Saturday, November 22, 2003

Family matters

George Cohen plays for England in the football world cup final in 1966 - we win.

His nephew Ben Cohen plays for England in the rugby world cup final in 2003 - we win.

Are there any members of the Cohen family who play cricket?

Friday, November 21, 2003

11 hours away

I've just been thinking that the archetypal foreign tourist (from a non-rugby playing country, anyway) in Britain is likely to find it a bit weird tomorrow morning. Streets will be a lot emptier than normal, pubs will be open before 11am with people in and if they try and find out what's happening they'll probably fail to understand as they'll likely be having the rules of the game explained to them by someone who'd never really watched rugby until last week. Not that that's necessarily a handicap in explaining the rules - my brother's a referee and I'm not quite sure he really understands them all. Sometimes I wonder if it's just like the Irish Question - any time someone understands all the rules of the game, they change them.

Please, take Ronaldinho back!

A Brazilian Mayor has announced that he's cancelled the planned landing of a UFO during a Brazil vs Peru match. And people complain that Ken Livingstone can't fulfill his promises...

The void stares also

Excellent piece by Charlie Stross, on the aftermath of yesterday's bombs in Istanbul and why he was protesting in Edinburgh:
Declaring a war on terrorism in the wake of 9/11 was good politics for George W. Bush. But it's a misleading metaphor; because war is terrorism by other means, just as terrorism has become an extension of diplomacy by the weak against the strong, to fold, spindle and mutilate Von Clauswitz's famous dictum. If a war against terrorism is to be successful it must be fought in peoples' hearts and minds, with unusual weapons like trust and respect, and a willingness to negotiate with the moderates before our intransigence turns them into desperate extremists.

Insisting that a war on terrorism is a literal war, involving bombers and tanks, is foolish in the extreme. Handing them a victory on a plate -- by surrendering our civil liberties on the altar of security -- is insane. Killing terrorists generates more anger among the communities the terrorists are drawn from, and anger breeds more violence. But negotiation works. It worked in Northern Ireland, where the depths of religious bigotry rival anything to be found in the Middle East. And it can work in the Israel/Palestine mess, if negotiations can be arranged and both sides are willing to back down from their maximalist positions. I doubt negotiation has any chance of working with Osama bin Laden or his closest followers, but as the Ha'aretz interview above suggests, even suicide bombers aren't completely beyond hope.
If there was another way to say 'read the whole thing' I'd use it here, but there isn't and you should.

The Elvii are amongst us

I was just looking at the latest council by-election results and discovered that Nottingham is, amongst all its other claims to fame, home to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party who believe that 'Presley is still alive and is now a sixty eight year old left wing revolutionary committed to over throwing the capitalist system which turned him into a fat media joke.'

I have to say that I prefer the First Presleyterian Church Of Elvis The Divine though - they've got a damn good choir.

The Times goes tabloid

Matching the Independent, from next Wednesday a tabloid edition of The Times will be available. So, who'll be the next to crack - The Telegraph or The Guardian? Or will some confused executive at one of the tabloids suggest bringing out a broadsheet edition now? Though, the Sunday Express was still a broadsheet well into the 80s, if I remember rightly.

"Blair's words belong in Paradise Lost, not in a press conference."

Charlie Skelton's notes on Blair's contribution at the Foreign Office are well worth reading. When's issue 1 of the LNR out?

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Evil thoughts

I've just been reading that the BBC is going to have an extra element to the Sports Personality of the Year award this year - because it's the 50th anniversary, viewers are going to be given a chance to choose a Golden Sports Personality from the previous winners.

Now, in past years there have been various attempts to, ahem, influence the final result, especially since they've allowed voting online and via email - I can remember a campaign one year for Justin Fashanu and anglers regularly find that their multitude of votes for Bob Nudd have been discounted.

However, this time around the BBC can't easily remove any of the contenders from the running as they're all the past winners of the award. They want viewers to choose the best of them, so they can't stop anyone from, say, organising an internet campaign to get one of the more obscure winners the title. Or, to subvert the process from within, people could always vote for one of the previous winners who is notably devoid of a personality.

Of course, I'm not actively suggesting that you should go out and do this, but it'd make for good telly seeing Steve Rider opening the envelope to say '...and the winner is...who!?' I just wonder who would achieve that best - is it better to go for someone dead, someone obscure or someone boring?

Send Them Back!

Find out how here.
We knew stealing that music was wrong. Stealing is never OK. But, it was just too easy. So we told ourselves we were just "sharing" the music, because everyone knows that sharing is a good thing.

But then we learned what we were really doing. We heard our favorite recording artists telling us that our "sharing" is really shoplifting and piracy. We were stealing from the musicians and singers we love!

That was when we looked at each other and said: "No more! It's time to make it right by giving back what we stole!" And that's just what we did! We sent back all the MP3's we'd illegally downloaded. Everyone one of them!

Taste, or the lack of it.

Is there anyone out there who'd even try, let alone think they might like a turkey and gravy flavour soda? (found via John)
In time for the Thanksgiving holiday, Jones Soda will launch a limited production of the sugar-free and no carbohydrate Turkey & Gravy flavored beverage in the Washington and Michigan markets.
I know at least one of my readers has lived in Michigan, so I'll leave the question as to whether this will be a big seller in those areas to someone else.

