beautiful women out to dinner, then marry one of them, and have those kids that they then make time to play with. Winners take languid three week holidays on the beach. Winners take their elderly next door neighbour to the hospital appointment that they have been dreading for a fortnight. Winners learn a foreign language at night school. Winners play in a band. Winners take their Mum shopping.

Winners don’t sit bolt upright in bed at the age of 45, realise that half their life is over, and wonder why on Earth they pissed away the first half in a shit middle management job for which no-one ever thanked them and for which they received a pay packet that could never compensate them for all that they have lost. And it is these losses that makes the sort of person Mr Boor admires a L-O-S-E-R.

Anyway, anyone who was that much of a ‘winner’ - as Neal Boortz defines the term - wouldn't drive home in the dark. They’d have a chauffeur. And they wouldn’t be shuffling paper around a desk at 9 pm when they could be out doing something – i.e. pretty much anything – more enjoyable, rewarding and worthwhile.

I Think He's Been Out in the Sun Too Long

Steve from Florida, a friend from the US Senate race I worked on, has been kind enough to offer me some views on the blog. As with Peter’s response to my post on antitrust law (where is my job offer from Rupert Murdoch by the way?) I have decided to post Steve’s email in full, and will respond in my next post. Here it is:


Tom, I must say I've enjoyed reading your blog thus far. The comments below should be taken as harrassment rather than outright criticism. I assume you already know where I stand on just about every public policy issue known to God. If I come across anything I strongly disagree with, I can guarantee you'll be hearing from me.

"I also agree that there exists a readily identifiable kind of free marketeer who is every bit as devoted and rigid as the most nutty religious fundamentalist."

Is this some sort of insult??? I happen to proudly fall into both categories.

"I even take the view that some redistribution of wealth is proper, albeit that I would like to see vastly less of it, and only to maintain a (pretty low-hung) safety net."

Well hello there, comrade!

"I’m not even sure that I completely and necessarily disapprove of legislation to limit working hours, so long as that legislation emanates from the UK Parliament, and not the loathsome and unaccountable EU."

Quote from Neal Boortz: "The revered 40-hour workweek is for losers. Forty hours should be considered the minimum, not the maximum. You don't see highly successful people clocking out of the office every afternoon at five. The losers are the ones caught up in that afternoon rush hour. The winners drive home in the dark."

(read his hysterical commencement address)

http://boortz.com/more/commencement.html

Thanks Steve, I'll mull this over and post a reply.

Thursday, 24 March 2005

Trash by Name, Not by Nature

Check out the Trash Heap, the blog of a good friend of mine from my days on the US Senate race in South Carolina. This is great stuff from an acerbic but loveable Illinois native.

Now will someone please tell me where my 'template' is, so I can set up a series of links?

http://thetrashheap.blogspot.com/

Welcome to Britain, Have a Nice Life

Dear Would-Be British Subject,

So you fancy living in Britain? Congratulations, you have exquisite taste. Here are a few pointers to give you a flavour of what to expect, and to help ease you into British life, should you be successful with your application.

1. The weather here, as you may have noticed already, isn’t great. It does rain rather a lot. Global warming seems to be making a difference, but you will have to endure quite a few days where the sky is grey and it’s a bit cold. Most of us become quite fond of such days, however.

2. Moreover, this is a country of great natural beauty. We can offer you mountains, beaches and – best of all – glorious countryside. Sadly this is gradually being built on by a ghastly oaf called John Prescott who, despite being breathtakingly stupid, is Deputy Prime Minister. We’d be grateful if you would let him know that it strikes you as a visitor / new British subject that it would be better if he didn’t do this any more.

3. We speak English in this country. We’re rather proud of it – English was Shakespeare’s language, and it is spoken widely throughout the world. Consequently, most of us don’t feel much pressure to learn a foreign language for business or other reasons, and we don’t tend to be very good at them. You’d be well advised to brush up on your English skills if you want to get a decent education, make friends, or secure a good job. At the same time, many of us will marvel at you if you can speak more than one language.

4. The transport system is a bit creaky. No-one seems able to sort it out properly, but you will get from A to B eventually. The main problem is that this country is very densely populated, particularly in London and other large cities. This, more than any other factor, is why most of us are keen to limit immigration. It doesn’t mean that we don’t want anyone new coming over here – very few of us take that attitude.

5. You may have read that we are a Godless country. Actually, such reports are somewhat exaggerated. The last census suggested a majority of us consider ourselves to be Christian, and we have an established Church here, that has a formal role in our political system and our monarchy. This works very well, and people here are free to believe pretty much whatever they wish, and to talk about their beliefs openly. We are very wary of people who wish to deny others that freedom, and actively hostile towards people who incite violence or hatred towards those who have different religious views. Anyone who is arrested on such grounds evokes little sympathy from the rest of us.

6. Our main Parliament is based in London, although Scotland has its own (less powerful) parliament, and Wales has an assembly. There are also lots of local governments, or ‘councils’. Every Wednesday afternoon, the Prime Minister faces questions from his fellow MPs. These occasions are televised, and often provide great theatre. You may be surprised at how rude they are to each other. As with religious matters, we believe that people should be free to hold and advocate whatever political views they wish, so long as they do not incite violence or hatred. We have free and fair democratic elections in this country, which many, many Britons fought and died for. As much as we grumble about politics, being able to have those elections means a lot to us. Even if some of us idiotically forget to register to vote.

