Rules of engagement

In a recent exchange of opinion on another blog I was accused of building a Straw Man, but I stuck one up my opponent by proving that he had used arguments Ad Hominem. Touche!

(This proves that both me and my opponent are very clever chaps and that we both understand the classical laws of logic - see!)

Regardless of the merits of what He said or what I said or what He said I said which I didn't say and vice verca, are these classical rules of engagement important in the modern political arena?

If a fallacy of argument helps you to get one over on your political opponent and helps to kick him square in the goolies - what's wrong with using it?

And isn't appealing to the rules itself a fallacy of argument? - In being a diversion from the issue in question to an issue of the rules of engagement!

Do other bloggers, writers of letters to the editor or commentators on politics in general really rate these rules?

Should they be obeyed?

Or should they be abused, with a passion, in order to advance the cause?

(NB This post is not an admission that I have used fallacies of argument against anybody! As if I would! It is just a general question!)


Not a Happy New Year for Plaid in Gwynedd?

It appears that the Plaid Cymru ruling group in Gwynedd County Council is about to implode during the New Year.

Cllr Gwylym Euros Roberts has already noted on his blog that Cllr Linda Wyn Jones has resigned from the Plaid Group and that another two Plaid Councilors are considering their position and are having discussions about their futures with the group leaders over the holiday period.

Another Plaid Cymru councillor has told me that he is one of at least seven group members who are awaiting the outcome of the two's discussions - and that if they jump ship then the other seven are likely to jump with them.

If Plaid loses another 10 councillors in addition to those it lost to Llais Gwynedd in May's elections the party in Gwynedd will be in total disarray. Considering that one of the two Westminster seats that Plaid holds in Gwynedd is considered as "Labour" under boundary changes, the party can't afford this sort of rift.

Earlier this year I predicted that it might, just, be possible for Plaid to gain as many as 9 seats in the next General Election, I also thought that Plaid was on course to gain a second Euro seat next June. But if Plaid can't sort out the infighting in its own heartland with a big announcement that will please traditionalists and show that it has learned its lessons from the May fiasco in Gwynedd, then Adam Price might be a very lonely man in Westminster after the next election, and Jill might be on the dole by July.

Is that what Plaid's ignorant tendancy wants?


Christmas greetings

I have taken on board criticism that my seasonal posting last year showed that I hadn't quite grasped the spirit of Christmas. This year I am a reformed character, to prove it I have even invested in some Christmas lights to decorate my house during the festive season:

A Merry Christmas to all who read my musings. Nadolig llawen iawn.


What is Plaid Cymru For?

There use to be a time when Plaid Cymru was the party that one could expect to defend local communities. Now it is a party that closes local facilities such as schools and public conveniences and shouts down and swears at those who offer solutions that might help save services.

It use to be a party that supported the Welsh Language, but since being in government they have renegade on some promises made to support the language and failed to deliver on others. They even voted against a proposal to establish a Welsh Language Commissioner.

Plaid use to be a party that supported self government for Wales, but according to the Western Mail Speaking as a Plaid Assembly Member and a former leader of the party Dafydd Elis Thomas says that he is opposed to a referendum on further powers for the Assembly untill well after 2011. Indeed this mam who vociferously opposed the 40% threshold imposed by Labour in 1979 is now opposed to further self government unless it is clear that at least 60% of voters support further powers.

If Plaid doesn't defend local communities, doesn't deliver on the language and doesn't campaign for further self government is there any reason for the party's continuing existence?

Fast trains and faster trains

On Monday last week a new fast train service between north and south Wales was launched, taking just under 4 hours to travel from Holyhead to Cardiff (180 miles for crows) - brilliant (or it would be brilliant if the service hadn't failed the day after its launch).

Yesterday the SNP announced* support for a fast train service from Glasgow to London (414 miles) that would take just two and a half hours!

If the same type of train was used to link north and south Wales as is being mooted to link Glasgow and London (335 mph top speed) it would take less than three quarters of an hour to go between Cardiff and Holyhead nonstop - that would be fast!

*HT Jeff @ SNP-TV


Fishy Come Dancing

I am not a fan of TV shows where one has to phone in and vote. I tend to get cross every time I get a phone bill that shows that the wife and kids have sometimes cost me more than a months licence fee in call charges to Last Choir Standing, Big Brother, X Factor or other subliminal pay per view programmes.

When one pays for these sort of programmes (twice) one hopes that at least the voting is fair and nothing is fixed but there was something very fishy about the latest series of Strictly Come Dancing, something that just doesn't add up.

In week 10 John Sergeant dropped out of the programme voluntarily, he was not voted off. Despite the fact that he had gone a vote was held on November 24th and Jodi Kidd was knocked out of the competition too. With two celebrities leaving in week 10, rather than the expected one, the scheduling should have left the series one episode short. But the series continued on schedule without losing an episode.

In week 13 we are told that an unforeseen difficulty in the way the votes were calculated meant that the vote off was canceled so three contestants made it to the final rather than two.

As there was no change to the schedule and no episode was lost there can only be two possible explanations:

1) The John Sergent controversy was a fix contrived to boost ratings

2) The show intended to have three in the final all along and the excuse for voting difficulties last week was a lie.

