Saturday, September 03, 2005

Good news from New Orleans - even if I didn't realise he was in danger and thought he'd died years ago...

Hmmm... Weblog Awards, you say?

The same one this blog came third in its category in last year, you say?

Nominations open, you say?

Click on the thingie below to nominate this blog, you say?

The BOBs - BEST OF THE BLOGS - Deutsche Welle International Weblog Awards 2005

Hint hint...

Friday, September 02, 2005

Attention European Parliament publicity department:

Send me some of the silly-sounding promotional t-shirts you're giving out prior to the launch of the new "citizen-friendly" EP website and I'll give you some free publicity. Can't say fairer than that, surely?

Europhobia's St John Ambulance thank-you piss-up - success!

Well that went pretty well.

It all started thanks to the insane number of visitors my liveblogging of the 7th July bombs managed to attract. The following evening I received an email from someone (who wishes to remain anonymous) who'd read the coverage and had been really impressed with the calm way that London (initially, at least) reacted to explosions in our midst.

Rather than make regular charity donations, they were wondering how they could buy someone in London a pint - pretty tricky from the other side of the Atlantic. They bunked me £50 via PayPal to distribute as I saw fit. Despite me being some anonymous guy on the internet about whom they knew basically nothing. Within a few days, other readers had chipped in to the tune of a good couple of hundred, and it continued to grow.

I started to get worried, and asked for advice on how to proceed. At this point a volunteer from the St John Ambulance Brigade left a comment pointing out that they had attended all the bomb sites (met the chap last night - good bloke).

Now most people, when they think of St John Ambulances, think of the people at the village fete or at football matches, waiting around in case a small child grazes their knee or gets an asthma attack. I don't think that any major news organisation mentioned the fact that, on 7th July, they acted not only as vital back-up to the regular emergency services (attending non-terrorism related emergencies, manning the phones, helping co-ordinate the response etc.), but also attended the various scenes of the blasts.

One chap I met last night, who was also interviewed on BBC London News with me, was one of the first medics on the scene after the Tavistock Square bus bomb, tending the injured for several hours. Other St John volunteers walked into London through the chaos to help out, and stayed on duty not only throughout the day, but for several days on end - right through the following weekend and beyond.

You will doubtless find it hard to believe, but few organisations take emails from someone calling themself "Nosemonkey" very seriously. Jenny from the St John press office, bless her, did. Over the last few weeks, with various emails back and forth, we managed to set a date, and she was able to contact the volunteers. Last night a bunch of them turned out to a pub near Edgeware Road tube (where a few of them had helped treat the injured on the 7th), and we had a good old-fashioned piss-up courtesy of Europhobia's generous readers. (At this point I will admit that I did have a couple of pints on the fund - but only a couple, and at their insistence - I bought the rest myself.)

These people did a fantastic job, most for no money as the vast majority are volunteers. Some of them encountered things that no one should have to, many have been left traumatised by their experiences. This thank-you piss-up was, apparently, the first time that any of them can remember the public showing their thanks in such a way. One St John worker couldn't think of anything similar happening in the twenty-seven years she's been in the job.

This was genuinely appreciated. To all those who donated - you've done this here interweb proud.

As an added bonus, BBC London News were in attendance (camera crew and the works), giving some much-needed publicity to the fact that these guys were doing a gruelling job for no money and - pretty much until now - no recognition. You can watch them interview me and the St John hero of the day for the next week via this handy video feed (it's about 17 minutes or so in from Thursday's early evening news). There was also a reporter from the Times who will hopefully be able to get a write-up in Saturday's edition, and Rafael of Observer blog fame was also in attendance (not to mention my Sharpener colleague Katie bringing a donation). A long-time reader of Europhobia even turned up briefly to whack an extra £20 over the bar.

In short, damn good stuff.

(And from henceforward I shall be known as "Internet Website Master Nosemonkey, as seen on TV". Or not.)

Blogs can do some good, even if most people on this side of the pond still don't know what they are. And as there is currently a massive, co-ordinated blog appeal for help in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, there's another chance to prove it.

Again, thank you people who donated - from the St John volunteers as well as from me.

Update: Rafael's Observer blog write-up - ta boss!

Update 2: Bird-based blog business by Bartleby - "slim" I like, but a "man bag"? It's a briefcase with a shoulder strap. Honest.

