Thursday, August 28, 2008

Olympic Games

When I heard the target for Great Britain was to finish fourth in the medals table in 2012, I think I might have laughed out loud. Well I am not laughing now.

I do hope other nations do give us an easier ride than our journalists give foreign host cities, however. Four years ago there were questions over whether the civilization that gave us the Collosus of Rhodes and the Statue of Zeus could finish an Olympic stadium in time. This time, there were question marks about China's human rights record, Tibet and the quality of air which BBC journalists insisted on measuring on a daily basis in the run up to the games with a pocket-sized gadget.

Well, there are some who would argue the war on Iraq meant we should not have got the games, and I have made a list of reasons that could be made to boycott 2012. The way our government are going, quality of air due to a lack of decent public transport and nuclear power stations and lack of human rights could be the main issues for foreign journalists covering the games in four years time. Seriously though, it got me thinking about how another country could be as patronizing in their coverage of us in four years time.

Perhaps the Japanese could use public transport to get to the games in 2012 and hold up a camera to their stopwatch saying something to the effect of

"It is 8:00 on a week day in central London, the richest city in Britain. I have been waiting for a train for 20 minutes and there is still no sign of one turning up. This is how hard it is to earn a living in the fifth biggest economy in the world"

Hopefully he would finish the report before being manhandled out of the station by four burly jobsworth security guards who were concerned that a man with non-white skin was taking pictures on the tube using a camera.

Of course, it is not just London that benefits from the games. The whole country does. That is why Brum's Jewellery quarter has been overlooked and the contract for lapel badges has gone to China. Presumably this will mean more of the £10 billion we are spending on the games can be poured into the construction industry in London, which by some accounts is on its last legs.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Thriller with the Villa

Who would have thunk it. A red-blooded Midlands derby came first on Match of the Day yesterday after Stoke beat Villa 3-2 in their first Premier League home match of the season. The Beeb then reverted to type with two of the big four appearing next, with the other two yet to play on Saturday. Hull City went from the dizzying heights of first on Match of the Day last week to last this week. In an astonishing justification of the ridiculously complicated scoring system we now have for the Promroiship, they end of joint eighth out of sixteen on the Promroiship table. Fulham lead the way after appearing first in the first programme and second in the second programme. Using John Motson's predictive theories, we will look forward to them featuring third next week, which would be amazing given a) they are playing Manchester United and b) the match has been postponed due to the Super Cup on Friday night.

The problems of mathematical modelling, eh.

Promroiship Results August 23rd 2008 (Match of the Day Running Order)

Stoke City v Aston Villa...49
Fulham v Arsenal...........56
Liverpool v Middlesbrough..35
Tottenham v Sunderland.....28
West Brom v Everton........21
Newcastle v Bolton.........28
Blackburn v Hull City......14

The Promroiship Table after Round 2 (08/9)

Aston Villa............35.0
Hull City..............31.5
Tottenham Hotspur......31.5
Newcastle United.......28.0
Stoke City.............24.5
West Bromwich Albion...24.5
Blackburn Rovers.......21.0
Bolton Wanderers.......21.0
West Ham United........ 7.0
Wigan Athletic......... 7.0

With Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Portsmouth yet to grace us with their presences on the Beeb's flagship footie programme so far this season.

Remember, thanks to the new rules we are now counting average points rather than total points.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Our friendly Fake Consultant has been very lucky. In the week he is hosting the Blogpower round-up concerning the subject of ‘How does the World view the US and our upcoming election’, a British conservative blog has been launched to celebrate the special relationship and combat the evil of anti-Americanism.

Good luck to them. Being English conservatives, they will not have a clue. This post is as directed to my fellow conservative countrymen as much as it is to the American audience it was intended for. The following article is the view of a left-leaning son of an Indian immigrant, brought up in the centre of England and having spent all of my life in the city of Birmingham with an above average interest in the presidential race (to the extent that I have put money on it - God bless our freedom to gamble!).

