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lundi, juillet 31, 2006

Sunshine

A day without the sunshine is like the night.
- Douglas Adams

Wish You Were Here

Balneare: Loads of Ghadira. Bits of St. George's Bay. Ghadira rocks. Beach volley rules. Sun burns and Carpigiani Ice-Creams reign supreme.

Culinare: Vino Mio, down the road from the cinemas - Absolutely fabulous, do try the swordfish. The Kitchen - Tower Road Sliema - incredible, duck with chocolate is divine.

Relax: Top marks go to Kazin tal-Banda Vittoria in Mellieha. Atmoshpere is fantastic. Locals relaxed. Teas are out of this world at 15c a glass.

Minus points: The petards for Madonna tal-Karmnu feast waking me up at 8am. The excessive heat at certain times of the day. Taxi bloody drivers.

Tomorrow the city built by gentlemen for gentlemen beckons. And this gentleman will be there.

Wish you were here.

PS still contactable on 7975 1111

samedi, juillet 29, 2006

... to the fires of Mordor

Jeez... it's hotter here for sure.
Nudity should be mandatory in this island.
Saw Pierre on the plane... with his Belgian riviera tan.
My maltese phone number is currently "decommissioned" should be resuming working order this afternoon.
Go mobile is a wonderful efficient service confirmed to P&T luxembourg. Prosit.
Tonight - beangrowers and freddie at the beer festival.

More later.

Jeez it's hot.

vendredi, juillet 28, 2006

Exit from the fires of Hell

From the station.lu, today's local news:

Domestic News
Bridel Forest Fire [28-JUL-06]
"A fire broke out in the forest between Bridel and Kopstal in the early hours of yesterday morning. ..." >>> more >>>
Cooking Explosion [28-JUL-06]
"A woman had a lucky excape on Wednesday when a fire started in the kitchen of her home in Luxembourg..." >>> more >>>
Another Field Goes up in Smoke [28-JUL-06]
"On Wednesday evening another field succumbed to the parched conditions in Luxembourg's countryside. ..." >>> more >>>
Hot-air Rising until end of Week-end [28-JUL-06]
"For the tenth time the “Cercle luxembourgeois d’Aérostation” (CLA) is organizing t..." >>> more >>>
Woman Dies in House Fire [28-JUL-06]
"A woman from Trier has died in a fire in her house. The incident happened in the early hours of Thur..." >>> more >>>


and the cheery part of it.... train leaves Luxembourg station at 2.20pm. Leaving the fires behind. A big "adi" to Luxembourg... will be back when the weather should be a little bit more clement.

P.S. Ciao to Rolando il Crucco Napolitano.... see you in Heidelberg.

jeudi, juillet 27, 2006

Come il fondo senza la Norvegia

Vincere senza Juve come nel fondo trionfare senza Norvegia'

(ANSA) -PINZOLO, 27 LUG- 'Spero che la Juve torni presto in Serie A'. L'augurio, rivolto a Nedved e a Deschamps, e' dell'oro nel fondo a Torino 2006, Cristian Zorzi. 'Vincere senza di voi - ha detto Zorzi, che e' tifoso interista - non c'e' alcun gusto, e' come per un fondista trionfare senza i norvegesi'. Zorzi, alle Olimpiadi oro nella staffetta, oggi a Pinzolo ha regalato un paio dei suoi sci Madhus a Nedved e a sua volta il biondo fuoriclasse ceco gli ha fatto omaggio della sua maglia e delle sue scarpette bianche.

Now that is class... remember j'accuse saying how hollow a Serie A victory without having to challenge the bianconeri would be? I hope Rossella Sensi has sweet dreams.

Condolcezza's Sustainablility*

And now Lebanon.

The rest of the world (that is the rest of the world less the US of Duh!) called for an IMMEDIATE ceasefire in the hostilities . That's where both sides stop shooting and the international community steps in to see if there is a solution that doesn't involve killing lots of civilians. If either side violates the ceasefire then the moral weight of the international community goes to the other side.

Condolcezza Rice has suggested a different ceasefire - a SUSTAINABLE ceasefire. To get a sustainable ceasefire you go on shooting until one side cannot shoot anymore. Although civilians probably get killed in this scenario the idea is that once the ceasefire starts they probably won't get killed any more. The next step after the sustainable ceasefire is for an international force to take over southern Lebanon. Condolcezza has not yet explained which countries are still prepared to follow the US of Duh! in their madcap solutions to international problems.

* with thanks to zefrank.com

Campioni d'Italia (reprise)

How times change. Yesterday afternoon the scudetto was practically sewn onto the nerazzurri's shirt. The Sfi*ati d'Italia are sfi*ati no more. They have finally broken the jinx of the thirteenth scudetto.... or have they? It seems that no one is in the mood of celebrating. The surreal effects of the Calciopoli decision still hang on the fetid marshland of the unpurified campionato.

Even this decision to assign the title to the Interisti is shrouded in doubt. Why not Milan? If they are good enough for the Champions league then they must be innocent enough to be the rightful team to steal the baton that Juventus earned deservedly on the pitch with the team that half of Europe want to buy. The mediatic exercise and the frenzied decision-making and scapegoating tends to ignore the fact that the team crowned champions last year was witch-hunted out of its title by the very same media and public pressure. In the court there is still no proof that anything illicit happened in the 2005-2006 league. Besides, the team that allegedly needed a helping hand to run away with the league in that manner had 8 World Cup Finalists in its fold... not your average Rigetta for sure.

Any faith one could have had in the cleaning up role of this Calciopoli vanished with the various moves that have been made in the last couple of hours. And like the victims of the first mediatic wave that crucified La Grande Signora thanks to a couple of phone calls made in true Mediterranean show-off style, us die-hard Juventini are beginning to believe in the new conspiracy theory that is brewing. Maybe it is true that everyone was guilty. Maybe it is true that nobody deserves to be playing football in Serie A next year. Maybe the Sensi - Moratti clans are really behind this farce in their final twisted efforts to dethrone the team that could win notwithstanding - and not thanks to - all this farce.

In our hearts (and in the hidden, honest part of many many other people's minds - the one that is silenced by blind passion) La Grande Signora remains Campione d'Italia. And we thank her for it.

My heart goes out to Ciro Ferrara who had his record eighth scudetto tattoed onto his leg. When asked whether he was sad to lose the two scudetti, the man who also gave his part to Italy's World Cup win replied: "I never lost those scudetti, I won them deservedly on the pitch".

You're so right guaglio', so right.

mercredi, juillet 26, 2006

Read and be read

The Killing Joke - Anthony Horowitz
L'enfant Noe' - Eric Emmanuel Schmitt
Generation X - Douglas Coupland
Une terrible vengeance - Nicolas Gogol
Ce que disent les morts - Philip K. Dick
La Vampa d' agosto - Andrea Camilleri

That should do it. In Malta between the 28th of this month and the 14th of the next. A little sabbatical from j'accuse will probably be in order - though, knowing me, having blogged in Cuba I will probably add a post or two in Malta. I am amazed at how the supposed summer lull in readership has never really occurred. Some people must still be stuck in their offices... so I will try not to disappoint you guys.

So here's to RK in Luxembourg... good trip home, the Roberts' in Lux too, CB in Malta (don't get too cocky and still waiting for the first guest post) and all the usual suspects. I just hope Twanny is wrong about the jellyfish.

Contact number while in Malta: 7975 1111 - feel free to call - this wankellectual has no inhibitions!

Non Sequitur #58

Delayed Relegation

The final Calciopoli decision means that Juventus will be playing Serie B football for the first time in their 109-year history. The only team that can challenge this record in Italy is Internazionale who will, in all probability survive another 12 years in Serie A and become the team to have played Serie A football for the most consecutive years.

Juventus are not the only long-standing bastion in Europe to fall. In Hungary, the once-great Ferencvaros have been relegated to the second division because of the sad state of their accounts. Their record stands at 105 years in the Hungarian first division. Vasas Budapest will probably return to the first division in their place.

Significantly both teams still hold the record of not having been relegated on the pitch - something like when hell freezes over.