7. Our national sport is football. You will soon see that this is very popular, and that many of us are deeply passionate about our national teams (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland compete separately), and even more so about our local, domestic team. There is not enough football on television, although some women and some deviant men think there is too much.

8. Most of us believe that the Government has no business banning consensual relationships between adults. Heterosexual marriage remains a bedrock of our society, but some people live in other arrangements. Forced marriages are illegal here, and almost all of us believe that people trying to extricate themselves from such marriages should be protected by the State by any means necessary.

9. We are THRILLED to think that some of you will open restaurants. The influence of foreign cooking traditions has greatly improved our cuisine, which used to be a little bland. It appears to be the case that curry has overtaken fish and chips as our national dish. We also look forward to hearing new music, seeing new films, playing new sports and learning about traditions in the country you come from. We hope that you in turn will throw yourself into our culture with gusto. This meeting of cultures, and the way it improves on what already exists, is what many of us mean by ‘multiculturalism’. We really hope you will respect our traditions and culture when you arrive here. The great thing is that almost everyone does. After all, why else would you want to come and live here?!

10. Finally, please take the attitude that the sky is the limit. We Britons are very proud that ours is a nation of immigrants, that we have provided and continue to offer a safe haven for those fleeing persecution, and that we all seem to rub along together rather well. As in America, you can come here from somewhere else, and achieve great things. The current Leader of the Conservative Party is the son of asylum seekers. The Trade and Industry Secretary, who may soon become Chancellor of the Exchequer, is herself an immigrant. Business leaders, sportsmen and women, artists and successful and happy people in all walks of life thrive in this country having arrived from elsewhere. We don’t have a two-tier system in Britain. Once you become a full citizen (actually we’re SUBJECTS strictly speaking, as we have a (very popular) constitutional monarchy), you’re one of us. We can’t wait to meet you.

Yours sincerely,

The Brits

With Friends Like These

In the run-up to the General Election, which looks certain to be next month (although I have cause to hope it isn’t, as you can see from my previous post ‘A Bad Citizen’), the Tommy G blog is today making its first endorsement. How such an endorsement will be received when it is made by an idiot who hasn’t registered to vote in time for May is anyone’s guess but, for what it’s worth, I make it with no hesitation.

Paul Maynard is standing in the Conservative interest in Twickenham. This is a marginal seat that the Tories can win. All men and women good and true should hope that Paul emerges triumphant. I have known him for over five years, and am certain that he would be a terrific MP.

Paul has – literally - a first-class brain. He puts it to very good use at Conservative Central Office, and I marvelled at his command of facts, figures and the intricacies of policy. He has the stamina of a carthorse, and puts in long hours to ensure that his work is never less than exemplary. He is shrewd, and although his politics are steeped in an appreciation of Conservative philosophy, he has an independent mind.

OK, so he’s a hardworking clever clogs. That in and of itself is commendable, and something we should all want in our MP. But what makes Paul truly outstanding is that this ability and work ethic is coupled with a genuine calling to make life better for people. He is passionate about wanting to improve a country he loves dearly, and unlike many of the smart-suited wannabe technocrats (who are to be found in all the main parties), he won’t resent being asked to sort out someone’s pension, drawing attention to a dangerous road, or sitting through lengthy surgeries with constituents, a few of whom – as in any seat - will be certifiably mad (my words, not his).

Certainly Paul will treat the House of Commons to brilliant speeches on healthcare, foreign policy and reform of the upper house. In time he may serve in the Cabinet – I hope so. But helping his constituents will be the meat and potatoes of his work as an MP.

I have tramped the streets of East London canvassing for Paul in council elections, and watched him work ferociously hard when no-one gave him a prayer of winning. He didn’t win, but he got commendably high turnouts, and people who met him saw a young man with a rare commitment to public service. He deserves the chance to perform that service in Parliament.

If you are sympathetic to the Conservative cause, or if you simply agree with me that Paul Maynard would make a very fine MP, why not give him some of your time? If you email me at tommywgreeves@yahoo.co.uk, I can pass your details on to Paul.

Simple pleasures and simply ghastly

I am currently between jobs, as thespians say. It gave me the opportunity to tackle my bedroom and assorted junk yesterday. It is remarkable how pleasing a good old tidying sesh can be, or at least the after effects of such action. It also enabled me to find some old powerlifting magazines which I bought years ago out of idle curiosity, and which will now be very helpful indeed.

In the evening I toddled along to my local for a pub quiz. I have come to really enjoy these, somewhat to my surprise. I used to dislike such events quite a bit, as people get terribly competitive. (There’s an episode in the first series of The Office that illustrates this phenomenon beautifully). However, the two that I have started to regularly attend are very good-natured, and my teammates are always first class company.

It was just Tom and me last night. That’s not a euphemism for me having to take part alone because I have no mates; Tom is a real, distinct person. We did OK given these circumstances, and came within an ace of splitting a £75 prize for the ‘stinker’. This was a three-part question:

1. Captain Webb was the first person to swim the Channel. How did he die?

2. Which British World Formula 1 champion was also a clay pigeon shooting champion?

3. Which board game was originally rejected by Parker Bros, who said it contained 52 mistakes?

We got the first two, but got the third one wrong. I offer no prize for any of you who can get it right, and I imagine that you could find all the answers with five minutes or less on Google. But I’ll post the answers in a couple of days, in case you want to have a stab for your own amusement.

I left the pub, as ever, drenched in cigarette smoke (not from Tom I should point out). There is talk that a ban on smoking in pubs is on the way. I must confess that, like Natalie Imbruglia, I’m torn.

