Friday, July 29, 2005

Tornado batters Brum

There are some days which stick out in the mind of Brummies. Where were you when the large tremor hit Dudley in 2003? Or how did you get home on that notorious day in 2004 when the roads re-froze after being gritted, bringing gridlock to the entire region? We can now add to this the day the Mid-West came to the West Midlands.

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) I was at work when the tornado hit so didn't have any first-hand experience. While at work, we heard reports of many roads in south Birmingham being closed due to fallen trees. Then reports appeared on the internet claiming a tornado had hit south Birmingham, with pictures showing the area where I live with roofs ripped off. Fearing the worst, I rushed home and remember feeling the incredible humidity that followed the freak storm.

The tornado seemed to be centred on Kings Heath, the spiritual (and some would say physical) home of the People's Republic (although there was heavy damage in other areas as well including Sparkbrook an Moseley). The High Street suffered the most with the roof being ripped off Greggs and surrounding shops. A hut used as a booth at a carpark near my former school was lifted up into the air and smashed into the front of Iceland, injuring the man inside. Two people were also seriously injured at the bus stop where I catch my bus to work every morning due to branches falling in the All Saints Church compound. Many of its trees were uprooted, and damage was done to its 19th century roof and a stained glass window. The Catholic Church opposite where I worship however remained untouched.

I suppose God looks after his own!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Brum Strikes a Blow Against Terror

In a dawn raid in Hay Mills it appears that West Midlands Police, in conjunction with the security services and the Met have captured one of the failed bombers of 21st July. Obviously if this is confirmed, it is a massive breakthrough.

It was only a matter of time before the Islamic terrorist activity that has reared its ugly head was linked to the city. There is clearly a hotbed of discontent in certain areas of the city amongst the Muslim youth. Respect posters and others about Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq abound in the areas of South Birmingham where I live. A poster with a picture of the battered twin towers has also been seen with the caption "A towering day in history" in Balsall Heath.

The reports suggest that police used a taser to capture the suspect. Whereas this has the obvious advantage of not bringing in the suspect on a slab (although it has been known according to some organisations), presumably they were sure that he wasn't wearing a bomb belt that could have been set of by the explosives. Apparently though, he was wearing a rucksack containing explosives.

Hopefully he will know something about the whereabouts of the other suspected bombers, and perhaps some good can come out of the latest terror attempts.

Monday, July 25, 2005

A Warm Welcome to our Baptist Brothers

The largest Christian conference in Britain for decades takes place over the next five days at various locations around Birmingham including the NIA and the ICC. Among the delegates are the former President of the United States (and peanut farmer) Jimmy Carter, and the wife of the most famous footballer ever, Pele.

We give our Baptist friend a warm welcome, and hope they will enjoy their time in our humble city.

It's all Rover at Longbridge

More details emerge concerning the takeover of the remaining assets of MG Rover by the chinese firm Nanjing. It appear the Rover brand will no longer roll off the production lines in the Midlands, and it is increasingly likely that no more cars will roll of the production line at the Longbridge plant.

Not exactly the best way to celebrate 100 years of Longbridge, but thanks for all the memories.

The Nanjing bid was the least preferred bid for the People's Republic. Shanghai Automotive, despite their role in Rover's downfall, appear to have the intellectual rights to the 25 and the 75 giving it greater scope to restart production at Longbridge. The third bid would have kept the company in British hands, and appeared to have some great ideas to develop the MG brand. It seems however that in the end Nanjing bid the most and so got the prize. We wish them well, and hope they will maintain a decent manufacturing presence in the West Midlands.

Above all, we hope thay can give us some cars to be proud about.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

1-0 to the Convicts

As predicted on this blog, the convicts won the first test, and in the end it was quite convincing.
This can be put down to a few things. Firstly the first innings batting performance of England, which was woeful, particularly amongst the so called recognised batsmen. Secondly, the bowling in the second innings against the tail-end which was tame to say the least - why didn't they take a leaf out of Brett Lee's book, and go into bouncer and yorker mode. Finally the fielding - six dropped catches against the Aussies is simply asking for trouble.

The People's Republic were sad to see the retirement of Graeme Thorpe. England's best batsman of the 90's, it was sad to see his career blighted by personal problems over the past few years. As much as it pains a Bear to say it, bringing him in for Bell in the second test may have given England some of the batting backbone they lacked in the first innings. Ian Bell will become a great player for England, but if he continues to get single digit scores as he did in the first test, the anti-Warwickshire bias of the England selectors may mean he has as short a test career as his Warwickshire team-mate Nick Knight.

