The Snow In The Summer or So-So

06/14/2004 - 06/20/2004

Mon 14 Jun 2004

Highlights from Switzerland : Croatia

This one, I think, deserves to be seen by more than three people. Sunday evening, and it's the third consecutive match the BBC's covering. Lest we think all the coverage will be David Croft and Steve Claridge in the pub, the next four games are on ITV, where there is no interactive coverage. Boo.

* I'm half listening to the football commentary, and half-listening to Aggers and Blowers on Test Match Special. It's at times like these I could really do with an analogue television antenna on this setup.

* 02' "Two teams who both fancy themselves," according to Clarrers. Sorry, have I got the audio from the Queer Television channel or something?

* 09' Oh, fantastic attack from the Croats, shooting down the side, but let down by a cross to make anyone cross. The Croats make amends with a smart elbow to the face, and the Swiss player didn't see that coming.

* 13' Aaaand we've fallen off air. Complete lack of signal. Just when the Croats were mounting an attack... oh, the ref's booked one of the Croats. Diving, fairly blatant.

* 18' "I'd quite like to see the ref get them out". Crofty was discussing cards there. I hope.

* 24' Crofty reading an SMS: "Do you know if anyone's been booked twice for diving?" Clarrers: "I don't know. Do you know? Then find out, read out the question, answer it, and it makes us look good." Still more professional than Talk Shoot radio...

* 27' England needs 40 runs, the Kiwis require four wickets. What, there's some football on? Really?

* 29' Crofty's talking about the checks on the Croat strip, how they represent 11th century kings. Now they're talking about the breakup of Formeryugoslavia...

* 31' Swiss go down to the last man, their chap makes a meal out of a tap, the Croats go straight down the other end while Chapusat is still rolling about the far end. Do the fans not like that!

* 37' An answer to the SMSferret question thirteen minutes ago - "Del Piero in a European League match a few years back. He injured himself doing it."

* 38' Oh! Into the box, plamed away to the nearest Croat, and Olic hits the woodwork and it goes over. No score, but it's exciting.

* 41' Is that a bit of urgency from the Swiss I see? Probably not.

* Half time. Croatia : Switzerland 0:0 England has claimed an extra half hour to wrap up the win today; they're thirteen away from the win, New Zealand still require four wickets. Oh! Thorpe hits it away for four to bring up his century.

* Well, during the break, England wrapped up the win, Schumacher R led in Montreal, and BBLB avoided the lead stories. I know the show has to adhere to Endemol's corporate values, but does it have to be so blatant?

* 49' That's just foolish. One of the Swiss - Huggel, was it? - kicks the ball away after the whistle, and gets his second yellow. Daft aperth.

* 51' Another Croat booked for diving. Did they forget to go swimming this morning, or something?

* 57' The Swiss have had the run of play, one run finishing within the six yard box, another free kick goes just wide. Then a couple of players get involved in a wrestling match.

* 63' Prso blasts a sitter wide. Utterly typical of the match.

* 66' What are the SMSferrets saying? "I've seen better teams play down Hackney Marshes." "My dog could have scored, and it's been dead 15 years." "Too much diving, not enough execution." "Wake me up, please." You could always set another research question, Crofty.

* 69' Ooh! Closest we've come to a goal yet, and one for the highlights reel. Swiss player hoofs the ball back, the goalie expects to handle it ahead of his D, but it bounces over his head, and Stiel has to race back to his line, lie on the ground, and head it away to avoid getting a permanent slot on Fantasy Football.

* 73' "What time's the antiques roadshow on?" It's been on for the past hour and a half. Wonder if the Croats are going to bring on their Chippendale cabinet? Clarrers is desperately looking for positives from this match. They're noticeable by their absence.

* 78' "I can't think that anyone's still watching" - Crofty, who has completely lost it after receiving a SMS from a ferret who enjoys midfield defensive battles. If he's quick, Clarrers can go round, take out that person, and still come back for the finish.

* 81' "Let Terry Wogan do the commentary." Never mind that, bring on Stewart Hall, we need the giant inflatables and pirate costumes, complete with the parrot on their shoulder.

* 83' "Rico is a Portsmouth striker ... I'm reading it out because it reminds us he is a striker."

* 86' And we have more interference on the picture, and a quick look at the video feed testcard thingy. A blank screen and some nice music would be more interesting.

* 91' Eleven shots on target, apparently. Well, "efforts" would be more like it.

* Final - Croatia : Switzerland 0:0 They were lucky to get that much. And just to add to the tedium, Schumacher M is winning the motor race.

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posted 14 Jun 2004, 19.56 +0100

After the count...

The European election results are in. Nationally, the Tories beat Labour for the win, but both parties suffered their lowest share of the vote since the invention of the wheel. The UK Independence Party beat the Lib Dems for third, the Greens came a comfortable fifth.