Which ever of these two explanations is the correct one the BBC has broken trust with viewers who pay for these phone in programmes yet again. Despite all the controversy and criticism and promises to clean up their act it appears that nothing has changed!


Annie, The Beeb and Me

Last night I attended a performance of my children's school's annual Christmas show. A performance of the musical Annie. It was a brilliant performance, all of the children showed what a wealth of talent we have in Wales. A couple of the older performers showed that they have the ability to go far if they choose to follow a performing career.

A huge amount of extra curricular work and dedication from both pupils and teachers went into the performance and all involved deserve a vast amount of praise for their effort. Of course my boy's part made me a very, very proud Dad and made the show ten times better than anything that the West End or Broadway could ever offer.

A couple of days ago I made a post on my Welsh language blog Hen Rhech Flin entitled Anabl i Fwynhau Sioe'r Nadolig (Unable to Enjoy the Christmas Show). The post noted the difficulty that I, and other people who are hard of hearing, have at this time of the year because few school halls in Wales provide loop systems for hearing aid users. As school halls are public buildings and are subject to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, all of them should have such basic "access" equipment as standard.

My post was picked up by the BBC. I was phoned and asked if I would be willing to be interviewed about the subject of my post during the school show.

I said no!

It would be unfair to the individual school to be picked on for a problem that exists in all schools and it would be unfair to my boy to hear his Dad making a complaint about the school play that he was taking part in and had put so much effort into.

I did offer to be interviewed on the general point and to complain about the local authorities who have failed to provide the necessary equipment in all schools - but that wasn't good enough. The story was dropped.

I think that the Beebs attitude stinks. The fact that local authorities have failed to comply with their legal obligation; the fact that they have failed miserably to provide basic access for hard of hearing people to public buildings under their control, should be a good enough story, in its own right, for their journalists to investigate. The fact that they don't believe that the story is good enough unless it is sexed up by a complaint by a father criticising his own son's show just proves how dumbed down to gutter level the BBC's reporting has become of late.

Blogger links oddity

Anybody got any idea what is happening to the "Links to this post" bit of Blogger? My last post has well over a dozen claimed links - none of which contain links to the post! The one post that does link to it, isn't mentioned though. Very odd!


The Bourne Conspiracy

I have never rated Nick Bourne as a party leader, he's too nice, too diplomatic; he doesn't have the killer instinct he's written books about justice and fair play whilst his colleagues have been reading The Prince by Machiavelli.

But I don't understand the fuss about the iPod! Apparently he bought the iPod in order to download Welsh Language lessons. If this is the case then he has my heartiest support. I think that it is absolutely brilliant that the leader of the Conservatives takes Welsh lessons so seriously and I look forward to him using his new found language skills in the chamber.

Like Blog Menai, I am more intrigued by his need for a £5,000 bathroom make over, never having seen a £5000 bathroom myself. But the journalists who see Mr Bourne as this week's meat probably don't appreciate the extravagance, as they probably have £6,000 bathrooms themselves courtesy of the BBC and Trinity Mirror!

The odd thing about the Sack Nick campaign is that it appears to be a campaign lead by reporters rather than by Conservative party members, or Conservative AM's. I find this worrying. The fourth estate has its role in a democracy, but that role shouldn't include campaigning to topple the leader of a political party.

Love Nick or loath him the leadership of the Conservative Party in Wales is the Conservative Party in Wales' prerogative, it must never be put into the hands of either the BBC or the Western Mail.

This is a matter for supporters of other parties too. If the Beeb and the Mule succeed in deciding who will be the Tory leader in Wales, they wont stop there - they will be going for another scalp soon too! As Rhodri is going and Mike has gone, the most likely next victim will be Ieuan Wyn!



Last week I noted that I wouldn't be posting much before Christmas because I was bogged down by, amongst other things, preparing a case that I was to present to a War Pensions Appeal Tribunal.

The tribunal was heard today and I am overjoyed to announce that we won!

Today's decision is a landmark one which will be of significance to hundreds of non-deployed Gulf War Veterans who have been fighting for almost 18 years to have their condition recognised by the Service Personnel and Veterans' Agency.

I will post further details latter, for now I'm going to pop a few champagne corks with my "client" (who also happens to be my little sister) - so I will probably be unfit to blog until tomorrow!


Poems and Politics - Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien

Those of you who eagerly await my pearls of wisdom are going to be disappointed until after Christmas. Apart from Christmas being a busy time for parents and apart from the MOF suffering from a stinking cold, I have a lot on my plate at the moment. The most interesting task being a War Pensions Appeal Tribunal next week that I am the rep for, which should prove significant to the Gulf War Syndrome debate whatever the outcome - details will be posted after the verdict!

The other thing that I am trying to fit in around my blogging time is a course on revising schooldays French. When I learned French at school I learned a lot of songs - Sur la Pont d'Avignon and Frere Jacques in class and - Mademoiselle from Armentieres in the school yard! Here is a French song that fits in with my Poems and Politics thread on the blog as it was used as an exit quote by Norman Lamont a long time ago - so it is political!

