Sunday, 30 March 2008

Birmingham City vs. Manchester City

A great 3 points this week for Birmingham City, and Bolton lost against Arsenal(just!) so we are in a good position - 4 points clear of the relegation zone. We truly deserved to win this game. Manchester City had very few chances - they hit the post right at the start of the first half, and the Benjani chance which resulted in the penalty, and that was about it. We were defininetly the better side and created more chances. McSheffrey shanked over the bar when the ball fell to him in the 18 yard box. Queudrue had an absolute stonker of a shot from about 16 yards - an overhead kick which was tipped over the bar. Jaidi had a header cleared off the line froma corner. The first 2 goals came from Zarate, in for McFadden who's hjad a knee operation. For the first goal, Dunne(?) failed to clear and it went into the path of Zarate and he put a wonderful chip in to score - although it looked like the defender may have gotten back as the shot felt like it went in in slow motion. The second goal was another great Zarate shot - he powered the ball into the bottom corner where no goalie was goalie was going to get to it.
And this is where it almost all goes wrong. Muamba does the worst backpass you've ever seen in your life and the ball falls to Benjani, who was fouled by Queudrue. Penalty! Queudrue got sent off as well, which could have been a bit harsh. Anyway, Man City score the penalty and get an undeserved goal. However, just a little bit later, we get a penalty - a penalty I was surprised to see given and that wasn't really a penalty, but McSheffrey scored it to make it 3-1 and de facto game over, what with Manchester City's toothlessness up front - all they managed were a lot of shots right into the arms of Taylor.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Spreading Democracy in The Middle East: Why It Won't Work

More on the rather depressing situation across the other side of the world, I'm afraid. There was an article in The Guardian, going back about a month now, reporting on comments by Miliband the foreign secretary regarding the UK's moral duty to intervene to spread democracy in the Middle East(among other places).
I agree that we should try our hardest to improve the lot of people in other countries as I hjave already made clear in other posts, eg "Britain on Gay Executions in Iran" and "Do People Have The Right To Their Own Culture?". As I have already noted, to allow injustice just because it is happening in another country at the very least borders on xenophobia. "You were born gay in Iran, deal with it" is not a moral, nor fair attitude to have. And in a moral, fair world, the people would certianly have access to some sort of representative democracy where they can nominate a politician to represent them. Unfortunatly, I do not see how Western democracy can work in the Middle East at present.
Firstly, a little bit of history. Niether the UK nor Germany went from dictatorship to complete democracy. In the UK, historically only the rich men could vote, but in 1918 the Representation of The Peoples Act was passed which meant that men over 21 and women over 30 could vote also. In Germany, the structure of the government changed: in 1871 germany was unified and a parliament(Reichstag) was set up. However, although all men could vote, the Reichstag only had the power to veto legislation, it could not actually create it, and the Kaiser retained the true power. It was only after WWI that this changed.
What I am trying to say is that these western democracies were not established in their entirety overnight, and it is difficult to expect any different from the Middle East, particularly as the beliefs widespread there are much more conservative and fundamentalist than in 1900s Britain or Germany.

There are basically 4 ways that a country could become more democratic:
1. The leaders introduce it, usually under pressure from the populace;
2. The people overthrow the government and set up their own democracy;
3. International pressure, sanctions etc. force the leaders into introducing it;
4. War, overthrowing the previous government and instituting democracy.

Let us discuss each option in turn.
Option one I do not see as feasible. No dictator compltetly opts for democracy, there needs to be some sort of opposition from the people, and there just isn't over there.
As for option two, it also does not appear to be very likely. As in option one, there needs to be people(most likely organisations in this scenario) who want reform in the country in the first place. Let's think about what these people actually believe. the vast majority of them are fundamentalist Muslims, who completely and utterly believe in the words in the Koran. They believe in carrying out Allah's will and they believe that women should be subjugated, gays killed, apostates killed, etc.
Sam Harris has even more depressing news: "[M]any [...] have noted that as repressive as Arab dictators generally are, they tend to be more liberal than the people they oppress. The Saudi Prince Abdullah, for instance -- a man who has by no means distinguished himself as a liberal --recently proposed that women should be permitted to drive automobiles in his country. As it turns out, his greatly oppressed people would not stand for this degree of spiritual oppression, and the prince was forced to back down."(S. Harris, The End Of Faith p. 132 2005 The Free Press). No, I do not think Middle Eastern democracy will come from the people. Even if a group of people did manage to overthrow the govt and institute democracy they would struggle to hold power in such a fundamentalist environment, not to mention when people got to the polls they would just vote the despots beck into power.

