And another 6 from the Russian judge

It is the Olympics. We know that there have been issues with the scoring in the skating, all you have to do is look at the positions in the pairs to see that.

To recap, in the pairs the fix was in for one of the Russian couples. Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov claimed the gold, while Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov took home the silver. I was watching this, and the scores didn’t match the performance. Yes, the two Russian pairs were the class of the night, so at least the right pairs were on the top of the podium, but on the day Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov blew away the other pair. They skated with flair, poise and passion whereas Tatiana and Maxime looked stiff and had a few minor bobbles.

Now we have the womens competition, and lo and behold, another Russian is on the top step. The IOC was quick Friday morning to play down any hint of a figure skating judging scandal after Adelina Sotnikova of Russia was the surprising winner of the gold medal, upsetting reigning Olympic gold medalist Yuna Kim of South Korea and Italy’s Carolina Kostner. I love the comment from the IOC – “I think you’re getting a little ahead of yourself,” said IOC spokesman Mark Adams. “I think first off we have to see if there’s an official complaint, because the people concerned I’d assume would make a complaint and it would go to the federation. I’m not aware there’s been such a complaint and if there was they’d got through the federation. I don’t think it’s even happened yet. If it does that will be the first step to go through if there isn’t a credible complaint we wouldn’t take it any further.”.

Maybe there will be a complaint, maybe there won’t. It is possible that the whole process is so corrupt that no one cares anymore. It is interesting to note that there were two judges on the panel during that competition that had big question marks against them, one that had an obvious conflict of interest, and one that had already been found guilty of fixing in a prior event.

From an outsider perspective, it looks to me as though the current scoring rules have been set up to deliberately hide any potential issues. At least in the bad old days you could see which judge was fixing the result – now you can’t even do that. Figure skating judging is a disgrace and being cynical, it has been that way for a very long time. I love the skating – it is dynamic, full of grace, risk and a very high degree of skill. It is such a shame that is is so totally let down by the judging.

Fighting a losing battle

The UK is waterlogged. They have had the heaviest rainfall in January since records began in 1766, and if it continues they will have the wettest winter overall. If you compare it to 2007, that storm caused more financial damage, as it was really one large event that overwhelmed defenses, but this January has been a long drawn out affair that is painful to see.

The question is what should be done about it all. The handwringing that is going on at the moment is pretty pointless, as what is done is done. The flood defenses were not adequate to the job, and the dredging, which according to some experts may have helped again wasn’t done.

Some of the damage is unavoidable. If you pound coastal communities with storm after storm, things are going to break. If the water level is sufficient, then even the most hardy flood defenses are going to be overwhelmed. Sometimes, you just lose.

That being said, what needs to happen is adaption, not prevention. Yes, you can put dykes in place, but only where it makes sense. In places that are going to flood, like the Somerset Levels, you need to adapt. Change the building codes so that no new dwellings can be placed on flood plains. Give incentives for people who already live on flood plains to move, or funding assistance to modify their current properties. Adapt building codes to make new builds more flood adaptable – and by this I don’t mean try to waterproof the whole ground floor, I mean make the clean up easier and safer. Accept that flooding will sometimes happen but make the results inconvenient, not catastrophic. Canute couldn’t stop the tides, and all of the money in the world isn’t going to stop the flooding, but pragmatic steps to adapt will pay dividends.

And a 6 from the russian judge

Skating at the Olympics has been surrounded in controversy many times. There was the vote rigging in 2002 involving Salle and Pelletier, which was the most obvious, but it has been pretty clear that the fix is in too many times. In Sochii, there have been rumours of collusion between the US and Russia (who’d a thunk it), but the one that gets me was the Russian vs Russian.

In the pairs competition, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov claimed the gold, while Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov took home the silver. I was watching this, and the scores didn’t match the performance. Yes, the two Russian pairs were the class of the night, so at least the right pairs were on the top of the podium, but on the day Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov blew away the other pair. They skated with flair, poise and passion whereas Tatiana and Maxime looked stiff and had a few minor bobbles. The scores however didn’t reflect that.

No one seems to care about this, as it was Russian vs Russian, but it is just another example of what is wrong with skating judging. Don’t get me wrong, skating itself is a sport full of grace and athletic prowess. It is the judging that is as foul as week old fish left in the sun.

The olympics – looking at it differently

The story of Junio and Morrison in the 1000m speedskating event at Sochii is all over the news. Gilmore Junio stood aside so that his teammate Denny Morrison could compete, and Morrison went on to clinch the silver medal and was within a heartbeat of the gold.

It plays as a heartwarming story, but there are some questions that need to be asked. Whose idea was this? If it was Junios, then more power to him. If it wasn’t then there is a cloud over this act and coercion is not a pretty word.

Another question is more philosophical, and that is what is the Olympics all about. If it is the hunt for medals, where only the count matters, then that is one thing. If it is more than that, then Junio should have skated. Yes, he probably wouldn’t have medalled, but was that the most important thing? And as he didn’t skate we will never know, but he did qualify so he should have his shot.

Finally, you have to ask some questions about the qualification process that Canadian speedskaters go through. The aim is to send your best to the Olympics, so how come Morrison wasn’t in the event. Well, the reason is that he fell in the qualifying race. One race? That is insane. These athletes train for years for these events, and to have qualification boil down to one race for something like speedskating is silly. Yes, you have to define some clear method to determine your qualifiers, as the last thing you want is to send someone just because they are the coaches son or daughter, but one race?