No! No regrets
No! I will have no regrets
All the things
That went wrong
For at last I have learned to be strong

No! No regrets
No! I will have no regrets
For the grief doesn't last
It is gone
I've forgotten the past

And the memories I had
I no longer desire
Both the good and the bad
I have flung in a fire
And I feel in my heart
That the seed has been sown
It is something quite new
It's like nothing I've known

No! No regrets
No! I will have no regrets
All the things that went wrong
For at last I have learned to be strong

No! No regrets
No! I will have no regrets
For the seed that is new
It's the love that is growing for you


BA = B**** All

In the 1970's a job was advertised in the local press for a Librarian in Dolgellau Technical Collage. Applicants had to have a minimum of two O levels (GCSEs in new money). The successful applicant had 6 O levels and 1 A level, so he was heavily over qualified. The current holder of the same post, I am told, has a Masters Degree and a Post Graduate Certificate in Librarianship qualification.

I am a Registered Nurse. The minimum qualification needed to apply for nurse training when I did so was one O level. I had 5 O levels and 2 A levels when I applied, I was over qualified for the course. Today, one needs to gain a degree in order to become a registered nurse, and one needs a sackful of stared GCSE's and, at least, three A levels to get into a nursing course. Yet first year qualified nurses in these days are much less competent than they were thirty years ago!

When I was in the sixth form (year 13) those who failed to get two A levels could go to Teacher's Training Collages to train as Primary School Teachers. Today you need a degree and a postgraduate certificate in teaching in order to become a primary school teacher.

Listening to Assembly Members (and bloggers) argue about the costs of Higher Education, leaves me in a state of despair, because they don't ask the most basic questions:
Why do we need so many bloody graduates?

Why does a job that needed two O Levels 30 years ago need three degrees now?

If I have been a competent nurse for the past 30 years, without a degree, why does my son need a degree to follow in my footsteps?

Harold Wilson's government raised school leaving age to sixteen years old and lowered the age of majority to 18 years, which left the unqualified school leaver just two years to learn a trade before attaining adulthood. Before Wilson, those who chose the apprenticeship or the graduate route to employment would both qualify at the age of 21, when they became adults.

The answer to the funding of higher education problem is simple! Go back to the situation where two O levels are good enough for a simple clerical job. Allow 14 year olds to become 7 year apprentices for skill orientated jobs; and use the universities to educate just the top percentile of our national intelligentsia, where an university education is absolutely necessary, rather than forcing all and sundry to gain an unneeded university education for the sake of being politically correct!


Wales is for sale

Very little seems to have been made of one part of Darling's financial package announced on Monday. To help finance some of the tax and borrow plans the government is considering a new tranche of privatisations, three of them which will be of particular importance to Wales.

I suppose that the reason why we have heard so little about these privatisation plans is because the Tories are generally in favour of privatisation, and those that use to complain about the policy in the Labour party are keeping their gobs shut out of loyalty to party rather than loyalty to principal.

One of the few to comment on the story is Dai Hudd, the deputy general secretary of public service union Prospect who made the pertinent point that:
Any attempt to sell them off now would be economic madness. In the current climate the market value of these public assets will be way below their real value. It would be a case of sell in haste, repent at leisure. Government will face the justifiable anger of taxpayers if they see these national assets sold at bargain basement, credit-crunch prices.

The three which are going to have a big effect on Wales are privatisation of the Royal Mint, which is currently in Llantrisant, the DVLA the major employer in the Swansea area and the Forestry commission.

Privatising the Forestry commission is a matter of particular concern. One out of every seven acres of the surface of Wales is owned by the Commission, the idea that Mr Darling could sell 14% of our country to private investors who may have little or no interest in our country is sobering, the thought that one seventh of our country could be owned by a Russian oligarch or a huge multinational with its headquarters half way around the world by this time next year is frightening. The fact that most of our elected politicians seem have ignored this issue is scandalous.

The Daily Pundit has some rumours of potential buyers, apparently Tesco is in the frame for buying the Forestry Commission and Vladimir Putin has his eye on the Royal Mint.


Tory Child Killers?

According to a report in today's Sunday Times a Conservative Member of the Scottish Parliament wants headmasters to have the right to use the death penalty as a means of punishing naughty schoolchildren

Tory MSP Alex Johnstone told the paper:

School discipline is reaching crisis point and giving individual headteachers the power to decide whether or not to use capital punishment would be a good move.

This issue is certainly worthy of debate in the Scottish parliament because it is one that needs to be dealt with.

Perhaps Mr Johnstone should be given the cane for not learning the difference between capital and corporal punishment.


Same old Labour

I have been going through a backlog of blogs and news stories that I have missed during the past week or so. The big story of the week seems to have been the publication of the IWA's new book Politics in 21st Century Wales, and especially Rhodri Morgan's contribution to it.

Many have commented on Rhodri's belief that the Labour party is perceived to be anti-Welsh by those of us living in the west. Personally I think that Rhodri's views are dated. What he says would certainly have been true 25-35 years ago, but I don't hear the same animosity to the Labour party in these parts as I heard in the days of George Thomas et all in the 70's. In general the attitudes towards Wales and its language expressed by the likes of Ian Lucas, Don Touhig and Chris Bryant are seen as oddities within the Labour Party these days rather than the mainstream view.