That only leaves international interventionism.
Option 3: sanctions(such as economic isolation) imposed by other countries. This could improve the situation but it has its problems. One being that the despots are still in charge and thus can decide what democracy they institute, likely leading to sham democracy. It would probably be laborious to actually get fair representation. Becuase the despot still has power, they can manipulate their governemnt and it may well turn out corrupt. It's also possible that the dictator justignores the sanctions unless there is, again, pressure from the people to give into international demands due to their suffering.
Of course, there is always option four: War. ASnd this option would probably be the most successful one as we would be in control of the government and could institute proper democracy.

The main problem is actually with what happens after democracy, in my opinion. We have got to bear in mind what these people actually believe. If we open the polls to these people, who are they going to vote for? Some people appear to believe that if we open the polls to tyhese people, they will vote for the equivalent of secular Western liberals. It isn't going to happen. If we give these people freedom, they will vote to throw that freedom away. Think for a minute about the Christian Reconstructionists/Dominionists, the closest Christian equivalent Middle Eastern Islam. They have several freedoms -- free speech, abortion, the right to vote -- that they would get rid of in persuit of an American Theocracy. This is no different.

So if they vote, they will vote extremists back into power. This leaves us back where we started -- perhaps even worse off if we destroyed the country during a war as this would just make them loathe the West and western ideals even more.

So this is why I believe the ideal of democracy in the Middle East will not work at present.

But as I have already said, we should tryu and intervene to improve things -- and sadly I see only one long term solution: go to war with these countries, overthrow their governments, and institute some sort of liberal dictatorship enforced militarily. Only once we have shown them the benefits of freedom can we consider giving them any sort of democracy; only then would they vote to keep their freedom.

Pf course, there are other problems with these countries, notably human rights injustices which I believe can only be stopped in this manner. As I dscussed in a pervious post, the execution of gays in Iran for instance. Even if we put international pressure on the government to change this law, all that would happen would be a lot of DIY executions with the leaders turning a blind eye to it because they believe gay people should be killed. Of course, if we were in charge of their countries, we could prosecute anybody who murdered a gay person.

Obviously, this method would involve a lot of destruction. And obviously, it would not be as easy as I have portrayed here. I am not happy about this, but I see no other solution.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Today's News Stories

The Daily Mail included a true piece of investigative, correct journalism.
Richard Dawkins converted to Fundamentalist Christianity.
And Emile Heskey scored a Premier League goal.

"The first 2 I might believe...but the last one? Come off it!"

In case you are wondering what I have against Emile Heskey, in the season we were relegated he missed craploads of good chances which was a major factor in our relegation...

Monday, 10 March 2008

Britain and Gay Executions In Iran...

On Thursday, The Independent newspaper ran a story about a gay Iranian teenager, Medhi Kazemi, whom Britain refused to grant asylum to despite the fact that if he is sent home he will probably be executed. (link.) Obviously, if this is the case, it is terrible that Britain would allow such injustice.
But I want to talk about Britain's policy on these matters. According to the Independent again:
"The Home Office's own guidance issued to immigration officers concedes that Iran executes homosexual men but, unaccountably, rejects the claim that there is a systematic repression of gay men and lesbians." (see link above) and "In turning down Ms Emambakhsh [another similar case] and Mr Kazemi's asylum applications, the Home Office has said that, provided Iranians are discreet about their homosexuality, they will not be persecuted." (link)
That's absolutely awful, in my opinion. Translation: "Why can't you homos get back in the closet where you belong?!" I mean, are the Home Office incapable of understanding that homosexual people need love, intimacy and sex the same as everybody else or something? Very few people are able to remain completely celibate. This dictum has been proven again and again for gay people both throughout history and in the modern world, in the Middle East and in The West. Obviously, if gay people did not have this need, no-one would have gay sex in Iran in the first place due to the harsh punishments for it. And the social stigma and threat to their careers was not enough to deter neither Ted Haggard, nor Larry Craig, nor Bob Allen. I'm pretty sure forcing us to suppress this harmless part of our being counts as persecution in itself. Love and intimacy are supposed to be one of the most wonderful things that human beings can feel, to deny that to parts of the population for no reason other than disgust or religious dogma is a cruel punishment.

