Monday, February 26, 2007


I know very little about tennis so I had to read a long way into the article excerpted below before I understood what was going on. Apparently men's tennis is of greater interest to the public than women's tennis so more people go to matches between men and more people watch men's tennis on TV. So male tennis players earn more for the tournament organizers so the organizers have always paid men more in prizemoney -- which seems fair. But it is not EQUAL! And The Left never cease in their efforts to pretend that unequal things are in fact equal. So money earned by men is now going to be taken off them to be given to women. Equal pay for work of UNequal value, in short -- just the opposite of what feminists have always claimed they want.

One of the last bastions of sporting inequality - Wimbledon's prizemoney allocation - is about to crumble. The All England Club, which has offered greater rewards to male players than women for the past 123 years, is poised to follow the Australian Open's equal pay policy. The crusty home of tennis met this week to discuss prizemoney in the face of withering fire from recent champions Venus Williams and Lindsay Davenport.

The Australian Open and the US Open have led the way in the battle for tennis equality, while the French Open employs an ad hoc approach. Roland Garros offers equal prizemoney -- but only from the quarter-finals onwards. But Wimbledon has stubbornly resisted calls to follow suit. Roger Federer last year earned $1.6 million for his fourth successive Wimbledon victory, $74,000 more than Amelie Mauresmo pocketed. Wimbledon has found itself under increasing pressure to modernise [Ancient Leftist propaganda: Leftism is "modern". Leftism is "outdated" would be more accurate] its pay scale.

The All England Club was expected to confirm a ground-breaking pay scale overnight. If so, Women's Tennis Association boss Larry Scott will have achieved one of the most monumental changes in international sport. Wimbledon has traditionally used stronger television ratings for men, especially in the early rounds, as the basis of its argument.

Reliapundit has more.

The oldest surviving bastion of Communism surrenders to reality

When Eliezer Gal arrived at Israel's first kibbutz he had already served in the Red Army as a platoon tank commander at the siege of Leningrad, escaped to West Berlin after being marked down by Stalin for the labour camps and been turned away by the British when he arrived in Palestine aboard the Jewish refugee ship Exodus. Mr Gal took a lowly job in the cow shed for 18 years and married Michal, a daughter of the kibbutz's founders, raising his family in the pastoral version of Zionist communism.

Now, aged 82, he is living one final adventure, which he and the other members of Degania call Shinui (The Change). The kibbutz has just voted to privatise itself and assume the trappings of capitalism. His verdict? "It's a lot more comfortable. We get a lot more independence, both economically and generally. "I have seen the other world, I was born in a different world. When I came here it was the real, pure communism. But I knew then that it couldn't survive forever because people abused it. "I'm only surprised that it survived for so long. I came from the Great Mother of Communism and she only lasted 70 years. We made it to nearly a hundred."

The kibbutz movement has been in crisis for more than a decade but news that its pioneer is ushering in its own version of perestroika has shaken Israel. Degania has been overrun by television news crews seeking to document the passing of a way of life that the vast majority of Israelis never experienced but which, nevertheless served to define their identity.

Kibbutznik Tzali Kuperstein, a leading promoter of Shinui, said: "Israel has passed a lot of broken milestones in recent times, with corruption in high places, resignation from the armed forces chief and investigations of our top politicians. "We found ourselves in a different way of life. We have to adjust, and the way we are going means that we will keep the kibbutz movement alive."

This is a view shared by Daniel Ben-Simon, a veteran commentator for Ha'aretznewspaper. "In order to understand Israel you have to go to Degania because it all started there," he said. "Israelis have a love-hate relationship with it because the kibbutzim were the country's security shield for so many years and their members were the brightest and the best. They ran the elite military units. All the first political leaders came from there. They were so few but so influential.

"When the poor, new immigrants began arriving, the kibbutzniks became objects of hatred, and when the movement began to collapse there was not much sympathy. But Degania is like a first child: when it became vulnerable like the rest of us we could finally afford to have some sympathy. It is a symbol of a simpler time, of what Israel once was."

