Sparks will fly

While the UK government continues to run around in tautological circles (Brexit means Brexit means…) the various parts of the EU have picked their representatives for the upcoming negotiations. What is clear is that the fantasists that Theresa May has put in charge of deciding what Brexit means are not in for an easy ride.

Michel Barnier, a French former EU commissioner, will represent the European Commission. Didier Seeuws will represent the EU Council – the heads of government – and Guy Verhofstadt will represent the European Parliament.

The decision, announced by EP political chiefs on Wednesday (8 Thursday), prompted a slight dip in the value of the British pound amid speculation that he will take a hard line.

Now there’s an understatement.

Verhofstadt is an uncompromising federalist and has been very outspoken in his reaction to the Brexit vote. It’s not entirely clear what his role will be in the Article 50 negotiations themselves, but any agreement will need to be signed off by the European Parliament and this appointment suggests that there is no mood to do the UK any favours.

I think the best way forward for Theresa May is to realise that the Brexit referendum was only advisory, that a four percent majority isn’t that decisive when faced with a constitutional change of this magnitude, and to quietly forget the whole thing.

Or maybe she’s just waiting for this to dawn on Johnson, Davis and Fox so that the Brexiteers can finally take some heat for their bullshit promises.

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Prettify XML with Vim

File under quick and dirty, but works for me.

The issue is that I have an utterly unreadable XML file in front of me. Not only is there no indentation, I don’t even have any line breaks.

To format it for readability, first insert line breaks


Then load and apply the XML indent file

:set filetype=xml
:filetype indent on

And apply it


There are probably better ways of achieving the same end, but as a quick fix, this works for me.

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Quote of the day: Making a difference

Fashionable parts of the left now sneer at government, and I’ve never understood that. I can understand it if you’re a philosopher or a religious figure, but if you’re in the secular world of politics, which is a grubby, tough, volatile business, why on earth would you not want to try and do shit? I just don’t understand what this whole Corbyn thing is for, if it doesn’t do anything.

Nick Clegg

For the record, I still have a lot of time for Nick Clegg insofar as I think he was right to enter a coalition with the Tories in 2010 rather than either trying to prop up a rejected Labour administration or retreat to the sidelines to shout impotently at a minority government. One thing that does come across from the interview is something I’ve read elsewhere, that the Lib Dems were not expecting a hung parliament and were not prepared for it.

On balance, a government with the Lib Dems in it has proved to be better than a government without, as has proved increasingly clear since May of last year. Being the minor coalition partner in a country not used to coalitions was never going to be easy, however, and the Lib Dems made a number of mistakes early on (as is acknowledged in the interview) that compounded their problems.

Hopefully the Lib Dems will make a recovery and rebuild themselves as an older, wiser and tougher party. Because politics – not just in Britain but also in the rest of Europe and beyond – is in dire need of a strong dose of liberalism.

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The dark side of the trains

I saw this photo on Flanders Today and immediately felt the need to go and look up the Brussels Comic Strip Festival.

The festival looks like fun but, if they hold it on the first weekend of every September, it will be a fair few years before I can head over and take a look for myself.

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Satirists strike back

Today I learned that Hungary has a satirical political party and, according to EUObserver, the Two-Tailed Dog Party is the only political group that is running a visible campaign against its country’s controversial anti-immigrant referendum which is scheduled to take place in October.

Orban’s referendum, which is as cynical as Cameron’s Brexit vote was stupid, asks: “Do you want the European Union to be able to order the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary without parliament’s consent?” It’s a question that pretty much dictates the answer and, over the summer, the government unveiled billboards linking migration with terrorism and criminality.

“Did you know? The Paris attacks were committed by migrants,” claims one of the thousands of blue government billboards around Hungary.

Another government billboard says: “Did you know that since the start of the migration crisis there has been a sharp increase in the number of harassments against women in Europe?”.

“Did you know that Brussels wants to deport the equivalent of a town of migrants to Hungary?” says another one.

The Two-Tailed Dog activists, who managed to managed to raise 29 million forints (€93,600) in just two weeks have responded with a billboard campaign of their own.

With a characteristically satirical twist, their billboards ask: “Did you know? There is war in Syria” and “Did you know? Corruption offences are mostly committed by politicians”.

Also: “Did you know? The people are not stupid”, and the more abstract “Did you know? What?”.

This makes the Two-Tailed Dog Party, an opposition that receives no state funding, the most visible opponents of Orban’s attempt to manipulate voters into strengthening his position when he seeks to undermine their rights.

Long may they continue.

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Jackie Chan to receive an Honorary Oscar

Jackie Chan in The Forbidden Kingdom
Jackie Chan in The Forbidden Kingdom
The BBC Reports that Jackie Chan is to be given an honorary Academy Award for his extraordinary achievements in film.

This Governors Awards step away from the endless marketing that surrounds the main Oscar ceremony and, instead, allow the board of governors to simply acknowledge the people whose contributions to the film industry deserve recognition. And Chan’s contributions have been exceptional.

No-one else comes close to his unique blend of action-comedy which blends genuinely death-defying stunts with raucously funny – all in the same scene. But rather than going full-on fanboy, I thought I’d ask the boys which is their favourite Jackie Chan film.

And the choices, in no particular order, are:

The Spy Next Door in which three kids discover that their mum’s boyfriend is a lot more exciting that any of them had imagined.

The Forbidden Kingdom in which an American teenager is thrown through time and space to find himself in Feudal China. Here, he meets both Jackie Chan and Jet Li, who help him return the staff of the Monkey King to its rightful owner while teaching him the discipline of Kung Fu along the way.

Shanghai Knights, the sequel to Shanghai Noon, in which Sheriff Chon Wang (played by Jackie Chan – and this film has a lot of fun with names) and his unreliable sidekick (Owen Wilson) travel from the Wild West to Victorian London to avenge a murder, uncover a dastardly plot and save the Queen.

Obviously, being aged between six and nine, none of the boys has seen anything near the full range of Chan’s output (yet) but the many DVDs we do have have all been watched many, many times.

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Stupid never learns

From the terms of use of the London 2012 Olympic website (handily archived for posterity by Index on Censorship):

Links to the Site. You may create your own link to the Site, provided that your link is in a text-only format. You may not use any link to the Site as a method of creating an unauthorised association between an organisation, business, goods or services and London 2012, and agree that no such link shall portray us or any other official London 2012 organisations (or our or their activities, products or services) in a false, misleading, derogatory or otherwise objectionable manner. The use of our logo or any other Olympic or London 2012 Mark(s) as a link to the Site is not permitted. View our guidelines on Use of the Games’ Marks.

In other words, they didn’t want anyone linking to them unless they were going to say something nice.

This time around, ESPN (via Gizmodo) reports that it’s the turn of the United States Olympic Committee to fire up the stupid with a letter to companies that sponsor athlete but don’t have a commercial relationship with the USOC or International Olympic Committee.

“Commercial entities may not post about the Trials or Games on their corporate social media accounts,” reads the letter written by USOC chief marketing officer Lisa Baird. “This restriction includes the use of USOC’s trademarks in hashtags such as #Rio2016 or #TeamUSA.”

The USOC owns the trademarks to “Olympic,” “Olympian” and “Go For The Gold,” among many other words and phrases.

No-one has claimed a trademark for the hashtag #Facepalm2016 or the phrase “Grab for Cash”.

The letter further stipulates that a company whose primary mission is not media-related cannot reference any Olympic results, cannot share or repost anything from the official Olympic account and cannot use any pictures taken at the Olympics.

At this rate, the 2020 Olympics are going to be remarkably quiet when someone tries to prevent any coverage of the event by anyone.

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