Tag Archives: England

Maintaining Wimbledon’s famous grass courts

How the famous courts are made and maintained

“You expect the court, obviously, to be great,” Murray said. “The bounces and stuff were absolutely perfect. There’s no bad bounces. It’s always, you know, a little bit slippy the first match. The grass is very lush. So that was the only thing — you need to be a little bit careful of your footing. But the court played very well. No bad bounces or anything. It was perfect.”

Such reviews have allowed Stubley, just the eighth groundsman in the club’s 146-year history, to slip back behind the scenes, where he wants to be. During Wimbledon, though, he swaps his work shorts and T-shirt for slacks, dress shirt and tie, part of the tournament’s formality. At 45, he blends into the debonair world of tennis, his build slim, his face tanned. His temples are lined with crow’s-feet, marks of someone who spends time squinting outdoors.

He oversees 16 full-time employees, expanded to about 30 for Wimbledon, who tend to 19 competition courts and 22 practice courts. The grass is nurtured all year with one primary goal: to be perfect for the tournament’s opening. After that, the grounds crew tries to maintain it, amid the toil of countless footsteps and the vagaries of an English summer.

“That’s the balancing act, having the right amount of moisture in the plant at the start of the tournament to make sure it can hold the moisture until the end,” Stubley said. “For that to happen, the court will always be slightly lush at the start of the tournament, and as you get slowly into the latter part of the first week and into the second week, the court naturally firms up more, the surface starts to dry, and it becomes a lot more grippy.”

David Frum: Trudeau was a disaster for Canada

Frum goes to town on the legacy of Pierre Trudeau.

Pierre Trudeau took office at a moment when commodity prices were rising worldwide. Good policymakers recognize that commodity prices fall as well as rise. Yet between 1969 and 1979 – through two majority governments and one minority – Trudeau tripled federal spending.

In 1981-82, Canada plunged into recession, the worst since World War II. Trudeau’s already big deficits exploded to a point that Canada’s lenders worried about default.

Trudeau’s Conservative successor Brian Mulroney balanced Canada’s operating budget after 1984. But to squeeze out Trudeau-era inflation, the Bank of Canada had raised real interest rates very high. Mulroney could not keep up with the debt payments. The debt compounded, the deficits grew, the Bank hiked rates again – and Canada toppled into an even worse recession in 1992. Trudeau’s next successors, Liberals this time, squeezed even tighter, raising taxes, and leaving Canadians through the 1990s working harder and harder with no real increase in their standard of living.

Do Canadians understand how many of their difficulties of the 1990s originated in the 1970s? They should.

To repay Trudeau’s debt, federal governments reduced transfers to provinces. Provinces restrained spending. And these restraints had real consequences for real people: more months in pain for heart patients, more months of immobility for patients awaiting hip replacements.

If Canada’s health system delivers better results today than 15 years ago, it’s not because it operates more efficiently. Canada’s health system delivers better results because the reduction of Trudeau’s debt burden has freed more funds for healthcare spending.

Pierre Trudeau was a spending fool. He believed in a state-led economy, and the longer he lasted in office, the more statist he became. The Foreign Investment Review Agency was succeeded by Petro-Canada. Petro-Canada was succeeded by wage and price controls. Wage and price controls were succeeded by the single worst economic decision of Canada’s 20th century: the National Energy Program.

The NEP tried to fix two different prices of oil, one inside Canada, one outside.  The NEP expropriated foreign oil interests without compensation. The NEP sought to shoulder aside the historic role of the provinces as the owner and manager of natural resources.

Most other Western countries redirected themselves toward more fiscal restraint after 1979. Counting on abundant revenues from oil, the Trudeau government kept spending. Other Western governments began to worry more about attracting international investment. Canada repelled investors with arbitrary confiscations. Other Western governments recovered from the stagflation of the 1970s by turning toward freer markets. Under the National Energy Policy, Canada was up-regulating as the US, Britain, and West Germany deregulated. All of these mistakes together contributed to the extreme severity of the 1982 recession. Every one of them was Pierre Trudeau’s fault.

While I disagree with Frum that Trudeau was one of the worst prime ministers of our time, I will agree that his economic legacy has impacted the country for over a decade.  Frum’s is an interesting take.

Defense Spending by GDP

The Economist has an interesting article on defense spending by GDP.

