The Snow In The Summer or So-So

07/05/2004 - 07/11/2004

Mon 05 Jul 2004


Actually, there is something worth noting in this week's charts. Razorlight bring Keane's run as the best-selling Real Album to an end, with the Cure's eponymous album in at 4. Beverley Knight is in at 6, and Lloyd Banks at 9. The Bees and Brandy have top 15 entries, and Angie Stone comes in at 26. Erstwhile Flopstars wannabe Javine can only make number 33.

That's not the story. The story is the semi-annual sale; the Streets' Original Pirate Material is discounted to four quid (€6) and climbs from 30 to 5; Franz Ferdinand and Damien Rice both make major climbs.

The biggest story from the sale comes for the Stone Roses. Their eponymous album made the top 30 on first release in spring 1989, and peaked at number 19 when the group became extremely famous at the start of 1990. Though it's sold 600,000 copies, the album has only appeared in the top 20 for those two weeks. Until now. In the full list, including archive albums, best-ofs, and corrupt disks, The Stone Roses is now number 9.

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posted 05 Jul 2004, 19.37 +0100

It's cricket, Jim

In Bristol, England makes a competitive 237/7, thanks to 106 from Flintoff and 61 from Strauss. Stephen Fleming makes an annoying 99, but won't be too disappointed - the New Zealanders win by six wickets. The Kiwis will be in the final; England and the Windies meet at Lords' on Tuesday to decide who will join them.

The venues for the 2007 World Cup are out, and there will be no games in Florida. There will, however, be some games in St Kitts and Nevis, a grouping that hasn't really pulled its weight in recent years. Other venues: Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Lucia, Trinidad. The full schedule will be announced in about three months.

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posted 05 Jul 2004, 19.45 +0100


Tue 06 Jul 2004

100 Years Ago...

1996: "We can't build our way out of road congestion." - John Prescott.

2004: "We'll build a new toll road between Cannock and Manchester. It'll ease congestion on the existing M6." - Alistair Darling.

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posted 06 Jul 2004, 19.22 +0100

Hodge Hill: X-9

The local rag reports yet more Labour attempts to spoil the smooth working of democracy. Or maximise their turnout, depending on viewpoint.

A day before the deadline, more than 4,000 applications for postal votes have come in. One voter in six has already asked for their ballot through their letterbox. Usually just 2% of voters request postal ballot papers.

John Rees, the RESPECT candidate, has asked Birmingham's returning officer to hold an inquiry after finding out that retiring MP Terry Davis sent postal voting applications to constituents, along with a letter thanking them for allowing him to represent them for 25 years and a few weeks.

Allegations of fraud in recent Birmingham local elections have been linked to the abuse of postal votes. Two writs have been lodged with the High Court appealing the results of local elections on June 10. ThePeople's Justice Party lodged a petition alleging widespread postal ballot fraud in Bordesley Green, and Liberal Democrats allege postal ballot fraud in Aston.

Mr Rees said: "We have been contacted by constituents who received a farewell letter and a postal voting form from Terry Davis on the same day the writ for the by-election was moved. We are writing to the returning officer for the Hodge Hill by-election asking about the legality of this."

Visitors to the safe Labour seat (well, it was safe three years ago) included Fascist Interior Minister David Plunkett (meeting veterans at a Royal British Legion branch); shadow cabinet member for silk stockings Teresa May (lunch with a pensioners club); and Lib Dem minister for Foreign Affairs Michael Moore (visiting party campaigners.)

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posted 06 Jul 2004, 19.56 +0100

Sky One Point Eight Viewers

The latest audience figures show that homophobic channel KYtV1 is pulling in just 1.8% of viewing. At its peak in 1998 - just before the launch of OnDigital - the channel regularly made 4.5% of viewing, and occasionally had more viewers than terrestrial rival Channel 5. But while C5 has made some astute acquisitions and commissions, KYtV1 has relied on The Simpsons, shows taking the mick out of gays, The Simpsons, shows taking the mick out of trans-sexuals, The Simpsons, The Simpsons, shows taking the mick out of gays, and The Simpsons.

