Should the licence fee be abolished?

Glyn Davies asks if the TV licence fee should be abolished in light of the Jonathon Ross and Russell Brand incident. In as much as both should be sacked (saving the licence payers' £25 million quid); I'm not sure that the incident is, in itself, relevant to the licence fee debate.

Since the election of Tony Blair a number of people on the right have suggested that the BBC should lose the licence because of a perceived BBC bias towards the Government. To be balanced and impartial (as this blog always is) its fair to say that some on the left perceive the Beeb to be biased from a different perceptive.

Many of those who are opposed to the licence fee aren't actually opposed to the fee, they want to privatise the BBC. They know that the fee that we all hate is an easier target than the institution which is still loved and respected by many.

Whatever the pros and cons of having a nationalised TV station the idea of paying for it through a licence fee is really old fashioned and inefficient.

When the original Radio Licence was introduced in 1922 it was a fair method of taxation. Very few people owned private radios, it was only fair that those who owned the sets paid the costs of broadcasting. The same can be said for the introduction of the TV element of the licence fee in 1946 and the colour supplementary fee in 1968. Today, however, those who don't own the means of accessing tv services by any means (including computers and mobile phones) are a minuscule minority.

The separate government department, the bureaucracy, the collection fees, the defaulters and tracing unit, the TV warning adverts, the detection vans, the court time and the prison sentences that cost more per day than the cost of a single licence, seem to me to be a huge waste of resources for what would amount to a 0.3p in the pound increase in general taxation.

Whatever the right or wrongs of the BBC itself, funding it through such an antiquated and inefficient form of taxation as an individual licence fee, is clearly past its sell by date.


Crap Telly Time

My analogue TV signal will be switched off in almost twelve months time. Apparently This will give viewers far more channels and choice than ever before. Hooray and Hallelujah, how fantastic.

I already have a digital service through a Sky satellite dish. Whenever it rains, whenever there are high winds, the digital service is not available. I get pixelated pictures, no sound or a no satellite signal being received message.

My sister has Freeview through an aerial, she has the same problems and more. Not only do wind and rain interrupt her reception but heavy traffic passing her door has the same effect, so she is rarely able to get a Freeview reception before 10pm on a calm weather day.

At the moment both of us are able to get an analogue signal during adverse weather and traffic conditions - but not for much longer. Come next October we will have the choice of 1000's of new channels to watch - when the wind isn't blowing, when the traffic isn't flowing and when the rain isn't raining.

But for most of the time we will have no TV reception.

Such are the advantages of new technology!

Harry Potter and the Potty Professor

The Half Blood Welshman in his usuall erudite way draws attention to the latest folly of the Archbishop of the Fundamentalist Atheist Church, Professor Richard Dawkins.

The Prof according to the Daily Telegraph, is going to research the damaging effects that books, such as the Harry Potter series might have on children. As the Harry Potter stories about wizardry, witchcraft and spell making are not scientifically factual (do bears cast spells in the woods?) the Potty Prof believes that they might be damaging to child development!

If Professor Dawkins' extreme views and extreme prejudices against those who dare to disagree with him, were not so frightening, his latest nonsense might be considered laughable.

But not just laughable, a tad hypocritical too.

The TV programme Dr Who is just as, if not more, scientifically dubious than the Harry Potter stories. There is little basis in science for believing in Time Lords (or Ladies). It is doubtful that any scientific research has shown the likelihood that a 1950's police call box could be used as a means of travelling through time and space. There are probably no Daleks - now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

If Harry Potter and, by extension Dr Who, are a danger to children then those who act in tv versions of these dangerous follies are guilty of propagating such unscientific abuse. People such as the actress Lalla Ward who played the part of Roana, a Time Lady (Time Peeress?) in a number of episodes of the abusively dangerous unscientific programme.

Never heard of Lalla Ward? She's better known, these days, as Mrs Richard Dawkins!

As a PS here is a Poems and Politics Extra courtesy of The Wilted Rose:

I was once an amoeba in for a swim,
And then I was a tadpole with my tail tucked in.
Then I was a monkey in a banyan tree,
And now I'm a professor with a Ph.D.