Media attention, inevitably, has focussed on the new heights scaled by the Europe-se-manger UK Independence Party. "We'll hold the balance of power!" claimed an excitable party leader, whose name we completely missed because we were laughing at the inanity of the statement. The centre-right European People's Party is the biggest grouping, but even with their far-right allies and the ESMs (well, the Europe of Diversities and Differences sounds just as silly), they can't command a majority. Similarly, the Socialists plus the United European Left plus the Greens plus the ESMs won't have a majority. Add in the Liberals, and either side can have a majority, but five groupings? Pull the other one.

Besides, claims of holding the balance of power shows that the UIP really doesn't understand the first thing about the European Parliament. It's not Westminster, it's not an adversarial system; instead, the EP is a consultative chamber, with only very loose party definitions and more independently-minded members.

Shall we start with the little guys? The writ-friendly English Democrats, the "on course for 15%" BNP and the far-left RESPECT/SSP would have scored if GB elected her MEPs on a single huge list, but we don't, and they all lose big time. May we never hear from any of them again.

Now, how does the success of the virulently anti-Europe UIP hit the existing big four? The Greens now have another serious contender to the anti-big-three protest vote, albeit one that attracts people on a single issue, and might just disappear in the next five to ten years. The Lib Dems have a proper bogey-man that is threatening withdrawal, and their strongly pro-Europe stance can now be seen in more sharp relief.

Much has been made of the Conservatives losing support to the UIP. We'll be watching Michael Howaerd's response closely, bearing in mind that he's one of the people who wrote the Maastricht treaty. There's already a clear difference between his no-Euro, no constituion policy and the acceptance of the other major parties. He should be able to resist the temptation to throw policy scraps to the UIP, and will remember that many of the disaffected C-turned-UIP voters will turn back into Tories when the chips are down next May at the next General Election.

But it's Labour who are in serious trouble. The timing of this election couldn't have been worse, as EU leaders will be discussing their draft constitution at a summit this week. If Mr Blair agrees to the proposals, he is going to be slated first, and people will bother to read the document second. It happened over the Maastricht treaty, it'll happen again.

On the other hand, Blair's position at this week's negotiations has strengthened immensely - thanks to the referendum he promised two months ago, Blair now has firm evidence that it'll be an uphill struggle to get the constitution through, and he can't give much ground or it'll all fall over. I rather missed this aspect of Blair's decision at the time, and will give credit where it's due.

It's partial credit only, however. Had Blair grasped the Euro nettle when he came into power, had he said "The time isn't yet right, but we will set forward policies to align the UK with Europe, and will hold a referendum in late 2002," I'm convinced we'd be joining the single currency in a few months. Indeed, had he said last year "The time isn't quite right, but we're nearly there, and we will hold a referendum in late 2004," the whole tenor of the debate would have changed. It would be a clear case of in the whole European Union, or completely out.

This referendum device is entirely a rod of Mr Blair's making. If it fails, he's the one to blame.

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posted 14 Jun 2004, 21.15 +0100


Tue 15 Jun 2004

Lies and the lying liars who are kicked in the gonads

British broadcasting regulator OFCOM has delivered a stinging rebuke of Fux Lies, the misinformation wing of Rupert Murdoch's media empire. When the Incredible Hutton Report came out in January, the editors at Fux Lies saw an opportunity to bash a rival, and one that believed in such basic news values as accuracy and impartiality.

The BBC had "a frothing-at-the-mouth anti-Americanism that was obsessive, irrational and dishonest"; their rivals "felt entitled to lie and, when caught lying, felt entitled to defend its lying reporters and executives"; a reporter had "insisted on air that the Iraqi Army was heroically repulsing an incompetent American Military"; and "the BBC knew that the war was wrong, and anything they could say to underscore that point had to be right".

While all thinking people know that the war was wrong, and that the PDRUP military was and is unable to organise a piss-up in a brewery, Fux Lies was unable to offer any proof for any of its claims. "There are 47,200 Google hits for "BBC anti-American"," they claimed, conveniently forgetting that there are 48,900 hits for "fox news anti-american." I quote, in full, the damning report from OFCOM against Fux Lies.

a) Ofcom does not accept that Fox News's claim that an appointment of a monitor to detect 'pro-Arab' bias is proof of an "anti-Americanism that was obsessive, irrational and dishonest" within the BBC. Similarly, we do not believe that a simple Internet search for the words "BBC" and "anti-American" is sufficient evidence to back-up such a statement. (An Internet search will only identify those sites which contain those words, it will not make any editorial judgement over how those words are used). Fox News stated that the BBC's approach was "irrational" and "dishonest". However, it did not provide any evidence other than to say the BBC bashed American policy; or that it ridiculed the US President without any analysis; and that it persecuted Tony Blair.