What struck me as most interesting in Rhodri's comments was his attitude towards Proportional Representation. Peter Black and Betsan Powys both touched on this subject, but neither of them noted the audacity of the First Minister's suggestion.

What Rhodri wants is PR in areas where Labour is under represented - like the West, but for First Past the Post to remain in those areas, such as the Valleys, where Labour thinks that it can get a majority of seats through the current system. He only supports PR in those areas where it will benefit Labour but is dead against it in those areas where it will harm Labour.

Rhodri's view on PR is so typical of the arrogant divine right to rule attitude of Welsh Labour that it is almost incredible. I suspect that it is this anti democratic streak in the Labour party that is the cause of its recent disappointments in Welsh politics, and that Rhodri's belief in PR for Labour but not for others will add to the party's decline throughout the country.


Fagging Own Goal

I have smoked since I was nine years old, when I was persuaded that smoking was a sign of being a proper grown up man. By the time that I realised that smoking was really a sign of being a proper mug, I was hooked and, as yet, I have failed to beat the addiction.

As the old joke goes giving up smoking is easy - I did it seven times last week. Knowing how addictive smoking is and how difficult it is to stop, having started, I am generally supportive of any measures that encourage today's youngsters not to start the silly habit.

I have never been convinced of the value of warning notices on cigarette packages. I have smoked thousands of packs with the message smoking kills on them without batting an eyelid. If you were to ask which notice is on the pack in my pocket I would have to look at it to answer. So not very effective.

I have noticed that some packs have started to show pictures on them rather than just words. I'm sure that pictures might be a little more effective than just words.

There is one pictures, however, that I feel defeats the object. This one:

My two teenage boys have always hated the idea of smoking, but they loved this joke and begged me not to bin the pack, so that they could take it to school and show it to their mates. This puerile joke is one that appeals to young men and makes the fag packet more attractive!

The medical facts of erectile dysfunction amongst smoking men is based on studies of 50 year old smokers. Apparently 60% of long smoking 50 year olds suffer from the problem in comparison to 12% of those who have never smoked. So a message aimed at young men is based on research on men who most youngsters would consider past it anyway.

The fact is that most smokers in the age group that this picture message is aimed at could provide simple proof positive that the message is not true. And if that message can be proved to be untrue then it weakens all other messages.

An own goal by the health bods! This image and message should be withdrawn from the campaign!


Can I borrow a shilling for the meter, please?

Valleys Mam highlights an issue that many who are worried about fuel poverty have brought up over the past few months. The fact that people who obtain gas and electricity through prepayment meters are being ripped off.

Mam notes that
Companies could be making up to £550m a year from extra charges they charge on prepayment meters.

and that

These customers who pay by prepayment meter subsidise customers who can get the cheapest deals.

This is clearly wrong. The poorest customers, those least able to pay, shouldn't be giving profit boosts to the energy supply companies, and should absolutely not pay extra in order to subsidise "deals" offered to better off customers.

However I do have a serious concern about campaigns against prepayment meter charges. Prepayment is more expensive to collect than monthly direct debit or quarterly bill payment. If you charge your gas key in the village shop's PayPoint machine, then both the shopkeeper and PayPoint expect to be paid for offering the service. The customer who has the convenience of paying in this way should expect to pay the costs of that convenience. We mustn't forget that the being able to pay for utilities at £3, £5 or £10 a time IS convenient to most of those who use the service.

Some time ago (in the mid 1990's) the Water Boards offered a similar service to poorer customers. They could pay their Water charges in the dribs and drabs that they could afford using a charge card. It was a service that millions of poorer people subscribed to, voluntarily, because it made payment easier for them.

Unfortunately some Socialist do-gooders who could, no doubt, afford their own water rates, complained to the courts about the legality of the scheme, and it was withdrawn. The withdrawal of the scheme made many of those who were happy with the system unable to pay and plunged them into a debt that they couldn't afford.

In supporting any campaign to get costs down for prepayment customers, I do hope that the campaigners don't throw the baby out with the bath water (sorry for the pun) as they did with water prepayment. Losing the ability to prepay the energy bills a little at a time would be a disaster for most low income families.

Apologies for Absence

I note from the comments to my last post that at least one person has been wondering about my lack of postings for the past week.

It has been a very bad week as far as family matters are concerned. At the beginning of the week I attended the funeral of my great aunt Mari who was the last of my grandmother's generation. At 90 years old her death was not unexpected but it was, nevertheless, a matter of great sadness for members of the family. On Thursday my nephew, Gwyn, was killed in an horrific car crash.

So I apologise to loyal readers for my lack of posts, but some things are more important than politics.


Glenrothes Revisited

There has been a huge amount of analysis in the weekend papers about the result in the Glenrothes by-election. Most commentators seem to concentrate on Alex Salmonds' arrogance or on Labour stirring up a local council issue of community care fees, rather than Westminster issues. Others refer to the Brown Bounce and the financial crisis. I feel that all of the commentators, whatever their political bias, have missed one crucial factor. The most shocking figure in the by-election was the turnout!