I think something needs to be done about these kinds of things that happen in other countries. We cannot just ignore it and say it's not our business because it's not our country. In a way, it is xenophobic to be isolationist - "you were born X in country Y, deal with your lot!". I appreciate that this is going to be difficult to achieve, but we have no other choice but to try. Unfortunatly, I have very few ideas about how we can make this work. I would rather avoid going to war for obvious reasons as well as the fact that forcing democracy on a country that doesn't appear to want it is going to end in either a religious fundamentalist being elected or somebody overthrowing the Constitution(more on this later in a post coming soon). "Liberating" Iraq didn't work and neither will this. Dialogue is always worth trying, but I cannot see them listening to us, especially as they are Islamic radicals who believe non-Muslims are the enemies of God. The only ideas I have are to impose sanctions on the countr(ies) responsible, or refusing to trade with them. Obviously, these will have their own implications that will need considering. Of course, even if we did get Iran and other countries like it to change their laws, we'd still have a big problem with people carrying out their own justice(particularly regarding anything like "honour" killings) and the government turing a blind eye to it because they agree with what they are doing. I fear it may be hopeless. Maybe someone else has some good ideas as to how to deal with this?

Friday, 7 March 2008

Why Do Tories Have A Hard-On For Low Inheritance Tax?

Low inheritance tax - conservative voters love it. But why? I mean, isn't it pretty inconsistent with the conservative ethos? Let's face it, Daily Mail readers- THERE IS GOING TO HAVE TO BE SOME TAXES. Get over it. And inheritance tax is a logical place to put tax if you're of the Tory persuasion. Why? Because conservatives are always bitching about welfare, evil evil people who scrounge of welfare and are lazy buggers. "Get a job, yer Polish wanker!" they cry. But is scrounging off your parents' inheritance really that different from scrounging on welfare? Yes, I know you don't cost the taxpayer directly if you do it, but the ethos is pretty much the same. Particularly if you want "Brits to be able to keep their hard-earned money" you can jack up inheritance tax and then cut income tax instead, which actually allows Brits to keep their own hard-earned money rather than some wealthy guy keeping his parents'.
So there you have it.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Birmingham City Vs. Arsenal - Match Report

I suppose I should explain what the premise of this whole thing is. One of my faviourite websites is a cartoon match report website called HTFC-World(, which does match reports for Huddersfield Town. I have fancied having a bit of a go for a while(though mine will be nowhere NEAR as technical) and after the Arsenal match I thought that it would be the perfect match to do for reasons that will become apparent, as well as the reason that it was up first on Match of the Day so there was actually decent highlights for once. Oh, and when you have a guy with Sagna's haircut in the opposing team, there's endless oppotunities for comedy! :)
I'd just like to say that although for some of these incidents I had the benefit of match highlights, others I did not. I may be wrong about some of these incidents, but I'm just callin' em as I see em from where I sit in the don't kill me, Arsenal fans! I bet there's lots of errors in this're just going to have to live with it, human memory is fallible...
The game starts off and Wenger settles in for a good afternoon...

...a perfectly logical and cogent explanation as to why Wenger actually saw the incidents this week!
He looks up just in time to see this, THE Martin Taylor tackle on Eduardo:

The ref reaches for his pocket...

Eduardo had to be substiuted, with what we later found out was a broken leg. Just another person who would like to wish a quick recovery to Eduardo here, it really was a sickening injury and they refused to show the replays on Sky Sports.
I think that everybody has been a bit quick to vilify Taylor over this tackle. It was bad, and mistimed, but people have been talking as if Taylor lunged in two-footed with the intent to injure Eduardo, which I can confirm he did not. The tackle did not look that bad in real-time at the ground and while I was there I was surprised to see a red, although I obviously could not see how badly Eduardo was injured. Taylor has also recieved death threats from Croatian fans annoyed at the fact Eduardo will be out for the Euro Championships...