On the one hand, I am by nature wary of limiting the use of legal products. I am VERY wary of limiting what a private establishment can and can’t do, particularly in this case where a ban could cost them revenue. If there is a large market for non-smoking bars, there’s nothing to stop a landlord making the decision unilaterally. I’m not violently anti smoker to the same extent as many people. I do not think that smokers, for example, should be denied treatment on the NHS. First of all, smoking taxpayers are compelled by law to fund the NHS. Second of all, we could turn our attention to imprudent eaters, to those who ride motorbikes, and to a host of other people who take unnecessary risks. I could even say that I don’t want to have to pay for emergency care for your daughter – after all, I didn’t ask for her to be born. But I don’t want to live in a society like that. Oh, and I suppose I should own up to smoking a cigar about twice a year.

On the other hand, I have to admit that I would be far from sorry if smoking was banned in pubs and restaurants. The reality is that although I am free to take my custom elsewhere, I want to go to my local, and I personally would like THAT pub to be smoke free. I also want to spend time with specific friends of mine who smoke, and in practice an outright ban is the best hope that we will not be segregated. Am I selfish? You bet. But so are smokers.

Perhaps a ban in pubs would be a bad law, and perhaps I’m letting purely personal considerations override the intellectual arguments. But those of you who chug on cancer sticks shouldn’t be under any delusions. Yours is a wildly dangerous and staggeringly reckless practice. More importantly, in this context, it is also profoundly anti social, and a revolting, filthy habit.

Oh MAN! I never saw myself as the preachy type. Mind you, I’m not sure I’m preaching so much as telling it like it is. But then I would say that, wouldn’t I? What do y’all think about a ban? Email me on tommywgreeves@yahoo.co.uk.

Fame at Last

I was delighted to learn that I now have a link on two other blogs. Even better, they are very distinguished ones.

Peter Cuthbertson’s Conservative Commentary is widely praised and looks to be a cracking good read. Anthony Wells’s UK Polling Report provides a crystal-clear window into the wacky world of opinion polls. This is a discipline racked with internal tension and mutual loathing, and Anthony’s blog provides a highly commendable service that cuts through all that jazz.

I will of course be returning the compliment and linking back to these two blogs. I would also like to draw your attention to Venusberg. This blog certainly falls well outside the conservative stable, but is none the less readable for that. The blogger in question - my former flatmate - writes incisively, amusingly and provocatively, and I urge you to take a trip there.

Now, to recap, I am crap with computers. I will try work out how to do these links properly today, and then add some more. Your patience is craved.

http://concom.blogspot.com/

http://www.pollingreport.co.uk/blog/index.php

http://www.venusberg.org

Wednesday, 23 March 2005

Practical Matters

There is a fantastic TV show buried deep in the daytime slot on ITV 3. American readers of this blog (ARE any of you actually reading it by the way?!) may be familiar with The Practice.

Set in Boston, that trendy city in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (NOT the State of Massachusetts, as University Challenge implied last night), it is a legal drama from the stable of out-and-out genius David E. Kelley. The Practice was on terrestrial TV a few years ago, but the a-holes who schedule these things bumped it. Fortunately, we now have a satellite dish at Big Tommy Towers, so it doesn’t matter so much that the mainstream channels want to offer us a diet of crap British sitcoms, biased news coverage, and moon-faced simpletons on Big Brother.

The Practice is taut, hugely exciting, incisive, poignant, funny, informative, and a cracking hour’s viewing (45 minutes when you spool through the adverts). In yesterday’s episode one of the main characters was shot dead. I feel a genuine sense of bereavement. A TV show that powerful and good deserves a wider audience. Check it out.

Tuesday, 22 March 2005

The Mighty Bench Press

Last night I had my first powerlifting session since I started the blog. We concentrated exclusively on the bench press.

‘How much can you bench?’ is the first question you get asked when you tell people you pump iron. Unfortunately, the answer in my case is ‘Not very much.’

I always used to have a difficult relationship with the bench press. Basically you lie prone on a bench, and take the bar at arm’s length. You lower it to the chest, pause for a second, and then drive it back up to arm’s length. The people who thrive at this are short-armed and stocky. If, as a grown man, you can bench 100 kg (15 ½ stone) you are quite a bit stronger than most normal people who don’t train. If you can bench 200 kg (31 stone) you are wicked strong (and a world-class powerlifter if you have a low bodyweight) and if you can bench 300 kg (46 ½ stone) you are one of the best bench pressers in the world.

Several years ago I managed to bench 100 kg. Until I took up powerlifting in earnest a few weeks ago, I hadn’t benched properly for years. It’s not one of the olympic lifts, and with long arms and a terrible technique, and without always having someone to spot me, I left it alone for a long time.

I just missed with an attempt at 100 kg last night. On the one hand, that’s pretty poor for someone my size. On the flip side, I have improved considerably under Marco’s watchful eye, and am making good gains. And most importantly of all, having always disliked the bench press, I really enjoy it now. It hits the chest, shoulders, triceps and lats. And the feeling as the bar goes up (if it does!) is great. And it’s nice to be able to lie down while practicing a sport.

The bench press is the King of Upper Body Exercises. The olympic lifters among you will scoff at this claim, and be annoyed by it, but it’s true. And with a little bit of patience, and some hard work, I plan to hit 120 kg by the Summer.

Don’t panic, I will not be recording ALL my training sessions here. Although it would serve you right if I did.