Degania's members insist that they are still proud socialists. "As silly as it may sound we remain one big family," said Ze'ev Bar-Gal, Mr Gal's 43-year-old son-in-law, whose monthly income has doubled as the kibbutz's computer services manager. "What used to bother many of us was that some members were putting a lot of money into the pot and there were others giving nothing and still receiving more than the big contributors," he said.

Degania was founded in 1910 when ten men and two women rode on horseback across the River Jordan and established a camp at Umm Juni on land purchased by the Jewish National Fund. The pioneers built a defensive quadrangle of work buildings from locally quarried basalt. At the time they wrote: "We came to establish an independent settlement of Hebrew labourers, on national land, a collective settlement with neither exploiters nor exploited - a commune". Its 320 members paid their salaries into a communal account and received an allowance based on need.

A year ago the kibbutz quietly transferred to a trial system where members were paid according to ability and allowed to keep their earnings. In return, they paid for services and a "progressive" income tax destined to support the elderly and less well-off. Now The Change has been confirmed as permanent by the votes of 85 per cent of the kibbutz, an improvement on the 66 per cent who gave their consent for the one-year trial. "We have only privatised the service side, not the businesses," explained Mr Bar-Gal. "It's more a change of mentality than anything else and it has put social responsibility into people's heads."

His wife, Tamar, a third-generation kibbutznik, thinks The Change is wonderful. "I don't feel that capitalism has invaded our lives. I think that our socialism has matured. Our new rules are extremely socialistic. When my grandparents came here they couldn't live without the commune because it was hot, swampy and dangerous. But times change. Our socialism is definitely not dead."


The incorrectness of SUVs

Britain: 'Chelsea tractors' [4X4s, SUVs, 4WDs] are seen as symbols of wanton environmental destruction. But class hatred, envy and gender are distorting the facts, argues Bryan Appleyard

I was queuing to pay at a motorway service station. Violence was in the air. A small, bald man, a lorry driver, was shouting at a young woman. He seemed to be angry because she and her passenger had laughed at him. He had stopped when she had stopped, specially to shout at her. But after a few tense moments his real grievance became apparent. She was driving a 4x4, a BMW, and, as his articulacy crumbled under the weight of his anger, it became clear what was the real issue: he hated her for her car.

In Richmond owners of 4x4s will soon have to pay 300 pounds a year to park their cars. Ken Livingstone, who thinks drivers of 4x4s in London are "idiots", plans to introduce a special 25 pound congestion charge. The Church says Jesus wouldn't drive a 4x4. The Alliance against Urban 4x4s continues its campaign of so-called "subvertising" - sticking fake parking tickets headlined "Poor Vehicle Choice" on the cars they hate. The alliance has also carried out "a daring protest" at Chelsea football ground aimed at the players' big 4x4s. Mothers using a "Chelsea tractor" to take their children to school are abused for their crimes of congestion and emission. If Jade Goody were a car, she'd be a 4x4. "Basically," says Sian Berry, a Green party spokesperson and central figure in the alliance, "they are a disaster for fuel economy."

Meanwhile, there is an academic campaign to establish that 4x4s are unsafe. Students from Imperial College London have watched cars at key sites in the city and discovered that drivers of 4x4s are more likely not to wear seat belts, and to use mobile phones while driving. Other studies have shown that 4x4s are more dangerous to pedestrians. Car insurers have said that 4x4 drivers are 25% more likely to be involved in an accident and are also more likely to be at fault. Each fragment of evidence is turned into a screaming headline about the iniquity of 4x4s.

These cars have become emblems of all our environmental crimes. They represent 7.5% of the UK car market and 100% of British car loathing. The very idea that in town, or even in the country, anybody should use a car in which all four wheels are driven is regarded as a crime comparable to logging the rainforests or clubbing seals. Across Europe, owners of 4x4s (or, as they are also called, Sports Utility Vehicles, or SUVs) have become eco-pariahs, malevolent planet-warmers. If you happen to be sitting in a Range Rover Sport, a BMW X5 or, worst of all, a Porsche Cayenne Turbo S in London, it is best not to catch the eyes of any pedestrian.