Spellbound Others:
Holy Webb
The Daily Quail
St Aiden
Zadok the Roman
Burke's Corner


The danger's of Facebook

Donal Blaney has an hilarious example of the dangers of giving too much information Facebook.

Racist Oz

In the 1980's during anti apartheid debates in both the Plaid Cymru conference and NUPE's* Welsh conference I suggested that Australia should be considered a pariah nation because of its abominable record on race relations, especially in the way in which it treated native Australians (The Aborigenes). My suggestion went down like a lead balloon in both places. The Australians were seen as the good guys, especially by the left who saw Labor Prime Minister Gough Whittlam, who was sacked by the Queen's Governor General in 1975, as a political martyr to the Socialist cause.

In both conferences I was seen as a trouble maker trying to detract from the debate on South Africa and trying to dilute the condemnation of South African and United States problems with race. In both places I was condemned for being racist for suggesting that Australia's record was equal to, if not worse than, that of South Africa and the USA.

I feel vindicated today, having read an article in the Guardian by vetran left wing journalist John Pilger that confirms what I was saying about Australia a quarter of a century ago:

The facts are not in dispute: thousands of black Australians never reach the age of 40; an entirely preventable disease, trachoma, blinds black children as epidemics of rheumatic fever ravage their communities; suicide among the despairing young is common. No other developed country has such a record. A pervasive white myth, that Aborigines leech off the state, serves to conceal the disgrace that money the federal government says it spends on indigenous affairs actually goes towards opposing native land rights.

Australia's record on attitudes towards the indigenous population is abhorrent, it should be condemned by all decent people, and I still think that we should use the same sanctions against Australia as were used against South Africa, to pressurize the Australian Government into a change of attitude.

*NUPE - National Union of Public Employees, now part of UNISON


Stat Porn and Stat Value

James Higham has an interesting post on his Nourishing Obscurity blog about how blogging works and the importance of linking to fellow bloggers in a meaningful way in order to increase reader numbers (hey James I just linked to you in a meaningful way :-) ).

I suppose that if I had a million unique visitors every day that I would post statporn each month in the way that Mr Dale and others do. The 200 or so daily readers of this blog would be too embarrassing to post regular stats on.

I was going to post a comment on James' post (commenting on fellow bloggers' posts is also a meaningful way to interact), but I was told that my post was unacceptable because:

Your thoughts are eagerly sought but please keep to the issue rather than against the commenter you disagree with. It's the only rule in comments here.

I hope that my comment was "to the issue" and didn't slag off another person's contribution!

However the point that I was trying to make was related to this part of the post:

4. Some wiser heads than mine once told me not to worry about stats because firstly, most people read you on feeds anyway and that never registers. Secondly, the google searches will progressively make up a higher percentage of your stats as you go along [they're the bulk of mine] and as your topics of interest are more free-ranging.

And this is my reaction:

I have a blog stats tracker from Ice-rocket, but I don't look at the stats that often.

I'm not sure that the numbers of people who read my musings is as important as the "quality" of readers (I hope that this doesn't sound too snobby).

The biggest group of readers of my blogs (about 30%) are people who have found the posts through Google. One out of five Google searches are for the names of my blogs - which is good. Another one in five are searches for topics on which I have written, also good; but 3 out of 5 are searches for, sometimes laughable, search strings:

dieting doom and gloom of winter poems
Why do wales have the biggest dick?*
Wankers Anonymous
Farting and Barclays Bank

I don't think that the hundreds of people who find my blogs every week, from such searches are worth the stats that they create. The tens of regular readers who read my posts because they are interested in my musings are of much higher "value" to me than those who come to my blog from silly searches.

I was told by one blogger, I can't remember who (it might have been Jeff at SNP tactical voting - I apologise if it wasn't) if you really want a political point to be read by thousands of people, make your point and end your post with Angelina Jole / Kiley Minogue / Ioan Gruffudd / any other star naked!

* I think that this searcher was looking for info about Whales rather than Wales, but it is still an odd question to ask!


Poems and Politics: Anglomaniacs Anthem

I haven't posted a Poems and Politics post for some weeks. How remiss of me, I apologise.

During the last few weeks we have been told that a crisis caused by Unionists is proof that Wales and Scotland can't survive as independent nations.

Apparently we can't survive because Billions of pounds have been poured into the City of London, to save the City - money taken out of Wales and other parts of the UK to shore up the City.