How far has the channel fallen? Actual viewing figures for the 10th most popular repeat of The Simpsons programme have actually dropped by 5% each year for the past five years. Oh, and ITV2 has quietly moved past the Murdoch muck in viewing hours, share, and reach. E4 moves a long way ahead of both channels during Big Brother season, but trails slightly for the rest of the year.

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posted 06 Jul 2004, 20.35 +0100


Wed 07 Jul 2004

European Parliament news - What's Dutch for "Don't 'We' me"?

No, don't turn off, this is interesting. Honest.

The news that former Spanish cabinet minister Josep Borrell is almost certain to become the next president of the European Parliament may not be the most gripping news. Hell, it's not the most gripping news. Anyway, Sr Borrell, a Catalan socialist who served in government in the 1980s and 1990s, is likely to take the post for two and a half years. He joins external relations high commissioner with Javier Solana of Spain; Portugal's premier, Jose Manuel Barroso, has recently been appointed president of the European Commission.

Under an informal deal, the centre-right bloc would take over the presidency of the parliament after two and a half years, with German MEP, Hans-Gert Pöttering, the leading contender.

No, this is the interesting story. Paul van Buitenen, the Dutch whistleblower who helped to bring down the corrupt Santer commission in 1999, has said he does not want to sit in the same group as the 12 MEPs from the Unitedkingdom Independence Party.

Mr van Buitenen, who was elected to the parliament after campaigning for a clean-up in Brussels, said the MEPs from the UIP are "so Eurosceptic that would like their country to withdraw from the EU. I am a Euro-critic and it would be very difficult for me to join a group with these people." Or, to put it another way: "Mr Kilroy-Shaft may say that we're together. Don't 'we' me."

Mr van Buitenen plans to sit with the Greens.

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posted 07 Jul 2004, 19.43 +0100

100 Years Ago...

(What, we used this title for a post yesterday? So shoot us.)

We are asked to accept that, [contrary to all history], contrary to all intelligence, Saddam decided to destroy those weapons. I say that such a claim is palpably absurd.

-- Tony Blair, 18 March 2003.

I have to accept that we have not found them and we may not find them. He [Saddam] may have removed or hidden or even destroyed those weapons.

-- Tony Blair, 6 July 2004.

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posted 07 Jul 2004, 20.05 +0100


Thu 08 Jul 2004

Waiting re: bated breath

Britain is preparing to face off with her EU partners over plans to bring its €3 billion EU budget rebate to an end and make Britain the largest net contributor to EU funds, relative to the size of her economy.

The European Commission's plans for the budgetary period from 2007-2013, drawn up by German budgetary commissioner Michaele Schreyer, would end the rebate, which has been in place since 1984. If it is abolished, Britain will become the biggest contributor to the EU's €100 billion a year budget and contribute 0.51 percent of her gross domestic product (GDP), compared to 0.35 for Italy and 0.31 percent for France, countries of a similar size and wealth.

The rebate was originally introduced as compensation for Britain which paid much more into EU coffers than it got back, largely because it benefited less than other member states from the common agricultural policy. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher secured the deal with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and French President Francois Mitterrand after famously demanding: "I want my money back."

The introduction of ten new member states in May means that new EU regional and structural funds go largely to the accession countries, narrowing the net contributions gap between Britain and other veteran members. The commission says that if things are not changed, Britain would pay just 0.25 percent of her GDP to the EU between 2007 and 2013, compared with, for example, 0.56 percent for The Netherlands and 0.54 percent for Germany.

"The UK is going to become the smallest net contributor to the EU budget ... as a result, the current system of a correction reserved exclusively for the UK cannot continue," Schreyer told reporters.

Instead, Brussels proposes a "general refund mechanism," which would share out the rebate equally between all member states whose contributions to the EU exceed 0.35 percent of their GDP.

The logical re-working? Weight contributions as a proportion of GDP, not by any other factor. Du-uh!

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posted 08 Jul 2004, 21.41 +0100


Fri 09 Jul 2004

Proudly presenting a new feature...

How Scared Shitless Is The Republican Machine Of The Latest News Story?

