Sunday, June 26, 2005

As democratic as the rest of US

The People's Republic was a bit concerned when it heard an ultra-conservative had been the unexpected winner of a dodgy election, thus threatening the stability of the world.

We thought George Walker Bush had won a historic third term.

Luckily it became apparent that it was only the election of the new leader of Iran, where the religious clerics who run the country had barred progressive candidates from standing in an attempt to get a conservative victory. This differs slightly from democracy in the US, where the partisan election officials simply bar progressive voters from voting in swing states, thus achieving the same goal.

No need for any regime change there then. They're as democratic as the rest of us.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

A Right Royal Mess

This week it was revealed that the royal family cost the British taxpayer £37 million last year, which works out at 61p for every man, woman and child in Britain and includes:

1. A royal train journey made by the Prince of Wales from Aberdeen to Plymouth costing almost £45,000,
2. A further trip by Prince Charles to Sri Lanka, Australia & Fiji by chartered plane that cost £300,000,
3. Another chartered flight by the Duke of York to the Far East to promote UK interests that cost just under £125,000.

This was hailed by Alan Reid, Keeper of the Privy Purse, who described this as "value for money".

Meanwhile in Birmingham a Twenty20 Vision wristband can be bought for £20. The cost includes:

1. A Lance Armstrong style Wristband,
2. Admission to all four Warwickshire Twenty20 games which normally cost £10 each,
3. Free bus travel on selected routes which serve the cricket ground after 15.00 on the day and
4. A £1.20 donation to charity

In fact, it does so much I think it might single-handedly be keeping the local economy running after the collapse of Rover.

There are a million people in Birmingham. If we save the 61p each we can buy 30,500 Twenty20 wristbands.

Not only will it provide even better value for money, but we'll provide some for the Royal Family so they can learn to use the bus.

The royals were also in the news this week as Prince William graduated from St. Andrew's University. One thing the People's Republic noticed was how his name was given as William Wales during the graduation ceremony. His surname is technically "Mountbatten-Windsor" but the story doesn't end there. Mountbatten comes from his grandfather, Price Phillip, who had to select a surname because he didn't have one. He actually comes paternally from the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg. Windsor comes from his grandmother, the Queen and originates from 1917 when George V changed the family's name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha due to anti-German feeling during the war. So his real surname should be:


The People's Republic proposes that we should remember this royal family as the House of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Ferrari, FIA f-up F1

Once upon a time there was a racetrack in Indiana. The Indycars that raced there kept falling off, so the authorities replaced the surface with a brand new one with diamond-cut grooves to increase the grip. Firestone, who supplied the tyres to some of the Indycars got some feedback and told their European brother Bridgestone about it. This proved useful, as they supplied three teams who competed in F1.

A few weeks later an F1 race took place on the same racetrack. In addition to the three teams who use Bridgestone, there were also seven other teams who used a tyre manufacturer called Michelin. On Friday practice, one of the these tyres failed unexpectedly on the banked part of the circuit, causing a crash which ruled Ralf Schumacher out of the main event on the Sunday.

Now F1 cars don't like banking. Unlike Nascars and Indycars, F1 cars are designed to race on flat tracks, and generate enormous amounts of downforce. Whether due to a dodgy batch of tyres, or the new diamond-cut surface, an investigation into the crash by Michelin meant that they couldn't guarantee their tyres for a 73-lap race. Unless that part of the track was slowed down by a chicane, they advised their teams not to race. In the litigation culture that is America, the corporations that owned the teams had no choice but to agree. Two Bridgestone teams even joined them.

Enter the FIA and Ferrari. Ferrari decide that they should not be penalised for what is essentially a problem caused by the tyre manufacturer. The FIA refuse to implement the chicane. Without all ten teams agreeing, the race would not count towards the championship. The Michelin teams ask for the chicane to be added and agree that they will not get any World Championship points from the race as it is their tyre manufacturers fault. At least the crowd will be treated to a spectacle, they argue. No say the FIA. Race at reduced speeds, use a different tyre or change your tyre every few laps. Martin Brundle, a respected former racing driver turned television pundit points out the first option could be dangerous; the second is against FIA rules. Michelin cannot guarantee the tyre for any amount of laps - after all Ralf Schumacher crashed on his first flying lap, so the third option is unsatisfactory as well. The Michelin teams are left with no alternative but to pull out of the race.