Update 3: St John say thanks for the thanks - thanks! (And please, no thanks for the thanks for the thanks for the thanks - that'd just be silly. Thanks.)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

I didn't poo my pants

The evening went well. The donations for the beer fund were very much appreciated. I was apparently on TV. Thanks to all. More tomorrow.

Updated: Courtesy of the missus (like who found it and stuff) here it is - Nosemonkey on TV. No idea how long it'll be up there, mind - try it sooner rather than later if you really want. Meant to be there a week, but who knows... The segment's about a third to a half of the way through the broadcast. Just after Helena Christensen...

I sound like an overly posh twat... Fucking Prince William of the blogosphere, me...

Oh, and the other guy they're interviewing was one of the first people on the scene after the Tavistock Square bus bomb. Deserves a lot of credit, that guy.

Oh, and since when was I an "internet enthusiast" with an "online diary"?


An EU "loyalty oath"? If that idea doesn't get the eurosceptics all heated up I don't know what will... It'll be interesting to see the response to proposals by the EU’s justice and security Commissioner Franco Frattini to "get every immigrant to somehow declare they will respect national law, EU law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights". Considering that there are MEPs who wouldn't take an oath to respect EU Law and that the Blair government is already in breach of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (and threatening to pull out altogether), is it really right to expect anyone else to?

Tonight's London bombs piss-up

If anyone else from the media and stuff - or anyone who contributed to the fund, wants to contribute in person, or who had a near-miss on the day - is interested in attending this thank-you booze-up for paramedic volunteers, drop me an email at nosemonkey [at symbol thing] gmail [full-stop] com. Write-up tomorrow, plus details of any television / newspaper coverage as and when I know - my brief bit of fame of a live TV interview tonight is beginning to look less certain, however (can't decide whether it's a relief or a disappointment...)

Update: Well, looks like Auntie's going ahead after all. As such, expect to see a particularly nervous-looking Nosemonkey being interviewed live on BBC London News tonight at some point after 6:30.

Bricking it...

Update 2: I'm now closing the appeal - thanks again to all who donated. If anyone's still feeling charitable, Instapundit has a long list of blogger reccomendations for hurricane relief charities after the unpleasantness in New Orleans.

Uzbekistan blog day

My contribution ended up getting rather lengthy, so I've whacked it up at The Sharpener: Uzbekistan blog day: A Central Asian primer and call for action - go read and stuff. Other posts are being compiled by the Disillusioned Kid here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

German elections:MatGB points me in the direction of this openDemocracy blog dedicated to the German elections - good stuff, expecially today's comprehensive overview post.

PM urges European modernisation after 'bra war' - yep, Tony's back and jumping on yet another European bandwaggon. Call me a decadent westerner snob by all means, but his calls for "Europe as a whole to modernise to meet the challenge from China and India" confused me a tad. After all, the problem over Chinese underwear imports is surely more to do with the less than modern working practices in the People's Republic whereby sweatshop workers can be paid an absolute pittance, keeping overheads down and end products cheap? Is the Dear Leader about to repeal the minimum wage to make the UK textile industry more competitive in the world market? Is that really what's known as modernisation these days? I dunno - perhaps I shouldn't have read this piece on free trade earlier...

As I've done one Iraq post, may as well do another: Reuters cameraman ordered held in Abu Ghraib -
"A cameraman for Reuters in Iraq has been ordered by a secret tribunal to be held without charge in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison until his case is reviewed within six months, a U.S. military spokesman said on Wednesday... The U.S. military has refused Reuters requests to disclose why he is being held. He has not been charged... he [will] not be allowed to see an attorney, his family or anyone else for the first 60 days of his detention, which began in Abu Ghraib last week."
Anyone want to take a guess at the ethnicity of this cameraman?


This is what is known in the trade as fucking awful. More than 640 dead, 230 injured in Baghdad thanks to mere RUMOURS of possible suicide bombers, following mortar attacks on a crowd of religious pilgrims.

It should by now be obvious that the people launching these attacks have no more claim to be a muslim than I do. Sooner or later it should also become obvious that if you are living in a state of fear and panic, this sort of tragedy becomes, even if not on this horrific scale, inevitable. Lessons to be learned for Sir Ian "terrorists are everywhere and we can't stop them" Blair, perhaps?

