Sunday, October 21, 2007

World Championship Weakend

What a dire weekend for British sport. After the pathetic exploits of the Scottish and English national football teams on Wednesday, the World Championship weekend ended without a single British winner.

In the Rugby, a disallowed try possibly turned the outcome of the World Cup. I am a big believer that England is disadvantaged in Rugby as every other nation that takes the sport seriously hates us, with the possible exception of New Zealand and the South Sea islanders. As a result, it is difficult to get a neutral referee. A few decisions went against England in the final, including decisions on blocking as well as the try. However, South Africa were probably the best team in the tournament even though they had a rather easy draw and most England fans would have taken a second World Cup Final appearance if offered before the tournament. As for the try, there was enough doubt not to award it. Well done to both England and new World Champions South Africa.

Well done also to new Formula 1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen. Coming into the final race he was outsider in a three way title fight for the championship, but drove a faultless race to pull it off against all odds. Over two years ago I predicted on this blog that Raikkonen would come to dominate the sport; it is great to see him finally fulfilling his potential even though he defeated Lewis Hamilton in his amazing d├ębut season. I have also pointed out on this blog a couple of times the FIA's bias towards Ferrari. Even with the odds stacked against him the wise money would always have been on Raikkonen, particularly after Bernie Ecclestone said he would like to see him win to Martin Brundle before the race. As we may recall back in the early days of the Blair government, what Bernie Ecclestone wants, Bernie Ecclestone tend to get.

I will not dwell too long on the two Brum teams being beaten by those representing an inferior northern city either.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Usi 9mm

There has been a lot of discussion recently about foreign takeovers of British football clubs. My opinion is that if football is a business, as we are constantly being told it is, it cannot protect itself from globalisation which is a natural part of free-markets. Having said that, we don't want any old Johnny Foreigner running our clubs. There must be a certain probity about the character of any potential investors.

I believe the two Birmingham clubs have done well here. I doubt any Villa fan would want to go back to the bad old days of Deadly Doug. Randy Lerner, as well as having a great name for a student of sex education, has humbly said he is a steward of the club and it appears that the club is finally moving in the right direction after many years of neglect. There are a few question marks over Carson Yeung, not least as to whether he will actually take over at St Andrew's, but he seems to have an understanding of the city and football and could be an important contact in the emerging superpower that is China, giving the city and the club access to the huge Premier League marketing potential available in the country..

Other cities have been less discerning however. Manchester City have allowed the former Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin Sinawatra with his questionable record on human rights to take over the club. Meanwhile in London, the probity of the Arsenal-owning hopeful Alisher Uzmanov has been questioned recently by quite a few blogs concerned at his recent efforts to silence certain online critics, which affected among others Tim Ireland and local councillor Bob Piper's fine weblogs.

Many club owners are now saying foreign investment is vital to be able to compete at the highest level. However, should we be more careful about the types of people who are taking over our national sport?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

One Out All Out

I may be a bit annoyed at not getting my public sector annual increment in pay, but you have to laugh; UNISON are balloting their members on strike action over the issue, but the process of sending out ballot papers have been delayed... because of the postal strike.

Isn't it ironic.

Monday, October 15, 2007

No US Re-nay-agan on Environmental Treaties

This, my 200th post, is part of blog action day, where bloggers around the web unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind - the environment.

There is not much doubt that the main environmental concern at the moment is global warming. In 1997 the industrialized nations signed an agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the Kyoto treaty. American President George W. Bush refuses to abide by the terms of the treaty, claiming he "does not believe the science".

I doubt he understands the science. The right wing, fearing that socialists are using global warming to further their political arguments have adopted three positions; to deny the science behind global warming; to argue for technological solutions rather than "economically damaging restrictions"; or, like David Cameron, embrace global warming and its economically damaging solutions in an attempt to become electable.

Back in the late 1980's and early 90's, the big environmental concern was depletion of the ozone layer. Back then, America also had an idiot for a leader in the form of Ronald Reagan; and some would argue so did Britain. However the similarities ended there. Margaret Thatcher graduated in Chemistry from Oxford and actually did understand the science. She persuaded Ronald Reagan to sign the Montreal Protocol, the Kyoto of its day and as a result, ozone depletion is beginning to subside.

What does Margaret Thatcher think of global warming? Well according to a recent article by the ASI (based on her book Statecraft), she is firmly in the second camp, believing it is a problem but one that can be overcome by human ingenuity rather than damaging restrictions. It is a position which I tend to agree with. There is no point telling people what they can and cannot do, or charge them more in an attempt to stop them doing it; in a free country, we will make up our own minds based on our own desires and most people will not stop to think about the long-term consequences.

What price a scientifically savvy Prime Minister who can influence America on the environment?

Could it cost us the Earth?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

CHSG Presentation to IRP

I have posted the presentation made by the City Hospital Supporters Group (CHSG) to the Independent Review Panel (IRP) opposing the planned removal of emergency surgical and trauma and emergency paediatric beds from City Hospital on Support City Hospital blog. It is a concise summary of the case against the proposals and is well worth a look if you care about the future of emergency acute health services in the central/ west Birmingham and Sandwell region.

