Sunday, April 29, 2007

Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong

Former Blues striker Clinton Morrison helped Crystal Palace beat Derby which put the second-city Blues back in their rightful place in the top-flight. Hopefully Birmingham will seal the Championship next week (there is a sentence you do not get to write often!) Even sweeter: three London clubs might take our place in the second tier. Is this part of a general malaise that will require more lottery funding to improve sports facilities in our glorious capital?

In other news, the convicts won a hatrick of world cups in ludicrous conditions. I stand by my predictions that this is the beginning of the end.

I hope.

Rocks in the Garden of England

Has the world ended in the South East? The reporting of the earthquake in Kent rivals that of the Tsunami in South East Asia a couple of years ago. It was not even as big as the on that centred on Dudley in 2002, which measured 4.8 on the richter scale compared to Kent's "at least 4.3". Am I incorrect in recalling that the bigger Dudley 'quake was generally called a (small-scale) tremor back then?

Next week on the BBC, as a pebble falls from a roof in London:

"Meteor strikes Worlds Greatest City"

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Death of a Legend

When the right-wing talk about the West's victory over communism, they usually credit the victory to those three great heroes of the right in the 1980's - Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II. Yesterday, the man who was actually responsible for the collapse of communism died; Boris Yeltsin (1931-2007).

The West loved to portray him as a mad Russian drunk, but the reality is he defeated communism when the West did not have a clue where to start. How did Ronald Reagan defeat communism? By bullying governments of small islands in his own backyard who had the audacity to look after the poor? Did Thatcher bring down communism by defeating Arthur Scargill? Did Pope John Paul's repression of liberation theology strike fear into the hearts of Marxists across the world? More likely, it depressed us Catholics who see support for it in nearly every book in the Bible, and perhaps moved some into the arms of the atheist leftists.

Boris Yeltsin famously stood on a tank to defy a coup by communists trying to overthrow another man who was pivotal in overthrowing communism, Mikhail Gorbachev. Unlike Reagan, Thatcher and Pope John Paul II there was a real chance he could have paid with his life. He could have looked the other way. He didn't, and as a result millions of people are freer than they used to be.

The West never defeated communism. Just like the Chinese adopting privatisation, in Russia it was an inside job.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Time For Fletch to Go?

The England Cricket team's humiliating defeat to South Africa has brought a barrage of criticism from the assorted ex-England players, coaches and writers who played cricket in a very different time and in some cases with a lot less success than the current captain. The consensus seems to be that Fletcher and Vaughan should step down, the latter from the one-day version of the game at least.

Now although I do believe Fletch has taken the side as far as he can, and Vaughan should not be selected for the one-day side, let us get things in perspective. We are likely to finish 5th in this World Cup; in the last two, we have gone out in the first round (including in 1999 when we hosted it). Our record in one-day cricket is rubbish; we are ranked seventh, in the last year we have been whitewashed by both Sri Lanka and Australia and drew a distracted Pakistan team 2-2. If it was not for the Commonwealth Bank Series, which was, let's be quite clear, a freak result we have achieved nothing in this format of the game over the last couple of years. So why did people expect us to beat South Africa!? The reality is the best four teams in the world are now in the semi-finals, a testament to the format of the competition.

There are many problems with the one day side, including selection and coaching. Nixon has done well but was never a long term solution; Panesar is not a one day player; there are no pinch-hitters like Mal Loye in the top order; and what the hell is the selection of Sajid Mahmood all about!? Fletch has never taken the one-day format seriously. Perhaps a specialist one-day coach could manage a one-day side, or perhaps Fletch will reconsider his position after the summer.

However, finishing 5th at the moment is par for the course.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Friendly Neighbourhood Fascists

The local elections are coming up in May. If you click here you will find a map of the Moseley & Kings Heath, Acocks Green, Springfield and Sparkhill wards with the address of each election candidate marked on the map.

Notice the four candidates who live no where near the constituencies they are standing for. Here are a group of foreigners we should gladly send home empty handed on May 3rd.

The British Nazi Party. Your friendly neighbourhood fascists.