The debate continues as to whether it was great bowling or a dodgy pitch which caused wickets to tumble on the first day. The People's Republic is not taking any nonsense; it is clear the pitch was not up to standard. A few years ago a similar situation at Edgbaston led to calls from some sections of the cricket establishment for the ground to lose its test status. This explains why so many 'experts' were so quick to applaud the great bowling on the first day.

If they weren't, they'd have to be calling for the suspension of test cricket at Lords.

I heard somewhere that the test at Lords has to take place before the start of the Grouse hunting season at the end of August as all the members are unavailable thereafter. Compare this to Edgbaston, where in the Eric Hollies stand the footie fans take a break from the beautiful game to give some back to any team that thinks they can psyche-out England.

It's why the England players love the ground; and it is why we'll level the series straight from the heart.

The War on Terror and Shoot to Kill

The "war on terror" is clearly being lost (of course this is not surprising, as it seems to be more about motivations rather than about actually ending terrorism). After the crazy events of Thursday where we were mercifully spared the misery of the 7th of July, Egypt also suffered a terrorist attack this weekend where as I write over 80 people have died. This takes place against the backdrop of the daily murders and suicide bombings taking place in the country that used to be Iraq (perhaps we should explain to the Islamic world that this isn't really democracy - after all, if their experience of democracy comes from Iraq since 2003 and Israel (and in particular the occupation of Palestine), it's not a surprise that they are not that enthusiastic about it).

What is just as concerning about the recent events is that the police shot dead an innocent man because he was acting suspiciously and was wearing strange clothing for the weather. Obviously we will need to wait for the full inquiry into the shooting before criticising those involved, as I'm not sure the media reports are giving a fully accurate version of what happened. The shoot-to-kill policy is undoubtedly necessary when suicide bombings are the weapon of choice of the state's enemy, but it raises real questions of how and when they can be justified in a specific instance. What constitutes suspicious activity? If a person's first language isn't English, how can this be taken into account when the police give a command, particularly if they are in plain clothes and one of them has a gun?

After all, would you like to be at the wrong end of a mistaken decision?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Bring on the Convicts

The People's Republic has been anticipating the beginning of the Ashes series with some excitement for months now. Rest assured that we will have a presence at the home of Brummie cricket, Edgbaston, which hosts the second test beginning on 4th August 2005. Until then, presumably we will have to tolerate a defeat at Lord's, where we haven't beaten the convicts for 71 years.

Bring it on.

Meanwhile, the People's Republic are still puzzling over Peter Crouch's £7 million move to Liverpool. When Graham Taylor brought him to Villa for £6 million a few years ago, everyone thought he was having delusions of finding the next Ian Ormandroyd.

How did one of the biggest jokes of English football become the star summer signing of the European Champions?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A Top Skatesman

The People's Republic was saddened to hear about the death of Edward Heath, the second former British Prime Minister to die this year after James Callaghan.

Edward Heath harks back to an era when the Tories were electable. A man from humble beginnings, he got to the top by hard-work and talent as opposed to the modern Conservatives who prefer to be born into their wealth. Added to this, you have to credit him for having no time for Margaret Thatcher, an attitude that even our Labour Prime Minister can't boast of. Indeed, Tony Benn's tribute was "He was well to the left of Tony Blair, that's for sure".

If any further proof were needed that he was indeed a top Skatesman, I will leave you with the following quote which he used to dismiss criticism of his handling of foreign policy:

"There are some people who believe that that the British Prime Minister should hang off the shoulder of the American President. I tell you, that is no future for Britain."


Thursday, July 14, 2005

Injustice for All

As the dust settles from the terrorist attacks in London, we reach a period where the Government pontificates about how we were always a target of a terrorist threat, that they are trying to destroy our way of life and it was absolutely, positively nothing to do with Iraq, Afghanistan or that matter any other Western action in the Middle East.

There is a problem with this analysis. It is wrong. The Islamic world did not wake up one day and say, "I know, just for a laugh we'll start bombing and maiming innocent people for no particular reason. Civilization and democracy is not for us, let's kill, kill, kill!"

On the other hand the western world did wake up one day start bombing defenceless third world countries so that they could rob the economic wealth. Alternatively they may just have wanted a military presence in the area. Often, they installed brutal dictators in these oil rich states to ensure democracy didn't flourish and the wealth stayed under their control, leaving only extremists who resorted to religion as the only ones who could fight back.

Ok, these are oversimplifications of the history of the Middle East, but the fact remains that the problems of 9/11 and the subsequent events are the direct results of Western foreign policy in the Middle East. In the same way that the IRA terrorised Britain due to the perceived injustices in Ireland under British rule, Islamic extremists are murdering innocent people to avenge (in their eyes) the injustices happening in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and other Muslim areas.

