Archive for the ‘Religion & Politics’ Category

What does a year in triathlon cost?

Sunday, October 6th, 2019 | Religion & Politics, Sport

If you have done some triathlon, you may have noticed that it is dominated by white people. There is very little representation for minorities. One reason could be the cost. Triathlon is expensive. I am not talking about the super-aero bike, or fancy wetsuit, or all the other gear you need. You can get by without most of that. But just entering races is expensive.

In this article, I will break down just how expensive it is, based on my 2019 season.

Registration fees

The biggest cost is registering for races. I did 15 races this year.

Race Fee
Skipton £38
Driffield £54
Tadcaster £45
Leeds £95
Yorkshireman £285
Allerthorpe sprint £54
Castle Howard £99
Redcar £42
Allerthorpe Classic £64
Coalville £46
Sundowner sprint £54
Evolve sprint £40
Nidderdale £47
Ironman Weymouth £281
Evolve mixed relay £20

That makes for an eye-watering total cost of £1,263. Bear in mind that my registration fees are slightly lower than some other people’s because I have already paid for a British Triathlon race licence, that typically saves me £5 on each race. That cost me £40 but has since increased in price.

It is also worth noting that almost half of my fees came from two races: my full distance race and the IRONMAN 70.3. So, if you wanted to stick to short format racing, you could 10 races a year for £500. This is still a lot of money, though, and requires you to avoid big-brand events like World Triathlon Leeds and the Castle Triathlon Series.

Are these fees justified?

On the whole, yes. Some people have argued that £50 is too much of a race. But if you think of the logistics of triathlon: water safety crew, swim caps, a secure transition to avoid bike theft, timing chips, aid stations, bike mechanics and (often, but not always) free photos, there are a lot of costs.

Once you move up to full distance, there are even more considerations. You have to have changing tents, overnight security so people can rack the day before, marshalls on the course for 17 hours, a tonne of nutrition, 180km of road to cover, massages and food after the race, toilets everywhere just to mention a few.

That said, some fees are suspicious. Why does the Castle Howard triathlon cost twice as much as other standard distances races? Why does IRONMAN 70.3 Weymouth cost twice as much as other middle distance races?

Other hidden costs

As well as race registration fees, there are some other hidden costs that I think often get forgotten about.

Transport. Most triathlons take place in rural locations where the roads are quiet. This means you have to drive to them. It is difficult to car share because you need to fit the bikes in the car. So, you need to be able to run and fuel a car.

Parking. About half the races I did had free car parking. The others charged extra and while it was typically a small amount, that is another £30 to add on over the course of a year.

Nutrition. This is not a big issue in short format racing. But starts to add up when you are doing long format (or running a marathon). For my full distance race, I took 18 gels and 4 energy bars. At around £2 a pop, that is £44 worth of nutrition in a single race. For Weymouth, I took 8 gels and 1 energy bar, so a much more reasonable £18.

But then there are the drinks, too. I take two 750ml bottles filled with a carb drink. I often discard these bottles at the aid station bottle drops, which means an additional £15 per race. Plus, you need to do long training runs and rides. Which means you need to pay for nutrition for these, too. I did two 100-mile rides and an 80-mile ride as prep for my full distance, and those could well have been £30 per ride in nutrition.

Conclusion

Twelve hundred pounds on registration fees, plus several hundred of nutrition, is an incredibly large amount of money. People can spend a lot on their hobbies, and that is arguably justified if it brings them a lot of pleasure. But that is not even including all the equipment and fancy bike stuff I buy.

Of course, few triathletes race as much as I do. And many stick to short format racing. But I know there are people who do not race as much as they would like to because they cannot afford to. I do not think this is because event organisers are ripping people off (maybe some are). But it is no surprise that the sport is full of rich white people.

Political compass 2019

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019 | Religion & Politics

Left libertarian. Just like I was in 2013 and 2016. You can take the test for yourself on the Political Compass website.

Nobody can agree when Eid is and it’s hilarious

Monday, June 10th, 2019 | Religion & Politics

Earlier this month, Ramadan ended and was celebrated by Eid al-Fitr. The problem is that a lot of the Islamic community couldn’t agree when exactly that happened. It is a common problem and illustrates some of the interesting quirks of religion.