The truth is that Wales will suffer, and suffer disproportionately, in order to save London.

In order to justify our suffering for the grater good, we will be offered crumbs, again, from London and be expected to show gratitude!

We will be asked by Labour, Tory and Lib Dem MPs to see such crumbs of gratitude as Manna from London's heaven, part of the Union Dividend

Oh, we're looking up England's arsehole,
It's the prettiest view we know,
It's the height of our ambition,
It's where we want to go,
It's the finest sight in the universe
Though you seek both high and low,
So we're looking up England's arsehole
Waiting for the breeze to blow.

They tell us Wales is a nation
But we don't believe that story,
Though she's going bust we put our trust
In the Land of Hope and Glory,
So we're looking up England's arsehole,
There was never a view so fine,
Yes, we're looking up England's arsehole
Waiting for the sun to shine.

Here we crouch in our proper stations,
Obedient to her orders,
Though she's in the shite she'll see us right
If we earn our keep as warders,
So we're looking up England's arsehole,
It's the loveliest scene of all,
Yes, we're looking up England's arsehole,
Waiting for the manna to fall.
Harri Webb


David Jones' Democratic Deficit

David Jones MP is a gentleman for whom I have the "utmost respect".

His attitude towards local democracy stinks. His suggestion that Dafydd Elis Thomas' role is just that of the chairman of a county council, is insulting to Welsh County Councils, the chairs of those august bodies and our National Assembly.

It may come as a surprise to Mr Jones that the Chair of a Council, be it a Parish Council or a County Council DOES have the role of defending and upholding the constitution of the council. So even if he wishes to insult the Assembly by calling it nothing more than a council, and insult the Presiding Officer by saying his role is the same as that of a council chair; Lord Elis Thomas, as elected Presiding officer, still has the right, the moral duty and the legal obligation to defend the Assembly's constitution!

The Government of Wales Act 2006 did not create a bicameral Assembly. The Welsh Affairs Select Committee, is not a second chamber of the Assembly. The WASC's response to the housing LCO suggests that it is, illegally, attempting to make itself the Assembly's upper house.

The Government of Wales Act (2006) states, quite clearly, that the Assembly can ask Westminster please can we have legislative powers over xxxx issue?.

Westminster has a choice of two Answers Yes or No. By answering maybe - as long as you use the powers to do what we want the WASC is, quite simply, breaking the law.


Democracy in Action

Two blog posts separated by time but worth considering together:

Devolution Lite from Adam price MP comments on how the Westminster Welsh Affairs Committee has dealt with a Legislative Competence Order to:
revoke tenants’ automatic right to buy council properties in order to protect and enhance the stock of social housing, particularly in areas of high housing need.

Basically they have said that the Assembly can not have this competence unless they agree to use it in the way that the Welsh Affairs Committee dictates

Gray's Monotony explains the constitution of the Welsh Affairs Committee:
the Conservatives' strength in parts of England means that they are awarded a greater number of positions on the Welsh Affairs Select Committee than parties performing as well, if not better, in Wales alone.

So a committee that doesn't reflect how Wales votes has a veto over an Assembly that the people of Wales vote for ...

... and they call that Democracy!

Cross posted to Wales First


True Welsh Blogs

Three new blogs all relating to the referendum:

True Wales is The Cross Tory Campaign Group opposed to Welshies being allowed to make their own laws up.

True-Wales is campaigning to abolish the National Assembly, and replace it with an appointed Secretary of State who will govern Wales by decree, without the need for any democratic process. It features guest posts from Neil Kinock and John Redwood.

Wales First is a blog supporting a call for a referendum and campaigning for a yes vote in that referendum


The Economy and the Referendum

Since the beginning of the so called credit crunch, those who oppose Welsh self determination have found a new refrain: Constitutional issues are totally unimportant in the current financial climate.

On Friday Paul Murphy said:
Voters won’t thank us for putting a referendum before economic worries

On Saturday an anonymous commentator on this blog said:
unbelievable! world is going into meltdown and all you care about is giving more power to those wankers to bugger Wales up even more!

Today a journalist asking me about the Facebook YES Campaign raised a similar question. Should you be bringing this campaign on now, when people are more worried about the financial situation than the devolution settlement?