They’re Everywhere, You Know

Anyone who utters any of the following phrases in earnest is emphatically not to be trusted:

‘I was educated at the University of Life.’

‘Money is the root of all evil.’

‘I’m not political.’ (10-1 on they’re a liberal.)

‘Beauty is on the inside.’

‘You have no right to talk about abortion, you’re not a woman.’ (I see. And when were you last aborted?)

‘Pop stars / sportsmen shouldn’t be paid so much. They don’t need that much money. We should give it to the homeless.’ (Oh WE should, should WE?)

‘All religions are equally valid, and lead to God.’

‘What are you going to do when you leave college and start Real Life?’

‘Gender and sex are two VERY different things.’

‘Good afternoon, I am your Liberal Democrat candidate for this election.’

‘We need to expand airport capacity in Britain.’ (No we don’t. We need not to.)

‘George W Bush is the world’s number one terrorist.’

‘We should outlaw all clubs and associations that refuse women membership.’

‘So you think we should cut taxes; don’t you WANT to have schools and hospitals?!’

‘Marriage is an outdated concept.’

‘There is too much football on television.’

Monday, 21 March 2005

Antitrust law – Tommy G Bites Back

OK, so you’ve raised a number of interesting points Peter. (Condescension coming right back at you!)

Let me begin by agreeing with you in very large regard, and indeed conceding vasts swathes of what you’ve written. Never let it be said that Tommy G is ungenerous! I completely agree that the free market is utterly dependent on, and therefore inextricably linked to, the State.

I also agree that there exists a readily identifiable kind of free marketeer who is every bit as devoted and rigid as the most nutty religious fundamentalist. I have faith in the free market, and I think that one reason it works is that it reflects the essential nature of what it is to be human. But I completely agree that it is an artifical construct, and that it is only through the protection of government that it works and that we do not descend into anarchy. It is a means to an end, not an ends in itself. There, I said it. Randians everywhere will be sharpening their knives.

So I do not dispute that the State has a right to get involved in the running of markets. Markets cannot function without the State enforcing contracts, protecting physical property, and defending intellectual property rights. I think that developments should be barred if they are likely to be ugly (see my ‘Come, Friendly Bombs’ post). I even take the view that some redistribution of wealth is proper, albeit that I would like to see vastly less of it, and only to maintain a (pretty low-hung) safety net.

I’m not even sure that I completely and necessarily disapprove of legislation to limit working hours, so long as that legislation emanates from the UK Parliament, and not the loathsome and unaccountable EU. So I see a role for the State to intervene in, and sometimes constrain, the market. Where we part company, and where with respect I don’t think you have made a remotely persuasive case, is in the specific matter of competition or ‘antitrust’ law.

I outlined my views in my original post on this topic, and I stressed that I believe antitrust law is not only unfair on the producer, but actively bad for the consumer. Let’s return to the ice cream example that has captivated us both. You don’t make an argument as to why one producer (such as the fictional Big Tommy Ices, BTI) cannot provide a sufficiently wide range of products – i.e. collection of choices - to keep the consumer happy. Are you able to do so?

You suggest that BTI offering a shopkeeper a free fridge on the condition that he uses it to stock BTI products exclusively is a ‘jerk-off little scheme’. (A jerk-off scheme involving ice cream sounds horrible, although doubtless the perverts among us would find it flavoursome and wholesome.) I don’t buy that. It seems to me perfectly reasonable for BTI to look for ways to make it easier for shops to stock their products. It is also reasonable that they should want those schemes (e.g. a free fridge) to benefit BTI alone, and not its rivals.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not being naïve here. I know that one reason (although not necessarily the only reason) that BTI would offer a fridge on these grounds would be to crowd its rivals out of the market that is this shop. But why shouldn’t it try to do that? Simple economics can and likely will determine the right course of action here. Mr Shopkeeper will either decide that his profits will be maximised by rejecting BTI’s offer so that he can stock a variety of brands, or he will decide that BTI’s proposal will be good for business. This is determined by the wants of his customers. The market can reflect their priorities and demands better than any pencilnecked bureaucrat or antitrust advocate could ever hope to. If Mr Shopkeeper makes the wrong decision, he’ll see that reflected in his takings.

So what if Mr Shopkeeper takes the latter route? Yes, rival brands will be kept out of his shop. Yes, that decision will have been taken because it is cheaper for him to do it this way. But maybe BTI offers a really broad range of choices. Choc ices, luxury ice cream, lollypops etc. Maybe it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, what do you think will happen? Well, what happened in the real world when Ben and Jerry of Vermont, USA reckoned that there was a gap in the market for better quality ice cream(s)? They started an ice cream company.

There is no legitimate need for antitrust law. There is a very real need to scrap antitrust law. It protects crap companies. Its application is arbitrary – would you have McDonalds compelled to stock products made by the local kebab shop? Aren’t McDonalds abusing their dominant market position? It raises prices, because Mr Shopkeeper has to fork out for a new fridge, or because BTI has to supply him with one for less return, and either BTI or Mr Shopkeeper passes on this additional cost to the consumer. It inhibits the future Bill Gateses of this world from being innovative and from starting companies in the first place. All of which effects are terrible for the consumer.

And I just hate it, OK?

Sunday, 20 March 2005

Critics 2

Hooray! The Tommy G blog has attracted its first lengthy piece of criticism, in the form of the following email from my good friend Peter.

I will write a response in due course. But I think it only honourable to let Peter’s comments stand alone. This should not be taken as an immutable Tommy G law – I have no intention of making my blog a wholly democratic forum!