Blind Justice

The Appeal in Calciopoli decision is out - and it's a scandal. Anybody with an ounce of reason will notice that the ultimate aim of this decision is not the reform of football but the great revenge against La Grande Signora. The summary is simple - irritated at seeing the most successful team in Italian football win year in year out, Italian football's losers came up with the greatest scam of all time. They would take all that is ugly in Italian football and use Juventus as a scapegoat. the by now infamous "capro espiatorio".

If you're thinking that this is a biased fan's cry following yesterday's... well, think again. Here are a few sweet picks that arise after yesterday.

Franco Carraro - PARDONED (just 80 000 euro fine)
Passaportifazulli FC (internazionale) - Qualify for Champions League
Fideiussiorolexpassaportifazulli (rigetta fc) - Qualify for Champions League
AC Berluska (milan) - qualify for champions and kick off next season with -8

So first of all, the clean up is no clean up. It is like sending openly declared doped athletes to the Olympics. Worse than that is the fact that, apart from Juventus, no real punishment is meted out to teams that were found guilty of acts that bring the beautiful game to disrepute. This is not a defence of Juventus. It is a declaration of disappointment - disappointment in the system of Italian football that has shown (as mentioned at the beginning in J'Accuse) that the Lampedusian theory of leaving all things as they are while illuding oneself that they are changing is still the norm.

France Carraro has been pardoned. Let off the hook. Tomorrow he can take on another post in some sports committee as though Calciopoli never existed. Maurizio Crosetti described the Appeal decision as a "sentenza democristiana". He did not mean this as a compliment.

AC Milan was proven to have sent an idiot to negotiate its referees. Next year the Forza Italia team will play in the Champions League. No problem here of course. UEFA will only have to keep an eye on all Milan personnel... even those not listed on the team list of Officials. Who knows? It might be the bus driver doing the work this time.

After the World Cup everyone, myself included, laughed at the possibility of an amnesty. This was meant to be the chance for Italian football to show a new face. To remove people like Galliani from the head of the Lega because a team president can never be super partes. Do you know who is the pro tempore head of the Lega now? Moratti - president of Inter FC. The man who wants Inter to be awarded last year's Campionato. In case you forgot, no wrongdoing was proven in last year's Campionato. Moratti wants to win that one thanks to the legal twists by ths eunuch Appeals court.

There will be no new football in Italy. It is play as you were. Obviously Lucky Luciano and Giraudo will not be making their "telefonate spavaldi" but Rossella Sensi and her passport experts will still be there. Lotito and Della Valle's teams will still be trying to make sure that the new power that will develop will not prejudice their team - on and off the pitch. Moratti's league of foreigners with great grandparents of Italian origin will be vying for top spot. And Milan, who on the face of the facts proven in court were not very far from the shameful acts committed by Juve directors will be gracing the stadia of Europe with their inimitable style.

Juventus should shut up and get on with the game. We have had one Campionato stolen (that of last year) and we have the punishment we deserve. No amount of legal appeals should soften the minus seventeen in Serie B. What is sad is that this decision punishes Juve and only Juve. It is the decision that the plebeians in the street and the blind fanatics of the provincial losers love to see. Their blindness gets to the extreme where they do not mind playing in the mire that Italian football has become - so long as winning does not involve having to beat La Grande Signora.

The only positive effect of this decision comes from the region closest to home. With the reinstatement of Messina, for the first time in my living memory we have three Sicilian teams in Serie A. Forza Palermo! Forza Catania! Forza Messina! I cannot wish them much against the "incuci" (let's say it means corrupt agreements) of the Great Escapists of the latest but not the last scandal to have hit the Pensiola del Pallone. But anyway...we'll be back. I am sure... and my prediciton is that if we do start off with minus seventeen we'll be in the top 8 by Christmas and celebrating promotion come June next year.

Meanwhile - Zaccone has not proven to be much of a lawyer. So if Juve are still looking for one I openly declare my availability.

Do not miss: Il brutto epilogo del grande processo - Maurizio Crosetti

mardi, juillet 25, 2006

Canicule

Got into my car: inside temperature - 42 degrees celcius. Thank god for air conditioning. The weather here is stifling. So much so that on Friday, when I land in Malta, the only difference will be the proximity to the sea and the possibility to get to the sea. I can guarantee you that Luxembourg has nothing to envy the Med insofar as the heat is concerned. Showers are useless, you sweat before you dry. Any activity is a general heat generator. Wunderbar.

And it is in this heat that I await impatiently for the appeals verdict in Calciopoli which should be out around 20.30. And I will be unable to check it for a while since I have been invited to a Fete de St. Jacques and the host has no TV or internet.

Xi shana!

lundi, juillet 24, 2006

Bandwagon Specialists

The Maltese class of political opportunists has once again squirmed out of its usual hideout. The occasion this time is the European Commission's request for information regarding Malta's departure tax. To begin with, someone should explain the nature of a request for information - and who better than someone who deals with this kind of procedue daily? :)

So, the European Union has a set of laws that are there to be observed. One of the duties of the Commission is to see that all Member States implement the laws of the European Union and that they do not have any internal legislation that goes against or creates an obstacle to such laws. When the Commission (either through its own investigations or through a complaint) has reason to believe that a State is in any way violating European law, the first step is to request information (normally giving a deadline of two months). This is an informal phase of "discovery" where the State is given a chance to explain its situation. Importantly the request does not constitute a "decision" of the Commission nor does it mean that any violation has been proven to exist. If you like we can call it an inquisitorial phase. (FATTA please take note).

If the Commission is still not satisfied with the answer it will send a letter that starts the formal proceedings with a further deadline (lettre de mise en demeure). This letter will be a little more specific with regards to what the Commission suspects the State to have violated. Following the deadline, the Commission will send what is called an Informed Opinion (Avis motive') to the State outlining its main charges in the Infringement Proceedings. All through this, the State has time to prepare adequate defence and/or show the Commission that any violation has been remedied. If the Commission is pleased with the state's answer it will desist from any further action (desistement) while if it still feels that the State either continues to violate or that its violation could have prejudiced individuals and could give rise to individual claims it will start infringement proceedings before the European Court of Justice (recours en manquement).

The ECJ will declare whether the state of violation exists.

There. That is a rough summary of what lies ahead in proceedings like the one regarding the departure tax. In between lie an exchange of legal argumentations based on interpretation of the law, possible exceptional circumstances and more. Which is the part I cannot comment about.

What is interesting on the other hand is how suddenly everyone is on the side of the Commission. In a way it is a positive move - and a clear signal that the EU is working in our island too... in another it is sad to see that many voices have started to croak only now that the boat is set in motion and that the government has already partially given stating that a tweak to the tax might be necessary (and it is not necessarily right). It is sad that some people do not have the balls to speak and call a spade a spade when the question is still uncertain.

But they will surely be there shouting victory and I told you so when the tax is probably revised/removed. Do note that the government stance that "it might have to revise the tax" allows it to shout victory even if it is forced to reduce it to Lm1. Sic transit gloria melitae.

samedi, juillet 22, 2006

The Special One?

Following Wenger and Bayern, Mourinho too has his say about the Juve exodus:

"Abbiamo cominciato a pensare al mercato già sul finire della passata stagione. Per esempio abbiamo contattato Ballack la scorsa stagione. Le altre squadre invece hanno aspettato le sentenze del calcio italiano per poi fiondarsi come avvoltoi sui club coinvolti. Sarebbe molto triste portare al Chelsea giocatori prelevati da un club in difficoltà. Quando penso a una grande squadra in crisi come la Juve con i giocatori che vogliono abbandonare la barca che affonda, mi intristisco" - Mourinho

He could be a special one after all.