Biggest military spenders by GDP ON JUNE 8th China’s top military brass confirmed that the country’s first aircraft carrier, a refurbishment of an old Russian carrier, will be ready shortly. Only a handful of nations operate carriers, which are costly to build and maintain. Indeed, Britain has recently decommissioned its sole carrier because of budget pressures. China’s defence spending has risen by nearly 200% since 2001 to reach an estimated $119 billion in 2010—though it has remained fairly constant in terms of its share of GDP. America’s own budget crisis is prompting tough discussions about its defence spending, which, at nearly $700 billion, is bigger than that of the next 17 countries combined.

It’s not totally accurate as the Illustrious is being converted to a helicopter carrier and England is building the Queen Elizabeth class of aircraft carriers and the reality is that the Invincible class of aircraft carriers was at the end of it’s life expectancy. 

It is interesting that despite the outrage of how much Canada has been spending on defense lately, we still spend less than Australia, Brazil, and Italy among the largest military spenders.  I was also surprised to see Turkey so high on the list and not not see Pakistan considering how much India spends.

England of 2011 will like like England of 1931

Stinging critique of David Cameron’s deficit fighting by Paul Krugman

Both the new British budget announced on Wednesday and the rhetoric that accompanied the announcement might have come straight from the desk of Andrew Mellon, the Treasury secretary who told President Herbert Hoover to fight the Depression by liquidating the farmers, liquidating the workers, and driving down wages. Or if you prefer more British precedents, it echoes the Snowden budget of 1931, which tried to restore confidence but ended up deepening the economic crisis.

The British government’s plan is bold, say the pundits — and so it is. But it boldly goes in exactly the wrong direction. It would cut government employment by 490,000 workers — the equivalent of almost three million layoffs in the United States — at a time when the private sector is in no position to provide alternative employment. It would slash spending at a time when private demand isn’t at all ready to take up the slack.

Why is the British government doing this? The real reason has a lot to do with ideology: the Tories are using the deficit as an excuse to downsize the welfare state. But the official rationale is that there is no alternative.

Indeed, there has been a noticeable change in the rhetoric of the government of Prime Minister David Cameron over the past few weeks — a shift from hope to fear. In his speech announcing the budget plan, George Osborne, the chancellor of the Exchequer, seemed to have given up on the confidence fairy — that is, on claims that the plan would have positive effects on employment and growth.

Instead, it was all about the apocalypse looming if Britain failed to go down this route. Never mind that British debt as a percentage of national income is actually below its historical average; never mind that British interest rates stayed low even as the nation’s budget deficit soared, reflecting the belief of investors that the country can and will get its finances under control. Britain, declared Mr. Osborne, was on the “brink of bankruptcy.”

What happens now? Maybe Britain will get lucky, and something will come along to rescue the economy. But the best guess is that Britain in 2011 will look like Britain in 1931, or the United States in 1937, or Japan in 1997. That is, premature fiscal austerity will lead to a renewed economic slump. As always, those who refuse to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

Dog eat dog

Just another day in a collapsing global economy.  An Irish and Canadian bank cause some problems for a Wisconsin school board

In separate statements, the Royal Bank of Canada and Stifel Nicolaus said board members signed documents indicating they understood the investments’ risks. Both companies said they were not financial advisers to the boards but merely sold them products or services.

While in Iceland, they may or may not be branded as a terrorist country while England freezes a banks assets.

Icelanders say that it is now nearly impossible to get foreign currency into or out of the country. Many banks have refused even to transfer money to Iceland. Importers are having difficulty paying their foreign bills, and exporters are having trouble getting paid by their foreign customers.

Many people in Iceland are also furious about what happened to Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander. The British government’s seizure of its assets precipitated the immediate collapse of its parent bank, Kaupthing, which the Icelandic government had been propping up and had hoped would survive.

“Kaupthing was the last, best hope of the Icelandic banking system, and it was killed there and then,” Andres Magnusson, an editorial writer for Icelandic Financial News, said in an interview. “This really was the last straw. A lot of Icelanders are asking, ‘Excuse me: who’s the terrorist here?’ ”

In case you were wondering why the Icelandic government doesn’t cough up some money.

“The compensation that we would give would be twice as much per head as the reparations Germany faced in the Treaty of Versailles after the First World War,” she said. “That is something we cannot afford.”

Iceland should know better as any student of history knows nations have no friends, they only have interests and it was in Gordon Brown and England’s best interest today to stab them in the back.

The end result is that Iceland’s GDP could shrink by 85% and according to some articles, have their economy set back 40 years.  While the blame is directed at the banks, this article documents how the fiercely independic Icelandic spirit has made the situation worse.

While the ideal of globalization is that in a global economy we should all be interested in helping each other, the reality is politics is local and Gordon Brown is accountable to the English electorate, not the Icelandic.