This all happens against a backdrop of a power struggle in F1. The nine teams who agreed to the chicane, encouraged by the large motor manufacturers who own them are asking for a bigger slice of the cash F1 gets in sponsorship money as well as more of a say in the decision making. They threaten a breakaway championship in 2008 after their current contracts expire in 2007. Ferrari are the only team to have signed up past 2008. Since this agreement, the FIA and Ferrari seem to end up on the same side on any disagreements. Some teams are worried the FIA may be showing favouritism to Ferrari. Some motor racing fans point to past dubious decisions they say already show this.

Only six cars start the race to a chorus of boos. Ferrari, who have been having a bad season get maximum points, which catapults them back into the World Championship. The American fans ask for a refund. Formula 1 is damaged, maybe irreparably.

Murray Walker used to say that F1 spells "if" backwards. The People's Republic would also like to point out that you can't spell Ferrari without FIA.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Critics of Women's Football Know Sweet F.A.

The women's European Championships which were taking place in the north-west of England finished today with Germany beating Norway 3-1 to take the trophy, making it the second time the Germans have won a version of the tournament on English soil in ten years.

I guess we'll just have to win the World Cup next year on German soil to even things up.

While it may have its critics, I have been impressed with the quality of the women's game. The quality of free kicks and set-pieces was particularly good; I saw one of the best corners I have ever seen from the Finnish in their game against the host nation, and if a Premiership footballer had been given the chance that Karen Carney beautifully placed in the last minute of the same game, it probably would have ended up in row Z. What the women lack in power, they more than make up for in accuracy. It was a refreshing change from the men's game in England, which relies too much on strength, brute force and physical presence.

The current England team brought back some memories as well. Faye White and Mary Phillip in defence reminded me another famous Arsenal centre-half combination, that of Tony Adams and Steve Bould. Eni Aluko burst on to the England scene in a similar way and with a similar style to Darius Vassell, and Karen Carney and Rachel Yankee are the best wing partnership Birmingham City have produced since Ricky Otto and Louie Donowa.

In any case, any kind of football where Birmingham City are the fourth best team in the land can't be that bad.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Bengal's Tigers Roar in the Gardens

In one of the biggest shocks in the history of cricket, Bangladesh beat Australia in a one-day international at Sophia Gardens, a result which easily eclipses their World Cup win against Pakistan in 1999.

Perhaps the nation of convicts should go back to doing hard labour.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Wacko Jacko

According to a report in the Metro today, after successfully defending himself against allegations of child abuse, Michael Jackson plans to leave his Neverland ranch in California and move to London in an attempt to rebuild his life.

Proof if proof were needed that he needs psychiatric help.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

United, United now for sale

Malcolm Glazer has announced how he plans to make money out of his purchase of Manchester United. Among them are plans to raise ticket prices, cap transfer spending to £25 million a year, and to play a match in Tampa each year.

The People's Republic are not sure this will be enough to cover the debts made from the initial purchase of the club, so we offer Mr. Glazer the following advice free of charge (after all, we wouldn't want to bankrupt them). Firstly, to make maximum income from their yearly tour of the States and also to make sure they do not get sued for use of the term "football", we propose that they should rename the club "Soccer Club United's of Manchester" (or S.C.U.M. for short). Secondly, they should relocate to Birmingham, or perhaps even London where there will be a bigger natural fan base. Alternatively, big Mal could relocate them to Milton Keynes, exactly halfway between the two, so that they could play their new city rivals the MK Dons in a money-spinning match that would be known as "the franchise derby".

Manchester United fans may be upset over the purchase, and while the People's Republic sympathizes with the true fans that have supported the club man-and-boy for several decades, the truth is they have had it coming. Man United has been for sale ever since they put the club on the stock market in the early 90's. Their previous owner, Martin Edwards, continually attempted to make money out of the shares he inherited from his father, selling them again and again to anyone who offered a decent price and even at one point attempting to sell the club to the Devil's own company, Sky Sports. Add to this the merchandising tie-up with the New York Yankees, the summer tours to the Far-East and the U.S., and the infamous episode where they played in the World Club Championships instead of the oldest cup competition in the world, it was only a matter of time before something like this happened.

Of course Mr Glazer turned around the fortunes of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who used to be the laughing stock of American football, but the difference is Man Utd are (were?) a successful club already.

If he wanted to turn around the laughing stock of English soccer, he should have taken over Birmingham City.

Born Again?

Today is the Queen's official birthday as opposed to her real one, which is on 21st April.

All across the country working-class people are working all the hours God sends, and only get to celebrate one birthday. Why does the Queen need two?

Is it so she can get two sets of presents each year?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Come on Tim!