I.M. Jack - 1st edition

I.M. Jack... the weekly saturday roundup on j'accuse

a. War
The war in Lebanon continues and there is no end in sight as Israel prepares for a ground offensive in the South of Lebanon. Israeli reservists called in and South Lebanese urged to evacuate by the Israeli authorities. A sort of "I'm sending all my means of mass destruction in your direction... so please move a bit to the side... I don't want to hurt you. Kerblog link added to j'accuse - Majzen is a Lebanese blogger taking an apolitical / humanitarian stance during this war.

b. Relegation
Calciopoli moves to appeal stage. Juventus lawyer published the text of his appeal submissions on the Juve fan forum. The exodus of major players continued but surprisingly Buffon, Nedved and Del Piero confirmed their allegiance to la Grande Signora.

c. Immigration
Malta dug it's heels over a boatload of immigrants picked up in Libyan waters by a Spanish trawler. The obstinate refusal to take in more immigrants led to the stressful situation making the headlines across Europe and to immediate action by EU authorities. The flux of immigrants continues to increase and notwithstanding this showdown there were still no clear, long-term solutions in sight.

d. Pensions
MLP declared it will nullify any efforts to alter the pensionable age in the same week that Alfred Sant announced that the new Labour projects would be the result of intense studies and consultations. MLP still believes it is reasonable that despite our ageing population the pensionable age should not be increased. "It's the economy stupid?" all over again.

e. Cheap, Cheerful and Entertaining
The week began with the EP plans to introduce the green tax on flights across Europe. We then discovered that the European Commission has taken the first step in what could possibly be infringement procedures against Malta with regard to the departure tax. J'accuse is unableto comment on either the Commission's reasons or on the Maltese government's responses that were hinted at yesterday by Minister Fenech. Which is sad. Because there is loads to say.

f. Heatwave
The Grand Duchy has had a hot, hot week with temperatures hovering around the 30 mark. Looking for a swimming pool is no longer a possibility but a must.

and the open swimming pool at the Parc Hotel Alvisse in Dommeldange is where this working week was ended yesterday afternoon before a fine dinner on the terrace at Rue De Bragance on jarret de porc avec pommes au four followed by a dessert of apples in cinnamon with pistachio ice-cream all downed with laring-cello from the island of Gozo.

Ta' ta.

vendredi, juillet 21, 2006

Non Sequitur #57

Cheap'N'Cheerful Flights....?

from today's Times of Malta :

INFRINGEMENT PROCEDURES BY EU

The government could be forced to eliminate the unpopular departure tax altogether as the EU finally initiates infringement procedures against the country, The Times has learnt. The European Commission has written to the government saying it deemed the Lm20 tax discriminatory on two counts.

The government's decision to double the departure tax in the 2004 budget was met with a chorus of disapproval as many lamented that it hindered their freedom of movement in an island where air travel is a must. In July 2005, the Federated Association of Travel and Tourism Agents lodged an official complaint with the EU, claiming, among other things, that Maltese agents were put at a competitive disadvantage should they want to team up with foreign agents.

The arguments put forward by the EU are two-fold: Firstly it deems it discriminatory that the tax is levied on anybody travelling out of Malta while those taking a "flight" to Gozo are not. The tax was found to be in breach of EC Regulation 2408/92.

The Commission also believes the tax is making it difficult for the Maltese to provide and receive services. For example, the EU deems it a disincentive that lawyers or doctors cannot easily go and see clients overseas.The EU was informed that the departure tax was introduced merely for revenue purposes and, in the circumstances, is deemed to be out of line with EU legislation.

A letter of formal notice has been sent to the government, which now has to submit its observations within two months. When contacted, Joanna Drake, the head of the EU Representation in Malta, confirmed the Commission's decision.

"The Commission has expressed reservations on two legal basis. This is the first move in infringement proceedings," Dr Drake explained. Nationalist MEP Simon Busuttil was among the first to point out that the hike in the air departure tax was incompatible with EU law and would need to be revised or repealed altogether.

Apart from the Lm20 departure tax, passengers have to pay a fuel surcharge, a passenger service charge and a security charge.


*****

jeudi, juillet 20, 2006

Beirut


from Kerblog - a Lebanon-based blog written by Mazen Kerbaj

for the israeli musicians, painters, writers, thinkers, intellectuals and for all the israeli in israel and around the world who sent us supportive emails and comments,

we know you are here.
we know you are hearing us.
we know you are hearing the bombs getting down on civilians and kids.
kids from lebanon.
kids from israel.
kids from al over the world.

we know that like us, you feel ashamed.

we know you are not a lot.

but we shall meet one day.
when our people will wake up.
in 10.000 years.

mercredi, juillet 19, 2006

A tutta B

Buffon
Birindelli
Nedved
Del Piero
Bojinov
Chiellini
Marchionni
Legrottaglie
Tudor
Kovac
Palladino
Zalayeta
Balzaretti
Giannichedda
Zanetti
Olivera
Paro
Piccolo
Sculli
Zammuto
Zebina

Next?

11 leoni

Partenti:

Cannavaro (Real Madrid)
Emerson (Real Madrid)
Zambrotta (Barcellona)
Thuram (Barcellona)
Vieira (Inter ?)
Ibrahimovic (Inter ?)
Trezeguet (?)

Cheap'N'Cheerful Flights

It's over for Brittania tours. And for many others. The festival of erroneous and misleading advertising in the air travel business is facing the final curtain. The dubious business practice of the famous asterisk where a price tag of "From Lm 49" would be footnoted with an asterisk saying "Prices exclusive of taxes, airport charges and fuel tax".

"Under new rules from the European Commission, airlines have to display what customers will actually pay, including all fees. Many airlines advertise rock-bottom prices, but then when passengers book they find that they must pay charges for fuel, baggage handling, tax, insurance, security checks and even wheelchair access. These charges can double the price of a ticket and, in extreme cases, increase them almost a hundred fold."

Speculation was rife that Ryanair was the main target of these new regulations. In fact, booking a flight advertised for 19p on Ryanair could result in a price tag of 15.97 sterling. Ryanair denied this rumour stating that its customers are clearly aware of the factoring in of taxes when booking from its site. I fact, considering that Ryanair booking is made exclusively online I do agree with Ryanair that most customers are aware of the added costs that "bloat" the price up to the 20s of euros instead of the single euro return ticket.

I would say more. The customer of an LCC is also educated enough to know that the price of the trip must also consider coaches /taxis / trains that link peripheral airports to his final destination. I do not think that the Commission rules had Ryanair in mind - although they too will be affected. One must consider that most non-LCC's have a more expensive base price as well as a higher amount of taxes to pay (not fuel wise but in airport taxes and taxes on services). It is therefore logical to assume that it is in their case that these rules will be most effective. Also, most LCCs have websites that seem to be purposely encrypted for giving the least information possible to the customer.

I have in mind SN Brussels Airlines for example. Their site has the particular trait of being able to switch the dates of your booking on the final confirmation page. It might be a design fault... but it smacks of planned trickery. I fell foul of this trick when booking for a group of 8 traveling to Malta. I ended up having over 2000 euros frozen at SN Airlines since their policy of reimbursement for mistaken bookings is to wait for two months.

Want to be really surprised with abusive usage of websites? Try SN Airlines or Lufthansa. I have noticed that all too often a flight which is queried too many times suddenly develops an unexpected price hike. In a matter of hours I have seen flights to Malta go up by 100 euros. And then there is this practice I have seen on Lufthansa. When sitting at the same desk on the same computer you can get four different prices for the same seat on the same flight. The only difference is whether you input your residence as Luxembourg, France, Germany or Belgium in the beginning. Ridiculous. This too will be curtailed by the new Commission rules.

For more information see this news clip on BBC.

mardi, juillet 18, 2006

Lussemburgo Città Violenta

From Station.lu News:

Man Caught Under Car in Echternach
On Sunday morning a man had been caught under his car in Echternach. He parked his car on a hill and went to feed sheep on a field. His car rolled of the hill, turned over and caught the man under it, eyewitnesses say.

The Luxemburgish Air Rescue came and was able to free the man who was only slightly injured.

*thanks to RK for the pointer.

Pas de Soldes

It's sales season in Luxembourg and France and it would seem that many football teams are hoping that the best sales will be in Italy... more particularly in Turin. Previous summers would rarely see footballers - particularly Italian ones - leaving the peninsula for other pastures. Foreign teams did not want the mammoni and they had this rare inability to settle in a land far from mamma, pizza and pasta.

Calciopoli has changed the rules of the game and has divided the international market into two camps. On the one side there are the vultures - those who without any scruples swoop down on the teams currently embroiled by the matter and try to force a bargain sale. On the other hand are the purists - those who are disgusted by this kind of mercenary activity that also exposes another ugly side of "football since the Champions League".