We’re used to religions splitting apart over hairs, of course. Is transubstantiation literal or metaphorical? Can King Henry have a divorce? Did Jesus visit America and tell men to take multiple wives?

But this article by BBC News illustrates the issues with Eid, where different parts of the Scottish Muslim community celebrated on different days.

Ramadan follows the lunar calendar, with a month of fasting that ends when the new moon arrives. You may think that science could easily answer this question. We know when the new moon appears because the movement of celestial bodies can be accurately predicted. In this case, in the UK, the new moon arrived on Tuesday, 4 June.

But no.

Some argue that they have to see it themselves. Presumably, in case it disappears or something.

Others argue that because other people have seen the moon, that should be acceptable “because that’s the same moon”.

Still others have argued that seeing in the UK does not matter because the UK is not an Islamic country. Therefore, it only counts when someone in Morocco sees the new moon because that is the nearest Islamic country.

Finally, others have said the whole thing is too complex and that it should be celebrated according to what can be seen from Mecca.

Is it worth voting in the EU elections?

Saturday, June 1st, 2019 | Religion & Politics

I’ve previously written about why voting in a general election is pointless. One vote never makes a difference. It did in 1886. And again in 1910. But both of those occasions were before you, me, or even my gran was born.

One of the major problems is the first past the post system. But the EU elections are run under proportional representation. So, does that make it better? It certainly does! It allows a much fairer representation of parties at the table. However, as it is done by region, and because of the number of votes, your one vote still doesn’t really make a difference.

Let’s look at my region, for example, Yorkshire and the Humber. Here is the outcome:

  • Brexit Party, 470,351 votes, 3 MEPs
  • Labour, 210,516 votes, 1 MEP
  • Liberal Democrats, 200,180 votes, 1 MEP
  • Green, 166,980 votes, 1 MEP
  • Conservatives, 92,863 votes, 0 MEPs

One of the best things about PR is that it makes the votes per MP fairer. For example, in a general election, the Lib Dems and UKIP typically have a large share of the vote while only a handful of MPs, while the SNP have very few votes but loads of MPs.

It’s not quite even in PR, but it’s better. The Brexit Party has the best ratio of votes to MEPs with 156,784 votes per MEP. So, in order for someone else to gain an MEP, they would have to beat this number.

Let’s look at what that would mean:

  • Conservatives: 63,921
  • Labour: 103,052
  • Lib Dems: 113,388

Or, maybe you want the Brexit Party to take a fourth seat. That would require them to take an additional 156,785 votes.

All of those are big numbers. Way bigger than the 23,698 votes it would require for the Conservatives to take Leeds Central away from Labour in a general election. Which they haven’t done since 1923.

I also ran the numbers against London. The closest people were the Conservatives who could have taken one of the Brexit Party seats (200,129 votes per MEP) with an additional 22,165 votes. I looked at South East England, too, where the Greens could have taken Labour’s seat with an additional 26,107 votes.

None of these results was close. One vote does not make a difference.

We should think carefully before insulting Jordan Peterson

Monday, July 2nd, 2018 | Religion & Politics

Jordan Peterson appears regularly in my Facebook and Twitter feeds. Some of it is good, most of it is bad. A lot of it is people making disparaging comments about him without any further explanation or details.

I don’t know what to make of him. Given there is such divided opinion, I tried to form one. But his YouTube video lectures were so long and boring that I soon gave up. So, the jury is still out. But my thoughts aren’t important. What is important is how those who don’t like him express their opinions.

If you’re going to attack him, make sure you do it with valid evidence-based arguments, and not simply name calling. Those who would choose the latter, clearly have a short memory.

It’s no surprise that people opt for this. It’s the predominant strategy of the left. We don’t attack the right best on the weaknesses of their arguments. Most of us seem too scared to do that but instead shout “you’re a racist! Shut up! You’re oppressing me!” And why not? It has been very effective in silencing a lot of people.

Occasionally, though, someone comes along he doesn’t care what we think of him and won’t shut up.