The environment is the issue, but not the only one. Berry admits that, if they made a 4x4 as green as a rainforest, she'd still go after them on grounds of safety. But darker forces are also at work. Class hatred is plainly expressed in much of the anti-4x4 rhetoric, as is envy. A City bonus boy driving a Cayenne is, in the eyes of many, the distillation of social injustice. The high driving position - significantly called the "command" position - and the sheer bulk of the vehicles can, to people who can't afford them, seem like the engineering of arrogance.

Sexism is also involved. It's largely women who do the school run and, if they do it in a monster SUV, the resulting congestion is seen as a peculiarly female failing. But there are two more twists of this particular knife. The 4x4 off-road tradition is, in essence, masculine. These new luxury SUVs, however, are absurdly easy to drive. In some cases you can drive over a mountain with no special skills or muscle tone. The electronics do all the work. Women, infuriatingly for some, can do the tough stuff as easily as men.

In fact, secondly, they can often do it better. As I was to learn while Land Rover's experts were giving me an off-road lesson, women are better at this surprisingly delicate art than men. They listen to their instructors and do what they are told, which for men can be as difficult as stopping to ask for directions. Off-roading often requires the driver to do exactly the opposite of what he would do on-road - selecting higher gears, using less power to preserve traction - and men find it harder to quell their instinct to go for high revs and too much power. The real fear of that man in the service station and, perhaps, of men in general when they see a woman in a powerful machine, was that he was being outclassed as a driver.

And, on the subject of 4x4s, it's a case of left and right unite and fight. Right-wing tabloids rage against 4x4s as eagerly as left-wing eco-warriors. These are not cars; these are social history.

Is the loathing of 4x4s justified? This is complex: few people fully understand the issues, the engineering or history. But the place to begin is with a figure - the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by a car per kilometre travelled.

Atmospheric carbon is the substance most likely to end human life or, at least, our reign over the planet. We toss 27 billion tons of carbon dioxide (over 7 billion tons of pure carbon) into the air every year. This traps heat and causes global warming. The UK emits just under 2% - about 550m tons. Of this, about one fifth - 110m tons of CO2 - comes from vehicles. The critical figure for judging the green credentials of a car is, therefore, the weight of CO2 it emits.

So, for example, the Toyota Prius, with a hybrid electric-petrol drive, emits 104 grams per kilometre. The latest Land Rover Discovery diesel emits 244g. The Porsche Cayenne Turbo S emits 378g. Even this, however, does not look too bad next to the Bugatti Veyron, which emits 547g, or the Ferrari Scaglietti, which manages 475g. For perspective, a Ford Mondeo diesel emits 159g, and the European Union target for average emissions across each manufacturer's entire fleet is 130g. What these figures show is that 4x4s are, indeed, higher-than-average emitters, but they are not the highest. Fast cars are much worse. And people carriers can be pretty bad. The Chrysler Grand Voyager, for example, emits 303g. Luxury cars are just as bad. The Mercedes S600 Pullman emits 355g and the BMW 7 series rises to 337g. Why, then, are 4x4s singled out? "Because," say the weary executives at Land Rover who have heard it all before, "4x4 fits neatly into a headline."

This is fair enough. The Richmond parking scheme, for example, was universally reported as an attack on 4x4s, but in fact applied to all high-emission vehicles. The term 4x4 has supplanted "gas guzzler" as the supreme automotive shorthand of hate. It's better than mere words - it's a term that catches the eye before it engages the mind.

The rational answer is that the SUV sector has boomed. In the UK in 1996, 78,000 were sold; last year it was 176,000. This is slightly down on the year before, but, for a number of reasons, it is not clear yet whether it represents a real change. Sian Berry points out that this growth represents a reversal of the general trend towards lower-emitting cars that has persisted since the oil shocks of the 1970s. Individually, 4x4s may not be the worst offenders, but they are in danger of becoming the most numerous. Attacking 4x4s, therefore, is a way of reinstating the trend towards lower emissions and of drawing attention to the issue. The fact that 4x4 does fit neatly into a headline is a definite plus.