For the fact of the matter is that the Rumenigges and (I never thought I'd say this) Wenger's of this world are right. It is immoral and disgusting for a team to take advantage of another teams woes. This is not to say that they should not be trying to buy the player who does not wish to stay in Serie B for one or two seasons. Rather, it is the attempts at cutting the price that are unshamefaced and verging on the unethical.

These vultures know that any bargain purchase will drive another knife into the already harshly punished teams by pushing them further on the brink of ruin. They know that had they been in the same place (and some of them like the glorious Real Madrid have been - only to be saved by a King with endless pockets - everyone would love to be bankrupt one year and spend a world record transfer fee on Zidane the next) they would be screaming with the same amount of indignation as Cobolli Gigli is doing now.

The punishment is still not settled. Everybody except Procuratore Palazzi and the wishy washy supporters of loser teams who can only hope to win by gettng the great out of the way seem to think that Juve, Fiorentina, Lazio and Milan deserved more not less in terms of punishment. I was surprised by the decision. In legal terms the same burden of proof and the same measure found Juve guilty of playing with two matches, Fiorentina one, Lazio one and Milan one. It is impossible to ask any reader (especially supporter of loser teams described above) to read the decision objectively but in legal terms the distance between what the court found as being proven and the punishment is immense.

Some might oppose that the burden of proof is different in sports law. True. But it is under that very burden of proof that the results were found. And the distance between those results and the punishment is abysmal. Especially relatively speaking - between the teams punished. I await the appeal with confidence. In the meantime I hope that any deals for sales being trumpeted will really be loan deals (ohlom). More than that I really really hope that Dudchester United and Real Dudrid have a really really bad season next year... a bit like the one we are used to seeing Rigetta perform year in year out.

lundi, juillet 17, 2006

Lorna vs Daphne (I)

Arcibald pointed out this letter in today's Times that had escaped my attention. I do not make it a habit of reading the Times of Malta letters - the only letters pages I like are to be found on the Economist or on the Times (UK). I just hope that Daphne's letter does not have a detrimental effect on future possible appearances of Thank God It's Lorna in the Times. We have got used to the TGIL columns... and we want more, more, more.

The letter, one that will surely (and hopefully) provoke a reaction from the Dame of the Gramatically Incorrect [our highlights as usual - just to act with impartiality of course]:

A Brighter Side to Writing
Is Lorna Vassallo real, or is her column a spoof ? [Daphne... you need to see www.lornavassallo.com] Whichever it is, she has a cult following, for all the wrong reasons [I think my reasons are very right. We live to take the piss... or as this blog's motto goes "ludendo castigat mores"]: tangled arguments [tangled? why?] expressed with pompous self-confidence [I think Daphne did not read the Thank God It's Lorna article] in garbled grammar and gobbledeegook [Latest research shows that gobbledeegook is an actual and living language spoken in political quarters and among the aspiring wankellectual illiterati]. Her writing is so bad that it's wonderful [a bit like Brasil's football team this World Cup]. The latest piece was particularly delightful, and cheered me up no end on a rather dull morning.

"'I' has lived in me for the last 30 years or so by now and knows no other body but mine. My mind operates in female packaging, adapts reflexes and movements for female attire and reacts in a female way to both fellow females' and males' actions and remarks," it began. I suppose she meant to say that because she's a woman, she thinks, dresses and reacts like one [Yes Daphne, this is what the critics of Lornese call pompotautolofabrication - the expression of obvious facts through the conjuring up of complex, non-sensical phrases assuming a pompous / proto-wankellectual / patronising tone]. Well, that's a novel concept [Haven't you heard any of our politicians speak English?].

Please carry on publishing her work [Hear! Hear!]. The only people who will be cross with The Times are those who struggle to teach Maltese students how to write, and who are obliged to fight their way through stacks of examination papers written in pompous and convoluted Lorna-ese [considering the subject it would be more like Lorn-plicated - apologies for the sad joke].

Thank you for brightening up my Thursday mornings [Yep! Thank God It's Lorna].
Daphne Caruana Galizia

Non Sequitur #56

"Ho sempre lasciato correre perché provavo piacere nel veder crescere il mito del "Re del mercato". Ho capito troppo tardi che quegli osanna annunciavano il disastro. Non mi sono accorto per tempo che quel mito che circondava ogni mia parola o intenzione o azione - spesso enfatizzato dalla stampa - serviva soltanto a creare il mostro che bisognava distruggere per lasciare tutto come era. Se ho fatto un errore, e sicuramente ne ho fatti, questo è il più grave. Mi sono fatto giocare dalla mia stessa vanità"

- Luciano "Lucky" Moggi, interviewed on La Repubblica

vendredi, juillet 14, 2006

Hey Austin... Still don't like Ryanair?

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It's even more mind-twisting than the heaviest sudoku. It's more complicated than a Sunday Times Crossword published with the wrong accompanying clues (I hate it when they do that). It's a gordian knot of the worst kind and it really should not be that way at all. The more you read about the Low Cost Carriers (or as Bocca likes to put it Cheap'n'Cheerful flights) saga, the more the Maltese government's position becomes untenable.

Fact 1
Over the last few weeks the European Parliament has agreed on a new jet-fuel tax (dubbed 'green tax') that will in the future hit all flights in Europe (including LCCs). The result is obviously that all flight prices will go up (by about €100). The Maltese, already disadvantaged as it is, will maintain the same disadvantageous position, only that it will be relatively more expensive than before to travel vis-a-vis the affordability that an average wage in Malta allows. The disadvantage becomes ginormous when you think that Maltese travellers have NO access to LCCs - so the relatively cheaper is relatively non-existent.

Fact 2
Yesterday the Times reported that over the last two years Air Malta has lost 28 pilots to airlines that can cough up more cash (see Emirates and other oil-rich country carriers). The news was peppered with Interesting Facts (capitalised as the Goons would) among which we find that the annual wage of an AirMalta pilot is at least one third of that of the poaching airlines*. I would assume that Air Malta pilots get good training that also costs the national airline money - only to scoot off to a better paying airline once the training is finished and contractual obligations are fulfilled. Which means that Air Malta needs new pilots fast. Now I don't know about you but I have an ugly feeling about an airline that recruits pilots quickly. You know what I mean? The unsustainability of Airmalta continues to prove an unequivocal argument that we are protecting the unprotectable.

Fact 3
And then came TUI. For those of you who have never heard of it, TUI is one of the major tour operators in Europe (linked to Thompson Holidays). TUI has just struck off a number of Maltese Hotels from the Summer 2007 catalogue (see report on maltastar.com). Now that is no small news story. TUI does not only service the UK- It is a big operator in the BENELUX and France. My holiday in Cuba was a TUI package - when you choose your holiday you get a catalogue with a choice of hotels and you can choose from three to five class and more. All hotels are vetted and guaranteed by TUI - I can safely say that persons travelling from the continent are strongly influenced by the choice of tour operator. Losing a TUI backing is not a joke.

In the letter that TUI sent to the Maltese hotel managers informing them of its decision it said:
“The market in which Malta operates has changed dramatically in recent times. Changes such as the needs of our customers, the advent of low cost airlines in other areas and new technology have created the need for us to reshape our business and subsequently some of our programme in Malta will be dropped for the following summer.” " Ooops. Remember that incredible Air Malta report that was analysed on j'accuse a few days ago? Remember the doom and gloom of the dependence of the Hotel industry on an LCC?

Well who's laughing now? We are in the ridiculous situation of having our hotel industry suffer because we sadistically choose to exclude LCCs from our market to protect a dying horse. We are now semi-officially the Non-Low Cost Country. Somehow any remnants of prestige that this monicker could have afforded the Sunny Happy State vanishes away with the gloomy forecast of no tourists and no travelling that lies ahead.

So Austin... still don't like Ryanair?

* an Air Malta captain can earn up to Lm26,000 annually. Ryanair pays its captains with similar experience Lm62,000. (just switch the first two digits!)

jeudi, juillet 13, 2006

An Open Letter to Zizou

Cher Zizou,

Before even starting to talk about the unhappy events that marred what should have been a glorious exit for one of the gods of the game allow me to thank you. Thank you for the thrills and magic that you have provided through the years. Thank you for frequent examples of humility and gamesmanship in a world where gentlemen are becoming as scarce as good football. Thank you for the years dedicated to my favourite club and for gracing the pitch in Turin with your remarkable talents. Thank you for the good victories and even for the sad losses.