People like Nigel Farage. Farage doesn’t listen when you call him a racist and doesn’t shut up when you say his views are offensive. He just keeps making arguments. They’re not good arguments. But he makes them, and because we’re not making the counter-arguments, he beat us in the EU referendum.

And even more notably, Donald Trump. Nobody could believe that someone who hates Muslims and grabs women’s vaginas could possibly be elected US President. But when we told him “shut up you sexist racist arsehole” he just kept going because he understood that well-off white people vote way more than oppressed minorities and therefore, if you want to win an election, it’s okay to go on saying you’re going to oppress minorities in the interests of white people.

And he won. He’s now the president of the United States. The actual president. Not some comedy figure-head president as Stewart Lee would say. The actual, real president.

Jordan Peterson doesn’t give a shit what you think, either. His campaign is called “Professors Against Political Correctness”. He has said openly that he doesn’t respect trans people because he thinks it is a mental illness. It’s like he went out to go find the least PC thing he could possibly say just to annoy the left. He isn’t going to be silenced by us calling him out on it.

But what he is doing, like Trump did, is to speak to a very powerful group (white men) and telling them what they want to hear: that they don’t need to feel guilty for all the privilege they have and that they don’t deserve to be attacked. We white men are not under attack, of course, but to anyone who has enjoyed a lot of privilege and is now having that em>slightly eroded, it feels that way.

Worse, not only has he found this audience, but he is able to galvanise them by saying “look at how the left attack us: the attack is real and there is the evidence. They call us names and try to shut us up, but we keep speaking out!”

It worked for Farage. It worked for Trump. And if you call Jordan Peterson names, rather than dealing with the issues, it will work for him, too. How much support do you want to give him?

Jogger detained for two weeks for accidentally crossing the US Canadian border

Sunday, June 24th, 2018 | Religion & Politics

A jogger was detained for two weeks for accidentally crossing US Canadian border while out for a run. Read this short description and see if you can answer this simple quiz question.

As reported by The Guardian (and The Telegraph), a teenager named Cedella Roman accidentally crossed the border into the US while on a trip to Canada. There were no border markings.

Two border security officials arrested her. They then transported her to a detention facility 200km away from the border. She was stripped of all her possessions and subjected to an invasive search.

When her mother produced her passport and travel documents, proving she was a French citizen, the US authorities refused to release her and kept her locked up for a further two weeks while they spoke to the Canadian authorities.

Now, here’s the quiz question: what colour was the teenage girl’s skin?

Everyone is terribly confused by the BBC’s election reporting

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018 | Religion & Politics

Historically, I’ve defended the reporting of BBC News. Both the left and right claim it is biased in the other camp’s favour and their claims often seem unequally unfounded. Recently, however, it has become more difficult to ignore their right-wing bias.

It’s not just their tedious reporting of “royal affairs” as if that is something legitimately interesting, it’s that actual research has found a systematic bias against Jeremy Corbyn.

What about their 2018 local election results reporting?

Labour gained 77 councillors and the Liberal Democrats gained 75. The Conservatives lost 33 councillors, despite UKIP unloading 123 of them, which you would expect the Tories to sweet up a few of. That puts Labour on 2,350 and the Tories on 1,332. And the BBC describes it as “no clear party winner”.

Is this fair?

Yes and no. At first glance, it looks bad. Labour has made gains and the Conservatives have taken losses. So, it seems unfair to suggest that Labour did not win.

However, in terms of the shift, it’s not a very big one. An additional 77 councillors are not that many when you already have 2,288 of them. It’s only a 3% increase. And they didn’t gain control of any councils.

When you look at the percentage increases, the only people who can be said to have had a good day are the Liberal Democrats, who increased their councillors by 14% and took control of four councils.

So, when looking at the shift in power, there was no clear winner between Labour and the Tories.

What about the popular vote?

There is one argument still to be made in favour of a bias against Labour. And that is that they did make significant gains in the popular vote. Labour moved up eight percentage points while the Conservatives are down three.

That is the biggest swing for Labour since Jeremy Corbyn took office. You have to go back to 2013 when Ed Milliband lost all of the votes to find a bigger swing. Until this point, Labour hasn’t enjoyed great results at local elections, but it is unfair to blame that on Corbyn given the amount of in-fighting that has been going on.

