The European Hokey Cokey

I haven’t blogged for a while, despite having plenty of things to try and find time to write about.  Well, not so much write, but rather type an endless stream of invective, abuse and swearwords as this current Coalition Government set about demolishing everything that made Britain a decent country, the safety net of the NHS, the respect for the poor, the disabled.  They’ve pretty much stopped hiding it.  This Coalition Government legitimised lying to Parliament (well done Nick Clegg!), lied under oath to Leveson and stand to profit hugely from selling off taxpayer funded institutions to themselves.  Or their mates.  They even demonise people on benefits as fraudsters while allowing a man who ripped the taxpayer off to the tune of £40,000 back into the Cabinet.

Of course, my anger isn’t eased by the knowledge that they will be kicked out at the next election, seeing as they are up against Ed Miliband, the human equivalent of beige.  Getting angry at him personally is like getting angry at, I don’t know, porridge.  Or toothpaste.  The problem is that Ed has never actually had a job outside of politics.  He was brought up with politics and sees everything in terms of a political calculation.  Therefore he doesn’t actually stand up for anything, because he doesn’t believe in anything.  Labour has abandoned any principles it has trying to aim for some kind of middle (in actuality, Right) ground.

Anyway, a couple of days ago David Cameron announced that, should the Tories be re-elected, that he will hold a referendum on Britains membership of the European Union.  This is, of course, one of the big issues for the Tories since the early 90s.  More than the economy (twice as fucked as it was when they came in power) more than defence, or the NHS, the real thing the Tories care about is “Yerp”.

Cameron has been forced into this by UKIP.  The UK Independence Party are the equivalent of the US Tea Party, loud, obnoxious, funded by the rich and supported by the selfish.  The Tories will happily steal candy from a poor baby (“how dare they have treats funded by my tax money?”) but UKIP will punch it in the face afterwards “for looking a bit foreign”.  The UKIP view of the world can be summed up in the following image.

The British Empire in the 1920s.

The caption says “The British Empire in the 1920’s” but it is effectively how UKIP and their Tory supporters essentially see the world now.  Britannia, despite all the evidence to the contrary, rules the waves.  Europe is still full of Krauts, Huns, Frogs, Dagos, Spics and millions of others who would all be speaking German right now if it wasn’t for Churchill and Our Brave Boys.

UKIP are a bunch of hypocrites.  They hate Europe so much, that they’ve taken £2m from it in expenses and keep standing for election there.  The undemocratic EU dictatorship has 12 UKIP MEPs, whereas the UK mother of all Parliaments, home of Great British Democracy has… none.  UKIP epitomise the very worst of Brits abroad.  I don’t mean the sort of idiotic lager louts you see in Magaluf, but the ones who buy a holiday home in Tuscany and then complain when the Portuguese cleaner simply refuses to learn proper English and to follow instructions even when repeated to them Quite Loudly Indeed.

(It is important to point out that UKIP as stated on their website, are not racist.  They just hate Europeans as a whole, and not any particular race.  So not racist.  Xenophobic.  But definitely not racist.  They also say that they are Libertarian, which as any fule know, is an utterly bonkers idea that can be reduced in two minutes to “Fuck you, got mine”.)

There are two main strands to the anti-EU argument.  The first is that it is an undemocratic dictatorship that has sovereignty over UK issues. This is answered easily – the EU Parliament is elected by the people in elections run via Proportional Representation, which is a much more democratic way that the UKs First Past The Post system.  The members of the EU Commission are appointed by the Parliaments of the respective countries, so with the Parliaments being democratically elected, we can put that argument to bed.  Laws pass down from the EU to the member countries, who have signed treaties ratified by their Parliaments to allow them to be put into practice.  Some countries – of which Britain is one – has negotiated various opt-outs to these laws.

So you see just how undemocratic the whole thing is.

