Worth Reading 179: Abgar the Great

Why I support pretty much any strike by pretty much anyone, anywhere, about anything – “If the real world sucks, we shouldn’t get over it. We should fight it. That’s what you do when something sucks. That’s what you’re meant to do.”
Osborne’s living wage won’t spare low-income families from cuts – I’m shocked – shocked, I tell you! – to discover that the Tories’ new ‘living wage’ is anything but.
Post-Youth – Tom Ewing wonders if the Budget signals the beginning of the end for the concept of ‘youth’ as we know it.
Labour’s failure – The difference between being a party for workers and a party of workers may seem small, but it has big consequences.
City cycling in London is a joke – A Dutch cyclist visited London and was pretty unimpressed with our haphazard cycling infrastructure.

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Celebrity candidates

Scenes like this will not be seen in the House of Commons.

Scenes like this will not be seen in the House of Commons.

The news that Frank Lampard has apparently turned down the chance to be Conservative candidate for Kensington is perhaps unsurprising given that I’ve never heard of him expressing a political view before, and City Football Group will pay him much more to not play for somebody than he’ll ever earn as an MP. (One does wonder if he was only mentioned because he has so much in common with the seat, as both have cut all ties with Chelsea)

Those who still wish to see Parliament filled with sportsmen who’ve never expressed political views before could still be in luck as Andrew Strauss, James Cracknell and Sol Campbell have all been linked with the seat. I wonder just what it is that attracts the Tories to wealthy celebrities?

It’s curious, though, that it’s these sporting celebrities who are linked with careers in politics, not those who’ve spent much of their sporting careers campaigning, and are now retired, so would likely have the time if someone approached them. The two I’m thinking of were known throughout their careers for speaking up even in the face of ostracism, and have led global campaigns for equality in sport. They managed this while training hard with little financial support and winning World and Olympic titles, one of them even managing to complete a PhD during their career, showing the sort of dedication, campaigning experience and wide range of knowledge one would want in a politician.

So, has anyone ever approached Nicole Cooke or Emma Pooley about the prospect of using all their skills in a political career?

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Worth Reading 97: Things can hardly get worse

Cycle Helmets: The impacts of compulsory cycle helmet legislation on cyclist fatalities and premature deaths in the UK (pdf) – A long piece of research but an interesting one, coming to the conclusion that the reduction in cycling caused by a compulsory helmet law for cyclists would cause more deaths than the helmets would save.
This is not an argument… – BenSix on the Iraq war: “It is hard to express what an appalling man the late dictator was: a man who was cruel that would not merely invade a nation but torch its resources as he fled; a man who was so spiteful that when militants shot at his car near a little town he threw hundreds of its residents into jails and torture chambers; a man who was so arrogant that he claimed to have had an 100% approval rating in the polls. The great tragedy of the Iraq war is that it began in a country run by this specimen and made things worse.”
The new planning legislation concentrates decision-making power at the national level, while eroding the ability of councils to mitigate the local impacts of development – For those of us who’ve dealt with planning issues recently, this isn’t a surprise, but apparently there are still some people out there who think Eric Pickles actually believes in localism.
The Liberal Democrats must rediscover why they even exist – or extinction is certain – Cicero’s Songs says something that a lot of people have been thinking.
Plus Ca Change, Plus Ca La Meme Bullshit Chose – Flying Rodent on Iraq War protest nostalgia: “I mean, this is surely the big story here. When nearly half the population base their opinion on a war – a war with a bodycount big enough for a respectable mid-20th century conflict, mind – on tall tales and oogah-boogah, you’d think that would be an issue. And yet, from what we’ve seen this week, it barely rates a mention.”

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Worth Reading 87: Gettysburg

An open letter to the British judicial system – From a cyclist, pointing out the ridiculously small sentences handed out to motorists who’ve killed or injured cyclists.
My reply to Nick Clegg’s civil liberties email today – Jo Shaw writes at Liberal Democrats against Secret Courts, asking Nick Clegg to live up to what he says and block the Government’s plans. (And if you’re a Lib Dem who hasn’t signed the petition against secret courts yet, why not?)
Nick Clegg needs to get crunchy again – Jonathan Calder has one of the best takes I’ve seen on Clegg’s recent ‘centre ground’ speech.
The gathering storm – Alex Marsh with a warning about future rises in homelessness.
UKIP are true libertarians – I’m still planning a post on libertarians and the Liberal Democrats at some point, but in the meantime, this is a good piece from Ed Rooksby in the Guardian, pointing out how UKIP are a great example of where the inherent selfishness of right-libertarianism takes you.

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2013 Tour de France route

Eight months before Le Grand Depart in Corsica, we now know the full route for the 2013 Tour de France. It’s the 100th Tour, and the organisers have clearly set out to make it a memorable one.

It follows the approach the Tour organisers have taken a lot in recent years of letting the action of the race reach a crescendo in the final week, with the first two weeks as a steady build up to the finale. There’ll be lots of dramatic images in the first two weeks, but a lot of that will cover for the main contenders waiting in the pack, conserving as much energy as possible for the Alps.