Update 19/10: I am clearly an idiot. I have now added in the links so you can actually look at the presentation should you so desire.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Day Out in London


Last Saturday, I spent the day in our glorious capital to see what the "greatest city in the world" has to offer visitors. This is the second trip I have made to London this year after an earlier trip to Lords; I seem to be getting soft on the old cockney hometown in my old age

After arriving at Euston after 1 hour and 45 minutes, a time which has not reduced and had perhaps even lengthened since the late 1980's/ early 90's, we walked to the British Museum in a vain attempt to see the current Terracotta Army exhibition. Unfortunately they only release 500 tickets each day at 9am, and as we had got there a bit later it was of course sold out. We decided to have a look around the rest of the museum which contains one of the largest collections of stolen goods in the world. The exhibits were stolen, plundered and borrowed, taxed, teefed and generally robbed from across the whole of the known world at the height of the Empire, and they even have a room celebrating this. They had the cheek to ask for a £4 donation; obviously I did not provide one, as crime should not pay.

I was expecting to be asked to leave a donation at St. Paul's Cathedral as well, but they had the cheek to charge an admission fee because there was not a service going on. All museums should now be free, but St Paul's get round this by claiming they are a place of worship. As a Catholic, I did not buy this excuse as I did not see anything that resembled any Papal authorisation.

A slight detour took us into the City of London, which is tiny compared to the City of Birmingham. Here I realised Londoners love living in the past, as their garbage trucks carried the title of cleanest city 2004., a title which was won in March by Birmingham. Perhaps they lost it because they failed to clean up such an out of date notice.

A walk across the (previously) wobbly Millennium bridge led us to a pub where we had some lunch and then we went to the Tate Modern. The most surreal exhibit of the day was actually in the pub beforehand however, where England beat the Wobblies in the Rugby World Cup. Until I got home and checked Teletext, I was a bit worried that we had eaten lunch in the Tate Modern and the game was actually a piece of Modern Art where England's victory represents the dreams of our youth, before we are crushed with the reality of an Australian victory in the grown-up world. Gladly, I was mistaken.

As dusk arrived we "flew" on the British Airways London Eye, which despite its sponsor was running pretty efficiently and not affected by any strikes. There are some great views of London and the surrounding landmarks from the wheel which I exploited to the full by taking out my trusty digital camera and snapping away to my heart's content, as were my friends and fellow travelers in the pod. According to some people the police would have been justified in stopping me to check that I was not planning some atrocity because I am asian look like a terrorist, but not my white friends were taking exactly the same pictures of exactly the same landmarks. Apparently my belief that this is an example of racially prejudice is wrong; I am actually a victim of politically correct thinking, which is clearly a far worse crime.

A quick tube ride across town took us to Covent Garden where in traditional London style we were ripped of for dinner. A dash back to Euston left me back in Birmingham before midnight.

I realised on my day out that London is a city on the move. I don't think it is the greatest city in the world yet, but some of the buildings that are planned are certainly moving it in the right direction. After the doldrums of the Thatcher years, where much money was made but few iconic buildings were build, London is finally starting to fulfill the potential it has. Maybe one day they will even deserve the title of greatest city in the world.

Not yet though. And you'll never get a Brummie admitting it.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

UCE RIP

The University of Central England has renamed itself as Birmingham City University and a current student is not impressed. Apparently they were struggling to market the former Polytechnic under the old name, and no-one was sure where it was. Well the clue was in the name, but it is understandable that including the name Birmingham will attract potential students and be a useful marketing tool due to name recognition. Indeed, some have argued that the West Midlands should be renamed Greater Birmingham in order to attract investment (and I would argue that Sandwell should be renamed West Bromwich), but I am sure our Black Country brothers would have some real issues with this.

If they can just persuade Aston University to include Villa in their title, they will be well on their way to being regarded the second best Uni in Brum - behind the original and best Birmingham University, of course.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I Don't Miss Cricket...

The cricket season is over and I am suffering symptoms of withdrawal. Warwickshire had a shocking season, being relegated in both league competitions and underachieving in the other two, including missing out on Twenty20 Finals day at Edgbaston. Ashley Giles has taken over from director of cricket Mark Greatbatch, and immediately pulled of a coup; he poached former South African and Warwickshire bowler Allan Donald from the England set-up to become the new bowling coach. As far as I'm concerned, anyone who picks a local side over the nation should be given the freedom of the Republic.

The international scene saw India and Pakistan make up for their World Cup humiliation by contesting the final of the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 Cup. India go on to play the convicts in November, and hopefully will continue their fine form.

On a personal level, I won my Telegraph Fantasy Cricket Super League and Super 10, finishing in the top 100 of the Warwickshire supporters league. I am now legally obliged to change my name to Mrs Element, who probably took up 50 of the other 100 places.