Sunday, 4 July 2010

Diana Watch

“So, I hear your a racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist, homophobe now Mel.”

And so England lost to Germany last Sunday, not by putting up a decent fight but by rolling over and letting the Germans tickle their bellies. They were embarrassingly poor and after the game the National discussion turned to whom or what was to blame.
 We, as a nation, like to blame simple things, we don’t like complex or nuanced arguments, so we usually end up blaming the manager and firing him. It is a system that has worked well for us for the last 40 years (it has helped keep us from lifting anything shiny and cup shaped since 1966) and we are not going to start changing it now.
 Other countries deal with the national humiliation that is an early exit in different ways. The French for instance, who looked like a team made up of 17 year old boys who had been forced to go on one last family holiday to the seaside, have taken their very early exit extremely badly and the Government have decided that, whilst denying that they are interfering, they need to have an inquiry. The manager and the Ex-head of the French Football Federation (he resigned after their defeat) have already been called into see Nicolas Sarkozy, a man who is not in the greatest of moods anyway as  the annual Presidential hunt will be cancelled this year. More will follow.
 English scapegoating and French investigations and sulking are nothing compared to the reaction in Nigeria and it's brilliantly named President Goodluck Jonathan.  
 They, like the French, came home after the group stage much to the disgust of the Nigerian people. Their new President reacted in way that I think may have taken a few people by surprise, he banned the team from International competition for 2 years.
 The Presidents special advisor has said that this will “enable Nigeria to reorganise its football” and they have also dissolved the Nigerian Football Federation. An interim board will appointed.
 Now that is a punishment.

After a couple of weeks of silence (well they did Excommunicate a Nun who sat on the Ethics committee at a hospital that approved an abortion for a woman who had a real chance of dying if the pregnancy continued, nothing happened to the men though, curious) the Catholic Church strikes back.
 The offices of the Church in Leuven, central Belgium, were raided last week and Police Officers seized nearly 500 files and a computer. Prosecutors said that the raids concerned alleged "abuse of minors committed by a certain number of Church figures". They also searched the Church's headquarters.
 The raids happened whilst Bishops were having a meeting and the Police refused to let them leave and they were also not allowed to communicate with the outside world. This is all normal procedure according to Belgium's justice minister Stefaan De Clerck.
 This has not gone down well inside the Vatican who alleged that during the 9 hours that the Bishops were held they were not allowed any food or water, a charge that has been strongly denied by Belgian authorities.
 Now at this point you would think that the Vatican may had learnt from it's previous PR mistakes and it would just say that they were helping the Police with their inquiries. I mean that would be the sensible thing to do, just keep your head down and maybe no one will notice. Did they do this? Did they bollocks. It’s paint yourself as the victim time in the Vatican again.
 The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said that the raids were “serious and unbelievable" and that "There are no precedents, not even under the old communist regimes," ooh nice touch. It worse here than under the communist, stop picking on us, it’s not like we have systematically covered up years of sexual abuse is it? Why should we be investigated under the same laws and rules as other people? Our leader is infallible!
 Speaking of the Pope, do you think that he stayed out of it? Did he use this moment to distance himself from his loud-mouth Cardinal? No, no he didn’t. He described events as “deplorable". No, the deplorable thing here is the covering up and sexual abuse, I thought we’d been through this.
 He sent a message to the Bishops Conference of Belgium that said “I want to express, dear brother in the Episcopate, as well as to all the Bishops of Belgium, my closeness and solidarity in this moment of sadness, in which, with certain surprising and deplorable methods, searches were carried out." How dare they search us, don't they not know who we are?
 Mr De Clerck (Justice Minister) said the Vatican's reaction had been excessive and it was based on false information. Is he accusing the Vatican of lying? Oh please let him be doing that. It must make Belgians proud to be Belgian; it would if I was one of them. No deferential treatment of the arrogant, justice obstructing Church.