Yesterday, one party staffer claimed that "Al-Qaeda is linked to efforts to undermine this country's democracy." In the same way that al-Qaeda is linked to deposed Iraqi president Sadaam, doubtlessly.

Anyway, we feed this data into our brand new, only constructed about ten seconds ago, Scared Shitless Republican-ometer, and this is what we get:

127: Orange.

Hmm. Don't know about you, but we were hoping it would tell us something more. Still, we'll keep feeding it data, and we'll report back on the findings. Wonder if we can get it to spew out something green. Broccoli, that should do it...

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posted 09 Jul 2004, 20.31 +0100

By-election watch: X-6

Today's local rag reports splits in the Lib Dem ranks.

Some Liberal Democrat members are refusing to deliver leaflets, stuff envelopes on the streets of Hodge Hill because she works for the mobile phone industry. The party leader Charles Kennedy today hit back at the critics, giving his candidate a ringing endorsement. [Bad pun. Baaaad pun.]

The Erdington branch leadership, which is fighting against phone masts, today accused the party of hypocrisy. Tony Foley was the party's candidate in two local elections in Stockland Green ward. He said: "We feel it would be hypocrisy to involve ourselves in a campaign to elect a person associated with the erection of mobile phone masts when, across this city, Liberal Democrats have been fighting to stop them from being placed in residential areas. We feel like we have been betrayed by our party. How can I look people in the eye and ask them sign our petitions when we have this candidate?"

The selection of Ms Davies - nicknamed "Nokia" by opponents - has already been slammed by the influential Birmingham Residents Against Masts lobby group. Members heckled Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy during a campaign walkabout at the Fox and Goose shopping centre last week.

Yesterday Mr Kennedy defended her candidacy, saying: "People need to look at what it is Nicola does and it is to win community consent for mobile phone masts. That means she has to work with the local feeling and go about it in a responsible way." The party says that once elected she will toe the line and support their policy of more restrictions on the planning of mobile phone masts and more powers for councils and communities to refuse them.

Bias note: the "local rag" is the Evening Mail, owned by Trinity Mirror, and the paper has been unstinting in its support and praise of Labour on a national - though not at a local - level.

Betting note: the Lib Dems are 11/8 favourites to win on Thursday, with Labour 7/4. The Tories are 10/1.

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posted 09 Jul 2004, 20.48 +0100


Sat 10 Jul 2004

"My son was just a bit of meat to them, just a number"

Naomi Klein on the mothers who will bring down the warmongers.

Also in to-day's press, The balance between art and science has been lost. A report on why Formula One has become so stultifyingly boring, and why this week's PR puffery - a Grand Prix around London - would at least liven up the spectacle. In spite of its European roots, F1 is still a dollar-denominated sport, and that currency's correction has led to a loss of income.

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posted 10 Jul 2004, 12.22 +0100

The department of so not getting it

Some weeks after being found to be a crock of lies, Fux Lies has finally released a statement putting its untruthful side of the story. Last month, OFCOM found that Fux Lies was - well - a bunch of liars. They didn't have a respect for truth, and based their conclusions on blatantly false evidence.

Now, the bunch of liars has risen from its slumbers, and deigned to answer back to the regulator that can put them off air. In the UK, that is. The response was authoured by the Fux Lies Lying Lawyers, and falsely attributed as the personal opinion of some nonentity called "John Gibson." Who he? Exactly. On the grounds that "we visit these pages so you don't have to", here's that Fux Lies Lie in full and unedited.

A censure is a public scolding and today it goes to the British Office of Communications - OFCOM as it is known - which censured me last week.

Turnabout is fair play and here's mine:

Charge 1: A total disregard for the concept of freedom of speech. Under Ofcom's rules, it is actually illegal for a "presenter" - and in Britain, they would call me that - to render an opinion about anything.

What this means is that unseen hands in the TV operation are guiding the opinion of the organization - opinions expressed in what is covered, how it is covered and what is written for the presenter to read on the air.

You, the viewer, might be encouraged to conclude the opinions expresed by the unseen hand are actually reality - the truth.

It is a huge disservice to the viewer not to disclose whose opinions are presented.