I am at a loss however when I try to understand and reconcile your actions in the past few days to the hero I had grown to admire and adore. I can only just begin to understand the build up of stress and emotions that must have accumulated in your mind before the World Cup final. I can probably barely estimate how these grew as cruel time passed on and there seemed to be no ending to this final adventure and the disgraceful lot of penalty shoot-outs loomed. I can imagine the umpteenth taunt that you must have endured from players who were too mesmerised and humiliated by your moves and tried to resort to psychological attacks in order to find a fault in your personality and weaken your majestic approach to the game. I can only begin to imagine…

I can also try to understand how irritating a walking lawn-mower like Materazzi can be on a day like this. A defender who at the most is capable of scoring one of the best own goals ever seen in the Campionato suddenly taunting one of the greatest can be a terrible ordeal. If I make an effort I can feel the hundred little shoves and kicks that Materazzi must have reserved for you as special treatment on this day. I can only think that the shoulder injury only served to exacerbate the pain of over ninety minutes of football and tough tackles and that it made you begin to see red through the build up of the metabolism fighting to alleviate the excruciating pain in the shoulder.

And then he spoke. Or rather it seems that you spoke and he replied. I tend to believe Materazzi. That he invoked your sister's name in not too courteous circumstances. That he did not mention mothers or terrorists. And both you and I know that football is not politics. That an insult on the pitch is not to be taken literally but as a provocation. That "son of a bitch" could just as well be "asshole", "shorty" or "fart". That the intent is not to slander whoever is mentioned but to irritate. It is part of the ugly bit of the game that is best left on the pitch and forgotten, that is over once the final whistle goes. For as long as football has been played the insult is as much part of the game as the tackle and the elbow in the ribs. I envy the ethics of rugby which include the acceptance of the rough part of the game – insults and all – only to pass on to a communal booze-up drinking legendary amounts of lager.

So that is why I cannot accept first of all that you reacted violently. I have never respected persons who explode into violence when something is wrong. There is ALWAYS a better solution. There is always a way that reaches out further. You should have known that Materazzi is of the kind who provokes. A professional and a human but always a professional – you should have stood firm and gave your answer with a magnificent play…. maybe a shimmy and a tunnel through the lanky defender's legs and a goal in the top right hand corner.

Instead we had the head butt. In worldvision. Unbelievable. But what irks me more than that is the fact that after you had sufficient time to reflect, and while the world was busy speculating on what insult could be so grave as to force Zizou le Maestro to headbutt Macellazzi you still did not learn the lesson. For Zizou, I expected you to forgive and forget. To tell the children that what you did was wrong (as you did) and also that you forgave the man (as you did not). That your reaction should never occur and that you DID regret it. I expected the gentleman to prevail.

You know these are difficult times. You know that fanning the flames of speculations about racism and terrorism does not help anyone. Except maybe yourself. Because as a victim you might hope to restore some of that dignity that was lost in the seven seconds of blind rage. I am sorry I do not see it that way. I would have elevated you even higher on the pedestal that is already as high as I could imagine had you decided to forgive and forget. Had you decided to tell the people that violence can NEVER be a solution. Had you decided to tell everybody that such incidents are ALWAYS regrettable.

There was no need to make Materazzi sound more of a villain. Did you think that the world did not assume that your reaction was provoked? Did you have to fan the flames of division by adding the spice of terrorism into the equation? Why? Haven't we had enough Danish cartoons and 9/11's? Do we need the entire Maghrebin population and immigrants to continue to be incensed? Would it excuse the World Cup final loss that was in the end due to a coach that was not courageous enough when necessary?

I do not want to end our relationship in this manner. I am prepared to forgive and forget. I am still ready to believe and remember in the Zidane who shines from the pitch, who loves kids and who will forever be an emblem for future generations after having gained his rightful place in the footballing Pantheon.

After all we are all human and we all err. It is the forgiving part that we tend to forget more and more nowadays.

Merci Zizou et bon chance!

Thank God It's Venus

What can I say. The woman never stops surprising her readers. Thank God It's Lorna has taken a break from her PN / Knights of Malta / Philanthropist bashing and switched to a tautologistic, cliché-driven analysis of the fate of the fairer sex in 2006. A few days ago I read the news that sperm could now be created from stem cells. In my reading it meant that the male portion of the population has been now made practically redundant. Lorna is still stuck with penniless legal procurators, men who have no clue about "tools for their hairdo", beerbellies and schools full of young boys engaging in daily masturbation while their fairer counterparts (or colleagues) are busy drawing hearts on their copybooks.

I'd love to take apart yet another article penned by the Gramatically Challenged Feminist but this time I will just let you read the piece in its entirety. The sad note to be drawn from this is that women of this kind are still around. I hesitate to comment lest I be branded a male chauvinist pig (which I do not think I am). What worries me is that even among today's thirty-year old educated women you do find, quite frequently, persons who come up with arguments based on stone-age man and the ever suffering female figure. One would have thought that the bras burnt throughout the middle of last century would not have all gone up in smoke.

Which is what distinguishes your average Daphne from your average Lorna. Dislike her if you must but at least DCG does not kick off her arguments from the position of Cro-Magnon woman. Her articles do not sound like an apology for being a woman before moving on to the real facts of the matter. Less said is better in this case. Enjoy the Lorna show... if it is a show.

Incidentally, here is what Daphne had to say en passant in her article about Maltese support for foreign teams:

"It’s probably the reason why the Italian team irritates me so much, over and above my irrational dislike for men who blow-dry their hair and use moisturiser."

Men who blow dry their hair??? Did you get that Lorna? .... sounds like a good enough tool to me!

mercredi, juillet 12, 2006

Dreyfus: the man behind j'accuse

Captain Dreyfus, the man whose unjust incarceration provoked Emile Zola's famous article entitled "J'Accuse!". Today is the 100th anniversary of his pardon. The article itself had been published on 13th January 1898 - eight years before.

The State of Happiness

We're topping the list again. Another "happiness" survey, this time by the New Economics Foundation - a "think-and-do-tank" in the UK, places Vanuatu at the top of the list of the World's Happiest Countries. Malta places top of the Western World.

This extract from the NEF site explains how the index works:

"A new global measure of progress, the ‘Happy Planet Index’, reveals for the first time that happiness doesn’t have to cost the Earth. It shows that people can live long, happy lives without using more than their fair share of the Earth’s resources. The new international ranking of the environmental impact and well-being reveals a very different picture of the wealth, and poverty, of nations.

The Happy Planet Index, an innovative new index from nef (the new economics foundation) launched on Wednesday 12 July 2006, is the first ever index to combine environmental impact with well-being to measure the environmental efficiency with which countries provide long and happy lives. The results are surprising, even shocking. The ranking unmasks a very different world order to that promoted by self-appointed global leaders, the G8. For example, the UK is a disappointing 108th and the USA fares still worse at 150th on the Index."

The following extract will once again baffle the Maltese and prove once again that our perceptions of our country might be more pessimistic than we could imagine:

"Island nations score well above average in the Index: They have higher life satisfaction, higher life expectancy and marginally lower Footprints than other states. Yet incomes (by GDP per capita) are roughly equal to the world average. Even within regions, islands do well. Malta tops the Western world with Cyprus in seventh place (out of 24); the top five HPI nations in Africa are all islands; as well as two of the top four in Asia. Perhaps a more acute awareness of environmental limits has sometimes helped their societies to bond better and to adapt to get more from less. Combined with the enhanced well-being that stems from close contact with nature, the world as a whole stands to learn much from the experience of islands. "

The irony is in the phrase I underlined - awareness of environmental limits - societies that bond? Well.... maybe I'm missing something here. But congratulations Malta Taghna... you've done it again.

mardi, juillet 11, 2006

Recidive


Ooops! He did it again!

Non Sequitur #55

How?

When confronted with an obstacle the human being asks an instinctive question: "Why is there this problem and whose fault is it?"

In the same situation, an ant's first instinct is to ask: "How and with what tools will I solve the problem?"