As for UKIP believing in the sovereignty of the UK Parliament, here are two things.  This referendum is to appease UKIP.  UKIP, as previously stated, have no MPs in Parliament.  They have stood in a General Election and failed to get an elected voice.  They are, effectively, a lobbying group, albeit one which has managed to exert an incredible influence over a democratically elected Government.  I can’t think of another unelected organisation that has such an influence over Government, well, not now that News Corp are keeping their heads down for a bit.  Second, this UKIP idea of parliamentary sovereignty manifests itself in.. a referendum of the people which bypasses Parliament altogether. So the party which believes in democracy and sovereignty of Parliament is in fact an unelected lobby group that doesn’t want Westminster to have a say in our membership of the EU!

The second anti-EU argument is that all sorts of rules are imposed by Brussels on Britain.  Take, for example, the Working Time Directive.  Nigel Farage: “We urgently need more EU reform, not least of the working time directive“.  William Hague: “The Working Time Directive is doing enough damage as it is to British businesses and public services.”

But what is the Working Time Directive?  Well, it enshrines, in law, the following things:

  • A maximum working week of 48 hours, unless the employee agrees to voluntarily work more
  • A minimum 20 days holiday in a year
  • A maximum of 13 working hours in a single 24 hour period, unless, again, the employee agrees
  • Rest periods every six hours

There is some other stuff, but you will note that the Working Time Directive is there to protect employees.  They can’t be forced to work insane hours under threat of dismissal, nor can they be forced to work year round.  The key word is “forced”, as employees can choose to work long hours and can withdraw that consent at any time.

It also doesn’t force employers to do anything like providing free creches full of kittens and mandatory sedan chairs for their workers.  All the Working Time Directive does is let a worker have a little bit of choice in this work-life balance thingy.

These workers rights are what the Tories and UKIP want to remove.  Not rules on how straight bananas can be, or any other made up bullshit.  They want to reduce holidays and increase working hours and fire you if you refuse to comply.

So the next time you hear the words “Working Time Directive” coming from a Tory or Nigel Farage, ask yourself this:

  • Which part of me being able to choose to work more than 48 hours a week is a problem?
  • Which bit of me being entitled to 20 days holiday a year is a problem?
  • Which bit of me having a mandated break when doing a long shift is a problem?
  • Which bit of me not being forced to work over six days a week is a problem?
  • Seeing as I can voluntarily choose to do any of the above, exactly which specific bit of the Working Time Directive is the problem, exactly?

Now you may have guessed that I support Britains membership of the EU.  I have a little bit of sympathy for David Cameron.  He is basically running an unpopular, minority Government and needs the support of the whackos and nutjobs in order to have a chance at re-election.  I don’t have a lot of sympathy, mind, as the shit he finds himself in is of his own making.  Cameron is clearly walking a tightrope as membership of the EU is absolutely vital to the British economy.  They are our biggest trading partner.  We leave, China, India and United States will simply trade with the EU.  EU countries will pull investment from Britain as it will cost them more.  Our own goods will cost more to make, because we buy it all in.  And we flogged most of the utilities to the French anyway.

The entire basis for this referendum is insane.  It jeopardises everything – vote to leave the EU and say hello to high prices and goodbye to many forms of employment protection.  What angers me is that so much of the argument are driven by either naked greed or by hypocrites.  The Daily Mail will argue against – owned by a man who is exiled for tax purposes.  The Telegraph will argue against – owned by two brothers in a tax haven that they try to run like a fiefdom.  The Sun will argue against, owned by an Australian who became American for tax reasons and run from a company in the Cayman Islands.

And these shitbags will try to give us lessons on Britains place in the world with a level of lies that will make the anti-AV campaign look like a paragon of truthfulness.  (Which reminds, how is that Leveson thing panning out…)

Ultimately, I just don’t understand what the beef with Europe is.  Britain joined the EEC before I was even born.  I’ve grown up with it.  I’ve seen that Europe isn’t full of shifty foreigners trying to extract revenge for “The War”.  I’ve seen it as a place to go to, to live, to work, to visit. I like it.  It isn’t just me – an entire couple of generations have grown up connected to Europe.  To me, saying we shouldn’t be part of it is like saying we should withdraw from the Internet.  It occupies the same mental space as the debate on gay marriage.  “It exists, it can’t be wished or legislated away. Why are we even debating it? Grow the fuck up and deal with it.”