Still, political points should not be made over the bodies of the dead. But I hold out little hope of any western nations offering anything like the kind or quantity of messages of support and condolence to Iraq over this that London received in the wake of our bombings. Hey, it may be twelve times the death toll (as it stands), but they aren't westerners, so what does it matter, eh?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Europhobia's emergency service workers piss-up update

I've finally sorted it all out once and for all. The money is ready and waiting behind the bar and the piss-up will commence at some point after work on Thursday.

It's still not too late if you want to donate - anything received via the PayPal link to the left before 4pm (British Summer Time) on Thursday 1st September will be added to the money already given on the night. Every penny shall go on giving the volunteers of the St John Ambulance Service who helped out in London on July 7th as good a time as possible by way of thanks for their vital work.

Thanks to all those who donated - expect a full write-up here (and possibly some other places) on Friday.

Robert Kilroy-Silk: workshy layabout

Heh - I'd missed this while away, but going back through those anti-Kilroy posts got me hunting around for news of the silver-haired idiot, who appears to have been keeping an uncharacteristically low profile of late.

So anyway, a bunch of his MEP colleagues are complaining about the guy, and it's likely to kick off again this week now that the European Parliament's back up and running.

The East Midlands MEPs who have written to complain about Kilroy's lack of attendance to his duties include two Tories and a Labourite, as well as someone from UKIP, and based on the little it's possible to find out about what Kilroy (or any MEP for that matter, now that seems to be down) gets up to in Brussels they appear to have a point. According to the MEPs in question, Kilroy last signed the plenary session attendance register on April 12.

Of course, you could argue that as Kilroy doesn't believe that the EU should exist, let alone the European Parliament, he's actually sticking to his principles by attending as little as he legally can, and that those who voted for him would have wanted him to do nothing less (or is that more?). Additionally, by not signing on as often as he could do, he's actually scabbing less money off the European taxpayer than many of his eurosceptic former chums.

But still - what are the ethics of electing a representative who doesn't believe in the institution which he/she is meant to be a representative at? Are there comparisons to be made between Kilroy and Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams? Probably, but that would be affording far more serious consideration to the man than he deserves. There's no principle involved here, because Kilroy's promise on his election was to "wreck" the EU. He can hardly do that while swanning around forming pointless new political parties and then quitting them as soon as it becomes clear that they are singular failures. Much as, based on the recent lack of coverage this publicity-hungry maniac has been getting, he now appears to be. Hurrah!

German elections: Anthony Wells, it would appear, is my bitch. Hurrah! Check out his newly updated German election polls info, and his sage advice and analysis:
"The figures to watch on the German polls aren't the gap between the CDU/CSU and the SDP, but the sum of the CDU/CSU and FDP figures - or more specifically, if they are over 50%.

"A couple of months ago they were well above 50%. August has been a bit dicey, with the combined figure often falling to 49%. Once parties that fall below the 5% threshold are excluded, 49% would probably be enough to scrape a meagre majority for the CDU/CSU+FDP, but it's too close for any real comfort. The most recent two polls however have shown the CDU/CSU+FDP back over the 50% mark.

"On the left, while the SDP have gained some support - recent polls have them at 30% when a month or so ago they were marooned around the 26-27% mark - this is mostly at the expense of the new Left party, who seem to have peaked at the end of last month when they were regularly hitting 12%. Now they are are 10% or lower."
Top work, Mr Wells!

German elections: Despite weekend polls giving the CDU/CSU opposition a 13% lead, another recent poll reckons that Gerhard Schröder remains Germany's preferred Chancellor. Will Merkel's latest announcement tip the balance, or has it already been tipped? Confusing, this polling business - we need a German Anthony Wells...

It may still be more than a month before our Westminster overlords deign to return from their extensive summer hols, but in Brussels it'll soon be back to business as usual. Deutsche Welle has a handy overview of some of the upcoming issues, from terrorism to the constitution, airline bans to Turkish membership, the Iranian nuclear programme to bras and panties. We can also expect a bit of fuss over the next day or so thanks to today's Commission report to the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee about serious member state infringements of the Common Fisheries Policy, (perhaps justifiably) one of the many ongoing obsessions of the eurosceptic crowd.

God proves once again that he can match the terrorists any time. At least 50 dead in Mississippi thanks to Hurricane Katrina - sounds like an absolute nightmare, and a death toll similar to the 7th July bombs already.