On the first Tuesday in November this year, Americans will go to the polls to elect the fourty-fourth President of the United States of America. At the time of writing, and unless something astonishing happens before the party conventions at the end of August and beginning of September, Barack Obama will face John McCain for the title of leader of the free world.

While reading many conservative blogs in Britain, I am astonished by how many times I have read that this is a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea. It is my opinion that either will be a vast improvement on the current “thief-in-chief”, George W. Bush, and I believe this is, or at least will be the opinion of the majority of the British people. “Dubya” is just someone we British will never like; the folksy charm which makes him so popular to the American electorate is an indication to us Brits that he is an intellectual lightweight, someone who had got the Post of POTUS because his father used to be President and he knew the right people. If obtaining status by working hard and using ones talents to the best of ones ability, while overcoming a difficult background epitomises the American dream, George W. Bush is the manifestation of the American Nightmare. It is Britain that is supposed to be the country where the Head of State inherits his position. George W.Bush’s election makes a mockery of the self-evident truths that all men are created equal, with liberty and justice for all.

Barack Obama presidential nomination, on the other hand, may be some evidence that the American dream is alive and well. Despite his colour and his funny foreign name (not to mention his unfortunate middle one), his talents as a public speaker and a politician have lead him to defeat the Clinton machine which the Republicans in all their might failed to derail during the 90’s. Seen abroad as a cross between two legendary liberal American heroes, JFK and Martin Luther King, “Barry Durnham” has inspired many not just in America, but outside as well.

John McCain is not bad either. Someone who fought for his country during Vietnam, stayed on as a POW when offered a way out, whose personal wealth dwarfs that of his Republican presidential rivals and whose adoption of an Asian daughter speaks magnitudes about him (and those who disgracefully used it to slander him in the Republican race for presidential nominee back in 2000), one cannot help feeling that the world would be a better place if war-hero John McCain had been President on that fateful day in September 2001.

One should not underestimate the damage that the winner of this election will have to repair as a result of the policies of the incumbent. Prior to the hated “war-on-terror” (as James Rubin once said, terror is a tactic not an enemy), an isolationist George W. Bush was infuriating the world by ripping up treaties left, right and centre, from Kyoto to preventing nuclear and chemical proliferation, and talking of installing a Star Wars system in a world with only one superpower, all on the back of an election that, out of an electorate of over 100 million, was eventually won by 5 votes to 4. Then September 11th happened. Suddenly everyone was American. While many on the right will have concentrated on the celebrations of the Palestinians and the snide comments of the Iraqi foreign ministry, my abiding memory was of candlelight vigils being held by Iranian students for the innocent American dead. The same Iran was soon to be branded alongside Iraq and that famous supporter of Islamic terrorism, North Korea, as part of the "Axis of Evil". The world tolerated the war on Afghanistan but all the goodwill was destroyed when George Bush decided to finish “his fathers work” and remove Saddam Hussain from power, on what have proved to be trumped-up charges of stockpiling Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Regardless of all the debates, the issue of whether we go to war with Iraq is now over. We cannot undo the past. What is now important is the future. It is vital that Iraq becomes a stable, representative and accountable state, not, God forbid, so that rich American companies can spend the rest of the century exploiting its natural economic wealth, but because we owe it to the people of Iraq. We destroyed their country, we now owe it to them to rebuild it. So despite the fact that Obama was right to oppose the war in Iraq, I now find myself siding with McCain that America must be prepared to stay there 100 years if necessary in order to keep the peace. Many left-wingers will not agree with me, and say that the occupation is part of the problem. To them I say look at what happened in Palestine and Kashmir after the British decided to “cut and run” following the collapse of the Empire. Those wars are still being fought over 60 years later.

Of course, it is not just about the war. Manmade Global Warming is seen by many in the world as the real issue that threatens the global community over the next century. This will infuriate those generally on the right who claim (compare and contrast with the case for war on Iraq) that it is the left-leaning scientific establishment who are producing trumped-up evidence to support a false theory (well sometimes it is false; other times it can be solved using market solutions, and yet other times global warming will be beneficial to humanity). Thankfully for those of us in the world who clamour for the powers that be to get serious about tackling the problem, both McCain and Obama stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the mainstream scientific community in the war-on-warming. This position will no doubt help heal some of the rifts that have divided America and the rest of the free world.