Therefore what I can see is the lies, the delusion and the hypocrisy.  The lies about what Britains membership of the EU does.  The delusions from UKIP of the position of Britain in the world. The hypocrisy that the Tories are saying the UK is better apart from Europe, yet Scotland shouldn’t have independence because common interest is stronger.

I can see that, right now, there is a hell of a lot more wrong with the UK that needs fixing than our relationship with Europe yet all we could end up talking about is a sodding “Yerp” from now until 2017.  That an undemocratic, xenophobic party who want to strip people of their protections is exerting far too much influence.

And that worries me.

Why the Republican Party lost the election – in their own words

“You’ll find that conservatives outnumber liberals in America by 2 to 1” – Mitt Romney foreign policy adviser, BBC Five Live, believes that 48% is twice as much as 50%

[I could not believe] “the majority of Americans would do this…It’s a perplexing time for many of us right now.” – Sarah Palin, quoted in the Guardian has trouble understanding something.  Again.

“The Obama administraiton concentrated on the issue of free contraception instead of what women want, which is the economy and jobs” – Alice (somebody), Republican strategist, when interviewed by Jon Snow on Channel 4 News, blames Obama for not securing his opponent more votes

“I don’t know of anything in that agenda that we would want to drop.” – Gary Bauer, President of American Values, in the Washington Post

“He [Romney] is a successful businessman and voters don’t like successful people” – Person interviewed by Channel 4 News at the Romney/Ryan party in Boston

“For purposes of forging a bipartisan agreement that begins to solve the problem, we’re willing to accept new revenue, under the right conditions.” House Speaker John Boehner makes a case for the winners to adopt the losers policy

“No doubt the media will insist that Republicans must change, must sprint to the center, must embrace social liberalism, must accept that America is destined to play a less dominant role in the world,” Fred Barnes wrote on the blog of The Weekly Standard. “All that is hogwash, which is why Republicans are likely to reject it. Their ideology is not a problem.”

Five ways the mainstream media tipped the scales in favour of Obama – Fox News, the most popular cable news channel knows what the problem was.

 

So there you have it, in seven actual quotes.  I haven’t cherry picked some random Twitter rant either, these are people put up for interview in the New York Times, or international TV.  The problem for the Republican Party is that is simply doesn’t exist in the real world.  Instead of Keep Calm and Carry On, they have a motto of Deny Reality and Make Shit Up.  That was the entire plan for Romney and Ryan, just simply lie their way to the White House.    The problem with saying “vote for me, I’m not That Guy” is that people will look at you and say “OK, so we know what he is, what are you then?” (See how successful that strategy was for David Cameron in 2010.) And all there was was a multi-millionaire sociopath and a swivel-eyed lunatic.  Between them, every time they opened their mouth, another whopper would fall out and they hoped to just sail serenely onwards without anyone noticing.  They resembled Comical Ali, insisting the Americans were losing a war as the tanks rolled into Baghdad behind him.

To be fair, some Republicans do Get It.  But they’ll be shouted down, as a party of Angry Rich White men continue to only appeal to other Angry Rich White Men in a country that has a dwindling supply of them.  Two states voted to legalise marijuana, two legalised gay marriage.  Latinos, blacks, young people and women all voted overwhelmingly for Obama.

And as long as the party is funded by the lunacy that is the Tea Party, the evangelists and the Koch Brothers, long may it continue.

Does the Maps screwup show a bigger problem?

So iOS 6 is out and everyone is having a pretty good laugh at Apples expense.  Partly because the usual cycle involving a Golden Boy has left the point where they can do no wrong and heading towards where they can do no right.  Partly because the Maps app is suffering the sort of derision that effectively kills something at birth.

To set the scene, previous versions of iOS have had Map and YouTube functionality provided by Google.  This has now stopped as the licence has run out.  Apple has decided to supply its own mapping software using its own map information.  This information is flaky at best, just plain wrong at worst.