There will always be a huge difference between those who ask why and those who ask how.

lundi, juillet 10, 2006

Deschamps - the new beginning


It is almost official. Didier Deschamps will today be quietly announced as the new Juventus coach. Deschamps returns to the team where he won Championships, Champion's League and Intercontinental Cup. He was always identified as a potential coach and rumour has it that in the half time of the 1998 World Cup final it was Deschamps, not Jacquet who spoke to the players and prepared them for the last glorious 45 minutes.

With Deschamps, Juventus' French connection continues to increase. Michel Platini has returned as outside advisor since the Triade broke up, and Blanc sits on the board of directors. Deschamps is expected to build a long term program with the Piemontese giants. Meanwhile in the marketplace further rumours about the dismantling of the greatest team in Italy seem to put Emerson, Cannavaro and Zambrotta on the way to Real Madrid, Buffon to Barcelona and Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Trezeguet on the way to Tottenham Hotspur. The last two will in all probability be given away on loan.

Adrian Mutu has already signed for Fiorentina in a deal worth €8 million, and in the same deal young star Valerij Bojinov has joined Juventus on a one-year loan with Juventus retaining a right of purchase at the end of the year. Bojinov has come a long way since his early days playing football at Pieta Hotspurs.

Later on today the first of what will in all probability be a series of verdicts will be given regarding the fate of Italian football and more particularly of the big clubs: Juventus, Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio. Rigetta are still weirdly (and suspiciously) absent from all procedures.

A new beginning for some. For others it will remain the same old, stinky game.

24 Years Later


Pertini (1982), Napolitano (2006)


Zoff (1982), Cannavaro (2006)

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My brother and I, around 1984
The shame, the shame, the USA top!
Sparklers were in fashion.
As was tucking in your shrts and wearing corny belts.
Note: In fashion means imposed by the matriarch.

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Brother and I in December 2005.
Record freezing in Paris and the genius brothers
decide to ride on an open bus tour!

dimanche, juillet 09, 2006

Momentary Lapse of Reason

It was meant to be his finest hour. The New York Times might have spoken too soon when it described Zidane as the "coolest" footballer in the world. It was just his cool that was lost when provoked by sly fox Materazzi - because no one head-butts in this manner for no reason at all. It's a pity that a man destined to become legend had to bid his farewell in such a manner - seeing red in the extra time of a world cup final. He should have known better. I hope it will not diminuish the magic of Zizou, that it will not tarnish all the good that he has brought to football. I hope that this momentary lapse of reason will be seen as just that.

On the other hand complimenti to the azzurri. Winning by penalties is not exactly top of the supporter's wish list. I remember not enjoying Brazil's 1994 victory as much as I had hoped. The World Cup has been won by intelligent and cynical football. Both teams in the final got there with a bit of intelligent playing - the European chess game. True, there were moments of flash genius like Pirlo's blind pass to Grosso or Zidane's conjuring tricks, but in the end you would have to be blind to think that the beautiful game is back.

This is not an epitaph. It is just a rationalisation of what has been. I do think that the cup has been lifted by the team that deserved to win it. But the chasm between "deserve" and "beautiful football" is growing. I hope it gets filled before it gets too late.

Tomorrow is another day - from celebration to punishment. We shall see - and we are not hoping for any amnesties. Let's just hope that like Zidane's ugly head-butt and like too many matches ending in penalties, Juventus' dark moment will soon be forgotten - to be dismissed sometime in the future as a momentary lapse of reason.

Good Night.

Scorpio

Thanks to my Zodiac sign I have set my allegiance to Lippi's XI for tonight. I discovered belatedly that Monsieur Domenech who, together with God, chooses the French formation, dislikes Scorpios. Apparently none of the French selection are born under the Scorpio zodiac sign - the closest being Trezeguet (late Libra - but enough to keep him on the bench).

Lippi has no qualms of the sort - besides, he has the best Scorpio that money can buy - one Alessandro Del Piero.

No prizes for guessing my star sign. But tonight, more than ever I will be routing for the one and only Pinturicchio!

Jour-J


Friday and Saturday spent in Metz. I will stop being overly positive about the city but it is a definite morale booster to walk around a city where people act natural, women look ultra-good and the food is scrumptious rather than the sort of catwalk of silicone infested women and fake restos that exist this side of the nuclear station. The sun was a great companion in a day spent shopping lazily in the company of Edmond and later of Konsu. We concluded (very objectively) that something must have been implanted in the diet of the girls around these parts as they seem to be blessed with the best collection of bosoms that ever graced a high street shopping Saturday.

Anyway, smalltalk apart, it was also interesting to experience the nervous, jittery talk on the street. Everybody had this evening's match on their mind. Dogs had th tricolore painted onto them, shop assistants had the french flag painted on their face. Metz's audacious Italian community did not lie back. In Place St. Jacques - the main square of the town - one of the main shops is owned by an Italian, and he has hung the poster of the Italian vicotrs of 1982 in a prominent place for all to see and remember.

An interesting village to be in tonight would be Villerupt. The post-war migratory waves of Italian coal mine workers have made this town a veritable mix of people who come from both sides of the Alps. It is the French town which holds the Italian Film Festival every year - where this year we were treated to Aldo, Giovanni and Giacomo live. It appears that whole families have split allegiances for one or other of the transalpine tricolore.

What is good is that the French seem to respect the Italians, there is nothing like the build-up for the Germany match going on. On the other hand I would have a note of warning for the Italians... the French attitude of having already won their world cup by getting to the final may cut both ways. They might be appeased and succumb early to an Italian onslaught or otherwise, they might have nothing to lose and end up playing the game of their lives.

And don't forget... this is also the last match for one of the gods from the Pantheon of football... Zizou might want to go out with a bang. On the other hand, Italy always have a quiet second gear who could lift them up to the Olympic heights - should they give him a chance to do so of course.

As Fantozzi and Ragionier Mughini used to say: "Win the best!"

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vendredi, juillet 07, 2006

Vote George, Get Palazzi

or why George Pullicino is a bit like il Procuratore Palazzi

"The land that has been selected to conform to Cabinet criteria and which will eventually be included in the new development zones is just 1.3 per cent of the total area earmarked for building, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister George Pullicino said yesterday."
- The Malta Independent (06.07.06)


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Procuratore Stefano Palazzi

Procuratore Palazzi is the man who loves to dress in eighties style clothing and is reportedly a very thorough, just and impartial lawyer. He is doing a good job in the prosecution case against the scum of Italy that have brought football to shame. The only fault I find with the process does not fall on this man's lap but on the selective scapegoating that seems to have chosen a few clubs to pay for the ills of all. In his introduction to the case, Palazzi made an extraordinary move - rather than wait for the rounding up in order to declare what penalties should be inflicted to the persons and clubs that have been indicted he chose the opening speech to shoot out the proposed penalties. They took everyone by surprise. Juve in C, Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio in B.

I was not surprised. I will not be bragging if I say that I predicted just that request from the guy who looks like he could be a third member of Starsky and Hutch. Palazzi knows how Italian justice works. More specifically how Italian Justice related to Sports works. I must say that the Juve lawyer fell for this ploy hook, line and sinker - almost spoiling Palazzi's scenario before it even got moving. For Palazzi was hoping for a condemnation at this level with an Appeal next week (and an extra appeal) which by the end of July would mean that the original sentence would be revised by Appellate courts in order that it would be more digestible.

Palazzi knows that the sentence he requested is harsh. He knows that it would be going too far. But he also knows that if he does not start from harsh - especially since he is the chief prosecutor (one man against all) - then nobody will in a country where Gattopardian endings are favoured.
Zaccone, Juve's excuse for a lawyer, declared that having seen this request, a punishment of Serie B and minus points would be more adequate. No victim has approached the net more willingly and enthusiastically. The legal team of the man known in some circles as "il nano mafioso" are more used to dealing with la Giustizia. They declared that they want absolute absolution. Nothing less. We'll see.

But what about George? Well George is now juggling with minute percentages. His talk is all about 1% and 2% - trifling percentages. Nothings. Almost non-existent. The new areas marked for development are JUST 1.3% of the total earmarked for development. You see? George too knows that when you shoot high you end up appeasing everyone later on when you accept a much less option. It's a nationalist ploy. We've seen it before.