b) We do not accept that the Hutton Inquiry supported the statement that the "BBC felt entitled to lie and when caught lying, felt entitled to defend its lying". The Inquiry stated that BBC editorial system was "defective". At no stage did Hutton accuse the BBC management of lying.

c) Fox News argue that the presenter was not directly quoting Gilligan when he claimed that the reporter "insisted on air that the Iraqi Army was heroically repulsing an incompetent American Military". However, the manner in which John Gibson delivered these lines and the fact that he indicated that Gilligan said it "onair" gave the distinct impression that he was quoting Gilligan directly. It did not appear that he was summarising Gilligan's reporting. Furthermore, Fox News failed to provide any evidence, except that it felt that Gilligan's reporting of the US advance into Baghdad was incorrect, that supported this statement.

d) As previously stated the Hutton Inquiry concluded that the BBC editorial system was "defective". There is no evidence, and Fox News did not provide any, that the BBC "insisted its reporter had a right to lie". Fox News argue that from its "study of BBC reporting" it could claim that the "BBC knew that the war was wrong". Fox News's "study" appears to be based on its own viewing and listening of BBC services. It could provide nothing more than this statement to back up this assertion.

We recognise how important freedom of expression is within the media. This item was part of a well-established spot, in which the presenter put forwards his own opinion in an uncompromising manner. However, such items should not make false statements by undermining facts. Fox News was unable to provide any substantial evidence to support the overall allegation that the BBC management had lied and the BBC had an anti-American obsession. It had also incorrectly attributed quotes to the reporter Andrew Gilligan.

Even taking into account that this was a 'personal view' item, the strength and number of allegations that John Gibson made against the BBC meant that Fox News should have offered the BBC an opportunity to respond.

Fox News was therefore in breach of Sections 2.1 (respect for truth), 2.7 (opportunity to take part), and 3.5(b) (personal view programmes – opinions expressed must not rest upon false evidence) of the Programme Code.

Also in the Programme Complaints Bulletin: three people have moaned that they saw sexual content on adult channels (!), 22 people complained about the BB5 trailer, one person thinks Dick And Dom causes offence, someone else found something offensive in the Eurovision Song Contest, two people have been offended by Sarah Kennedy, one by the BBC1 Skateboard ident, 4 think the scheduling of Top Of The Pops is wrong, and even WWTBAM caused offence to someone.

And remember, if you rely on Fux Lies for your news, you are being lied to.

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posted 15 Jun 2004, 19.55 +0100


Wed 16 Jun 2004

What if...

...Britain pulled out of the EU? The avowedly pro-European Indytab posed ljust this question to-day. It doesn't make credible reading...

And so it goes on. Voting to withdraw from Europe will cause house prices to fall, cheap flights to become a thing of the past, the economy to fall badly, deny Britain the chance to shape her own destiny, and shove the UK to the margins of the world. This is Robert Kilroy's plan to Shaft us all.

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posted 16 Jun 2004, 20.48 +0100

Lies and the lying liars who tell 'em

There was no link between Sadaam Hussein and al-Qaeda. So says a report by the independent commission investigating the September 2001 crimes against humanity. The group's pronouncement, coming before their full report, directly contradicts the claims of the junta leader Richard Chainsaw and his moronic puppet, Fuzzy Lumpkin

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posted 16 Jun 2004, 20.57 +0100


Thu 17 Jun 2004

"What language do they talk in England?" "English"

Not quite fitting the entertainment category, the snooty Chronicle of Higher Education Review wonders why British English is cramping out North American idioms. Native phrases have gone missing. At the end of the day, it's clear that the "two nations divided by a common language" concept is past its sell-by date, and we're in the run up to another victory for the Queen's English. We've moved house from the one-off fad for North American inflections, thanks in no small measure to the bits missing from the PDRUP leader's brains. We're booking into the vocabulary while you're on holiday, taking a coffee, giving you a ring, sacking your idioms no matter how much you row, and chatting up your best side. Brilliant, innit.

The author concludes "Briticisms have passed their sell-by date, and the odour is getting a bit rank." This conclusion doesn't stem from the evidence presented, so we'll have to pop it in the dustbin.

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posted 17 Jun 2004, 21.11 +0100


Fri 18 Jun 2004

The annual rant about the price of greetings cards

By one of those unfortunate coincidences, my parents have birthdays within ten days of each other, and the first falls just after Father's Day. Therefore, I have to buy not one, not two, but three greetings cards in the space of very little time. Usually, in the same trip.