Of course this is a biased view. NATO for example helped liberate the Kosovan Muslims from Serb rule. If it wasn't for American intervention in the 70's, Kashmir would probably be completely under Indian rule. By perpetuating myths of anti-Islamic bias in Western foreign policy, Al Qaida and its fellow Islamist groups convince a seemingly unending stream of young men to give their lives for their perverted cause.

And while they continue to see the atrocities happening in Palestine and Iraq, it will be difficult to convince these young men otherwise.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Birmingham City Centre Evacuated

I don't think anyone expected the events that unfolded last night which saw the entire city centre evacuated. At the time I was at home hearing reports on the radio, but the scale of what was happening grew increasingly clear as the night went on. Despite the fact nothing was found I don't think anyone could blame the Police for evacuating the area - they certainly wouldn't have taken the decision lightly and it was obviously better than the alternative. Apparently some people spent the night as Aston University.

At least it's good for something.

It is interesting to see the response to the terrorist attacks in this city. When going to work on Friday two police officers boarded the bus I was on, but didn't check any passes or anything. While walking around Birmingham City Centre on Saturday afternoon there was a noticeable police presence which seemed bigger than usual, although there are always police visible in the city centre especially on Saturday.

I had always thought that Birmingham would be an unlikely target for the current terrorist threat. This city may have been a target for the IRA, but they were making a political statement against what they saw as the English occupation of Ireland. The Islamist threat is surely more about making headlines by attacking the centres of the West and as such London would be a more obvious target.

Only time will tell if this analysis is correct.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Shoulder to Shoulder with our Cockney Allies

The People's Republic often criticises London (in jest of course), and while not looking forward to the London-centric press focusing on the Olympic Games for the next few days, we certainly wouldn't have wanted it to be replaced by the tragic events that took place this morning.

We offer our heartfelt condolences and sympathies to all who have been affected by the attacks.

The people of Birmingham have of course experienced the pain of terrorist attack ourselves, most notably in 1974 with the Birmingham Pub Bombings, which was (excluding Lockerbie) previously the worst attack on mainland Britain.

We love to compete against London, but this is a record we neither want nor want to see passed on to London or for that matter any other city.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

A Frog Left in Throat as London Wins Olympics

The People's Republic had quietly been expecting London to win the IoC vote in Singapore. Call it jammy, lucky or maybe even suspicious, but London has a habit of winning contests where it doesn't have the best bid (as every Brummie will know).

It has concerned the People's Republic that an increasing amount of Brummies have been supporting the London bid in the past week, including John Hemming and Denise Lewis. They claim it is a "British bid" and because Villa Park will be hosting some football matches, it will benefit the city. They fail to realise that Birmingham deserves more than scraps of the rich man's table. We had the best bid for the millennium celebrations and the National Stadium (of course, now London will be getting some more). They even recently stole the International Motor Show of us, which contributes millions of pounds to the local economy - a few games at Villa Park won't make up for that.

In any case, London has already hosted the Olympics twice and it is time it went to another part of the country. If there are not enough hotel rooms (the excuse used to prevent a Brummie or Mancunian bid), it is time that the government invested in some of our other cities s (after all, Germany has held the games more than once but in different cities). London has it both ways; if a private company invests in London, it's the principle of market forces, but when government money is on offer, that goes to London anyway because "it should be in London" (how many times have we heard that).

The blame undoubtedly lies with Jacques Chirac. After a disagreeing with Britain about Iraq (rightly in the opinion of most people), he panicked after losing the referendum on the European Constitution and tried to divert attention by ranting about the British rebate while refusing to discuss CAP, and now criticising British food while not seeming to realise it has changed in the last 25 years.

The People's Republic has called off all diplomatic relations with Paris, and after this debacle has decided to ban the use of French words.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Birmingham's Role in Make Poverty History

The highlight of Live 8 was undoubtedly brummie band UB40 coming on and performing Red Red Wine and Can't Help Falling in Love with You. The People's Republic believes it was no coincidence that the Women's Wimbledon Tennis Final ended just as UB40 were on stage so that they were the first act on BBC1. The cockney press will fawn over the likes of Paul McCartney, Robbie Williams and U2, but we all know a class act when we see it.

Of course, Birmingham has played a major roll in trying to "drop the debt" already. We had the Jubilee campaign linking arms around Birmingham at the last G8 summit held in the UK, and the "Long Walk for Justice" to Edinburgh started in Birmingham to acknowledge this.

It's just a pity the national press can't acknowledge the role this city has played.