Draig, made an important point in responding to the crude nonny:
This isn't just a financial crisis, it's a constitutional crisis too.

And Draig is right. The financial crisis means that the Assembly needs as many powers as it can get to help Wales survive the consequences of the credit crunch.

Those of us with long memories will remember the comments of Eddie George, then Governor of the Bank of England who said in 1998 that unemployment in the north of England was a price worth paying to help the London economy. As far as Westminster is concerned unemployment, stagnation and depression in Wales would also be a price worth paying for recovery in the city. Wales needs a strong Assembly NOW to ensure that we aren't forced to pay that price again.


Bird Flu and the Credit Crunch

As I have said before, I don't understand economics. The economics that I have some inkling of relate to the pound in my pocket, the price of bread & milk and hoping that the money doesn't end before the month does.

Cross fingers, touch wood etc, despite the headlines I don't think that the credit crunch has affected me yet. So why am I panicking like the rest of the herd?

This time last year I was worried that my family and I were going to be wiped out by avian flu. It was a crisis that was mentioned day in day out by every newspaper, TV and radio channel. We were doomed, all doomed; but me and mine survived, as did everybody else!

Isn't the current economic crisis just a repeat of last years news? The 24 hour news agencies HAVE to have a crisis to report in order to justify their existence.

Wouldn't pulling the plug on BBC News 24 and similar channels that peddle pessimism, doom and gloom every hour of the day be a cheaper option than nationalising the banks?

Diolch Martin

There is a popular perception that people of differing political opinions hate each others' guts. Despite its popularity the perception is rarely true. Those of us who are interested in politics probably have more in common than those who can't see the point of politics.

The vast majority of people who hold differing political viewpoints are passionate about their beliefs because they want what is best for their country, their district their parish. We are united in wanting the best, we are just divided on what best is.

I would never vote for Martin Eaglestone, I disagree with him on 90% of issues, but I have a lot of respect for him. Martin has fought his corner with vigour and passion for many years. He has stood for Labour in Arfon on four occasions. Each time his head has probably told him that he didn't have a chance but his heart made him hope against hope. But after every defeat he has picked himself up dusted himself down and gone bravely into battle again.

Without people like Martin, who are willing to stand, stand and stand again (for what some might call a hopeless cause) there wouldn't be any democracy in these islands. Democracy is more important than political partisanship, so I am grateful to Martin for his huge contribution to the cause of democracy.

I was sad to read that he has given up his candidacy for Arfon in the next General election. I hope that the changes in his personal life that have forced him to withdraw his candidacy are happy ones and not sad ones. I wish him all the best

Diolch Martin


Facebook YES Campaign

Jim Dunckley and I have started a campaign on Facebook in support of calling a referendum on law making powers for the National Assembly and supporting a Yes vote:

Wales First/ Cymru Gyntaf is a non-party political group calling for a "Yes" vote in the upcoming referendum on full lawmaking powers for the Welsh Assembly.
Our aim is to use the internet to mobilise popular support for a full Parliament for Wales.
Let's give our first democratically elected forum here in Wales the power it needs to put Wales FIRST.

With a No campaign already getting publicity, despite only having half a dozen members, it is important that a Yes campaign exists to oppose them.

With some supporters of Devolution dithering and wondering if a referendum could be won it is important that there is a grass roots support campaign to show that there is support for putting Wales first and an enthusiasm for the Yes cause.

As John Dixon said a few weeks ago the wait and see approach being proposed by some has risks "a risk that we wait until the polls show that the argument has been clearly won before we start to present the case; and I don't understand how anyone would ever expect to decisively win any argument without putting the case."

If you support a yes vote in a referendum, I would be grateful if you joined the Wales First campaign, asked your friends to join and gave the campaign a mention on your blogs, web-pages, forums etc


The Best Politics Show?

Lots of blogs have side bar Vox Pop opinion polls. I am not keen on them so I have not (yet) added one to my side bar.

If I was to start such a poll on the most effective political programme on th telly I wonder who would win. Question Time? Dragons Eye? The Daily Politics?

The Programme that I would choose as the most effective political programme would be The One Show. Shown at that odd, everybody watching time between the News and proper programmes, it is witty, funny, charming and full of propaganda.