Too easy

Michael Jackson says he will fight charges against him 'tooth and nail'. Yes, but that's only because they're the two parts of him left that haven't been changed by surgery.

Anything you can do, we can do sillier

Yesterday, I mentioned FIFA's world football rankings, not expecting that today someone would come up with a ranking system that makes that look like a model of sanity and rationality. Yes, step forward UEFA's seedings for Euro 2004! Throwing the world rankings out of the window, UEFA have determined to produce something much better that includes their favourite word - 'coefficient'.

Now, if you or I were going to draw up the top seeds for Euro 2004 we'd obviously include Portugal as the hosts and France as the holders - but who should fill those other two spots? Germany, perhaps, as the best European side at the last World Cup. Italy, maybe, who got to the final of the last European Championships. Spain, who FIFA rank as the third best team in the world or maybe even England who've only lost one compeitive match under Sven-Goran Eriksson. Or, perhaps you'd go for a system based on the qualifying matches for Euro 2004 and the last World Cup and come up with Sweden and the Czech Republic. Yes, somehow UEFA have managed to rank the Czechs as the third best team in Europe - obviously they are a good team, having beaten the Netherlands in qualification for Euro 2004, but seeing as how they failed to even qualify for the last World Cup, you think that might count against them. You might think that, but obviously you wouldn't get a job with UEFA thinking like that.

Still, it does make the draw slightly better for some sides - England, Italy, Spain and Germany now all know they'll avoid each other in the group stages and only one of them is going to end up in a group with France that will instantly be called the 'Group of Death', especially if the Dutch end up in it as well.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Euro 2004

I've got a new post on Fistful of Euros about the results of tonight's Euro 2004 qualifiers. Congratulations/commiserations to my readers depending on who you do or don't support.

Like the man says

No longer should we think tyranny is benign because it is temporarily convenient.

So I presume that means we'll be seeing no more of this or this? Or am I asking silly questions again?

Sepp Blatter's mathematical odyssey

I always love it when FIFA announce their international football world rankings, as they seem to reflect the relative strengths of teams in a universe that's similar, but not entirely identical to ours. For instance, England have already qualified for Euro 2004 and lost a friendly game to Denmark at the weekend, Turkey were runners-up in England's group and lost a playoff game to Latvia last weekend. So, of course, Turkey move up in rankings and England go down. However, both sides are ranked as being worse than that well-known major footballing power Mexico, who are, of course better than the United States side who, er, beat them in the World Cup last year.

Well, we're pretty sure on the height...

An arrest warrant has been issued for Michael Jackson. Anyone care to guess just what the description of him issued to officers trying to enforce the warrant might be?

Bring it...round the back where no one will see

Kieran Healy on Bush not addressing Parliament:
According to ABC News, “such a speech could invite the kind of heckling the president received when he spoke to the Australian Parliament last month.” One might have thought that a leader with thicker skin might have told the begrudgers to “Bring it on.” ...

Needless to say, the spin on the visit ... is that Bush is in London to “address” and “confront” those who doubt his policy in Iraq. He’ll just be doing this without, you know, addressing or confronting anyone.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Team selection

You know, I don't think it'll be to long before whoever happens to be the Leeds manager that week is going to have to change his team between announcing it and the game started because one of the players has been arrested.

Still, they're keeping Wolves off the bottom right now.

Science for grown-ups

The new Dana Centre sounds quite interesting, at least from this article, but I'm just amused by the headline referring to it as an 'Adults-Only Science Centre' which makes you wonder just what sort of things will be going on there.

The French were right

Interesting article from the National Journal (found via Eigenstate) on how the supposed 'cheese-eating surrender monkeys' may have been right over Iraq, and just what their experience in Algeria and elsewhere can teach the world about fighting terror.
One big reason the French were right is that they were thinking along the lines that Americans are generally apt to think -- that is, in a cautious, pragmatic way, informed by their own particular trial-and-error experience, in this case as an occupier forced out of Algeria and as a front-line battler, long before 9/11, against global Islamic terrorist groups.

The Bush administration, by contrast, approached Iraq the way the French are often thought to approach large world problems -- with a grandiose sweep of the theoretical hand, a tack exemplified by the big-ideas neoconservative crowd, whose own thinking, ironically, draws on European political philosophy. So as the administration rethinks Iraq, the way back to a sound position may lie at home, in the great but neglected tradition of American Pragmatism. And then everyone can forget about the French.
It's a long article, but it's worth reading the whole thing.

Pointless prediction time

Richard Desmond will probably own the Telegraph within a year. That'll be fun. Why do I think that? As it says here:
If ownership of the Telegraph group changes hands, Northern & Shell has the option to buy the other 50% of West Ferry, potentially leaving the new owner of the Telegraph without a printing plant.
A nice bargaining chip, a group that doesn't already own a broadsheet and the chance to bring together the publisher of Asian Babes with the Hurleygraph - I believe some people call this synergy.

Presidents who didn't get a state visit

Roosevelt (both of them)
Truman
Eisenhower
Reagan
Clinton

and others of course...so why does Bush get one?

Sunday, November 16, 2003

You are free to die when we tell you

So, David Davis has said that he wants to bring back the death penalty. Remember this the next time the Tories talk about limiting the power of the state - he's willing to give it the power to decide whether you live or die, which is a rather fundamental power to have. You can't be at all serious about limiting the power of the state if you're willing to hand over such a basic right to it.