Google Maps has been going for nearly a decade.  Google have sunk billions into it, with Street View, Google Earth and all that.  The idea that Apple could simply replace it with their own version and users would be happy is insanity.

It doesn’t come down to money either.  Apple and Google have large amounts of money.  Money soothes all ills in business, and the licence could have been renewed.

Where the problem lies is attitude.  The tech industry likes openness.  It loves interconnectability, right up until the point where a technology has taken root and then, what tech companies love most of all, is a monopoly.  It doesn’t matter how the monopoly is configured, from Apples closed iOS garden to Googles’ wide open space, every inch of which is covered by CCTV.  But once they have got there, then the monopoly must be maintained.

This is why one of the major technology battlegrounds currently is the courts.  Everybody is suing everybody.  Apple is suing Google, Google is suing Apple, the phone manufacturers are suing each other, the phone OS makers are suing each other.  Companies win some, lose some in an attempt to protect their monopolies.  Apple don’t want to give Google more power over users – money, yes if they have to, but control… no.  Monopolists crave control.  Once you have control, the money flows automatically.

Unfortunately, all the monopolists and proto-monopolists are missing a valuable point.

Users don’t give a damn.

The tech world is, certainly compared to a decade ago, massively open and interoperable.  I am a SharePoint guy for a living, yet at home I work on an iMac and develop SharePoint stuff using a Parallels VM.  I use Facebook and Twitter from Chrome on my Mac, IE on the VM and Tweetdeck on my Android phone.  I love Nokias in the late 90s and early 2000, then I loved Android from 1.5 onwards but now I’m looking at shifting to iPhone when my contract ends in about 6 months.  I know iPhone people who are looking at going the other way.  We’ll still be able to browse the web, send email, send tweets, update our statuses.  The browser, OS and phone used to do this doesn’t matter to a user.  Hell, I use Facebook using the mobile browser when on 3G as the app is bloody awful when not on a wi-fi connection.

So while I may be using a monopoly in one aspect of my online life, it isn’t controlling any of the others.  In fact, I’m using it because it inter-operates with everything else.

I’ve seen it argued that some monopolies are good – and to an extent, I agree.  Certainly when it comes to an OS, having a strict baseline to work from can be very beneficial (a program written for Windows will always work on Windows, for instance).

But at some point, monopolies die.

IBM were the monopolists in the 1980s.  Microsoft in the 90s.  Internet Explorer had 90% of the desktop browsers, now it is down nearer 50% (ironically, as the program got better, its market share has gone down.)  At various points over the past 20 years, it seemed like RealPlayer, Netscape, MySpace and Flash ruled the world.

Sometimes they get outmanoeuvred.  Nokia were the kings of the jungle in 2006, and then Steve Jobs walked onto a stage, introduced an iPhone and made an entire industry almost irrelevant in just 45 minutes.  Sometimes they shoot themselves in the foot.  Twitter is currently overhauling its API infrastructure, locking out the very developers that produced the hundreds of clients for smartphones that fed the site.  (Would it have taken off so fast if there was just one client and no open API?  Ask Google+.)

But usually monopolies die because they place the company above the users.  Apple took over the personal computing world in a decade because of its relentless focus on products that users not only wanted, but needed, at a time when the competition was focused on locking users in.

Forget the “disappointment” of the iPhone 5, seismic shifts come along very rarely and it is still the leader others follow.  Forget the Cult of Jobs and Apple becoming a “normal” company in his untimely absence.  (It always was. Billion dollar companies are not individuals.  There is no “Cult of Michael O’Leary”, is there?). The Maps debacle is an indicator that Apple is beginning to lose that laser-like focus.

What Apple should have done was sucked it up and paid Google the cash.  It can’t seriously hope to catch up to Google Maps in the next half decade, assuming that it does recover from the PR debacle that might strangle Maps at birth.  I’m not even sure Apple should spend time sending cars around every street in the world. What, ultimately, is in it for them? Google Maps will probably be replaced in a decade (probably by something that only exists right now in somebody’s head) and trying to start the process is like taking on Muhammad Ali in his prime instead of when he was on the downhill slope.  It is easier to deliver a final killing blow to a weakened opponent that to swing the first punch against a strong one.