A few points by way of explanation and elaboration. ‘Nigel Twocock’ is an imaginary character that Peter and I have dreamed up. ‘Bitch’ is an affectionate moniker that each of us ascribes to the other. The condescension that Peter acknowledges in the piece below should largely be taken as tongue-in-cheek. He is an excellent fellow, and I am happy to reproduce his email in full, including any typos. Here it is:

Oh dear, Tom, it was all going so well -- and then you have to go and post on Antitrust Law.

It is a little known fact that freemarket fundamentalists have their own version of political correctness. And your post, as Nigel Twocock reliably informs me, is market correctness gone mad.

So let me try to put you right (and do let me know if at any point my words fail to drip with condescension). You see, what you're forgetting, is that there's this big guy who's even bigger than Big Tommy Ices and he's called DEMOCRACY. Now this guy supplies something even cooller than a free refridgerator and this is called THE RULE OF LAW. Big Tommy Ices couldn't really do without this fantastic free gift, 'coz without it BTI wouldn't be in business at all. Nor would any of BTI's competitors. In fact, there wouldn't be any such thing as ice cream -- just death and violence and stuff.

If, as part of the package, DEMOCRACY decides there's gonna be some Antitrust Law round here, then that's the way its gonna be. BTI is will just have to compete on price and quality, not some jerk-off little scheme to corner the market. And guess what? BTI, if it's any good at making icecream, still gets to make a profit. Slaves don't make profits.

What's more they're not free to go elsewhere if they don't like the rules. Whereas BTI is at liberty to sod off. To Somalia, for instance. No anti-trust law there. Not much ice cream either -- which is odd given the hot weather and lack of government interference.

But then of course free markets don't exist in the wild -- as much as lefties go on about free market economics being 'the law of the jungle', there are no markets in the jungle (not that Somalia has jungles, but you get my drift). Markets only exist because of government interference as expressed through the rule of law which is itself an _expression of a society's moral values.

The moral values that insist that BTI should be able to go about its business without being shot up by some passing militia, are the same moral values that that insist on a reasonable choice of icecream in the shops. Very different objectives, of totally different degrees of importance, but both in the interests of the common good as defined by democracy which owns the fridge.

Now consider yourself corrected and use your blog to quote me at length, bitch.

Hope you're well.

Your friend,

Peter

Come, Friendly Bombs

I hate London. I had cause to go there today. I lived there for five years, but I can’t stand it. It’s so massive and sprawling and impersonal, and the Luftwaffe and contemporary architects have ensured that most of it is hideously ugly. It’s appallingly overcrowded, and given half a chance arseholes will jostle you on the Tube. They get a glare or a nudge if they try it on me mind you.
On the way there the train stopped at Slough. My GOD. Betjeman was right. England is littered with warehouses, flats and shops that literally have no more complexity than Lego buildings made by toddlers. When Prince Charles becomes King, I hope he rounds up all the guilty architects, town planners, building contractors and government officials and has them hanged for treason.
John Prescott has a lot to answer for as well. He is determined that the South East should be concreted over with these little boxes made of ticky tacky, to meet his preposterous house building targets. They should be scrapped immediately, and if that means that some glue sniffing nineteen-year-old can’t afford to buy their own home, I DON’T CARE.
I went for a walk this evening in the glorious countryside where I live. The sun was low in the sky, a heartbreakingly beautiful burnt orange. A couple of people, including a much liked near neighbour, sauntered over fields in their tractors, and I looked out over a scene of rolling hills that could have been a snapshot from decades ago. We should defend what is left of England’s green and pleasant land from Mr Prescott’s oafish intentions by any means necessary.
I give the final word to Philip Larkin. I fear it may be prophetic and true.
And that will be England gone,
The shadows, the meadows, the lanes,
The guildhalls, the carved choirs.
There’ll be books; it will linger on
In galleries; but all that remains
For us will be concrete and tyres.

Saturday, 19 March 2005

Critics

The Tommy G blog has attracted some reviews. Here are some snippets:

‘Great first posts.’ PF, London

‘Wonderful but a little too much swearing.’ MP, London [NOT a Member of Parliament.]

‘Wunderbar!’ J O’S, London

‘Is this definitely legal?’ MW, London

‘Blogtastic!’ DG, London

‘That is so neat that you have started a blog. I will keep checking it and good luck with it.’ JH, Arkansas

‘Fantastic stuff – just the right side of the line.’ PF, London

‘Read it all. Hilarious. Really good.’ KS, London

‘All this in one day, and no mention of me!’ RB, London

‘You will be hearing from my lawyers.’ Lord Lamont, London

‘You will be hearing from my lawyers.’ Julian Clary, London

‘Do you REALLY think I have a beautiful voice?’ Roy Keane, Old Trafford

London Society

I dined last night at the London residence of Julian Clary and Norman Lamont. A MOST agreeable time was had by all. Julian had whipped up a feast fit for kings and – inevitably – the wine was heavenly. During drinks Norms put on a terribly amusing sketch. I can’t remember all the details – my head is still a little hazy – but I do remember him showing rather a lot of leg. He was wearing an extraordinary outfit. A kaftan perhaps? Or was it ACTUALLY a dressing gown? Either way, it somehow worked for him.

Julian was attired much more demurely. When you think of the outrageous outfits he used to don on his television shows, it seems strange to see him in a simple suit. But if you met him for the first time behind closed doors, you’d get the impression that wearing a suit without a tie was the most unconventional sartorial pose he could ever wish to strike. All the girls think he’s gorgeous though.