It is the most blatantly British programme on the BBC. Day in day out it promotes Gordon Brown's Britishness agenda. What is the best British invention ever? What is the funniest things Britons have done? When was the best British year? When was the worst British year?

Many of the answers to The One Show's questions about the best, the worst, the funniest etc date from before Britain even existed.

Despite being a light show it is packed with experts. Scientists, medics, historians, linguists, ornithologists, veterinarians, herbologists etc, etc all of whom use their expertise to prove that British is Best.

If a programme on S4C or BBC Alba tried to promote Wales or Scotland with even a smidgen of the propaganda values that The One Show uses to promote Britain it would be withdrawn, questions would be asked, heads would roll.

The idea that England could be promoted in such a biased way on the BBC is just ................. (fill in the blanks, I don't know that many obscenities).

Welsh, Scottish, English, Cornish (and after yesterday's offering even Manx) nationalists should complain en mass about the blatant unionist political propaganda that The One Show is.

The Western Male

The Western Male has asked that I link to his (I assume) blog:
this is a brand spanking new blog.
It is purely done for cheap kicks and humour, not to make any political points.

If anyone is thin skinned enough to be offended by the post, I repeat, it is all done in jest and to hopefully raise a smirk.

Miserable Old Farts are, by our very nature, thin skinned enough to be offended by the posts, and to rant about how inappropriate such posts are!

What on earth makes this boy think that I would be so silly as to give publicity to his blog. I would never even consider putting links on my blog to to posts such as this and this!!


Sir Kenneth Calman is alive and well!

I nearly fainted with shock when a blog post entitled Is Calman Dead in the Water appeared in my blog list. Sir Ken Calman is a real human being (and a nice bloke too). When I read the blog headline I was expecting the post to be about the poor man's demise is Loch Ness, Loch Lomond or Scottish Labour's muddy waters.

I am pleased to be able to confirm that Sir Ken is alive and well and labouring (sic) on with his thankless task.

Tory students should think about older readers with heart conditions before posting such outrageous blog titles!


Gay Bishops and Gay Bashing

The electoral collage of the Diocese of Bangor have been asked not to elect the Very Reverend Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans as Bishop because doing so might harm the Anglican church. The Rev John is openly gay and lives in a civil partnership with his partner.

I would of thought that electing the Rev John as Bishop would be much less harmful to the Anglican communion than allowing the Rev Peter Mullen to remain as an ordained servant of the church. Apparently the Rev Mullen wrote on his blog (now shut down):
Let us make it obligatory for homosexuals to have their backsides tattooed with the slogan SODOMY CAN SERIOUSLY DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH and their chins with FELLATIO KILLS.

If I was an Anglican I would much prefer to see the Rev John speaking for the church community rather than the likes of the Rev Mullen.

Lembit for president

On the Liberal Voice blog those who are standing for the party's presidency are invited to make a pitch about why members should support them. Today Lembit Öpik has his chance. He says that he offers:

the politics of primary colours, not pastel shades. If that’s what you want, that’s exactly what you’ll get by voting for Lembit Öpik.

Primary Colours, isn't that a movie about how a presidential candidate uses dirty tricks to try and cover up his sordid sexual activities?

Western Mail Tasers Daily Post!

The Western Mail / Wales on-line website reports that North Wales Police used a taser gun on a runaway ram who was causing traffic danger on the A55.

It is illegal for Welsh shepherds to use electric shock collars on either their sheep or their sheep dogs under Assembly directives, so why should North Wales Police be allowed to use electric shock guns on sheep? The WM demands to know!

Can I suggest a simple answer?

To stop a pile up on the A55.

The most revealing comment in the Western Mail's report of the story has nothing to do with sheep, shepherds or policemen. The barb is in the way that the Western Mail attempts to undermine the Daily Post:

One driver who witnessed the incident said it upset his 13-year-old daughter, the Liverpool-based Daily Post reported

Both the Daily Post and the Western Mail are owned by the same stable: Trinity Mirror. The Liverpool and Welsh editions of the Daily Post have been separated for many years. The Welsh edition, the one that reports trouble on the A55, has been publishing from Llandudno Junction for many years, it is not Liverpool Based.

Why is the Western Mail briefing against the Daily Post?