You have to wonder why exactly these nutter terrorists feel they need to do anything at all when they've got an omnipresent, omnipotent deity with the ability to control the weather (and/or destroy the entire universe any time he feels like it) on their side. If I was in their shoes I'd sit back and let the big guy handle it - after all, why send in the infantry when you've got a tank?

Monday, August 29, 2005

A year of geekery

On 29th August 2004 I relaunched this site, and have somehow managed to keep it updated fairly regularly ever since. So, time for a bit of back-slapping, some highlights and stuff, methinks:

When I started regular updates a year ago, the site was getting about 10-20 unique visitors a day. Thanks to a few plugs from Tim at Bloggerheads (a b3ta buddy), like the launch plug he did on August 31st (ta, boss!), it was up to about 30-50 a day by the time I installed a decent visitor counter in mid September, and first broke the 100 visitors in a day mark on September 23rd. By the start of November it had made it through to the final round in the Deutsche Welle International Weblog Awards 2004, which was nice (if, frankly, a tad silly considering how long it had been going at that stage).

Over the year, Europhobia has received in the region of 145,000 unique visitors and 250,000 page loads - the most in one day being thanks to the liveblog of the 7th July 2005 terrorist attacks, which was linked to by pretty much everyone. On July 7th alone, there were 28,500 unique visitors, around 28 times the site's previous high.

But statistics are boring. Have some highlights instead:

The blog first really came to prominence with the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. I started posting about it here (check the Ukraine section in the right hand column for more), knowing tit all about Ukraine or what was going on, posting on little more than a vague feeling that something major was going to kick off. Four days later the mainstream media twigged it as well. In the meantime I'd got my first Instapundit spike, had my first liveblogging experience, and seen for myself how blogs can both raise awareness and create links around the world as I helped relay info direct from contacts who had suddenly materialised in Kiev. A very odd experience, but well worthwhile - I think that's probably when the bug really got me for the first time.

Then there's the less serious side of blogging, nicely evidenced by the first Robert Kilroy-Silk: Twat post, with more Kilroy hatred here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here , here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here (not to mention the piss-take, sort of satirical Stop Veritas blog I set up before this year's elections, which ended up even more insane than I originally intended it to be thanks to a bunch of maniacs in the comments - top stuff...)

Other than that, a few posts I've been chuffed with are in the "Best of" section to the right - the booze and insomnia-addled General Election Liveblog being one of my favourites after the silliness of the campaign (which I also helped cover on the General Election 05 blog, for those who don't know), while this post on why blogging is shit still keeps getting quoted around the place - and may be worth reading if you're thinking of taking up this particularly addictive hobby.

Anyway, this is getting tedious. It's now on to Europhobia Year 2 (even if I did technically start this thing in March 2003) - and hopefully soon some cunt newspaper will offer me insane amounts of cash to come and work for them. (Hint sodding hint, all you journo types who read this...) Despite a few intriguing offers (to take part in a panel discussion on CNN, be interviewed by the BBC, write an article for the Guardian etc.) as of yet I have not managed to capitalise on this bloody thing at all. It annoys me, damn it. Pay me cash, you bastards - or at least give me some freelance work (with realistic deadlines this time, ta very much...)

Oh well, there's always this coming Thursday's thank-you piss-up for ambulance workers thanks to donations I've managed to collect through the blog since 7th July. So I guess I've achieved something, at least, even if it is getting a few people drunk for free. Hopefully there's also been a bit of entertainment along the way - and I know I've learned a shit-load more about all kinds of stuff than I would have done without this thing.

It may be intensely frustrating sometimes, it may be far more time-consuming than you ever plan, it may end up taking over your life if you're not careful, but it's worthwhile, this blogging lark, even if you don't get any dough out of it. Give it a pop, let me know and I'll try and give you a plug.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Britblog Roundup 28 - 28 already? Time flies and stuff...

Germany - T minus 21 and counting

It's really about time we started paying more attention to what's going on in Germany. On Thursday Germany's Federal Constitutional Court gave the final go-ahead for the elections on September 18th following a legal challenge to Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's call for a snap election back in July. It's all go.

Naturally enough, the main thrust of the German election campaign is going to be domestic. Despite recent rumours of a planned terrorist attack in Hamburg, security fears in the run-up to next year's Germany-based football World Cup, and on-going attempts to gain a seat on the UN's security council, the main concern for Germany remains the five million unemployed and the perennial problem of how to kick-start the east German economy, still largely stagnant more than a decade after reunification.