But there is a serious problem with this argument. At the Westminster offices of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, a body that advises the government on emissions, a self-confessed "tree-hugger", Alex Veitch, hands me a chart. It tracks market share against CO2 emissions. The big peak - between 6 and 18% market share - accounts for vehicles emitting between 130 and 200g. The line drops very steeply indeed above 200, where almost all 4x4s live. In other words, if all 4x4s were taken off the road tomorrow, the effect on emissions would be minimal. The real task, as Veitch sees it, is to drive down emissions of the middle market - the Mondeos and Vectras. "If you focus on 4x4s, you miss the more important point that this is all about low-carbon cars. You might persuade people not to buy a 4x4, but they may just buy a high-emitting saloon."

But for green campaigners the demonisation of the 4x4 is the perfect strategic tool. "We've kept the debate up," says Berry. "Our school-run event really drew it to people's attention. Every time the evidence comes out, like the stuff in the BMJ [British Medical Journal], it backs up our case. Then groups like the Church of England say: what would Jesus drive? Every time it gets into the media, we've got spokesmen ready all around the country to make our case. We're not ranty eco-warriors wanting to wipe out the cars; we say, here's something silly and something can be done about it. Local radio stations feel safe having us on a phone. It's a touchstone issue."

Almost nobody, campaigners say, actually needs four-wheel drive because almost nobody uses them to go off-road. "It's for middle-class people in boring city jobs," says Berry, "who need some way of believing they could get back to nature at any time." This fantasy element would have startled the originators of four-wheel-drive cars. In spite of the current research, the truth is, four-wheel-drive cars are intrinsically safer because of their ability to cope with poor road conditions ? if they're currently less safe, then it is the drivers who are at fault. For this reason, engineers in the 1950s thought that four-wheel drive was the technology of the future.

Yet, almost from the beginning, glamour was attached to this obscure engineering device. The American wartime Jeep was just so damned sexy. "The British were used to small, round cars like the Austin 7," says John Carroll, the editor of 4x4 Magazine, "then this stark, angular thing comes along driven by guys who look like film stars. No wonder there were so many war babies." After the war this sexiness survived mostly on film and among off-road hobbyists and collectors. Carroll himself has "about 12" old 4x4s he uses for off-roading, or what petrol heads call "mud plugging". And it was for mud-plugging that in 1947, on his farm in Anglesey, Maurice Wilks, the chief designer of Rover, built the Land Rover. He had taken one look at the Jeep and was convinced he could do better.

And he did. Down at the Land Rover Experience Centre at Eastnor in Ledbury, I drove HUE166. Built at Solihull, this was the first of a pre-production batch of 48 Wilks-designed Land Rovers. It is a joy. Its drive train makes it shimmy weirdly on the road, it is noisy and slow. But there is an almost tangible rightness about it. And, when I later drove a Freelander and a Defender - the current iteration of the original "Landy" - on Eastnor's off-road circuit, I endured a blinding revelation. Serious off-roading, like sex, is about as much fun as you can have without laughing. And - a deep, dark fear, this - it may be even more like sex in that women do it better.

Four-wheel drive cars intended for road use did not take off in Britain until the Range Rover appeared in 1970. Pricey and luxurious, this was a car for the lord of the manor, to distinguish him from his gamekeeper in his original Landy. Yet it was just as capable off-road, and it had plastic seats, bungholes and a floor that was level with its sills, so that its interior could be hosed down after a day of mud-plugging.

The move to on-road four-wheel drive was accelerated by rallying technology and, crucially, by the Audi Quattro, a high-performance car that made four-wheel-drive sexy for urban hot shots with no love of mud. But it wasn't until the late 1990s that the modern 4x4 was truly born. Manufacturers like Toyota, BMW, Audi and even Porsche invaded the market with four-wheel-drive machines. Meanwhile, the Range Rover had lost its bung holes and become a stately cruiser and, in Sport form, a fast two-ton supercar.