Roy Keane turned up as we were tucking into dessert. He is SUCH a lovely man. I understand that soccer fans, or rather those who do not follow Manchester United (or is it City?), think him a dreadful brute. How quick some people are to rush to judgement. If only they knew the Roy I know, the Roy who will drag himself off a football field, sponge himself briskly, hop into a car and drive all the way from Lancashire to London, in order to make a dinner date that he would surely have been forgiven for breaking.

Roy sang to us as we enjoyed port and cheese. He has the most beautiful, lilting Irish voice – as clear as a lark on a Spring morning. The traditional tune gave full voice to the sorrow which I am sure is never far from his mind. How can people be so BEASTLY to him? If a soul as sensitive as that sees fit to kick midfielders and swear at his manager, he must be under the most extreme provocation.

We finished after 1 in the morning. Norms gave us all chocolate to take home (so thoughtful), Roy signed some of the guests’ balls, and Julian – in an untypical outbreak of affection – gave everyone a big kiss.

Note to my American readers, and to cover myself legally: not one word of the above is true.

Friday, 18 March 2005

Message from the Editor

I just realised a few things while checking over the blog, on this its first day.

1. Saying in one post that you would like to be hired as a political adviser having admitted in a recent post that you forgot to register to vote doesn't look too smart. Ho hum.

2. One could argue that George W Bush is not so much the 'natural successor' to Ronald Reagan as the natural successor to the first President Bush, his dad!

Oh, I managed to dig out the lost post. (It was the one entitled 'Cool Stuff'.) Fortunately the word document I drafted it on had kept it in its memory. I just had to undo what I'd written subsequently. All is well with the world.

Antitrust law is EVIL

When I started work at Conservative Central Office I, like many self-professed capitalists, was in favour of competition law, or ‘antitrust’ law as our American friends call it. I took the view that in order for the consumer to be given the widest possible range of choice it was necessary, and therefore proper, for the state to step in to stop the market tending towards monopoly. I now consider antitrust law grotesque, fundamentally flawed, bigoted and EVIL.

The premise of antitrust law is the argument to which I used to subscribe, and which I have outlined in the above paragraph. One of the most high profile companies to fall foul of antitrust law is Microsoft. They have got into terrible trouble for appearing reluctant to give rival companies access to Microsoft platforms. A classic example of an antitrust case would be the prosecution of an ice cream company, let’s call it Big Tommy Ices, that offered free fridges to shops, but which insisted that only Big Tommy products were stocked in those fridges.

You can see the apparent attraction of such a law. It would seem on the surface that it stops a company getting too big for its boots, and ensures that the consumer gets as wide a choice as possible. But it is sheer sophistry, as my good friend Dave showed me when I joined CCO.

Firstly, there is the question of fairness. Why should a company be forced to help out its rivals? Isn’t that a form of slavery? OK, OK, don’t get your knickers in a twist. I said a FORM of slavery. I didn’t say it was as bad as the worst examples of slavery. But making a company work for its rivals is slavery.

Secondly, and doubtless of more concern to most of us, is the impact it has on the consumer. Because – and this really is the crucial point – if a market tends towards a monopoly, that is because one company is providing a sufficiently good service that the consumer does not demand that a rival company steps into the void. Breaking up a company doing that great a job makes no sense, unless you just like to see rich people being persecuted.

After all, if a shopkeeper knew that Big Tommy Ices made crap ice cream that people didn’t like, he probably wouldn’t take them up on their offer of a free fridge if they wouldn’t let him stock other brands. It wouldn’t make economic sense. But maybe Big Tommy Ices provide a wide range of great ice creams, lollies and choc ices.

One owner does not always mean a lack of choice folks. Look at Rupert Murdoch. He owns the Sun and the Times. Not only are they profoundly different in terms of seriousness, they often take opposing positions on matters of policy. But Rupert’s papers don’t sate the public’s appetite by themselves. That’s why there are other newspaper owners, and why they flourish too.

There is no need, and never could be a need, for the state to act to restrict Rupert’s ownership. As long as enough newspaper consumers do not wish to buy a Murdoch paper, then rivals will continue to exist. We don’t need the State’s protection.

And what of Microsoft? Bill Gates is rich enough isn’t he, why shouldn’t we restrict him? Because it’s not fair, and it’s not necessary. If entrepreneurs like Gates are sent a message that they better not get too successful or else the State will step in to smash up their businesses, they’re not going to bother building businesses at all. And if people hate Microsoft so much that they don’t want to use their platforms they can … buy a Mac.

The market knows best. Assuming that companies are not engaging in physical coercion or intellectual theft, then if they emerge as the sole player, the public must like what they are doing. This rarely happens of course, which is why few markets do tend towards a complete monopoly. But smashing up those companies that gain one, or making them work for their rivals, is bad for the consumer. Sometimes one big company is better placed to provide a good service than are several little ones. Either way, left alone (except in terms of the protection of physical and intellectual property rights) the market will get it right.

Dave talked me round. Then the two of us talked round our friend James, who originally called me a ‘f***ing communist’ for opposing antitrust law, the one and only time I have been accused of being one of those! We were all helped immeasurably by reading the novel Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I disagree with Rand’s views on sex, and don’t share her atheism. But she is the finest polemicist for capitalism that I have ever come across. Mind you, I am too lazy to read Adam Smith.

The big guys aren’t always the bad guys, my friends.