Of course, I’m not going pronounce the death of Apple.  (I’m merely going to leave that phrase in there for the search engines.)  But it does seem they are doing the thing that has led to the demise of many before them.  Give someone something new (e.g Siri) and they will forgive mistakes along the way.  Replace something very good with something that offers none of the benefits (when it even works) and introduces a lot of new problems is a big mistake to recover from.  I have no doubt the tech world will forget about it in a few months time and iOS will continue to lead the way but the seeds of doubt are now planted.  And that is a tricky weed to get rid of.

Users don’t have brand loyalty, no matter how many fanbois you think you have.  (In fact, the more uncritical followers you have, the faster your eventual demise.)  Users don’t mind monopolies, but they do find ways to break out of them when they need to.  Users aren’t stupid, but they are dumb – keep giving them the good stuff and you have them forever.  But give them the chance to look elsewhere and they will be off after the next shiny thing put in their vision.

Everything that was wrong about the Olympic Closing Ceremony

I’ll not be the first, or the last to blog a few quick thoughts. This article (Hat tip: @FelixRatBastard) sums it up quite brilliantly.

Ultimately, my problem was simple.  The reason the Opening Ceremony was so brilliant was that it was about the Britain that I recognise, the Britain which is multi-cultural, proud, self-deprecating, inventive, full of history.  It showcased the things that the nation has done to change the world, and continues to do so.  And it did so in a self-deprecating manner, with a lack of the usual London/UK cliches.

The following 16 days provided fantastic entertainment, drama and emotion.  There were fantastic role models and in a single hour on a Saturday night, we had Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah all succeeding aided by a surging tide of noise and positive national pride.  As someone on Twitter so astutely noted “This is something on a Saturday Night telly that I actually want to watch”.  We had a break from the remorseless march of superficiality, stupidity and attention-seeking of a TOWIE, X-Factor or The Voice and watched real British people work hard to get to their goals.

The Closing Ceremony broke all that.  Where the track and field had been graced by true stars, it was now being used by vacant supermodels who turned up and… well, posed.  Where Mo Farah had done laps towards gold medal glory, trucks and Rolls Royces disgorged One Direction and Jessie J.  Where the 4 x 100m USA and Jamaican teams had worked years towards world records, we now had five women who hate each other singing a 16 year old song purely for the money.  Where the Opening Ceremony had featured a silent plea from millions of Britons that there would be no Del Boy falling through a bar, we had Del Boy Batman and Robin instead.  Where the Opening Ceremony featured a sweet multi-cultural love story between two young kids, its closing counterpart featured a song from a film that was released 33 years ago, sung by a man who seemed confused by having foreigners around him.  Instead of a simple subversion and celebration of Rowan Atkinson and “Chariots of Fire”, we got Russell Brand miming to “I Am The Walrus”.

(As an aside, how much fucking Beatles was in the show?  The bus, I Am The Walrus, Lennon, Imagine, Magical Mystery Tour… pretty sure I’m missing a couple of references, too.)

It was, in short, everything that was bad about media-driven modern Britain.  Past glories, confusion at strange people, superficiality, looks and miming above effort and talent.  When was George Michael last relevant?  It promised Pink Floyd, David Bowie and Kate Bush – and delivered none of them.  The best bit was the singalong to Freddie Mercury – which if I remember correctly, dates from 1986.  You kept watching because occasionally something good happened – Elbow with their own brand of crowd pleasing melancholy, Annie Lennox being as mad as a box of frogs, Fatboy Slim miming to somebody elses records.