The olympics – the good

There have been a number of examples of the Olympic spirit in Sochi. The one that stands out for me the most to this point isn’t the speedskating story with Junio and Morrison. It is the story about the Canadian coach Justin Wadsworth fixing Russian Anton Gafarov’s broken ski so he could finish the race.

This was purely a spur of the moment act of kindness that should be played again and again. No thought of country, just simply allowing another human being their moment with dignity. To set the stage for the story, Gafarovski had crashed on a quick downhill corner and broken a ski. Then he’d crashed again. A long, thin layer of P-Tex had been skinned off his ski . It was now wrapped around his foot like a snare. Gafarov was not skiing to the finish. He was part hopping, part dragging.

Wadsworth looked around. No one was moving. Everyone just stared, including a group of Russian coaches, so he ran down and fitted one of the spare skiis from the Canadian team to the Russian, who was then able to finish. It brings back memories of Sara Renner in Torino 2006, and the Norwegian official who tossed her his own pole once she’d lost hers. Renner won silver for Canada. Norway finished fourth.

It is an Olympic moment that we should all think about. The twist of this tale is that Justin Wadsworth was born an American.

Stop bitching

Bud Konheim has a message for all of the 99 percenters: You’re luckier than you think.

Konheim, CEO and co-founder of luxury-fashion company Nicole Miller, said on CNBC’s ” Squawk Box ” on Wednesday that Americans not in the top 1 percent would be considered wealthy in most of the world. He said the 99ers should stop complaining and understand how lucky they are.

Erm no – what they should do is to stop buying your ridiculously overpriced products so you can see what living on $35,000 in the USA is like. Yes, in many areas of the world $35,000 is a huge amount of money, but it is all relative to costs and that means that in the USA, $35,000 is living very close to the poverty line. Having some rich, entitled luxury goods seller mouthing off about “how good it is” to people that couldn’t afford any of his products makes me think that maybe cloning of luxury goods isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Politics of public appointments

There is a debate going on in the UK about the appointment of the person to lead OFSTED. Now OFSTED is the organization that oversees education, so it is a huge responsibility and is currently held by a Labor Peer, Baroness Morgan.

All of the left media are howling at the decision not to award a second term to Morgan, and are decrying the politicization of the position, claiming that it will be filled by a Tory hack.

Are they delusional? What in all that is holy did they expect?

Of course the government is going to stuff all of the leading posts with people who support their ideology. It is one of the perks of being the government and as long as these people are highly qualified and are not die in the wool idiots that put ideology over practical effective leadership, I can live with it – heck, that is exactly what Labor did, otherwise all of the key posts wouldn’t be filled by Labor supporters.

I hate the thought that the positions would be assigned based upon contributions to the party, but am realistic enough to know that goes on. What I would hope though is that with the public scrutiny that is being applied (although it didn’t seem to be applied with quite the same fervor when labor did exactly the same thing), that even though the person will probably have a right leaning philosophy, that they are competent and have the best interests of the kids at heart.

Banning Vaping

I don’t get it.

I vape. For me it was a replacement for smoking, which was a habit that I have been partaking in for over 40 years and I have been off the evil weed now for 5 months. I had tried to give up prior to that point but without any success, whereas with vaping I occasionally get the urge to pick up a cigarette but rarely. So for me, vaping has been a huge positive. I breath better, the car, house and I don’t reek like an ashtray, and I no longer can be accused of making people ill through second hand smoke. Where is the downside?

Well if you listen to the public debate, you would think that vaping is Darth Vader level evil and targeted at corrupting the young. I have never heard so much rubbish in my life.

Lets talk about the science. Now on this front, I will admit the actual long term evidence is a bit sketchy. There is a reason for that – vaping hasn’t existed for that long, so long term evidence is going to be a bit hard to find. That being said there is significant evidence that it is a lot better for you than smoking. Speaking for myself, I have noticed that I can taste things better and my breathing is much improved. I haven’t noticed any downsides, which is not to say there aren’t any, but smoking has well documented health concerns so what I’m trading is a little unknown against definite bad.

Lets talk about the politics. This is where it gets weird. You would have thought that anything that is a viable replacement for smoking with less health risks would be welcome, but you would be wrong. The debate isn’t about whether this will help smokers give up, and what controls need to be placed on it to ensure that minors don’t use it. No, the debate is about banning it.

The anti smoking lobby is against it, the EU bureaucrats are against it, government can’t figure out where it stands and the healthcare industry is split. Oh yes – big tobacco and big pharma are seeing it as a revenue stream that they would like to control and are trying their best to set the playing field up to their advantage. I can sort of understand the anti smoking lobby – they have written off smokers and just want us to die quietly while they try to ensure than no-one else starts.

The rest are a bit more difficult to follow. I suppose the gut reaction of any bureaucrat is to ban anything they don’t understand. The healthcare industry is the same, they won’t green light anything until they have studied it for 30 years. Big pharma and big tobacco will do/say anything to control the revenue stream and have a significant proportion of the bureaucrats bought and paid for. Governments are only really concerned about one thing and that is the revenue stream. They want to ensure that there aren’t significant health care costs, and they also want to figure out a way to make money off it.

Hmmm, maybe it isn’t that difficult to understand after all.