The Nationalist party is the party that can come up with a not so environment friendly scheme, join the protests against the scheme, bully NGO's into what to have in the protest (against itself) and what not to have, cause a ruckus by feeling offended at being compared to ghosts from the past, and then try to come out as an absolute saviour of the people by minimising the damage the PN itself was threatening to unleash on the Maltese countriside. Chapeau!

I agree with Harry when he says that Claire Bonello's poster was unfair. George is no Lorry. Of course not. George will not bulldozer the countryside without so much as a "by your leave"... George knows that Ministerial power is not a divine right. No Claire. We vote George we get George and the nationalist style of politics.

I say it once I say it again. Just because Labour is not an option does not mean that PN have adivine right to go on treating people like they were all handkerchief waving fanatics with the IQ level of a Micallef Leyson gone wrong. We are not stupid. We are an angry bunch of frustrated voters. Next time round we will not be carrying any Vote George Get Whoever posters. No. Because at this point voting stops being an option. We will let the freaks that they have nurtured so well with their pointless demagogies and tricksy governmenting (as Gollum would say) to determine the fate.

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George Pullicino ... definitely not Lorry

And bollocks to bipartisanism.

jeudi, juillet 06, 2006

World Cup Finalists

1. BUFFON
2. CANNAVARO
3. THURAM
4. ZAMBROTTA
5. VIEIRA
6. CAMORANESI
7. DEL PIERO
8. TREZEGUET

Three short of a whole team. That is how many Juventus players feature in the line up of this World Cup Final. If there were ever any doubts that Juventus never needed all the stupid jerrymandering for which it will pay in the coming years, this should dispel them. If any one still doubted that the 11 players on the pitch (and all of the others in all the other teams) had absolutely no connection with what was going on in the ugly behind the scenes of Italian football, he should think again. It's a pity that the way things are going Juve will definitely be paying a penalty they deserve as an organisation but that they are being made a scapegoat of a system which neeeded a top to bottom change. Some teams that should have been punished for other obscenities that tarnish the name of the game as much as idiots calling a referee will walk out scot free and will instead take part in a dead Serie A and probably a Champion's League.

The mere fact that supporters of the various Rigetta's and Interloser are gleeful at the possibility of winning a Serie A devoid of any real competition just goes to show how the mentality of "winning at all costs" will continue to pervade Italian football once this scandal is come and gone.

In the meantime I will back Del Piero for this World Cup final. Because he is not just one of the best footballers that Italy has produced but also because he is able to winter all hardships and face criticism and get up again ... always better than before. Alessandro Del Piero has time and again show what it is like to be a man and act like one.

Let's enjoy this World Cup Final that is so ironically coloured in Black and White (from the Zidane of old to the Del Piero of today) . And as an afterthought... when you see so much goodness that could be going to waste, I cannot resist joining the chorus....

"Moggi... magari mori oggi"
(e tutta la bella compania Franco Sensi, Giraudo, Baldini, Galliani, Berlusconi, De Santis, ecc)

Lussemburgo Citta' Violenta (II)

The last nights have been nights of violence all over the Duchy. Not even 22 Rue de Bragance has been spared. While in Esch-sur-Alzette the violence was inspired by opposing fans during the France - Portugal match, the domestic escalation of bloody behaviour is attributable to feline ferocity of fantabulastic proportions.

FIRST THE FANS
(from the Station Network)


Football Fever Spills Over in Luxembourg
In various locations across the country, the excitement of the closing stages of the world cup in Germany has spilled over, resulting in violent altercations. In Esch-sur-Alzette, various incidents were reported between rival groups of French and Portuguese supporters, in which various cars were damaged. Disputes were also reported in Grevenmacher, and in Ettelbruck, close to the train station, the road was blocked with celebrating fans who did not let traffic pass. A man was injured in Differdange following an argument after the game yesterday evening. Luxembourg city saw, or rather heard, the honking of horns after the match, but the police saw to it that there was no trouble between the supporters of both teams.

THEN THE CAT:
Xitan has adopted the time-old tradition of "gifts from the cat" which consists of bringing us a collection of live or dead animals (probably depending on their level of shock resistance) to 22 Rue de Bragance. Over the past three or four days the collection expanded as follows:

3 mice (dead)
2 baby birds (dead)
1 big bird (alive and kicking - reliberated by myself after much hassle)
8 feathers (owner unknown)

All is not quiet on the Luxembourg front!


mercredi, juillet 05, 2006

Autoironia


"you cannot win all the time"

Decapitation: Moggiopoli

dal Corriere della Sera
Non è un processo ma una decapitazione
Così come si è svolto finora, e minaccia di svolgersi da qui alla sentenza, non è, non sarà, un processo

Il momento. Alla vigilia di una partita decisiva per la nostra nazionale, sette-otto undicesimi della quale giocano per le società di cui si chiede la penalizzazione. Sarebbe stato impossibile, per l’Accusa, rimandare l’arringa finale al termine del campionato del mondo? Difficile crederlo. L’accelerazione non giova alla Giustizia. Soddisfa solo il giustizialismo di una parte della tifoseria (quella delle squadre che non hanno mai vinto o vinto poco) e la vanità e il protagonismo dell’Accusa. Comunque la si metta, ora, le pene richieste assomigliano più a un’affrettata concessione alla Piazza che a un giudizio ponderato al termine di un Processo condotto nel rispetto delle regole.

Le procedure. Sarebbe difficile, innanzitutto, definirlo Processo. Le richieste dell’Accusa sono state formulate senza sentire alcun teste, all’inizio e non alla fine del dibattimento (ammesso che così lo si possa ancora chiamare). È stata respinta l’ammissione di testimoni. Tutti gli imputati (30 fra persone e società) dovranno esporre le loro ragioni nel corso di una sola giornata. Pare che, in campo, ci andassero tutti, tranne i giocatori. Ora, i casi sono due. Oi giocatori non sapevano, giocavano le partite mettendo (magari) a repentaglio le loro gambe e, allora, la palla era (restava), malgrado tutto, rotonda e i successi sono stati, tutto sommato, conquistati sul campo.Oi giocatori sapevano, ci stavano (ma, allora, non si capisce perché si dessero tanto da fare in campo), la palla era a volte rotonda a volte quadrata e sulla correttezza dei successi qualche dubbio sarebbe lecito.

C’erano due modi per saperlo. Convocare i giocatori (compresi quelli delle squadre che hanno perso), chiederglielo e, se del caso, incriminarli. Farsi spiegare dagli imputati, in sede di dibattimento, nei dettagli, caso per caso, come siano riusciti a mettere su e a far funzionare una macchina tanto infernale quanto apparentemente perfetta. Le condanne chieste. Se i giocatori non sapevano, le penalizzazioni richieste configurano un mostro giuridico. Paga, con la revoca degli scudetti, anche chi (gli ignari giocatori) non sapeva neppure quello che stava succedendo. Come la chiamiamo? Responsabilità «oggettiva », come l’avrebbe chiamata il Pubblico ministero dei processi staliniani? Bene.

Allora l’Accusa deve anche dimostrare, nei fatti, che la palla era (diventava) quadrata anche quando i giocatori giocavano regolarmente la loro partita come se la palla fosse rotonda. A questo punto, diventa però difficile dimostrare che si sia potuto manipolare e falsare, «dall’esterno», non una, due, tre partite, ma un intero campionato terminato con un distacco di 17 punti fra la prima e la terza e non pochi anche fra quest’ultima e la seconda. Se non ci si riesce, vale, perciò, quella che nei processi non sportivi è la presunzione di innocenza, il postulato che ha vinto il più forte.

Insomma: o i l gioco del calcio era, e rimane, un gioco, uno sport, esposto all’imponderabilità della rotondità della palla, dove vince il migliore. O il gioco del calcio non era, e non lo era più da tanto tempo, un gioco, uno sport, ma uno spettacolo (come il wrestling) e, allora, è del tutto senza senso richiamarsi alla lealtà sportiva ed emettere, su quella base, una qualsiasi sentenza, tantomeno una sentenza di colpevolezza. Con tutto ciò, non voglio dire che dietro tutto quel fumo non ci fosse anche un bell’arrosto e che quelli che lo hanno confezionato non debbano pagare.