Cool stuff

Bloggers use their blogs to share with the world, both in terms of voicing their opinions and also to draw attention to things that they think others should see. Sometimes those things are worthy (i.e. boooooooooring). Sometimes they are cool. I'm going to write a list of stuff I like. All of my posts so far, with the partial exception of the one about not being able to vote, have been cheerful. Don't worry, I'll become driven by hatred and anger in due course. But the sun is out and the weather is blissful today, and I'm thrilled to have this blog, and so I am in a good mood.

Here then, is a list of things I like. Some of them you will certainly have heard of (such as America). Others you may not have. Once I work out how to link to things I'll do this more.By the way, feel free to email me at tommywgreeves@yahoo.co.uk. Again, I need to work out how to set this up automatically. But I want to do it without your replies popping up on screen. For now, I am not motivated to make this a forum for democratic debate. Yeah, I'm bad. Anyway, stuff I like includes:

1. America. Pre 9/11, saying simply that 'I like America' would have seemed crass and fatuous at best, and patronising and maybe even racist at worst. I'm more relaxed about saying it now because bashing the US is so fashionable, and because I very much hope that it will annoy people.

I just spent three months in the States. It was BRILLIANT. Every positive stereotype and pre-conception I had formed was shown to be true in practice. Americans really are friendly. They are friendly and welcoming and interested and interesting in a completely unself-conscious way. They really do love the English accent. They have a love of God, country and community that is unabashed and profoundly comforting. They make fabulous food, and the women are firecrackers.

Of course this is all deeply simplistic. But it's the truth, and the way in which anti Americanism, like anti Semitism, is becoming not only untaboo but positively mainstream makes me want to puke bile till I pass out.

2. George W Bush. A Great Man. Yes really. Yes really, all you middle class lefties I know who thinks Tom's-only-saying-it-to-annoy-or-shock-us-but-he-doesn't-really-think-it-and-if-he-does-really-think-it-he'll-soon-see-sense. I love W. He is a man of immense moral courage, who sees the big picture just like the guy he is the natural successor to, Ronald Reagan.

Reagan was mocked for alleged stupidity too. Reagan was loathed by effete dinner party goers, and held in contempt by the academic elite. Well Reagan saved the world, dickwads, and now W is confronting terrorists. W also understands that it's not only rich people who pay taxes, that if the Left had their way the world would go to hell in a handbasket, and that a belief in God is nothing to be ashamed of. And he isn't a simpleton, you bigoted arses.

3. Richard Littlejohn. Talking of hell in a handbasket, that is a book by the Sun columnist Richard Littlejohn. I haven't, ahem, actually read it, but I love his column. It's clear that he upsets vast swathes of people, which is often a good thing, and he is a shrewder analyst by far than the great majority of opinion writers. Melanie Phillips and Janet Daley, who are stylistically very different to Richard but who also talk sense, deserve honourable mentions. So too does Bruce Anderson, and so does my current boss, but I feel a little inhibited about naming him. Too much like toadying.

4. Peep Show. This is a screamingly funny Channel Four comedy about two bachelors living together in Croydon. It is decadent, outrageous and perceptive. No wonder Ricky Gervais, who deserves all the plaudits that come his way, thinks it's great.

5. Good, White, Christian heterosexuals.

Just kidding. Had you worried there didn't I?

In fact I imagine that some of you will assume that I am not joking, such is the attitude towards the Right. Well, modern conservative philosophy - as espoused by the likes of Hayek - is a direct response to totalitarianism and oppression in all its forms. We're not racist you gimps. We are Right Wing. As opposed to Wrong Wing. Deal with it.

Incidentally, no offence if you ARE White, Christian and heterosexual. Some of my best friends are White, Christian and heterosexual.

6. Football. That's Association Football, or 'soccer' as all you Americans call it. It is every bit as magnificent as its most ardent lovers insist. There should be MORE of it, not less, on terrestrial TV, and men who don't like football are weird. (I don't totally mean the last point, but I don't totally not mean it either.)

7. Weight training. See previous post.

8. Blogging. I can't believe how easy this is. Five minutes and you have a forum to say whatever you want, and people will read it. You don't even have to be HTML literate.

Hey Tony. Yes you, Tony Blair. Piss off! A-whoo! A-WHOO! You can't stop me!

(In fairness to Tony, he probably isn't inclined to want to stop me. This is Britain after all.)

9. Women. Women are great. Not the whiny ones who sap your spirit, talk about pop stars and hair dye and nothing else, object to people watching football, think that men are 'the enemy' and are humourless old battleaxes. Not those ones. But all the others. All the others are great.

10. The Sun. Not the newspaper, although Richard Littlejohn is splendid, as aforementioned. I mean the actual sun. I feel at least twenty percent happier when the Sun has got his hat on. He has today, and all is well.

Phew. This post was pretty angry after all. But there were moments of hope.

Blast

I managed to delete a post.

Hmph.

Will work for money

I may as well tell y’all that I am jobhunting. My current employment comes to an end this month.

I am an Oxford graduate, a professional political adviser (with experience in the UK and USA) and a seasoned writer of speeches and articles. I am particularly interested in campaigning or other political work, copywriting, research and writing for film, television, Internet or press. Maybe you or a friend can suggest something else exciting.

I am very eager to return to the American South. But I will also consider job opportunities in the UK.

I can be reached at tommywgreeves@yahoo.co.uk.

Don’t look at me like that. One’s blog is a perfectly respectable place for one to advertise one’s availability for work.

Pumping Iron

My profile on my new blog states that I am a powerlifter. This is accurate, but not comprehensive. I have actually only just taken up this wonderful sport. Already I am in love.

