Reversal of fortune

Sunday saw an historic event in Germany.
After failing thrice before, football club FSV Mainz 05 achieved promotion to the 1. Bundeliga for the first time ever. Tobias is doubtless rapt with joy even now.

To honour the stalwart lads from Rheinland-Pfalz I have composed a wee verse:

Climb whither thou couldst not before, now
Freed at last of gravity’s restraints,
To the Empyrean on eagle’s wings,
O thou heroic FSV Mainz!

I’m no Alfred L. Tennyson, but I think that’s pretty good, if I say so myself. If you think the rhyme doesn’t quite work, well, you’re wrong (and Tobias can tell you why). There’s terror and pity in there, too, if you know where to look for it. The eagle, you see, is the symbol of Eintracht Frankfurt, who were relegated to the 2. Bundesliga the day before, effectively swapping places with Mainz. One year ago, it was Frankfurt that achieved promotion to the top flight, pipping FSV at the post at (literally) the last minute. Now, as Mainz erupts in celebration, the Eintracht walks the walk of shame (though never, one is confident, alone). To continue in our artsy-fartsy poetical mode, let us imagine a discarded scarf lying in a gutter, emblazoned ‘Eintracht Frankfurt 2002/2003: Look on our works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

In other news, Germany elected a president or something yesterday.

Europe in 2012?

With the Eurovision Song Contest now completed for another year, it’s time for another international contest of intrigue, bargaining and frankly bizarre voting. In other words, the IOC today announced the shortlist of cities to host the 2012 Olympic Games.

Four European cities have made the shortlist: Paris, Madrid, London and Moscow, with New York the only non-European city remaining in the race. Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul, Leipzig and Havana were all excluded from the shortlist.

The GamesBids website has good coverage of the procedure to select the host city, with ongoing assesments and ratings of the candidate cities. As their ratings of the cities show, Rio’s exclusion from the shortlist was quite a shock, as it had been seen as a very strong bid, especially as the Games haven’t been held in Latin America before.

Paris appears to be the favourite at this stage, though Madrid does appear to be gaining strength (the IOC ranked it second of the five shortlisted bids) as time goes by but may be hampered by the fact that the 1992 Olympics were also in Spain. However, Olympic voting is one of the hardest things in the world to predict, and it’d take a braver person than me to predict which city will be chosen when the IOC meets in Singapore next year.

Next year in… Kiev

Well, the 2004 Eurovision Song Contest has ended with yet another country scoring a first ever victoryUkraine. What seemed like several hours of voting ended with a rather comfortable victory for Ruslana’s Wild Dances in the end or, in simpler terms, the ex-Soviet block voting proved stronger than the Balkan block voting. The question of what may or may not have been the best song is pretty much irrelevant at this point, and I can’t enlighten you at all as to which may or may not have been the best as I didn’t see any of them! Please feel free to argue in the comments as to which song may actually haver been the best…

Update: The full scoreboard can be found on the official site – it’s a javascript pop up from the front page (‘final results’). Ukraine had 280 points, Serbia & Montenegro 263, Greece 252. Seven-time winners Ireland came next-to-last, only receiving 7 points – all from the UK – with Norway last receiving only 3 points, all from Sweden.

Be Careful When You Choose Your Password

I have no comment on this extremely preoccupying situation except to advise that you choose your passwords very carefully indeed:

CBS reported on Thursday that Berg was questioned by FBI agents who discovered he had been interviewed before because a computer password he used in college had turned up in the possession of accused Sept. 11 conspirator Zaccarias Moussaoui.”

Equally preoccupying is the question I feel now compelled to ask myself: have these people gone completely mad?

“NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) – U.S. forces intensified their war against Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Friday, for the first time sending tanks into Najaf’s vast cemetery to blast guerrilla positions among its tombs.”

If you want to know why I see it like this, Juan Cole – who knows a hell of a lot more than I do about Islamic customs – also puts it a hell of a lot better than I could: here, here, here.

My own view is that Muqtada has now won politically and morally. He keeps throwing Abu Ghuraib in the faces of the Americans. He had his men take refuge in Najaf and Karbala because he knew only two outcomes were possible. Either the Americans would back off and cease trying to destroy him, out of fear of fighting in the holy cities and alienating the Shiites. Or they would come in after Muqtada and his militia, in which case the Americans would probably turn the Shiites in general against themselves. The latter is now happening.”

I don’t care what Sufouk told them the Americans are most unwise to engage in major combat in Karbala so close to Husain’s tomb. They make themselves look like Yazid. If they, or whoever is reading this, don’t know who Yazid is, then they have no business being in Iraq, much less in Karbala.”

Also see this Washington Post article.

The people authorising all this would seem to have no values which they hold sacred, the astonishing thing is that they imagine others don’t either, and that them remaining in this ignorance will have no significant military and political consequences. Fear and respect are not the same thing at all. A war like the one we are supposed to be waging on terrorism will not be won through fear, only by our winning respect. At the moment all we are doing is putting up ‘own goals’ on the scoreboard.

I don’t know which makes me feel more afraid: seeing all this chaos unfolding before my eyes, or the thought that US electors might vote in November that this is a ‘just fine’ way of doing things.

Postcript: People often make the inevitable comparisons between what is happening now and the war in Vietnam. I may be corrected, but I never recall having the sense of ‘ethical anarchy’ during that war that I have now. Brutal and atrocious things may have happened then, but the sense of ‘out of controlness’ seems much greater now. Equally it seems to me to be one thing to appear to show contempt for the political ideology of another people and quite another to appear to reveal the same contempt for their most sacred religious beliefs.

Postscript 2: people may be right to say that this war was not about petroleum. But it is right there in the middle. And we have a global economy which is hanging precariously on a very thin thread which depends on every metre of advance – or retreat – made by those tanks.