The average turnout for the whole of the UK in the 2005 general election was 62%. Glenrothes was one of those constituencies that dragged the average down. Only 55% of the good folk of the constituency bothered to vote. In by-elections, turnout is usually considerably lower. The average by-election turnout in the UK for the past 10years was just 38%, it would not have been surprising if fewer than 30% voted in Glenrothes. But in this by election the vote was only just down on the constituency's 2005 turnout at 53%.

The SNP was not expecting to get more than the 13,000 vote that it had. Both SNP and Labour returns were showing that level of support. With a 38-45% turnout 13K would have given the SNP it's expected win. What went wrong for the SNP and gave Labour the victory was that about 8,000 people who shouldn't have voted in a by-election did vote.

Nobody from any of the parties, or amongst the pundits, saw this extra vote coming. When the polls close the expectation was that it was in the bag for the SNP. So where did this extra surge come from?

One could go for the conspiracy or fiddle theories, I suspect that it has more to do with boozing!

The people least likely to register on canvas returns are the under 25 year old voters. When they are at home their Mams or their Dads will answer the door or phone to canvassers. Many of them are absent voters in their collage residences.

Usually it doesn't matter because they don't bother to vote anyway. But with the SNP's policy (opposed by its own student group) to raise the legal drinking age to 21, I suspect that many of the unexpected votes came from young voters.

I respect the SNP's commitment to tackle Scotland's binge drinking culture, there is no doubt that it needs to be tackled, but it is a fact that the nationalist vote is also the youngest vote in Scottish (and Welsh) politics. The SNP needs to look at ways in which to address the drink culture in a way that doesn't demonise the young, because if it loses its youth vote (as I suspect it did in Glenrothes) then it will find itself up the world famous creek without a paddle!


Hello again Marcus

After an absence of about six months Marcus Warner is back blogging, his latest site goes under the name Sweet and Tender Hooligan. Marcus previously blogged as Renewed Labour, Clear Red Water and Southpaw Grammar.

Congratulations Lindsay Roy MP

Disappointing result in Glenrothes. The Labour party has not only held on to the seat but also increased their share of the vote.

However the SNP did increase its vote by 13% so the result hardly bursts the SNP's bubble or ends Alex Salmond's honeymoon, but disappointing nevertheless.

Congratulations to Lindsay Roy MP.


Poems & Politics: In Flanders Field

When I am not blogging politics my other delight is family history.

My family tree is full of those who lost their lives in the First and Second
World Wars. Some are famous, like my cousins removed Hedd Wyn and Wilfred Owen. Others were just ordinary people like my great uncles John and Hugh Humphreys, my second cousin Thomas Bitton and my uncle Hywel Griffith.

Whatever the rights or wrongs of the two World wars I will Wear my poppy with pride and I will remember them!

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae


Congratulations Obama o Fon

The First Black President of the USA! But also the Ninth President of the USA of Welsh Descent!

I am in tears because of both facts.

Wales should proud that one of our boys is the first African American President of the USA.

His paternal ancestry is in Kenya, but his maternal ancestry is in Wales!

He is the first African American President, but let us not forget that he is also the Ninth President of Welsh descent too!


Bloging the Presidential Race

Welsh language magazine Golwg has been blogging the presidential race since lunch time. Ifan Morgan Jones, the deputy editor of the organ intends to stay up until the early hours posting as events unfold. He also wishes to link to other Welsh bloggers who are going to join in the fun, so even if you can't read Welsh pop over to the Golwg blog and let Ifan know that you will be up until the crack of dawn to keep him company.

Ordovicius, The Right Student and Chris Cope also intend to blog the night away. As for me - I might stay up, but I might go to bed - it depends how things develop and how the nectar flows.

For Scottish and McCain supporting commentary see Malc's blog

Plaid voters are thick, but SNP voters are thicker!

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, voting patterns reflect the IQ's of those voting. The cleverest people vote Green, absolut thickos don't vote at all. Those of us who vote Plaid aren't the top of the class, but we have a little bit more upstairs than our friends in the SNP.

Average IQ scores at the age of 10 for people voting in the 2001 general election for various parties were:
Green 108.3
Liberal Democrat 108.2
Conservative 103.7
Labour 103
Plaid Cymru 102.5
Scottish National 102.2
UK Independence 101.1
British National 98.4
Did not vote / None 99.7

The IQ's of those who write such tosh and expect it to be belived have not been verified!


Welsh-athon Challenge

I Found this challenge on Facebook, it sounds like an interesting way of encouraging people to learn Welsh and of of giving those who have started learning the language during new academic year an extra boost to their studies. On the other hand learning a new language can be a very stressful experience, would adding a semi-political and charitable goal add to the stress in a negative way?

Ever fancied learning Welsh? Ever fancied raising lots of cash for your favourite charity? Would doing one, convince you to do the other?