For most outside observers, there is little to really excite or interest in German economic arguments (I expect a rebuke from Tim Worstall any moment now...) as, although a few of the proposals could tangentially impact on EU-wide policy, most of it is the usual bickering about localised tactics and requires a far greater level of in-depth knowledge of Germany than most outsiders would wish to posess.

Nonetheless, behind the scenes and between the lines, a few hints about foreign policy can be gleaned - and what has come out so far seems to suggest that, should Schröder be booted out, there could be a radical shift in Germany's relations with the world.

Don't think it matters? Well, remember that Iraq war business? France and Germany closely locked together in opposition, creating all kinds of trouble for Bush and Blair? Remember all those little spats in the EU of the last few years with France throwing a hissy fit, but getting away with it because Germany backed her up? In recent years a lot of that has been down to the close alliance of Schröder/Chirac. In terms of most foreign policy they've been pretty much joined at the hip.

If Schröder goes, the whole dynamic of the EU's big three will - instantly - massively have altered, creating the potential for the deliberate isolation of France and a genuine drive for the kind of radical reform for which the European Union has a sore need. If Tony Blair can cozy up to a new German leadership, replacing Chirac as Berlin's bumchum, then the grandly empty rhetoric about EU reform he started spouting when the UK took over the EU presidency might actually end up with some possibility of becoming less a load of meaningless, unrealistic drivel.

A new German leadership and attitude to the outside world could also isolate Jaques Chirac still further both in Europe and at home, making his already near-certain political demise that much more guaranteed. At the same time, this would demonstrate to his successor in the French presidency (likely in 2007) that the EU game has finally begun to shift away from France's favour - half a century after the Treaty of Rome gave Paris a wonderfully privileged position, there might finally be a chance to introduce a bit more equality to the EU.

Think this is all wishful thinking? Quite possibly. But Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union alliance, who have the best chance of unseating Schröder's Social Democrats, have already clearly stated their aims to improve relations with the United States and to expand Germany's intra-EU dialogue to include rather more countries than merely France. It looks promising, at least.

In terms of specific external relations, Merkel has hinted that she favours broad reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, placing her closer to the likes of Britain and the new eastern European EU states - in particular Poland, the accession state by far the most likely to radically alter intra-EU relations in the long run thanks to its size, population and economic potential.

Merkel's lot also have plans to drastically cut the number of immigrants Germany accepts, increase (highly controversially, given the country's past) the role of the German military in counter-terrorism operations, and introduce a wider range of centralised digital resources which could well lead to German support for an EU-wide biometric ID system along the lines of that being proposed by Tony Blair and co.

So, rather than an anti-war, pro-France Chancellor whose main response to the (frankly fairly insignificant) terrorist threat to Germany has been to propose introducing classes on Islam in schools to cut down on demonisation and misunderstanding, we could end up with a more hawkish, internationalist one with aspirations to cozy up to Bush. Bearing in mind that Germany - despite the unemployment issues - still has the 5th largest GDP in the world, this could mark a major change on the world scene, the potential significance of such a shift should not be underestimated.

Still, having said that, Merkel's apparent early lead has been drastically cut, and the elections now seem too close to call. (She's even cynically started jumping on the anti-Turkish EU membership bandwaggon in an apparent attempt to immitate the Tories' recent appeals to latent racism dressed up as economic concern.) We could yet be stuck with Schröder for a while, and see a continuation of the Franco-German stalling of much-needed EU reform. But while another term for Schröder is a nightmare from a pro-EU perspective, having the more authoritarian, right-wing and pro-America Merkel in charge could be equally nightmarish for the anti-war/pro-civil liberties crowds. Not only too close to call, but also too tricky to work out who'd be best for both Britain and the world.

So, worth keeping an eye on. Good places to start include Der Spiegel's election site, Deutsche Welle's election site, Sign and Sight's election special, Wikipedia (as always) and the blogs Bildt Comments and Ostracised from Österreich. If anyone knows of any other good, regularly-updated English language blogs with good coverage of German politics , I'd be grateful for a heads-up - most of the ones I used to check seem to have died...

Update: Over the weekend new polls in Germany seem to suggest that, after Merkel's early lead and Schröder's recent resurgence, Merkel is comfortably back in front by a margin of around 13% - the CDU/CSU on 43%, the SPD on just 30%. Can these figures be trusted? There's still three weeks to go - anything could happen...

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