My uncle once said to me “America is a great country, you can go there with nothing and make something of yourself, but its foreign policy is a load of rubbish”. This statement, more than any, cuts to the heart of most arguments about anti-Americanism (and indeed those in America who ask “if everyone hates us so much why do they all want to come here?”). While it may be the case that some people are jealous of America, or feel it promotes positions that are contrary to their own world view, many so-called anti-American are not anti-American at all. They are anti-American government. Here indeed lies a supreme irony. Many leftists in Europe share a common position with Republican America; namely, that the American government is not good at running things. Right-wing Americans see it in tax legislation, government health programmes and public (state) schools. The rest of the world sees it in the policies of the State department. Our question to the American right is this: if the American government is not fit to run its own country, what makes it fit to run the world? If the Washington elite get it so wrong trying to save American lives with social security, health care and universal education, what makes you think they will get it right in exactly those areas when nation-building in another country, or when destroying foreign lives in a legally questionable war?

We do not hate America. We love it. That is why we are so critical of it. In the words of our Lord, “To whom much is given, much is expected”. When it declared independence, America set a standard for the world that was so high she struggled to keep it herself.

The price of freedom is vigilance. Unfortunately, sometimes one looks so hard one cannot see the wood for the trees. The left in Britain do not want America to change; they want it to go back to its roots.

All men created equal… with liberty and justice for all.

In the same way that the founding fathers of America who wrote this saw no problem in owning slaves, modern America needs to re-assess who this statement applies to. Not just Americans, or her allies, but everyone in the world. Once this “self-evident truth” is absorbed, it may be easier to understand why there is so much vitriol to American foreign policy from people across the world.

In many ways, for us outside America, it is rather irrelevant whether John McCain or Barack Obama becomes the next president. The truth is that despite their apparent differences on Iraq, the reality of the office of the Presidency will decide what happens on the ground. What is more important is that we have a president who got the job because he deserved it, as a result of talent and hard work, not because he was born to rule. A President who has seen and therefore understands the world, not spent most of his life sheltered in his home state which inevitably warps ones world-view (an upbringing that is disturbingly similar to that of a certain left-wing Brummie blogger). Someone who is commited to upholding the principles of the American consitution, not avoid it by legal trickery like placing a camp for POW's outside American soil. The fact that some of the right, both in America and Britain, feel both McCain and Obama are a step down from the big government conservative George W. Bush is evidence enough that they will be an improvement on the current regime that is crying out to be changed. As one of the candidates might put it, this is “change we can believe in”.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

(Second) Last on Match of the Day

It seems like yesterday since the last football season ended, but despite a Euroless summer for the home nations, football fans can look forward to the daily grind of the league and another Promroiship season which promises to tell us once and for all whether Match of the Day is biased towards any Premier League teams. Following the recommendations of the Promroiship Review 07/08, the season will run from 16/08/2008 to 31/12/2008 in order to avoid title/ European/ relegation battles dominating the all-important Match of the Day Running Order. A reminder of the rules for those of you who have forgotten including one new one:

All teams appearing on Match of the Day will be awarded points based on the position of their game in the running order, the number of goals scored and the number of matches appearing on MOTD that weekend. Only Premiership games will count and MOTD2 is not included. Midweek MOTD will also count towards the total. The rules are as follows:

1) Teams appearing in the first match will be awarded 10 points, the next 9 and so on all the way down to 1 if necessary. As there are 20 teams in the premiership, a maximum of 10 matches can be played on any day involving all teams once.

2) Because matches with more goals should in theory come first, 1 point will be taken away for each goal scored in the match. I deliberated a lot about this rule, because a few high scoring matches before Christmas made this potentially unfair, but I think it is the easiest way to factor in "entertainment" at an objective level. In any case, it would not be football if their was not potential for an argument over the fairness of some rule or other.