Are there worries that one of the titles is about to be axed?

Are both papers due to be merged?

What is going on? The people of Wales deserve to know!


What a load of Rubbish

Much excitement in the Tory supporting blogs over a report in the News of the World claiming that prescription charges are to be reintroduced in Wales.

Where did the paper get this story from?

A senior Whitehall source

The Welsh experience over the past 10 years is that Whitehall has been unaware of devolved policies even after they have happened. A Whitehall source knowing what the Assembly is going to do before it happens? I don't think so.


Wherefore art thou Wikio?

It is now October 4th, but Wikio is still showing the top rankings for September rather than October.

Does this mean that the Wikio site has died and gone to blog ranking heaven?

Should I ditch my Wikio links?


Don't Bail 'em Jail 'em

I rarely comment on economic issues because I don't understand them. I'm a poor lad bought up in a council house who knows the economic difference between answering the door to the rent collector with cash in hand and hiding behind the sofa and keeping dead quiet so that the monster thinks that there is nobody at home!

When people talk about $700,000,000,000 bail outs they are talking about something way beyond my imagination. I once had £1,000 in my wallet, it was nice and made my wallet feel juicy fat. But I can't imagine what 700 billion is - is it enough to fill a suitcase, a room, a palace?

Love her or hate her, one of Mrs T's most effective campaigns was when she illustrated her policies by showing what (she claimed) would be the difference between what would be in a shopping basket if one elected a Tory Government, in comparison to what would be in the same basket under Labour. Socialists might say that she lied through her teeth when making the illustration, but that's incidental - the image worked.

So why aren't politicians from either side, or the media explaining the credit crunch with shopping bag illustrations? Is it because the biggest problem isn't one that effects the type of person who uses a shopping bag, but a problem for the mega rich?

My great great uncle Danny was a red hot Rhondda Communist, who made a shopping bag illustration many years ago, which still makes me think, despite my hatred of socialism. Uncle Danny's comment was related to 1930's Wall Street Crash films:

If you drop a shilling on the pavement you are sad because you have lost a shilling. Somebody else goes past and finds that shilling and they are glad to be a shilling better off.

Likewise for every newsreal that shows a man jumping off a building because he lost a million dollars - there is another man supping champagne because he found that million dollars.

There seems to be some truth in Uncle Danny's illustration. The billions of dollars lost by the banking crisis seem to have been found by spivs and speculators. As the usually right wing Daily Express explains:

Greedy speculators were gambling millions of pounds that the Lloyds TSB deal to save HBOS, owner of the Halifax, was in danger of falling apart.

At one point, shares in HBOS were down by more than 20 per cent, but they recovered slightly to end 16p down at 126p.

As the global economic crisis has worsened, both banks’ share prices have fallen along with the value of the Lloyds offer for HBOS. This has prompted the spivs to gamble that Lloyds may have to reprice the deal.

The spivs moved in despite growing anger at the City’s excesses, where huge fortunes are being made by speculators on the back of reckless gambles

NOTE Huge Fortunes are being made from this crisis!

If people have made mega billions by spiving and speculating and creating this misery, should any government offer bail outs that result in normal taxpayers subsidising the mega profits that the spivs and speculators have made?

Shouldn't a Labour Government, of all governments, be going after these profiteers and saying we want our money back?

Or as posters spotted in BBC reports from Washington tonight said about the spivs and speculators Don't Bail 'em Jail 'em"


Annexational Incorporationalists

In his most recent post The Stonemason notes that Alan Cochrane of the Daily Telegraph asks the question Will a Tory government hasten the end of United Kingdom?

In response The Stonemason wonders:
As he spoke only of Scotland, does this mean Cochrane understands Wales to be a constituent part of England?

How many others believe as Cochrane?

If Mr Cochrane understands Wales to be part of England he is legally correct.

Wales is not a constituent part of the Union. The Union is the United Kingdom of England Scotland and Ireland (now just Northern Ireland). Wales is a part of the Union by virtue of being annexed and incorporated into the realm of England.

Those opposed to Scottish and Irish Nationalism are, quite rightly, called Unionists. Those who are opposed to Welsh Nationalism, if one wants to be pedantic, are not Unionists but are something along the lines of Annexational Incorporationalists.