Then take up the challenge of learning Welsh to fluency before the 2011 census, (so you can proudly proclaim you speak Welsh on the next census return), and get yourself sponsored for the challenge, seeing how much money you can raise for your favourite charity! :o)

Our goal is:-

Anyone could do it, but it's a BIG CHALLENGE! Here are the 10 steps you have to take:-

1. Select an excellent charity you wish to support (perhaps a Welsh one?)

2. Gain as much sponsorship as possible for your charity for the following challenge:-

"I challenge myself to become a fluent Welsh-speaker by the 2011 U.K. Census!"

(If you already speak a little Welsh, you only have to convince your sponsors that the challenge of becoming fluent is a big one! (Clearly it is - it's as arduous a challenge as any marathon, but thankfully you don't have to be physically fit!) If you have a head start in your learning, perhaps you could start your challenge later in the course of the event.)

3. (The difficult bit) LEARN WELSH TO FLUENCY, before the month prior to the 2011 Census, when you will have to prove your achievement! The challenge is possible within the two years study time available!

4. Don't learn alone - network with other 2011 WELSH-ATHON participants, share learning ideas, and learn together! Also please see the resources for learning Welsh that will be uploaded to 2011 WELSH-AHTON sites, as well as tips and recommended courses.

5. Attend the/an official 2011 WELSH-ATHON exam where your fluency will be tested - one month before the census is conducted - you'll be expected to translate the front page of the Welsh language daily newspaper "Y BYD,"[*] or a selected article from a Welsh language magazine, under exam conditions.

6. Notify the 2011 WELSH-ATHON reporters of how much you've raised, and what your chosen charity was, after passing the exam, so the success of the challenge can be reported by the Welsh media!

7. Attend the post-exam party, where people will be celebrating their newly learned Welsh, and how much they've raised for so many excellent causes!

8. Submit the funds you have raised to your selected charity!!!

9. Proudly indicate your ability to speak Welsh on your 2011 census return! :o)

10. Find out how many people can speak Welsh in Wales after the Census results are published, and enjoy the Welsh you've learned for the rest of your life, encouraging others by telling them how you succeeded in the challenge!


The Facebook group is here Facebook Welshathon. Those who do not have a Facebook account can contact the organisers on

[* Challenge 5 needs updating!!!]


Odd Odds

During the Glasgow East by election I mentioned the weird tale of a Labour committee member who supposedly collected £1000 from party supporters and used it to bet on a Labour victory in order to skew the bookies reported odds in favour of his candidate. In the Times and the Scotsman yesterday there were reports that an SNP activist has e-mailed party members encouraging them to pop down to their local bookies and put £10 on the SNP candidate in Glenrothes in order to swing the odds in the nationalists favour.

During my 150 years experience of political campaigning I have never, ever heard of anybody changing their voting intention based on the bookies odds. If SNP supporters have a tenner to spare they know that the best way to use it in order to influence the vote is to donate it to the campaign fund, rather than donating it to William Hill.

I didn't believe the Glasgow East tale and I don't believe the Glenrothes tale, both stories smack of a bit of spin from bookies trying to drum up trade, rather than honest political reporting.

HT Jeff


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.


F**k you too Seb Coe

Hat tip to Toque for drawing attention to this incredible outburst from Seb Coe, the Boss of the 2012 London Olympics published in The London Paper;
TEAM GB will have a football team for the 2012 Games, Seb Coe has confirmed, whatever opposition is put up by the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish.

The creation of the team has been opposed by the Football Associations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who are concerned it may compromise their individual status within Fifa.

But he said the BOA, which selects teams for the Games, has decided to press ahead with a football squad despite the opposition.

When asked last night about the opposition from the Welsh and Scots, Coe replied bluntly: “F*** em!”


Ian James Johnson and Amlwch to Magor also comment on this story


Murphy for Wales and Scotland?

Back in January Tomos Livingstone asked Will Brown merge the departments for the devolved nations this year? David Cornock has also suggested that such a move might be imminent. If 'senior Whitehall sources' quoted in yesterday's Scotland on Sunday are to be believed this much heralded event won't happen in the next cabinet reshuffle due to be announced during the next few days.

Although with Jim Murphy being tipped as the person most likely to become the next Scottish Secretary and with little likelihood of Paul Murphy losing the Wales Office, perhaps we are being softened up for a merger by having a Mr Murphy doing both jobs.

Is your facebook friend a spook?

Apparently MI6 is to use Facebook to recruit new spies.

Doesn't this defeat the object of spying? What is the point of hiring spies who are going to record their activities on a social network?

What are you doing now?
Filming secrets in the Russian Embassy!

I can't see it working somehow!

New Blogs

I have added a few new found blogs to my list today:

Chwith, which is the Welsh word for Left (as in left hand rather than left out) obviously looks at Welsh politics from a left wing view.

Gray's Monotony has been blogging since the beginning of the month "writing on sport, politics and whatever 'culture' implies in the name of fun and interest."

Ian James Johnson is a Plaid Cymru researcher in the House of Commons, who also started blogging at the beginning of the month


The Stonemason who has been commenting on this blog for some time without me realising that he also had a blog. The Stonemason blogs from Caerphilly on the advantages of Wales remaining part of the UK.