3) Thanks to security considerations, Sky and European involvement, sometimes there can be very few matches on Saturday and so we need to factor in the number of matches shown. I have decided to multiply the result of the first two rules by the number of matches appearing on MOTD. Obviously the fact that some teams do not play on Saturday adds in some additional unfairness, but I hope that over half a season there will not be too much bias, and we should pick it up week by week if there is.

4) New rule: As last season progressed, those who were following the competition would have noticed that Blackburn and Aston Villa seemed to play fewer matches on Saturday, which put them at a disadvantage, as foreseen by the third point above. So, for the purposes of fairness, the League Table will be based on average Promroiship points per appearance on MOTD - in other words, the total number of Promroiship points for each team will be divided by the number of appearances on Match of the Day that team had over the same period.

With seven games on the first weekend, there was no shortage of premutations for the BBC to play with and they kindly picked Premier League new boys Hull to appear first on their first Premier League Match of the Day. Seasoned Premier League followers of West Ham were probably a bit more disappointed with their position at the end of the programme, the "on alphabetical order of course" derby against Wigan. Why the late kick-off between Sunderland and Liverpool featured earlier despite producing only one goal is a mystery, unless you happen to believe the Beeb are more likely to feature the Big Four earlier on.

Promroiship Results August 16th 2008 (Match of the Day Running Order)

Hull City v Fulham..........49
Everton v Blackburn Rovers..28
Middlesbrough v Tottenham...35
Sunderland v Liverpool......42
Bolton Wanderers v Stoke....14
Arsenal v West Brom.........28
West Ham v Wigan Athletic... 7

The league table does not mean much at this stage, so here it is anyway:

The Promroiship Table after Round 1 (08/9)

Hull City........49
Blackburn Rovers.28
West Brom........28
Bolton Wanderers.14
West Ham United.. 7
Wigan Athletic... 7

With six teams yet to feature on Match of the Day this season.

Yes Hull fans, you are not dreaming; after the first round of the Promroiship you are in second place denied top spot only by alphabetical order.

Dreams are made of this for ever and a day.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

England not Alabama

The Conservative Party Conference is coming to Birmingham in September, but I am a bit concerned that they may not know where our city is. Our Conservative-led council recently published a leaflet encouraging people to recycle featuring the city of our Alabama brothers in the header. I guess the leaflets will now have to be recycled so perhaps it achieved its purpose. This follows on from local Tory MEP's making exactly the same error earlier in the year as reported by the West Brom Blogger.

Just to make things clear guys: we never imprisoned Martin Luther King and Condoleeza Rice was not born in Brum. However, Mahatma Ghandi did visit the city in October 1931 and our most famous right-winger is probably Enoch Powell. Our landmarks include a tall cylindrical tower known as the Rotunda, and the controversial Selfridges building, which has loads of silver disks on a blue background.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A License to Print Money

Unlike public sector pay, but like gas and electricity prices, it appears water bills are on course for an above inflation increase. No problem, if you are unhappy with the price or service, you can simply switch to a different company thanks to the wonder of privatisation.

Hang on a minute, we cannot. Domestic water supplies are provided by monopoly providers accountable to shareholders rather than customers. Another botched Conservative privatisation.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Religion and IQ

I came across this rather interesting post from a member of the Blogpower collective Deeply Blasphemous, who in turn got it from some other blogs... you get the drift. It contains a graph which maps the relative IQ of Christian denominations by how "biblical based" they are, and makes interesting viewing.

Although a Christian, I am not a fan of biblical fundamentalists and have probably less time for IQ tests, the latter because I am not sure what they actually measure. However, from a Christian and biblical perspective, the most relevant verse on this subject is probably Matthew 11:25, which says (NIV):

..."I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children."
Perhaps then the Christian view is not that stupid people literally believe in the Bible, but God has chosen the humble to inherit his Kingdom.