For a Games which were tagged “Inspire a Generation”, we got the Who, Madness and John Lennon.  Those guys don’t have any relevancy to this current generation, because they were out of date for my generation, and I’m nearly forty!  It was bland, packaged, slick , soulless product reasserting its authority over the wonderful things we have produced.  It showed British music stuck somewhere in the mid-1990s.  Or more precisely, stuck right here. It featured people using the occasion to sell their new single or current West End Show, forget about the things you have seen, consume, citizen, consume!

There was an bitter sweet irony, that the Closing Ceremony should feature the very type of people that the previous two and a bit weeks had tried to sweep away.  The bland and the beige and the spray-tanned orange trying desperately to reassert their money grabbing grip on our popular culture.  I can only hope they don’t succeed.

Edit: The linked article says much the same as this, but better.

Quick thought on Twitter trolling

The interesting thing about that prick who got arrested for throwing Twitter abuse at Tom Daley is that we’ve got a entire generation who are brought up unaware, shielded even, from the consequences of their actions. Then we put in their hands something that allows them to broadcast instantly, in real time, to millions of people.

So when they make a mistake, they either get away with it, or they get hit with the equivalent of a twenty ton truck. No middle ground. All or nothing.

That doesn’t sound too clever to me.

Who is Walther Tröger?

Walther Tröger is an 83 year old German with arthritis. He was an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee. In 1972, he was part of the negotiating team that tried to free the Israeli athletes who had been kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists during the Munich Games. He reportedly offered himself as a hostage in exchange for saving the life of those athletes. He has dedicated his life to sporting causes, and worked hard under difficult circumstances.

Still don’t know who he is?

This guy.

Recognise him now?

This guy, whose arthritic arm meant, if you were stuck in a certain 70 year distant mindset looks “a bit like a Nazi salute, hur hurrr”. This guy, who was – like so many dignitaries around him – was greeting his own countries competitors as they walked into the Olympic Stadium.

And we had to take the piss, because, he’s German, he waved, and therefore must be ripe for being called a Nazi.

I despair sometimes, I really do. Notice Camilla and Boris Johnson looking on and laughing. This has been explained away by them supposedly laughing at the Germans Olympic uniforms (which were, in fact, hideous) but even if they were, that is no excuse. They should be polite.

It surprises me how many people were out of touch. David Cameron watched a celebration of the NHS he is so desperate to wreck. Jeremy Hunt watching clips and music from a BBC that he would dearly love to sell off to please his puppet masters at News Corp. Ed Miliband had to watch a celebration of the Jarrow Marchers, the Suffragette movement, the things that gave birth to a Labour Party unrecognisable under his leadership. Mitt Romney, who said “England [sic] is just a small island that doesn’t make things that people in the rest of the world want to buy” and then had to sit there and watch an entire segment celebrating Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who invented something that changed the world more than anyone else and then gave it away for free. NBC are under a hail of criticism for not knowing who TBL was, not allowing their country to watch the ceremony live and then being arrogant enough to cut out an entire segment honouring those who had died because “it wasn’t relevant to our audience”. The Daily Mail has run not one, but two hugely offensive articles. One complaining about the multi-cultural aspect of the ceremony which was so shamefully racist that even they decided to delete it, and another calling a competitor “some bitch from Holland”.

Never have the people in charge looked further away from the citizens they purport to speak for. And never have we looked so powerless to do anything about it.

14 year old me just died and went to heaven.

Am I dreaming? Kevin Smith hosting a Q&A about Buckaroo Banzai? With Peter Weller and John Lithgow?

To try and describe The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension is to try and catch fog, or nail jelly to a wall. It is a genre-bending film, a sci-fi comedy comic book satire, the cultest of cult movies. If you have seen it and you love it, you have a friend in me for life. If you haven’t seen it, you’ll be like a hell of a lot of people. Buckaroo Banzai is proof that Earl Mac Rauch and W.D Richter were doing Joss Whedon before Joss Whedon was. And I mean that in a good way.

As one guy says at the Q&A. “It is said that only a thousand people saw The Velvet Underground live, but everyone of those thousand people started a band.  And I think that Buckaroo Banzai had the same effect on creative types.  Anyone who saw that movie and had it burrow into our heads, we went out and created stuff.”