Ten commandments for Bloggers

The Evangelical Alliance has designed 10 commandments to help Christian bloggers to keep on the straight and narrow paths through cyberspace.

Ten commandments for bloggers
1 You shall not put your blog before your integrity

2 You shall not make an idol of your blog

3 You shall not misuse your screen name by using your anonymity to sin

4 Remember the Sabbath day by taking one day off a week from your blog

5 Honour your fellow-bloggers above yourselves and do not give undue significance to their mistakes

6 You shall not murder someone else's honour, reputation or feelings

7 You shall not use the web to commit or permit adultery in your mind

8 You shall not steal another person's content

9 You shall not give false testimony against your fellow-blogger

10 You shall not covet your neighbour's blog ranking. Be content with your own content

I can't see myself sticking to all of them somehow! Indeed I think that I might have broken numbers 5, 6, 7 and 10 in just one short post here!

Our English Identity

This a translation of an item on BBC Cymru ar lein's web page. As far as I can find it has not been published in English anywhere and it has not been followed up by BBC Cymru on TV or radio news bulletins.

The Welsh Language Board has asked the British Government to reconsider after they refused to ensure that the Welsh Language appears on ID cards.

The first cards will be issued to foreign nationals from next November.

The British Government said that they didn't intend to use Welsh on the cards because it is not one of the Official Languages of the European Union.

Meri Huws, chair of The Welsh Language Board said that the response from the Home Office isn't good enough.

"In our opinion, the reason given isn't sufficient" as Welsh is already used on passports under the same European directives.

"We believe that ID cards for Wales should be bilingual, as is the case with driving licences".

The Government has stated that they expect that all citizens will be offered the cards within three years.

It will be necessary for all airport staff to have the cards by next year
After that it is expected that the card will be offered to young people over 16 years and then to the rest of the population.

This is an interesting development. Although I have no particular beef against ID cards, I suspect that most politically active supporters of the Welsh language oppose them. This seems like a cynical ploy to get Plaid Cymru / pro-Welsh language suporters who are members of other political parties/ Cymdeithas yr Iaith even the Assembly to campaign FOR Welsh ID cards rather than opposing ID cards per say.

A cheap shot, which just shows what a dinosaur Cymdeithas Cledwyn is up against in trying to persuade people that the Labour party isn't pathologically against the Welsh Language


True Wales' Untruths

There is a sweet irony in the fact that a movement calling itself True Wales should launch its campaign by making a string of untruthful claims!

The True Wales campaign claims that it is the voice of the majority that wants to see Wales remain a part of the UK. They are going to represent that true voice by campaigning against the Welsh Assembly gaining any new powers in a referendum called under the Government of Wales Act 2006!

The first untruth is the movement's claim that they are "opposed to the Assembly gaining further powers". What a crock of dung! The movement's real issue is opposition to the very existence of the Assembly. They want to see the Assembly abolished! But lending this bunch of fools support wont see the abolition of the Assembly - Abolition is not on the political agenda.

Their second untruth is that supporting their campaign will stop the Assembly from gaining further powers. No it wont! The Government of Wales Act has already granted the Assembly all the potential powers that a referendum could grant through the eLCO system. If a referendum is never held, or if a referendum is held today and Wales votes 100% NO - the potential powers in the Act remain. The Assembly will still get the powers but through a tortuous route rather than through a simple one.

The third untruth that True Wales makes is the claim that supporters of devolution all support independence. It is fair to say that some do see devolution as a step by step process towards independence. But only a fool could claim that a yes vote in a GoW Act referendum equates to a vote in favour of independence! Elin Jones, Adam Price and others have been honest enough to state that they see every step for devolution as a step towards independence; but they believe that a referendum ON independence is very far down the line. There is no way that the referendum in the offing can be claimed to be a referendum in favour of independence. The suggestion that Glyn Davies, Peter Black or Carwyn Jones (all of whom are in favour of further devolution) are crypto nationalists! It isn't just an untruth, it is a libelous lie to suggest that they are.

The fourth lie of True Wales is their claim that support for their movement is going to stop calls for independence. I believe that Wales should be an independent country. A devolution referendum - which ever way it goes - is not going to change my mind or the minds of most believers in independence! Indeed a NO vote might even be beneficial to our argument and might hasten independence. A NO vote would prove that the slowly slowly catchee monkey approach of some nationalists is an abject failure and enthuse more to support my belief that we should be campaigning for "whole hog" independence rather than siding with devolutionist unionists!

The fifth and most potent lie of "True Wales" is their false claim that
True Wales members chose the name because they believe those wanting Wales to remain a full part of the United Kingdom have been "unfairly categorised" as anti-Welsh

It is not unfair to categorise those who believe that their own compatriots lack even the slightest ability to govern themselves as Anti Welsh . Anti Welsh is the nicest thing one could say about them. Treacherous shits, the bottom of the dung heap, a shame and an embarrassment to their own country are amongst the kindest terms that I can find to describe them. Blogger would probably close this site down if I said what I really think about them!

The official response to the launch of the quisling cause has been rather mute.