Presumbaly that's what they looked like!
Some Craotian journalists also tried to get into Martin's car when he was leaving training. I mean, this chap has just seriously injured a fellow professional, are you SURE it's a good idea to be breaking into his car?!
Arsenal had a very lacklustre first half. They really did not look intent on having a go, even though we had ten men. We changed the formation to 4-4-1, taking off Forssell for Parnaby. McFadden looked a bit lonely up there but he was prepared to have a go, and wins a free kick on the edge of the area.
Can't score from here, surely?

Haha! One-nil up with 10 men against the Arsenal! Another McFadden chance...2-0?

...Guess not. We managed to keep it 1-0 until half time. Just one more notable incident from the half...

Same old Arsenal, always cheating! i think Senderos was going for a last minute nomination for the Oscars...
Second Half
Arsenal came out looking a lot better than before in the second half. Taylor was forced into 2 great saves from a couple of Arsenal shots:

From the resulting corner, Taylor comes off his line and...

Arse...nal! Ridgewell then makes an ass out of himself...chests the ball down from a wayward pass only to chest it into the path of Theo Walcott...


Adeboyor comes through on goal... pass to Bendtner for 3-1, surely? No, apparently not, as Adebayor takes the shot(and doesn't score).
Feud or just striking decide!

After a while, Arsenal rested on their laurels a bit at 2-1. It seems they flicked into, "It's only Birmingham with 10 men" mode, very similar to Birmingham's "It's only bloody Derby at home" mode. They could have come out and murdered us, if they had really wanted to, but near the end of the game it seemed like they had a lot of possession but couldn't quite be arsed. We, by this point, were looking very tired(pretty understandable). Then, in the last 5 mins of the game, we decide to go an the attack, and we discover that Gael Clichy definetly has gone into "it's only Birmingham with 10 men" mode, as well as "that chap I've been marking has disappeared off the face of the planet" mode...

Parnaby thinks, "well, I'll have that mate"...

Parnaby gets the ball and then Clichy sticks a foot out to try and get possession back...penalty given! McFadden steps up to take it...

2-2! In the last minute of the game! What a result!
(NB. I think the above diagram of the McFadden penalty is incorrectly drawn, but I'm lazy).
Not to mention Gallas, who'd stormed off after the penalty was given, presumably to chuck a few toys around. He sat on the pitch at the end of the game looking pissed off.
Arsene Wenger then made some comments at the end of the game which made him look like a complete arse...

Let's also bear in mind that Tiny Taylor, in his career previous to this match had only been sent off once before(and his tally of bookings was also very low especially for a centre defender)...he ain't a dirty player.
Fair enough, he later rescinded his comments, calling them "excessive". So what DO you actually think about Taylor(Tiny) then?

The rest of his match comments were a load of arse too. Whining about the ref? I can understand where Wenger is coming from, but BOTH sides could have grievances with the ref: although Wenger would argue that our set pieces shouldn't have been, I could say that Adebayor fouled the goalkeeper for Arsenal's first, and that Taylor shouldn't have been sent off because his tackle was only one footed and mistimed one footed challenges don't usually warrant a red.(For example in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy one Swansea player did one a bit similar to Taylor's(in fact the commentator referred to it as such, too) and only got booked. "One of the Swansea players" shows the high level of research I put into this, doesn't it?)

As for "To beat Arsenal, you have to kick Arsenal", let's have a look at some match stats:

So, Mr. Wenger, I vote you're talking crap.

In my humble opinion, Arsenal have themselves to blame that they didn't win. If they'd have wanted to, they could have slaughtered us second half. But they didn't. Maybe the ref didn't help much, but Arsenal are supposed to be top of the league!

A great point off Arsenal, then, and we were to play their Larrrndon rivals next...Tottenham Hotspur. We won that game 4-1 courtesy of a Forssell hattrick. That's the double we've done over Spurs, then. Cheers for the points, Londoners! See you in the Premier League again next season(I hope).

There were so many incidents in this match it would have taken an age to cover them all, and I actually wanted to get the report up sometime within remembering time of the match. Incidents no covered here included: Adebayor chance in the first half, some more Arsenal second half chances, one they had going just past the post, Nafti pulling Adebayor's shirt in the box, 2 other great saves by Not Tiny Taylor.