Too true, my friend, too true.

Ah hell, look, have a (cheesy, but not bad) fan-made trailer.

And the catchiest end credit music ever.

Nothing happened yesterday

Yesterday was a pretty momentous day.  Not that, if you read some of the newspapers, you would actually know it.

First off, the probable discovery of the Higgs boson was announced by CERN in Switzerland.  This is a major, major bit of news, as it not only furthers our knowledge of how the Universe works, but also vindicates the best part of 60 years of scientific theory.  To put the possibilities of this discovery into perspective, about 110 years ago, no-one had identified an electron, despite it being the major force behind electricity, thermal conductivity and magnetism.  The Higgs is possibly more important than that, as it is the glue that holds everything else together.

Also yesterday, Bob Diamond, disgraced ex-Chief Executive of Barclays appeared before a Parliamentary Select Committee to answer questions about the conduct of his bank.  Barclays has – with several other banks to follow – been fined for manipulating the LIBOR rate, which could potentially affect just about everybody in the UK.  This was a very rare case of one of the self-proclaimed Masters of the Universe (and not in a Higgs boson sense) to be dragged and required to answer for their conduct.

So, two huge stories.  One concerning the actions of the past which leaves a good part of the world in a financial mess, the other a good news story about Awesome Science.  And just how do the front pages of our newspapers look this morning?

Courtesy of frontpagestoday.co.ukCourtesy of frontpagestoday.co.uk
Courtesy of frontpagestoday.co.uk
Courtesy of frontpagestoday.co.uk

For what its worth, The Mirror has the bank story but not the Higgs, the I and the Independent have the Higgs and the banks, the Guardian has just the Higgs, the Times has both.  The Telegraph has a small story about the banks and a caption about the Higgs.  Full lot

Five papers mention (not even have text, but mention) the Higgs, five have the Bob Diamond story.  Exactly the same number who have… a photo of Kate Middleton at the tennis.

Remember this the next time journalists and editors cry out that what they do is present what is happening in the world.

NTK – its back! (Sort of,)

I think I plugged this, but if you were a geeky type in the late 90s/early 2000s you had to have had a sub to NTK, the sarcastic, spiteful and terribly British email about all things on the Internet. Every Friday, the weekend would unofficially start when a newsletter full of stuff, wit and links arrived in your inbox. If you were particularly obsessed, you had a NTK t-shirt.

I had two.

It died, or to use its own parlance… FALCO!-ed (named after the award given to any internet company that went before its time, just like the Austrian techno-rap artiste) in 2007, having been a bit sporadic for a while before then.  But it was fun and ace and cool and “the memoryyyyy remaaaaaaaaiiins”.

Anyway, in a Minimal Viable Celebration, they’ve started emailing NTK again – the old NTK, just exactly 15 years on.  This is the new old Anno NTK posing such questions as will Apache 1.2 catch on? What about the new Internet Explorer 4.0? Does the new Radiohead album “Kid A” refers to the James Bulger defendants?

A trip back in time when people were trying to figure out what this here Internet thingy was actually for.  Read more from one of the original writers here or subscribe via the old fashioned “email” here. And in just under a years time, the first mention of a thing…  and can anyone remember what happened to it… called “Google”.

Gawd save The Queen

Well, the weekend of the Queens Diamond Jubilee is over.  There have been tours, flotillas, concerts, dinners, street parties and much hip-hip hooraying.

Now, the idea that you have an unelected monarchy in charge of a First World country in the 21st Century is pretty archaic.  A lot, the vast majority in fact, of my various social networking feeds have been filled with Republican sentiment, grumbling and moaning about the cost, and so on.  To be honest, I got a bit tired of it.  Suffice to say, if there was a choice of starting over without a King or Queen, then that is the choice I would go for.  But that is an ideal world case, and this is not an ideal world.  So as far as I am concerned, if we have to have a Royal Family, then I think we’ve got one of the best there is.