The start in Corsica will be the first time the Tour has visited the island (meaning all of European France will now have been visited by the race) and the opening stage is designed to end in a sprint finish. Of course, a break could get clear, but it looks likely that it’ll be the first opportunity to see Omega Pharma-Quick Step working for Mark Cavendish in the Tour as he attempts to shed the record of having the most Tour stage wins without ever wearing the yellow jersey.

Unlike last year, the wearer of the maillot jaune could change a lot over the first week. The next two stages in Corsica provide opportunities for breaks to get clear over the mountains, and then the Team Time Trial in Nice will shake the order up again. If the favourites keep their powder dry in the Pyrenees at the end of week one, then there’s a chance for a climber to get away and put themselves into yellow for a day or two. The big names will be able to hide in the shadows until midway through week 2, when the first individual time trial arrives on the road to Mont Saint Michel.

After that, the Tour really picks up as it heads south towards the Alps. Bastille Day will be a monster for the riders – a 242km stage over bumpy terrain but with only one categorised climb: Mont Ventoux. Because after five hours of riding, your day’s not complete without going up one of the Tour’s legendary climbs, is it? With a rest day following, this is where the big names are going to be duelling each other to the top. A hilly time trial a couple of days after that will shake up the order some more, before we come to the undisputed queen stage of the 100th Tour.

There were lots of rumours floating around about the 2013 race going up Alpe D’Huez twice to mark the 100th Tour on its most iconic climb. I heard suggestions that it would be part of two different stages, that one climb would be a time trial, even that there’d be a descent of it, but I definitely wasn’t expecting it to be climbed twice in one stage. Expect lots of shots of anguished riders getting to the top at the end of the first climb and realising they’ve got to do it again. I’ve already made sure my diary’s clear for the 18th July next year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the camper vans are heading there now to ensure they get a good spot.

There’s still more climbing for two days after that, and it’s possible that the race could be decided on the climb to Annecy Semnoz on the final Saturday. It’s a new climb and a new stage finish location, which means the roads round there will be packed full of pro cyclists on scouting missions next spring.

The riders get a few hours longer to recover before the final stage into Paris, though. They’re departing from Versailles and passing through the gardens of the palace on their way to the Champs-Elysees, but it’ll be as the sun is getting low in the sky. For what I believe is the first time since the finish switched to the Champs-Elysees, it’ll be an evening finish with the final sprint expected to take place at sunset (around 2145 local time, 2045 UK time). It’s almost as if they asked what could be a better backdrop for the finale than Paris, and realised the only possible answer was Paris at night. Or maybe hoteliers want to ensure that people coming for the finish stay for the night, rather than getting the evening Eurostars and TGVs back home.

The big question, of course, is who’s going to win it? There’s great anticipation about Wiggins getting the chance to take on Contador and Schleck, but he’s also talked about attempting the Giro/Vuelta double next year and leaving the Tour to Chris Froome. As the course looks nicely balanced between time trialling and climbing – with the prospect of climbers having to attack on the last few stages to claw back time lost in the TTs – it does look very open. Will Nibali centre his season around it again, or will he switch back to targeting the Giro? How much will the young challengers – Van Garderen, Rolland and Pinot – have improved over the winter?

Whoever gets to wear yellow in Paris, it looks like it’ll be a fantastic race and hopefully will the spectacle and drama the Tour needs to remind people that cycling has always been about more than just Lance Armstrong.

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Worth Reading 63: Welcome to Glastonbury

It seems the internet wrote many good things while I was away on holiday:

Dudes, Relax: The Rise Of Women Does Not Mean the Fall of Men – Jezebel’s Lindy West dissects a piece of male whining.
How To Get Doping Out Of Sports – A very frank piece from Jonathan Vaughters, boss of the Garmin cycling team, on his own doping experience and what needs to be done to end it.
Democracy Creates Assholes – Another honest opinion from Jason O’Mahony.
Rape: Or why I am now a feminist – George Potter writes down a lot of the thoughts that were in my head for the last week or so but couldn’t get written down as I was away from a keyboard.
A piece of advice to my fellow men (warning – potentially triggering) – ‘The ONLY way you should ever end a sentence that starts “It’s not rape if…” is with “all parties involved consent.”’

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Worth Reading 62: Calling Indonesia

A few more of these, from a wide period of time:

British SF and the Class System: Science Fiction Is Here, It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed – Very interesting post on SF as an expression of middle-class dreams of the future.
Oh my god. I just witnessed the single greatest moment in human history – The effortless cool we all wish we could display in certain situations.
I hate to disagree with Bradley Wiggins, but mandatory cycle helmets would be a terrible idea – Tom Chivers succinctly sums up the arguments and evidence for and against mandatory cycle helmets.
Thanks (but no thanks) – A couple of weeks old, but a great post from British Olympic weightlifter Zoe Smith about some of the unwanted attention and comment she receives.
It’s a rich man’s world – American democracy, bought and paid for.

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