It is this philosophy which makes me suspicious of humanist atheists, who tend to be middle-class and live relatively comfortable lives (like the Jewish establishment at the time of Jesus?). If there is any justice in the world (and there is not if evolution is the be all and end all), it would be the meek and poor, rather than those who are "wise in their own eyes" (Proverbs 3:7) who should prosper in the end. This is a central theme of true Christianity, although many strands of the religion have moved closer to the attitude of the religious establishment Jesus so reviled.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Support Staff Beware

Bin Laden's driver has been given 66 months for "supporting terrorism". He has already served 60 without trial, and will serve 6 months more before... he continues to be held for being an "enemy combatant". Presumably next at Guantanamo bay, we will have Bin Laden's chiropodist and binman up in the dock, striking blows against al-Qaeda where it hurts most; taking out their support staff.

Meanwhile the four surviving members of the supreme court who voted to effectively overrule the will of the American people in the 2000 election are still free and three are still hold their positions in government, despite their judgement which in my mind verges on treason.

Who are the real enemies of democracy?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

No, it's the Betfair Blimp hovering over the skies of Calthorpe Park thanks to the Third Test between England and South Africa at the bullring of English cricket in Birmingham. Despite the fact that Edgbaston has the best win rate for England out of all six traditional Test grounds, England succumbed to a five wicket defeat as the Proteas did what the Aussies failed to do three years ago and chased down a record total for a fourth innings at Edgbaston of 281. As a result Michael Vaughan, one of the most successful England captains of all time, retired from the position today with Strauss, Pietersen and Flintoff being named as favourites to replace him and Paul Collingwood as One-Day Captain.

Where did it all go wrong for England? After winning the Ashes in 2005 and going unbeaten in Test Cricket the year before it all seems to have gone pear-shaped, with a 5-0 drubbing in the Aussie Ashes and series defeats to India and South Africa on home soil. The biggest problem for me has been the bowling, with the successful five-pronged attack of the 2005 Ashes being abandoned to accommodate a sixth batsman. The fact that England's two best bowlers, Jones and Flintoff have spent much of the time injured has not helped. Harmison was right to be dropped as in my opinion he has done very little apart from the tour of the West Indies where he made his name. Hoggard is brilliant on English soil, but is weak abroad and appears to be unlikely to take his place back from Sidebottom. Panesar has been an improvement on Giles in the bowling stakes, but not in the areas of fielding and batting. Anderson is finally beginning to show his potential and Broad is great with the bat as well as the ball. Perhaps the future will see Broad taking Colly's place but at the moment I suspect the selectors think Broad is too young to be given responsibility with the bat despite the fact he has excelled with it so far.

The captaincy is an interesting one. Freddie flopped in the role in the latest Ashes series and needs to concentrate on his batting and bowling so for me is a non-starter. Strauss is the natural replacement but I guess there is a question over whether he can inspire the team when things are going wrong. Pietersen would be a real gamble, but would the responsibility of captain help or hinder his batting? Ironically, after giving his wicket away for 94 and arguably costing England this Test, the result may mean he gets the captaincy so that he starts to exhibit the traits normally seen in fellow South African Graeme Smith. Alistair Cook deserves a mention as he has been tipped as a future England captain already, but it may be too early for him at this stage of his career.

Whoever gets the captains job, with the Ashes only nine Tests and less than a year away, including a tricky tour to India, England's hope of winning back the Ashes looks slim at this point. As a captain, Vaughan was a tactical genius and will be very difficult to replace. As a batsman on recent form, less so, but perhaps his departure will signal the return to a five-man bowling attack; after all, even poor old Pattinson got a higher average than Vaughan in this series and two wickets to boot.

Friday, August 01, 2008

One Sector Avoids Inflation...

Despite spending millions of pound on the war on drugs, the price of heroin, cocaine, cannabis resin and ecstasy have fallen according to a report by an independent think tank.

Is there no way we can link the price of drugs to oil? Or perhaps we can get some of our energy companies to deal in this lucrative business; it surely would not take too long for drugs to be too expensive for regular users.