So, while heading back to see Phil The Dentist to-day, I called in to Greta The Greeting Card. She had relatively few appropriate cards, most of them are aimed at fathers who like golf, football, cricket, or booze, or various combinations thereof. Thankfully, I eventually tracked some down, then checked how much the card was. Two quid! For a piece of paper with a bit of printing on. Not for me. That's way too much. But every single card was £1.79 (€2.70) or more.

Thankfully, I remembered Doug The Discount Book, as he has a sideline in cheap greetings cards. Two birthday cards, one father's day card, and one that looks quite remarkable, and all for less than two of our English pounds.

But why do greetings cards cost so much? I think we should be told.

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posted 18 Jun 2004, 21.46 +0100


Sat 19 Jun 2004

That European Constitution In Full

Federal Superstate? What federal superstate? A new Europe can now take shape in which there is no one dominant view.

The UK's national veto on tax, social security, foreign and defence policies had been retained, and the powers of the EU court over economic and social issues constrained. The net result, according to M Chirac, is: "We have a Europe that is more efficient, that answers better to the needs of our citizens."

The toughest outstanding items going into yesterday's session were voting weights for each country in the council of ministers - especially sensitive to Poland; the size of the commission; the numbers of MEPs; and the enforcability of the rules against eurozone budget deficits.

All have been sorted: 55% of countries representing 65% of the people will need to agree on a Qualified Majority Vote item; four "No" votes are required to block a motion. We get a full-time president and a foreign minister. There are more extensive powers for the European parliament, with a say over farm and fisheries spending and the overall €110 milliard budget. The one-commissioner-per-country rule will be phased out after 2014, with a rotating membership from 2/3 of the members. The rotating six-month presidency will be replaced by three countries sharing the job for 18 months. The Eurozone deficits rule remains as is, effectively allowing France and Germany to break the rules with impunity.

Where next? A stinging attack on the Daily Hell's reporting of this welcome exercise - a "sellout" it is not. Plebiscites in at least eight nations, including the UK and Czechia, may yet derail the exercise. Meanwhile, the government leaders will come back again next month, to work out who should be the new Commission president. Ralph Siegel, anyone?

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posted 19 Jun 2004, 12.07 +0100


Sun 20 Jun 2004

Chart week 25

Keane remain at the top of the albums listing - it's now 6 for 6, and they've outlasted the new Alanis Fewersales album which has slipped out of the 40. From The Five Boroughs is the new entry for the Beastie Boys at number 2; their last album, 1998's "Hello Nasty" spent a week at the top slot. Joss Stone's back up one to 3, the Corrs slip a couple to 4, and Kanye West is back up one to 5, matching his peak. Morrissey and Britney return to the top ten as Velvet Revolver and Deepest Blue slip away, while Hope Of The States slumps 8-25. Snow Patrol makes a small rise, NERD (29-18) and George Michael (31-20) some big ones.

Second highest new entry is the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's Symphonic Rock at 16. It's their biggest hit since "Performs Andrew Lloyd Webber" made number 3 over Yule 1991. Sasha's Involver is in at 27, and there are returns for Blink 182 and the Black Eyed Peas after six and one week away. Peter Andre joins Alanis Morediskettes on the Not In Anymore list; Alanis made four weeks, Andre just one.

On the singles, Britney Spears has the best seller with Every Time. It's only the second time she's had two consecutive toppers. Mario Winans, 4-4-2, O-Zone, and Brandy all drop a place. Brandy's in at 6, Jessica Simpson at 7, and Razorlight at 9. Golden Touch is their biggest hit to date. The Farm's official England song slips to 11, while Twisted X slump 9-33.

Paul Weller comes in at 13 with The Bottle, and that's about par for the course. Slipknot's Duality is their biggest hit, Agnetha Faltskog's When You Walk In The Room her second biggest, and the Divine Comedy toast Absent Friends.

Falling short of the 40 this week... The Bees Horsemen, David Bowie Rebel Never Gets Old, Holiday Plan Stories Sunshine, Tokyo Dragons Teenage Screamers, Bell X1 Eve the Apple Of My Eye, and Sarah McLachlan World On Fire.

Check back in a couple of weeks for more details on those singles and albums missing the 75.

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posted 20 Jun 2004, 22.00 +0100

Weather week 25

What a week of contrasts. Monday was very hot, peaking at 26. Tuesday was cloudy, but properly cool weather didn't arrive until Wednesday evening, and that day had been unexpectedly warm at 25. It's been a case of sunshine and showers since, with a distinct chill in the air - Thursday didn't beat 17, and to-day was no more than 14 degrees. The week's Cooling Degree Day count was 14, the summer's total 57.

The outlook is for the cool and showery weather to continue, perhaps settling down a little towards next weekend.

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posted 20 Jun 2004, 22.05 +0100


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