I have dabbled with weights since I was 12, and got a sand filled plastic barbell set from Argos. I've always enjoyed it, but never quite found the right medium. The iron game is actually comprised of several different sports, including olympic lifting, powerlifting, bodybuilding and strongman and strongwoman.

Bodybuilding is the development of muscles for display in competition. The most famous bodybuilder is Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a seven time Mr Olympia. Lou Ferrigno, who played the Incredible Hulk, is also a bodybuilder. These guys (or gals) are often very strong, but strength is in a sense a side effect of their training, and not the primary aim. Big biceps and pleasing lines (or grotesque freaky lines in some cases) are what count here.

Strongman (or woman) owes much to the Highland Games and traditional tests of manliness. It's what John Inverdale presents every Christmas. Those who take part have to be very fit, and do things like pull lorries, throw weights, lift cars and put heavy stones onto platforms.

Olympic lifting is more commonly called 'weightlifting'. It is an Olympic sport, as the name implies. Competitors have three attempts at the snatch and then three at the clean and jerk. Their best efforts in each are added together for a total. The lifter with the highest total wins. Both of the olympic lifts involve raising the bar overhead, the snatch in one movement, the clean and jerk by hauling the weight onto the front of the shoulders, standing with it and jerking it overhead. Olympic lifters are tremendously strong, and also skilled and flexible technicians.

Powerlifting grew out of olympic lifting, and is thought to be less technical and more of a test of pure strength. The winner is the person with the highest total of three different lifts. First comes the squat. The bar is across the lifter's back, and they squat down and then stand up. Then comes the bench press, where the lifter lies on a bench, takes the bar at arm's length, lowers it to the chest and then presses it upwards. Finally we have the deadlift, where the lifter picks the bar off the floor and stands up straight.

I've tried bodybuilding, but disliked (or more accurately avoided) the dieting. I tried olympic lifting, but was nowhere near flexible enough. I haven't tried strongman, which I love watching. The sport I should have tried years ago is powerlifting.

A few weeks ago I started training near my home with a great guy called Marco, who is a former South Midlands champion, and who at 47 lifts enough to make your eyes bleed just watching. I plan to compete when I've trimmed down a bit (I'm not avoiding dieting any more), and when my lifts have improved a little. The lift I'm most pleased with is a 160kg (352 pounds, 25 stone) deadlift. My benching leaves a lot to be desired but is getting better, and my squatting is good.

Lifting weights is great exercise. It is a challenge of the body, brain and character. I've read that a good lifting competition is like a poker game, as the lifters have to decide what weights to start at and where to finish (there are a limited number of attempts, and once you have tried one weight, you cannot go lighter). It is also ruthlessly objective. As Henry Rollins has said, 200 pounds is 200 pounds. Arnold Schwarzenegger once made a very bold claim about just HOW good he felt when working out. What is true is that the feeling AFTER a good training session is one of great contentment and accomplishment. I look forward to the joy of victory.

And you thought this blog was just going to be a collection of rants against Tony Blair didn't you? Well I have it on good authority that Tony benches 500 pounds and squats 700.

A bad citizen

I'll tell you something that pisses me off. Actually I plan to tell you HUNDREDS of things that piss me off in the days, weeks, months and years to come. But for now I'll just tell you this.

I will not be voting in the forthcoming election. Not through any disillusionment with the system, not because I can't decide who I want to win (I am an ardent Tory), not because I think voting is pointless, but because I am not registered.

I left London, where I worked as a political adviser for five years, in August last year. Then I went to South Carolina, USA, to volunteer on a Senate race (we won by the way). Then I came home to Oxfordshire, where I am helping to research a book.

Like a complete dickhead, I hadn't got round to registering to vote here. I phoned the local registration unit in a panic, and they informed me that I had missed last Friday's deadline. OH SHIT. So I phoned my old local borough in London, and I have been taken off the register there - perfectly reasonably.

I am spastic with rage, and determined to blame someone. Fortunately, there is someone to blame. Me. I would have loved to have had an excuse to shout at some jobsworth official. But they were perfectly polite in both Banbury and London, so I couldn't.

Shezza, who is a great man and who knows about everything like this, has pointed out that I can make two proxy votes for non-relatives (and an unlimited number for close relatives). I may just have found someone who is unable to vote on the day. He also lives in the same constituency. Justin has made me realise that this is important. It may be legal to vote by proxy in a constituency in which you do not reside, but it is questionable. When you take the view, as I do, that the link with a constituency is important, and that people shouldn't just blindly vote for a Party, it is ickier still.

It looks like this will all work out, and consequently I don't have to go on a gun rampage to offset my fury.

I cocked up like this a couple of years ago. Because I was working 16 hour days during the 2001 General Election, I got a postal ballot. A couple of years later I forgot that I was registered to vote by post, so I turned up to vote on the day, and was told that I had a postal vote. They said if I could produce my ballot I could stick it in the ballot box, but I didn't have it, so I couldn't.

It is a) somewhat surprising and b) appropriate that I felt really guilty that I couldn't vote. Appropriate because I care passionately about politics, and yes, because lots of people have died to make democracy possible.

Welcome

Welcome one and all to my new weblog.

I plan to use this excellent new facility to offer observations, vent my spleen, and record events in the life of Big Tommy G. I hope you find it diverting, enjoyable, and maybe even a little challenging.

Please bear with me as I get the hang of this. I'm pretty hopeless with computers.
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