Voglio solo dire che sarebbe stato meglio evitare di cercare di farlo digerire a noi, spettatori e tifosi, tutto intero, invece che boccone per boccone; uscendo di metafora, individuando responsabile per responsabile, secondo procedure meno approssimative e francamente inaccettabili e una precisa e comprensibile scala di gravità. Cui le richieste dell’Accusa sembrano essersi attenute solo per quanto riguarda il «tentativo» di illecito sportivo; assai meno per le sue conseguenze «concrete» (empiricamente provabili) sull’esito dei campionati; in misura del tutto spropositata per quanto riguarda l’entità delle penalizzazioni a carico delle singole società.

Ribadisco. Così come si è svolto finora, e minaccia di svolgersi da qui alla sentenza, non è, non sarà, un processo. Ma una decapitazione. Da parte di una Giustizia tifosa. Di sé stessa.

Piero Ostellino

mardi, juillet 04, 2006

Cheap'N'Cheerful Flights

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The series of postings regarding Malta's great dilemma of whether or not to welcome the so-called Low Cost Carriers (LCC's) continues. Until now J'Accuse has questioned the main priorities for government: Is it the Maltese citizen's interest in travelling? Is it the private industry's interest in moving with the trend and legitimately receiving most of the trendy travellers who nowadays opt for LCCs? Or is it towards the ex-parastatal companies that are still run like dinosaurs?

Matthew Vella at Maltatoday has just uncovered a secret Air Malta report about the "strains" of low cost travel. Reading the excerpts of the report you would be forgiven if you wondered whether this was really some extract from a new Hollywood movie. Air Malt depicts the new "strains" that our poor island would have to bear should the LCCs bring about the promised increase of 50% in visitors in one year. Here they are for all to enjoy:

1. Tour Operator Businesses would be lost.
Any blockhead on the continent could tell you that tour operators have had to ADAPT to the change. Travellers with a modicum of internet knowledge can bypass the tour operator in every minute detail of their voyage. Continental tour operators still manage to compete by focusing on travel packages. You basically get to chose: either fly low cost, book low cost rental cars, book low cost hotels and find your way around the country you visit OR just buy an all inclusive package for the lazy. You'd be amazed how similar the end price turns out to be. Having said that, who cares about Tour Operator Business anyway? It is like worrying that telegrams will be used less if we buy more fax machines.

2. Hotel Accomodation would be diverted to LCC traffic.
You might note that the report does not say that Hotels will have NO clients. They will have different clients. Get it? Hotels will not be forced by Tour Operators to sell their five star suites at a premium three star rate any more. The increase in demand might allow them to juggle their prices a bit more decently. How does that harm anyone then?

3. High Risk Strain 1: Hotels have to organise coaches
So. We discover coach transfers now. LCC passengers need coach transfers from the airport to hotel. Which makes you wonder... how did tour operator passengers get from the airport to the hotel? Flying? On the back of an Air Malta employee? For heaven's sake. Is this an argument?

4. High Risk Strain 2: Government must improve public transport
Woohoo. Tell me again. Is this a negative? How? When? Why? What? Who? Did AirMalta PAY someone to do this report? Why? When? How? Jeeeezus.

5. Tourist Venues get more visitors
My sides are splitting. I am dying. Air Malta is telling us that LCCs would be BAD for Malta because all Malta's major tourist venues would get more um.... tourists.

I have a bit of a suspicion when it comes to audit firms like PWC and the like. Must be from the rivalry in our university days - avukati vs accountants. But today I love PWC. Their report for Air Malta cannot but be a massive eyeopener that LCCs are the way forward. Cheap and Cheerful flights indeed.

On a more serious note, PWC were doing their job. They were commissioned by Air Malta. And they told Air Malta the truth. The above is bad because it basically means that Air Malta would be elbowed out. Slowly but surely. It's a pity. But then what is more important - having the service or having a flag carrier to wave around proudly like Stalin's fake army trucks and rockets on the Revolution Day parade?

For an in-depth study on Low-Cost Carriers and their effects read this report.

lundi, juillet 03, 2006

Solidarity (belated)

VOTE GEORGE
GET LORRY

The Way to Lose

"You cannot win all the time" - Ronaldinho

Rationalising defeat is as hopeless as trying to understand women. Gaping at the big screen on the banks of the Main in Frankfurt after the final whistle the idea of Brasil and loss began to slowly sink in. It dawned on me that it had been 16 years since I saw Brasil quit the tournament before the final match. 16 years since a drug laced Argentine squad had stolen a match from a vibrant Brasilian team and sent the selecao home prematurely while the coke-sniffing duo of Maradona and Caniggia would fight all the way to the final.

Since that sad June 1990 day I have been lucky enough to watch Brasil progress to the victorious final against Italy in 1994, the loss against France in 1998 and the victory against Germany in 2002. That's three world cups of magic that the selecao has given me. The selecao does not reach a World Cup final once every 12 years. It's been there more than any other team. As a supporter you feel a bit like Ronaldinho... for a team that is used to winning losing gets to be a bit difficult.

But even in losing, the torcida had lessons to teach the European tifosi (myself included). The Brasilians know how to throw a party. Before the match the electric atmosphere of Frankfurt was lit up to the beat of samba and the spirit of caipirinha. It was a unique experience of fun - harmless, sporting fun. The few blue fans who ventured in the moving sambadrome could only watch in awe at this mobile carnival and took photos with the Brasilian fans as though each one of them was a Ronaldo or a Ronaldinho. Because the Brasilian fans are the true stars. They are full of humour, they do not sing negative songs, they just celebrate life and football. As it is meant to be.

The loss on the pitch was deserved. 90 minutes without testing the bald bungler should have meant that - even if France did not find their goal from a free kick with Henry creeping behind the hapless defence - Brasil would deserve to go out on a points system. That was not the selecao. They found the first team that could defend against their onslaughts as high up as midfield and they failed to invent something new. For that they deserve to go home. Once again Brasil loses to France because it fails to turn up. Sorry for all the French fans out there but I still have to see France beat Brasil and not beat eleven ghosts on the pitch.

But that is football too. And the verdict is there. The boring French had their five minutes of exciting football. Zidane played like a God and he deserves a place in the last four. His supporting act was good - I still think that the French should not illude themselves... they did not play the world Champions on Saturday but a shadow. But as I said. They are still in Germany - Brasil is not.

And it was in the reaction to the result that the Brasilians could teach a thing or two to their European hosts (all of them... be they English, German, Italian or French). The dignity in the loss was incredible. They could still find the strength to wave their flags and sing along with the French who in the meantime were going berserk. Hearing (and understanding) the French taunts to the Brasilians I felt ashamed to be European. It's not as though there is some history of war or aggression between the two nations. The Brasilians only fault is that they are considered the best. So beating the Brasilians meant that insults and abuse about Brasil and its team could fly. Thank God the brasilians had no idea what the frogs were croaking about.

This World Cup for me has been more about the fans than the teams. The tifosi. And I guarantee you that following the Torcida for one day was a lesson in gentlemen's football.

There would be no arrests in Frnakfurt. Instead, after the obvious hour or so of recollection, the samba beat resumed to party through the night. They know that it is only a matter of time before they are at the top again. That is why they are team that plays football with the smile on their face. That is why they can take a loss with a dignity that is unheard of in Europe.

That is why that France or no France, Brasil remain the undisputed Kings of the Beautiful Game.

samedi, juillet 01, 2006

Main Arena

It's officially back. The childhood pre-match excitement is now in full force. In around 45 minutes I will join Konsu, Karl, Edmond and an as yet unkown person on a two-day trip to Frankfurt-am-Main. My childhood dream has always been one. Not so much as to watch a World Cup match in a stadium but to be there. To be in the city where the match is being played and to share the emotions of the crowd - more specifically to share the heat of the torcida! Ever since I saw the dancing masses in the World Cup film "Gole'!" I wanted to be in the sea of yellow and green. And today I am going there.

My ipod is charged with my best Brasilian music and Euro-adaptations of the same. Sergio Mendes rules, Couleur Cafe with Serge Gainsbourg, Xavier Cougat and Astrud Gilberto will be the soothing part and a CD called Viva Brasil will provide all the batucadas possible. For the late night there is "Disco Brasil".

Fingers crossed, all superstitious rituals in focus and off we go!