While the media blather on about Queen's, in Birmingham defending women's Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova and a host of other female tennis stars are playing in the DFS classic at the Edgbaston Priory Club. Not a lot of people know that Lawn Tennis was invented in Birmingham when in 1859 Major Thomas Henry Gem, a solicitor, beat his friend Batista Pereira, a Spanish merchant in a game they called 'pelota', which is Spanish for ball. Later, Batista helped form the first tennis club in nearby Leamington Spa.

The People's Republic believes it is time that tennis returned home. It's time to swap SW19 for B15. Wimbledon's already lost it's football club to Milton Keynes due to lack of support. With the support of a real crowd, instead of the strawberry-and-cream guzzling ponces that populate south London every summer, Tim might eventually win.

A beer and a balti will put some fire in his belly.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Congestion, Conservatives and the Capital

For once it seems the government have finally got the guts to implement a policy that would be good for the country, but could be unpopular. I am referring to of course, the plans to slash fuel tax and charge motorists on the roads they are driving on. The People's Republic (along with the Adam Smith Institute it seems) has long argued for this sensible approach; fuel tax is far too blunt an instrument to beat congestion about the head with, and it is only right that people who drive cars in the cities at peak time should pay more than weekend country drivers.
What is the Conservatives response to this? Well unfortunately it seems they are going to try and paint this as another tax on the "hard-pressed motorist" and will presumably bleat on about how this will force poorer drivers of the road. Warning bells ring when the Conservatives start using the poor as their first line of defence. After all, thirty-three percent of people don't even have access to the car.

The People's Republic is guessing they aren't exactly rich.

The only problem is why the government needs to use satellite tracking to monitor these tolls. Surely a few manned booths at peak-times or some sort of swipe-card system would be a better way of doing things.

Unless it was about more than traffic congestion...

Meanwhile Idiotic TeleVision (or ITV as it's commonly known) managed to surpass it's bog-standard reporting on this issue when it claimed that fuel tax, road tolls and congestion charging have had no effect on Gridlock Britain. Excuse me, but I thought that London had benefited greatly from the congestion charge, and on the only toll road in Britain I haven't heard of there being any queues as bad as those on the M6. And some people criticise the BBC...

In other news London is apparently a really good second in the race for the Olympics. Well that's where it belongs, in second (Birmingham of course is the biggest city in Britain, as far as normal people define cities anyway). I'm sure you've guessed that the People's Republic is among the 30% who oppose the bid; London often can't compete with its national rivals on projects like the national stadium and the millennium celebrations, only winning when it's fixed the result in advance. How can "the greatest city in the world" possibly compete with a city that is truly international class?

Vive la Republic!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Bronze Prize for the Gordon Brown

According to a BBCi article yesterday, one of the reasons the Americans are not supporting Gordon Brown's moves to provide 100% debt relief for the African states is that it involves selling off gold reserves of the IMF. Gordon Brown is gaining a reputation for selling gold after selling off British reserves and replacing them with paper currency (and stupidly announcing he was going to do this beforehand so the prices dropped). Why has he got such an obsession for selling off gold?

Probably because he's finished selling off the family silver...

(Incidentally for an excellent analysis of why Live 8 won't change a thing, read Dr. Madsen Pirie's article today on the Adam Smith Institute's blog)

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Election Troubles

Apparently, the European Constitution is now dead (or perhaps on life support according to some European sources - I've always maintained healthcare was much better in Europe). The Peoples' Republic is wondering what is happening to the Dutch. The French have always been a law unto themselves, so voting non was not a major surprise; but nej - we could see it coming but it is an amazing turnaround nonetheless. The Dutch used to be incredibly liberal and pro-European; now they seem to have a phobia about immigrants and are starting to have second thoughts about further European integration. Apparently, some of this stems from the belief that immigration to Holland from the New Europe and those from Islamic backgrounds are threatening their liberal values. I suppose its easy to be liberal when you have sent all your nutters to South Africa, but it is a lot harder when you've got people who aren't so tolerant in the country.

Why is it that liberals can accept anything and everyone except those who don't agree with themselves?

Back in the People's Republic meanwhile, Salma Yaqoob, the Respect Candidate who slashed Labour's majority to just over 3000, has made an official complaint regarding the general election result in Birmingham Sparkbrook. The Peoples' Republic will be taking a keen interest in these proceedings, particularly given Labour's reputation for "increasing turnout" in the city. Roger Godsiff in particular intrigues us; apparently he believes there should be no more immigration to Britain.

An odd thing to have said just before an election in a constituency with so may immigrant voters - unless they were about to defect to another party and he needed to court the "tory-waverers".