Of course, in our current electoral system, the popular vote is worth nothing. Nobody understands that better than Donald Trump.

Conclusion

In this case, the BBC’s reporting isn’t as biased as it may look at first glance.

As of today, men have done a full year’s work

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017 | Religion & Politics

10 November is Equal Pay Day. As reported by The Telegraph, women, on average, earn 14.2% less than men, so effectively, after 10 November, they are working for free for the rest of the year. If men quit their job on that date, it would take women the rest of the year to catch up.

I like the initiative. It draws attention to the gender pay gap in a clever way.

Like all such initiatives, it misses the fine detail of the discussion. The nuances of the argument. Nobody can blame it; it’s just an advertising slogan. But, when we get down to fixing it, we need to keep those nuances in mind.

The gender hours gap

One of which is that, as of today, men have done a full year’s work. On average, they have worked so many more hours that even if they quit their job today, it would take women the rest of the year to catch up.

It’s not a small difference. Forbes reports that, on average, men work 42 minutes more per day. That’s 3.5 hours per week, 14 hours per month, or an entire month’s worth of working hours by year’s end.

Okay, but why is this relevant?

It is relevant because it shows we have a holistic social problem, not just something that affects women. We’ve built a society in which men are expected to work more and to be paid more.

It is possible in theory, though unlikely in practice, that we can solve the problem by only looking at one side of it. Until we accept that we need a fundamental change in the views of our society, not just a quick fix or call for the problem to magically go away, it seems unlikely we’re going to make more significant progress.

What do we do about it?

We need to change the nature of the debate from “why do women earn less?” to “why are there differences between genders?” Once you look at the whole picture, we become better able to deal with the situation and therefore make a fairer world.

Take maternity pay, for example. Elina and I were planning to split the childcare. But, when we ran the numbers, it was just unaffordable: Elina’s wage would be partially replaced by maternity pay and mine would not.

Aviva recently announced that they would now offer up to six months full pay for any parent, regardless of gender. It will be interesting to see how this changes the progression of women through the company.

But, more widely, we need to change the culture of men go to work, and women raise the children. That won’t just be measured in wage gaps or boardroom quotas, but in whether all genders are free to choose working hours, childcare responsibilities, occupations and a range of other factors.

The six reasons why we punish people

Monday, November 13th, 2017 | Religion & Politics

I studied law at high school and I was very good at it. But one thing I could never get my head around was the six aims of sentencing. When it came to punishing people, what was the point of any of it, other than rehabilitation? Surely that was our only job?

Times of changed and now I am older and wiser. My idealistic view of humans has taken a kicking at the hands of Steven Pinker and Michael Shermer. So, here are the other five aims of sentencing and why they are important.

Reparation

Never had a problem with this one. If you can make it right, you should. I don’t think that view would be in any way controversial.

Protection

A necessary evil. Sometimes we need to lock people up to stop them hurting other people, or even themselves.

Detterence and denunication

I’ll put denunciation in here because there is a lot of overlap with general deterrence. Specific deterrence is making the individual criminal think twice before doing it again; general deterrence is making wider society think twice before doing it in the first place.

Both of these are important. Why? Because people are not inherently good. They’re not evil, either. They’re just people.

And, ultimately, people weigh up the consequences of their actions. And if the risk is worth the prize, they risk it.

So, you need carrot and stick. You need to give them a job and a place in the community to give them something to lose if they commit a crime. But you also need to make the deal not worthwhile with some stick, too.

Retribution

This is the most contested aim of sentencing: punishing people because they deserve to be punished.

Why do we need to do this? Because people want to live in a fair world. And it causes us distress when that view is broken. When you find out there has been wrong-doing, you feel bad. You physically feel it. It makes us sad when we hear about unfairness.

So, crimes have to be punished. Just for the sake of adding an extra wrong, because, as we adults know, two wrongs do genuinely make a right. When someone is punished, it restores a sense of fairness to the universe and we all feel better.

Death penalty betting

Sunday, November 5th, 2017 | Religion & Politics

Betfair is running a market on this. Seems a bit distasteful to bet on whether someone gets the death penalty or not.