Charge 2: Letting pass the offenses occuring right under their various bureaucratic noses. Last Thursday night, I thought to look in on the BBC again to see what they were up to.

Once again, story after story after story about how the Americans are wrong, that President Bush falsely insisted on a link between Saddam Hussein and Usama bin Laden when everybody knows they wasn't one, plus the steady diet of Americans as torturers.

Abu Ghraib is still a top story - weeks later - and nary a mention of Nick Berg or Paul Johnson's loss of head.

And these beheadings are for what? Oh, right... nasty Americans putting ladies underwear on an Iraqi prisoner's head or humiliating some detainees by letting a female soldier see them naked.

I thought, "Is Ofcom watching this? How is it so hard to see the ingrained anti-Americanism in the BBC coverage of Iraq, or Bush or the U.S. in general?

Ofcom censured. Offense: The BBC. Enough said.

And now those errors in full...

Under Ofcom's rules, it is actually illegal for a presenter to render an opinion about anything. - Lie. Presenters are allowed to express opinions, so long as those opinions are backed up by evidence. It is very unusual for news anchors to offer their opinions in this manner, as it's generally seen as a breach of journalistic ethics. The Fux Lies liar was slapped down precisely because his opinions were not based on actual evidence, but on bias and assumption.

(There's a second reason why this is a lie - the OFCOM code does not have the force of criminal law, and a breach of the code is not automatically illegal. That's pedantry, and the main lie is above.)

Unseen hands in the TV operation are guiding the opinion of the organization - opinions expressed in what is covered, how it is covered and what is written for the presenter to read on the air. - Sophistry. Fux Lies is implying that its highly partial coverage (for example of partiality, see here) is free from this biassing process? Pull the other one, it's got jingle bells on it.

You, the viewer, might be encouraged to conclude the opinions expresed by the unseen hand are actually reality - the truth. - Fib. Who judges the truth? Whose version of reality is objectively real? Mine? Yours? The man in the moon's? Journalists - as opposed to those propaganda machine merchants employed at Fux Lies - attempt to tell the event in an impartial manner. They don't succeed, but we expect them to try their level best. Fux Lies, on the other hand, just spins the news in the way it wants to see the world, and brushes the rest under the carpet. For instance, it took the best part of a month to acknowledge a slapping from OFCOM, and the station still hasn't reported the full finding.

Story after story after story about how the Americans are wrong, that [Mr] Bush falsely insisted on a link between Saddam Hussein and [O]sama bin Laden when everybody knows they wasn't one, plus the steady diet of Americans as torturers. Abu Ghraib is still a top story - weeks later - and nary a mention of Nick Berg or Paul Johnson's loss of head. - So what? The BBC does not kow-tow to the Murdoch shilling, and makes its own judgement about the important events in the world. Besides, the facts (remember those? Oh.) are that even Fux Lies has had to admit that there was no link between deposed President Sadaam and al-Qaeda; and that Mr Berg and Mr Johnson received appropriate coverage at the time, but did not capture the public imagination precisely because there was an unspoken feeling that those damned Yankees deserved it.

And these beheadings are for what? Oh, right... nasty Americans putting ladies underwear on an Iraqi prisoner's head or humiliating some detainees by letting a female soldier see them naked. - You've lost it. Admit it, this isn't an apology - or even a justification - for Fux Lies' lies. This is another excuse to attack the BBC, because the BBC doesn't need your sister company Sky television, but KYTV so needs the BBC.

I thought, "Is Ofcom watching this? - I hope they were. As I didn't see the broadcast in question, I can't file a further complaint against Fux Lies, for the blatant falsehoods, and the (renewed!) failure to invite the BBC to comment on this piece. Such is the price of having principles.

Thanks to somedisco scott for the tip-off.

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posted 10 Jul 2004, 16.44 +0100


Sun 11 Jul 2004

Double shit

We note, with some interest, the Double Shit bet on Tradesports. The bet pays out if Mr Osama bin Laden (a Saudi oil baron's son) is captured or killed before November 2, and if Mr Gorge Bish (a Connecticut oil baron's son) wins the presidential election in the PDRUP on November 3. The market has floated out from 5.00 to 7.00 over just the last two weeks.

