advertisement, oddly enough

No ‘tyrants’ anymore.

According to the Guardian, a British recruitment firm got into a bit of trouble with the UK’s advertising watchdog because one of its radio ads features an apparently German boss whose spoken German is well, slightly, reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin’s impersonation of Tomenia’s Great Dictator. The ad didn’t go down too well with the Advertising Standards Authority, which eventually pulled it because the humour was “derived from a stereotype at the expense of German people.”

Check out the Guardian’s Mark Sweney’s report on the matter ad listen to the ad yourself – Radio ad banned for implying Germans are ‘tyrants’.

Not that I disagree with the authorities assessment of the use of such a badly sketched stereotype in the ad in theory – but given the cultural importance of Hitler impersonations for the English identity, and assuming  that, by now, most Brits will likely be aware that Hitler is not really the current Chancellor of Germany, I can’t help but wonder to which extent those who came up with the spot, and those who are listening to it, are actually connecting real Germans to such a bad rendition of Chaplin. I doubt that a lot of them were actually thinking, as the authority suggests, “… that German people were more likely to be unreasonable or aggressive to others…” They aren’t – except when it comes to penalties, of course.

But be that as it may, this incident is, of course, really as good a reason as any to link to this compilation of the best moments from Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator”  – enjoy.

Allgemein, oddly enough, sex

More on British sex (or the lack thereof)

Today, Reuters offers a possible, yet likely unrelated, explanation for the NHS’s attempts to help her majesty’s citizens to ‘sexercise’ sufficiently. According to the news agency

“half of UK men would swap sex for 50 inch TV.”

According to a survey of 2000 Britons, conducted by the British Electrical retailer Comet, asking what they would give up for a large television, it was allegedly found that 47 percent of men, yet only about a third of women would give up sex for half a year.

Questions of scientific and statistical validity notwithstanding, published just before Valentine’s day, even as a joke, that’s not exactly a compliment for British women…

health, oddly enough

Her Majesty’s Government recommends “sexercise”

According to this article on BBC online, the British National Health Service, NHS, is trying a new way to make people enjoy preventing illnesses rather than having to pay to cure them later. Its NHS direct website apparently briefly offered a document explaining how having regular sex is scientifically considered to be

“a workout worthy of an athlete.”

At least when it’s done with

“a little energy and imagination,”

apparently, a formulation which, alas, leaves one age-old question unanswered – is bad sex better than no sex at all?

On the other hand, if the BBC is quoting the document correctly, maybe the concept of “bad sex” is a little off.

“Forget about jogging round the block or struggling with sit-ups. Sex uses every muscle group, gets the heart and lungs working hard, and burns about 300 calories an hour.” The advice suggests “regular romps this winter” could lead to a better body and a younger look.” [And adds that i]ncreased production of endorphins “will make your hair shine and your skin smooth.” “If you’re worried about wrinkles – orgasms even help prevent frown lines from deepening.”

I suppose at least for one half of humanity, this part of the story may be the best news- headaches and sex actually seem to go together rather well…

“The article goes on to say that orgasms release “painkillers” into the bloodstream, which helping keep mild illnesses like colds and aches and pains at bay.

It’s too bad that the NHS direct apparently had to take the document off their website following the BBC report. Given all those benefits and the NHS’ continuous problems to ration health services justly, the agency should not worry too much about publishing advice contra Victorian mores, but rather start investing in explicit online dating sites or offer discounts for courses on tantric exploration. But for all its benefits, I still somehow doubt they will take this advice…


A slightly late political obituary…

Or possibly a particularly early one. Two weeks after Tony Blair’s demission as Prime Minister, and four years after he opted for political suicide. This is what I wrote on March 18, 2003 , on the day before the Commons vote on a British participation in “operation Iraqi Freedom”.

I doubt Blair will lose his case tomorrow, but chances are, a majority will clearly depend on Conservative votes. I guess no explanation is needed as to why it is a huge problem for a PM to be backed by the opposition instead of his own Parliamentary party.

But even in case the rebellion will be less pronounced than commentators expect, and even if the war will take a favourable course – I doubt Blair’s decision to invest almost all his political capital into supporting the US government’s case for regime change will ever pay off. Even without a possible future leadership challenge, Blair will never again be the political star he used to be. Governing will be a lot harder for him in the future than it has been before.

Isn’t it great that blogs have archives?


Moss, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Could somebody please explain to me what all the ‘Kate Moss has been taking Cocaine’ fuss is about? A (super)model – actually the one most famous for her heroin-addict-look – has been taking drugs (again). Oh the humanity! Has something comparable ever happened before? I’m shocked to the core! I wonder how people manage to sleep with this kind of knowledge.

Alright. Too bad a guy took a picture and sold it. But seriously – the world is full of issues that are actullly important, and, moreover, interesting. Read (and write) about those.

Thank you, good night, and have a good week.



I truly admire the ability of the journalists working for tabloids to break down complicated and confusing world events so everybody can understand what is really going on. While it’s not quite clear who the apparently confused Bild editor is referring to when claiming that “We are pope”, and while the Daily Mirror is struggling to find suitable canine metaphors that link “conservative”, “strong”, and “German” – ending up with “God’s Rottweiler” -, the Sun once more excels with a most admirable combination of knowledge and courage.