Their main market was America, where the love of big cars endures. In fact, over there these cars weren't even seen as big. In the 1970s the US government had reacted to oil shocks by imposing fuel-consumption targets on manufacturers. These never worked. Many big cars were simply classified as trucks to escape the controls, fuel consumption did not fall, and interstates became infested by monstrous vehicles like the Cadillac Escalade, the Chevrolet Suburban or, a favourite with British footballers, the Lincoln Navigator. These scarcely came to Britain, where big 4x4s were to remain a niche, though growing, market....

If this were a novel, the blonde, hippie-ish, Tufnell Park-dwelling Sian Berry would be contrasted with tall (6ft 3in), dark, corporate Phil Popham, the managing director of Land Rover. In fact, if this were a novel, they'd probably have an inter-ideological romance. Popham joined the company in 1988, straight from a university course in business studies, and became MD last year. Laid-back and, unlike many of his type, relaxed about time, Popham has all his strategy ducks in a neat row. He has big points to make and he makes them coolly and without digression.

The first is that 4x4s are justified by their "breadth of capability" - the wet-grass gymkhana argument - and their general ability to get around. The second is the "dust-to-dust" cost argument, the true environmental cost of a vehicle from build to scrap. Large amounts of carbon are emitted when a car is built, so, with over 70% of all Land Rovers still on the road, the company can claim its green credentials are much better than emission figures suggest. The credibility of the Prius has been eroded by figures showing its dust-to-dust may be damagingly high.

The third big point is that, because of their ticklish position, 4x4-makers are reducing emissions faster than any other sector. Land Rovers are now mostly diesel. The fleet used to be 75% petrol; this year it will be 80% diesel. Diesel can cut consumption, and thus emissions, dramatically. A petrol Range Rover Sport emits 352g, a diesel 271g. Land Rover is also launching a carbon-offset scheme to offset the carbon production of new cars from build through the first 45,000 miles. Money from sales will go to Climate Care (, which will invest in carbon reduction around the world.

Mild impatience crosses the Popham features when I point out this is clear evidence that the company is rattled by the campaigners. "We are doing this in addition to substantive improvements in fuel efficiency. There must be a recognition that we're on a long path of continuous improvement." The problem with offsetting is that it is open to an obvious criticism: why not do all the beneficial offsetting things and stop emitting as well? At this point we enter the only possible future for Land Rover and, ultimately, for all car makers: new drive-train technology.

Lexus already makes a petrol hybrid SUV - the RX400h - which emits 192g, low for a big 4x4 but not that low for cars in general, and almost twice as high as the Prius. At Land Rover, Mike Richardson, a tweedy individual who reeks of old-school British engineering, is in charge of the low-emission future. Nobody will say when the company will produce its first diesel hybrid, but I suspect it will be sooner rather than later. The cost will be high. Richardson says it currently looks like 3,000 pounds per car. But it has to happen, as all the other low- or zero-emission technologies (fuel cell, all-electric) are a long way off....

There can be no doubt that the days of the high-emitting car are numbered. If you are convinced by the arguments for human-caused global warming, this is an unconditionally good thing. But the anti-4x4 frenzy has all too often been misguided, sectarian and even - as I saw in that service station - potentially violent. It is riddled with irrationality and prejudice. Yet it has succeeded in putting pressure on the car makers - and that, I suppose, was always the point.

There is another point made not by green politics nor emission figures. It is made instead by the gleam in the engineers' eyes and by the weird rapture that overcame me while driving HUE166, or while, at the wheel of a modern Defender, I peered down a vertiginous, rock-strewn slope into an icy pool of incalculable depth at Eastnor. The original Land Rover in all its iterations is possessed of something supremely pure; it provides, to make better use of BMW's slogan, the ultimate driving experience. Even Sian Berry says she never puts a fake parking ticket on a Defender. She says it's because they genuinely go off-road and they last a long time.

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