Prospective bettors will wish to note that these two events are not independent in the Bayesian analysis; a change in the status of Mr bin Laden will alter the chances of Mr Bish. It's also unclear how a "win" in the presidential election will be defined; following the near-chaos last time round, we need to know whether it will be determined by the popular vote, by the electoral college votes as determined by the populace, or by the electoral college votes as cast; and we also need to know the rulings on disputed results in advance.

(Original link from

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posted 11 Jul 2004, 12.43 +0100

Things we learned from The House awards

So, the awards from The House magazine were presented last week. What can we learn from this ceremony?

First, we learn that there's an election in the offing. Peter Hain gave one of the awards, and launched into an unsavoury partisan attack on Michael Howard. He's a nasty chap, just like the show's host, Andrew Neil.

The voting went in an interesting way. Minister of the year was Jeff Rooker, an outspoken critic of all things Blairite. In his speech, Jeff made the point that a Lord costs £80,000 per year, a regular MP £140,000, and the Lord works longer hours on more days. He didn't mention the quality of the debate, on which the Commons loses.

Opposition winner was Menzies Campbell, the man who has provided the intellectual thrust behind Chuck Kennedy's ongoing attacks about Iraq. Chuck was due to present one award, but had "a prior arrangement." Andrew Neil introduced Chuck as "the minister for Have I Got News For You?," but introduced Mark Oaten as his replacement - if Chuck really were the minister for brown suits, he would have sent along a tub of lard.

Speaking of animal byproducts, the acceptable face of the Home Office, Patricia Scotland, won Peer of the Year, wresting the title from Blackpool after four years. Ian Gibson, architecht of the student fees revolt, was Backbencher of the year, while Speech went to Lord Wright of Kingston for his measured, forensic, calm demolition job of the Blairite case for war in Iraq.

What can we learn from these awards? The people who vote for them are not at all happy with things Blairite, and have done everything they can to send a message to Number 10 that his time is up.

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posted 11 Jul 2004, 18.16 +0100

Three for week 28

Popular Tune Of The Week: Popular - from Wicked the musical. I'm not convinced that Stephen Schwartz has ever been off form, but any doubting Thomases will have been told where to go by his latest project. "Popular" is the stand-out sing-along tune, showing the extreme confidence of one of the characters, and it's a tune that would not be out of place on any teen drama.

Soundalike Of The Week Spitting Games - Snow Patrol. I like this in any event, it's just as throbbing and large-foresty as the rest of their work, without going down the pompous stadium rock route than Simple Minds followed in the mid 80s. But how come it sounds like everything Ash ever recorded? I think we should be told.

Discovery Of The Week Bye Bye Baby - Jemini. What you've got to do is take the words to the song, and throw away the tune, and I know that you'll be very practiced at that. Then sing the words to the beat of this tune (or as close as you can get). You might recognise the tune as "The Star-Spangled Banner," and if I could sing without being closed down by the Environmental Health people for noise pollution, I'd make an audio post of this marriage. By that token, how come Jemini were never closed down..?

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posted 11 Jul 2004, 18.25 +0100

Weather in week 28

Can we say it's cold? We can. It's been a cold week. Monday and Tuesday were actually quite sunny, with temperatures peaking in the low 20s on Tuesday. Then it clouded over on Wednesday, heralding the arrival of a Spanish Plume event. This is a vigorous area of low pressure, heated by hot air from Spain, which tracks over France and into southern England. The worst of the rain fell on Wednesday night, but Thursday was filled with beefy showers, a fading northerly wind, and top temperatures of just 12 (TWELVE) centigrade. Sunshine in cold weather, with some more hefty showers on Saturday. Two degree cooling days on Tuesday takes the summer total to 60; if Wednesday night had been one degree cooler, it would have registered a Degree Heating Day for the 8th of July. Heating in July?!

Slowly getting back to more normal weather: the plume event has left us with relatively humid air, and a south-westerly airflow means showers are likely any day, and temperatures will return to seasonal norms of around 20. It looks unsettled all week.

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posted 11 Jul 2004, 18.30 +0100


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