One clearly needs some guts (and a one-track mind) to use a nazi allusion in a headline describing the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI, the German Cardinal Ratzinger. Of course, after characterizing him as “ex-World War II enemy soldier” the newspaper suddenly felt the need to state at the end of the brief article that

“[h]e was 14 when forced to join the Hitler Youth. He later manned a German anti-aircraft battery – before deserting.”

The Sun editors probably don’t even believe themselves that anyone will keep reading long enough to get to that clarification.

That’s probably also the reason why they decided to use red smoke to indicate their endorsement for a third term of a Blair government. While I don’t think they wanted to imply that all Labour recently produced was red smoke , given the current state of Mr Blair’s government’s popularity, The Sun’s endorsement once more confirms that the Tories are doing everything they can to help Britain advance on its way to a one party state.

quicklink, US Politics

Poor Tony.

Today’s NY Times editorial looks at Tony Blair’s credibility crisis and decides that opposing Washington on a number of important issues would be helpful for him right now. I disagree.

Opposing will not be enough. He will need substancial evidence that supporting the US administration against one’s own voters’ opinion does pay off eventually. If the American administration does not want to find itself completely unilateralized the next time it needs a hand from Whitehall, Bush needs to give Blair something that is costly and thus credible. I’m thinking Kyoto, or stepped up pressure on Israel. Whatever has lower opportunity costs for Bush.

almost a diary, Iraq, media

Quality Journalism?

At least for the mo­ment, I am not real­ly com­men­ting the quar­rel bet­ween the Labour go­vern­ment and the BBC that very like­ly led to the tra­gic sui­cide of Dr. Da­vid Kel­ly, who was the ori­gi­nal sour­ce be­hind the BBC Radio 4’s de­fen­ce cor­res­pon­dent An­drew Gil­li­gan’s claim that the British go­vern­ment, most pro­mi­nent­ly Alas­tair Camp­bell, Tony Blair’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions ad­vi­sor, ‘sexed up’ the Bri­tish Iraq dos­sier to make a more con­vin­cing case for war.

But wha­tever you think of the go­vern­ment’s, or the BBC’s, or Dr. Kelly’s, or any indi­vidual jour­na­list’s res­ponsi­bili­ty for the tra­gedy, some peop­le in go­vern­ment ob­vious­ly for­got some ba­sic rules of po­li­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tion. When some­one says “liar”, you don’t fuel that dis­cus­sion by sul­king­ly re­ply­ing “no, you are” when the only result will be that bad situ­ation be­comes an even wor­se one.

I just don’t un­der­stand why Mr Camp­bell felt the need to re­live Shell’s 1995 Brent Spar com­mu­ni­ca­tions disaster when there was no need what­so­ever?

Whatever the truth to his or An­drew Gil­ligan’s po­si­tion, tal­king about it cer­tain­ly made things worse at a time when the pub­lic dis­cour­se was “shame on you if you fool me once, shame on me if you fool me twice”. What­ever the truth to either side’s alligations, with­out fi­nal­ly fin­ding some buckets of poi­son some­where in the Iraqi de­sert, the only way for the British go­vern­ment to deal with the si­tu­ation would have been to shut up, not to hunt down an al­le­ged trai­tor or char­ging the BBC with jour­na­lis­tic mis­con­duct to ma­ke every­one be­lieve that there must be really some­thing to the story.

That’s all I’m going to say.

My for­mer em­plo­yer Ben Brad­shaw on the other hand, for­mer BBC jour­nalist and now Par­lia­men­tary Se­cre­tary in the Bri­tish Depart­ment for Envi­ron­ment, Food and Ru­ral Affairs, is very invol­ved in this row.

And, again, what­ever your opinion of all this: his re­cent de­plo­ring the lack of qua­lity jour­na­lism and sour­ce veri­fi­ca­tion seems to have some point when even “The Guar­dian“, even in a time­line of the affair publi­shed on July 19th, makes him a “For­eign Of­fice Mini­ster”, a po­si­tion he left in June 2002 when he was appoin­ted “De­puty Lea­der of the Hou­se of Com­mons”.


A New Atlantic Charter?

Tony Blair just addressed a joint session of the US congress and I suppose he will have convinced many in Congress that the right way for America is to fill out an application to the Commonwealth right now – or at least to again change the US constitution to allow Blair to run for President should NewLabour ever want to dispose of him.

While I won’t analyse the speech in detail until/unless I’ve seen a transcript, it was clearly Tony Blair at his best. A powerful speech that – while obviously not going into detail – addressed even problematic issues like the middle east conflict, one of the issues where the former mandate power UK usually is much more critical of Israel than the US.

Blair has not given up seeing Britain’s role at the centre of a Europe of nation states (he even mentioned the superstate to please the UK’s conservative papers) as mentor and mediator between the continents. At some points he tried to uplift the “special relationship” to one between Europe, not just Britain, and the US.

Obviously, his speech was intented to distract from the political mess at home following the military victory abroad – for both him and George W. Bush, and to extend his clout in Washington. But it also became a leadership matters speech invoking history and not intelligence agencies. There was a lot of multilateralism in his speech, including the advice to the American administration to “lead through persuasion, not command.”

Now it’s up to us, to the beholders, to decide wether Blair was building the base for a new Atlantic Charter, or whether he just gave the “we lied to you because we had to in order to do what we wanted to do”-speech.