Lets put a few myths to bed.  A lot of the Republican stuff is largely theoretical.  We are citizens and not subjects, and have been since 1981.  The Queen is a titular Head of State but is told what to do by Parliament.  She has the theoretical right not to sign any Bill into law, but if she did so, she and the rest of the Royal Family would be out on their gilded ears. She is a billionaireness, with a property, art and jewel portfolio that she can’t sell.  She has a life of wealth and privilege that she was born into but can never give up.  She has to share dinner tables and pleasant small talk with dictators because the Parliament of the day, whatever the hue, is either trying to sell them something or get something from them on the cheap.  And woe betide her if she says something politically incorrect like “Can you stop torturing your own people, please.”

Hell, even the celebration of her Diamond Jubilee is effectively saying “well done, 60 years since your dad died.  60 years since you were prevented from saying what you want and doing what you want.  Oh and 60 years of everyone watching you like a hawk.”  She had to turn up to watch Sir Elton John despite her 90 year old husband being in hospitalised.  Most of us would have sacked that one off, to be honest.

It is not as if the directly elected alternatives are much cop.  The Queen never got us to join in illegal wars, attacked our civil liberties with a hacksaw or corruptly tried to sell off our media to Australians.  When she stays over at a friends, she doesn’t claim it on expenses.  (Friends don’t charge friends for overnight stays, but MPs and Party Chairmen do.)

The financial argument is a tricky one, with both sides brandishing costs and facts.  My own opinion is that it is a draw – expenditure on the Civil List is balanced by income from tourism and Britains increased stature in the world.  I’ve travelled a fair bit and the one thing that foreign people think of when you ask them about Britain is the Queen and the Royals.  And they like them.  A lot.  Sure, we had Empire but right now, the most popular British person in the entire world is an 86 year old lady who smiles and waves a lot.  Not far behind are her eldest grandson and his perky wife.  Even Harry is quite likeable, if only for seeming to have inherited Philips most endearing characteristic – the vague feeling that at any moment he is going to do something jaw-droppingly inappropriate.

It isn’t a perfect setup – the various Knights of the Royal Garter this and Pageant Master that look very silly and outdated.  But then, so does Director of Strategic Acquisitions or Vice President (Photocopiers) EMEA or some other management speak.  Tradition is a supertanker of a thing, it doesn’t get turned around quickly and the alternatives aren’t much better.

I quite like the fact that we had a bunch of canal boats, Robbie Williams and Shirley Bassey.  We celebrated with paper plates and cups of tea and beer.  The weather on Sunday was horrible, dank, drizzly, grey – the British Bank Holiday at its most typical.

Because other countries celebrate with military displays.  Planes, several thousand troops marching by a balcony in front of tanks and missiles, large scale organised displays of love for a Glorious Leader who has his photograph 35 foot high on billboards.  We had some bunting and a commemorative mug or two and too many gone middle aged women who had had too much booze.

It wasn’t all perfect – the obsequiousness of the BBC was absolutely vomit inducing. (And the coverage was, by BBC standards, quite amateurish, including Huw Edwards talking and the end credits displaying over the final fireworks.) The concert was about as middle class and middle of the road you could get.  But Madness on the top of Buckingham Palace was great, Annie Lennox is still magnificent and doesn’t look a day older than her 80s/90s heyday and whatever it cost, the sight of a 64 year old Grace Jones singing Slave To The Rhythm while hula-hooping was worth the cost alone.

I just think that the Monarchy is a very British compromise.  I quite like that, really.  It doesn’t matter, it gives us something to grumble about or laugh at, and every so often we do something where we go “well, that was alright I suppose”.  We’ve got something that the rest of the world love, and what a number of them wish they had.  It is a popular national pastime to do ourselves down – not in a “aw, shucks” kind of immodest modesty, but to really put ourselves down and we shouldn’t.  We have a metric ton of stuff to moan about, so why not actually enjoy something good for a change.  The eyes of the world were on us and we did a pretty good job.

And in this spirit, it might be a link to the Mail Online, but if you can’t be proud of the Red Arrows and Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, then what can you be proud of?