I’m a bit confused now. After a few weeks of 80’s style, and by that I mean things that would make Thatcher proud, Tory policy announcements, the Government seem to have gone a bit, well.. ummmmm…… liberal.
 Firstly they seem to have announced that there will be an inquiry into whether Britain played any part in torturing terror suspects, mostly in other countries.
 Now, they may just be doing this just so that they can discredit the last Government which would make it a little cynical but does the motivation behind the announcement undermine the significance and potential impact of it? I don’t think so. As long as the inquiry is independent who cares why it has been called.
 I’m sure that there are a lot a people in the country that think that it is ok to torture people “if it helps National Security” but it really doesn't. The information you receive from the torturee is rarely helpful (they have a tendency to tell you what they think you want to hear or just plain make things up) and it undermines your moral authority.
 And then Wednesday saw Ken Clarke (one of the few Tories I actually quite like. He likes Europe a bit, single malts and has done several series for Radio4 on jazz. He seems to understand that life is for enjoying but not at the expense of others. Yes he does/did sit on the board of British American tobacco but he has some redeeming features unlike most Tories) announced that there were too many people in prison and that short sentences don’t work. He said that we should focus more on rehabilitation.
 I’m scared now Mummy, what has happened to them?
 During the election campaign the Tory party criticised the Labour Government for early release scheme and the Liberal Democrats pointed out that both parties polices were mostly a who can lock the most people up dick-swinging contest, I’m paraphrasing there but the point stands. Now, however,  the new Government seems to have come round to the LibDem way of thinking.  Or have they?
 Have they become more liberal because it will probably be cheaper? Did this “Road to Damascus” moment strike the eyes of Ken Clarke before or after he was told that he had to make budget savings of 25%? But again, does it matter what the motivation behind the announcement is? Well maybe. If there is a lack of belief will enough effort be put in?
 Usually it is people in other parties or in the press that deliberately “misinterpret” what a politician says but this happened to Ken Clarke when he was attacked by the very scary Michael Howard.
 Mr Howard is a proper, lock 'em up and throw away the key, type of Tory who famously said to conference, whilst sounding like he had just spotted the neck of a very tasty virgin in the front row, “Prison Works”.
 After Mr Clarke's speech he announced that he wasn't convinced by it and that “Serious and persistent criminals need to be put in prison,". Yes, I think we all agree on that point but that was not what Ken was saying, did you not listen or was this just a prepared, trotted out, half thought through response?
 Or was it more cunning than that? Was the whole, rather underplayed by the press, statement aimed deliberately at the Tory base? Was it pre-approved by the Party? Was it allowed because it was all part of a plan, look a bit liberal by talking about rehabilitation and community sentences but then point out that serious offences will be punished?

There are spies amongst us people! Well there are in the US anyway. I have to admit that I was surprised by people who were surprised about this. We have MI6 and the US has the CIA, what do you think they are doing, crochet?
 Anyway, back to my point. The English press reacted in the only way that it knows, find out if one of the people involved was a woman and if a woman is implicated in anyway the next question is, is she hot? If so then plaster her on every front page and seem surprised that an attractive woman can do anything but appear in FHM with very little on (unless you are the Daily Mail where you offended that FHM exists but you print the pictures anyway saying how terrible they are. “Look at them! There are awful! See this woman with virtually nothing on, it’s dreadful!”). For another example of this there is also the murder of Meredith Kercher in which we were treated to pictures of Amanda Knox whose crime was somewhat diminished by the press nicknaming here “Foxy Knoxy”.

Right, let’s do the awards as there is some tennis on soon (unless you are reading this after Sunday afternoon) and I want to watch it,

The Award for A Great Film’s Anniversary of the Week,

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Airplane! Happy birthday to you.
 I know it’s silly and I know it’s childish but Airplane! is one of my favourite films and it is 30 years old this weekend. It is film that is so gag heavy that I am still finding new sight gags in it now. It's always possible that I am still finding new gags in it because I haven’t really concentrated that hard enough on it the innumerable times I have watched it before but I like to think that it is because it is so well written. It isn’t, it’s because I haven’t really concentrated that hard on it when I’ve watched it before.

The Award for Just Being A Much Cooler Country Than Ours of the Week

Iceland may have had a bit of an effect on World finance but they are still are very, very cool country. I don’t think that in comparison to Iceland David Cameron government look even slightly progressive.
 Iceland have elected a woman Prime Minster, Johanna Sigurdardottir, ok we’ve done that, once. She is Gay; ok they are moving ahead of now. She was in a Civil Partnership, ok we have them (but we don’t have Gay marriage is beyond me.)
 Now if she had taken advantage of a recent change in Icelandic law and married her partner then that would be cooler than the soles of a bare footed Bjork standing on a glacier.
 What’s that you say? She has now married her partner, oooh, I think that is a level of progression and coolness that we will never ever get close too.

The Award for Scary Video of The Week,

I genuinely try not to get involved in the politics of other countries (no, honest I do) as it has very little to do with me but when the lovely @waccachica linked to this on twitter I couldn’t really ignore it now could I,

Now I assumed that it was some sort of well crafted joke as it hits all the Republican stereotypes that you can think of (If she had been yellow and had only 3 fingers on each hand I would have assumed that she was drawn by Matt Groening) but it seems it isn’t. This Pamela Gorman really is standing and this really is a campaign advert. Still don’t believe me? Well there is a website for her if you want to see, it’s here.
 Sort of makes me grateful to live in England really, I mean we my have our own problems but it really could be much worse.

 So Andrew Lansley, Health Secretary, told the BMA conference that lecturing people on their health and diets doesn't work (we don't lecture people, we tell them what is health as I can assure you that they really, really don't know) and has sighted Jamie Oliver's healthy school lunch thing because less people have school lunches then before.
 A number of things wrong with this, 1) So? If the children wanted Crack should the school provide that? If the children want really unhealthy food should the school provide that? I don't think so, they should be setting an example and 2) Jamie's little crusade has had a positive effect, you can read about it here on Tim Harford's blog (Yes he is the bloke who presents Radio4's More or Less but I'm not obsessed).
 It seems the a Government Minister is either ignoring or unaware of evidence that disproves their ideology.

 I think that that will do for now, have a super fun week, it seems that the sun will continue to shine.

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