Hat-tip: Brum Blog, Moseley Free

Monday, April 09, 2007

Tennis Troubles

This weekend saw the NEC host the Davis Cup clash between Great Britain & the Netherlands which ended in a 4-1 victory to the British team. The Great Britain team included all three ranked players that have represented Great Britain over the last twenty years: Tim Henman, Greg Rusedski and Andy Murray. Greg Rusedski used the occasion to announce his retirement from the game after his doubles victory on Saturday.

It is sad that Britain has only produced one decent tennis player in 20 years, namely Tim Henman. Andy Murray gave up on the Lawn Tennis Association and went to learn his trade on clay in Spain; Greg Rusedski famously defected from Canada in 1995. So despite all the money and projects spent on encouraging our next Wimbledon champion over the last decade or so, not one has come through. I am not sure how much has been spent in total, but I am sure we could have managed to bribe Roger Federer to defect for a fortnight to win our first Wimbledon Championship in 25 years.

This is a damning indictment of the opportunities we give to the children of this country. It is not really a surprise that we came out as the worst place to grow up in that UN report recently.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Rocky VII: Adrian's Revenge

Last night saw a real-life Rocky story at the Millennium stadium in Cardiff, albeit without the ending. Peter Manfredo Jr, runner-up on the American reality TV show the Contender, challenged Joe Calzaghe, the undefeated Welsh Super-Middleweight WBO and IBF champion.

The Americans widely predicted the fairytale would happen, but were incensed when Brummie referee Terry O'Connor stopped the fight in the third round. Most commentators believed it had been stopped too early for a title fight without a punch really hurting the young pretender, but most agreed it would only have been a matter of time before Calzaghe won the match. Supporters of the decision noted that Manfredo was not throwing any punches back, so the referee had no option.

It is difficult to understand why the Americans thought Manfredo had a chance against Calzaghe. After the match Manfredo himself implied this was perhaps a step too far. Many in Britain regard Calzaghe as pound-for-pound the best boxer in the world today. He has seen off tougher, more experienced opponents than Manfredo who has lost a couple of bouts against lesser opposition. Either the Americans have a deep-rooted belief in the American Dream, or they do not give Calzaghe the respect he deserves. Barry Mcguigan asked the question: when are they going to realise just how good Calzaghe is?

Probably only if he takes US citizenship.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Final Resting Place

The best news story last week was Keith Richards claim that he snorted his dad's ashes with some blow.

Why couldn't he just sprinkle it over his cappuccino like a normal person?

Friday, April 06, 2007

Supercasino Plans Scuppered?

A smile was raised in the People's Republic a week ago when the Lords voted down plans which included the building of a super casino in Manchester. Mancunian MP's and Councillors piled onto every media outlet in sight decrying the "unelected house" for ignoring the will of the elected representatives. What they failed to mention is that the party in power, which held their autumn conference in Manchester last year, have had ten years to reform the House of Lords in which they have failed to do so and indeed all of their favoured options included an unelected element.

The defeat was caused by supporters of the Blackpool bid, who were regarded as favourites to get the super casino ever since the Government announced it was only going to allow one to be built. Thought for the Day on Radio 4 had an excellent suggestion. Why don't the Mayor of Blackpool and the Lord Mayor of Manchester play a game of poker to decide who gets the rights to host the Super Casino? After all, if gambling is not good enough to make such a decision, why is it such a good method of redeveloping a deprived area?

However, let us be a bit more balanced. Manchester had the best bid and deserves to hold the casino, you cannot throw the rattle out of the pram just because you do not like the result of the outcome of the selection process. Wolverhampton and Solihull will lose the rights to two of the sixteen smaller casinos which are also included in the bill, which would be bad news for the West Midlands. I suspect if the plans would not have been voted down if the casino had been awarded to Greenwich, London.

My personal view is that super casinos are a good way to redevelop inner city areas, but there should not be just one; there should be as many as necessary. Then the market can decide where they will be placed, rather than having controverdial decisions made by committees whose decision then needs to be scrutinised. The Government does not really need to interfere in such processes, except to liberalise the law.

It would also mean a 50% tax on them, as imposed by Gordon Brown in the budget, would mean less investment coming into the country and would not be economically acceptable.