Deputy First Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones, said that there was no need to set up a Yes campaign before Syr Emyr Jones Parry commission had judged the public response to further powers.

I agree with the thoughts of John Dixon, Plaid Cymru's chair who made the obvious point a few days ago that:
Opinion polls can help to inform that judgement, but they should never be allowed to become the determinant. There is otherwise 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 an YES campaign is needed it is needed NOW before UnTrue Wales gets a head start in peddling its lies. I can understand why more staid politicians might want to stand above the fray and not give the prats any credibility, but there is no doubt that a gauntlet has been thrown down. The "official" politicians might not want to take it up, but is that a reason for web politicos not to take up the gauntlet and run with it? One of the supposed strengths of political opinion on the www is its ability to galvanise support and create campaigns outwith the "official" channels. Can the web community pick up the gauntlet and create an enthusiastic Yes campaign?


Bryn's British Album

I always thought that Bryn Terfel was a Welsh Nationalist. Perhaps I'm mistaken he has done the "Rule Britannia" bit in the Proms twice, after all!

My youngest son bought me a copy of Bryn's latest CD yesterday (cos it was my birthday - do David Cornock and I share a birthday - all be it 109 years apart?). Bryn's Album is called "First Love" songs from the British Isles, and has been advertised, even on S4C, as the best British Album by the best British singer.

Politics apart, Bryn is a fantastic singer and all of his albums are worth listening to, but why oh why does he feel the need to put on a "false" Scottish accent when singing Scottish songs?

Danny Boy, which features Ronan Keating singing along with Bryn is dreadful. It shows that Ronan is a light crooner who's voice just can't match that of a classically trained expert - why either agreed to the release of this excruciatingly painful track is beyond my comprehension.

Bryn Terfel - First Love - Songs from the British Isles is an ideal present for the miserable old fart in your life - but warn him/her to skip tracks 4, 5 and 16 if you don't want him/her to be even more miserable than s/he is now!


Beleving in Science

The last time I did a scientific experiment was a long long time ago. It had something to do with a Bunsen burner heating up a chemical to create a smell similar to rotten eggs. I don't remember why the experiment was done or what I was supposed to have learned from it.

When I was doing my rotten eggs experiment, scientists were proving that smoking cured asthma, in faith I believed them and started smoking - I'm still hooked!

Clearly I don't know much about science, what I do know is based on faith rather than knowledge.

I would suspect that the vast majority of people are in exactly the same position as me, they believe what scientists say, they have faith in scientific proof but they have very little understanding of science.

But we have a problem, scientists have a tendency to prove what the money tells them to prove.

For a million dollars wind farms are good trump that with four million and we'll say that nuclear is better!

Scientists say that global warming is happening and we need to do everything that we can to stop it. Other scientists say bollocks, global warming is just a statist way of controlling people and that global warming is a myth!

It is faith that makes us choose sides on such issues rather than knowledge.

Creationism or Darwinism? Do you make your choice through personal scientific experimental proof, or is your view based on what you believe to be true? I suspect that 99% of people believe what they believe and don't give the subject a second thought - irrational blind faith from both sides of the argument!

I know that my redeemer liveth! As a matter of fact and experience I know that the Lord Jesus Christ is my saviour.

But apparently I'm a nutter for knowing something through my experience of faith in religion rather than being confused by a mixed up faith in science!

Confusin' i'n it?

Conservatives - the biggest party in Wales

According to a massive opinion poll of nearly 35,000 people conducted by Politics Home in 238 marginal seats across the UK including a number in Wales, the Conservative Party is set to become the largest Party in Wales in Westminster representation.

The poll reckons that the Tories will have 18 seats:

Cardiff North
Cardiff West
Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire
Clwyd South
Clwyd West
Newport West
Preseli Pembrokeshire
Vale of Clwyd
Vale of Glamorgan
Brecon and Radnorshire
Alyn and Deeside,
Cardiff South and Penarth
Newport East

Plaid Cymru will have five (re-gaining Anglesey and Cardigan - but not advancing into new territory)

Ynys Mon
Dwyfor Meirion
Carmarthen East & Deinefwr

The Liberal Democrats will be reduced to two

Cardiff Central

Peoples Voice will hold on to Blaenau Gwent

Leaving Labour with just 14 seats!

I can't see it happening myself.

I suspect that half of the predicted "gains" will be near misses for the Tories, as supporters of the three non Tory parties shift allegiance to the best placed non Tory candidate (probably Labour)

I reckon that Plaid can gain Aberconwy and Llanelli, giving them seven, with a bit of hard work and a lot of bottle Caerffili and Cwm Cynon could be in Plaid's grasp - but highly unlikely.

The weird thing is that listening to people on the street, I get the feeling that Labour is losing support because of its failure to address issues of social democracy and the left:

High energy costs for the old and the poor, the 10p tax rate for poorer workers, a lack of respect for civil liberties, not saving public services such as the Post office, allowing free markets to cripple the economy etc.

If Labour was more left wing and more social democratic it would be more popular!

In these circumstances the Liberal Democrats and Plaid should be making hay. Polls should be suggesting that both parties would be looking at double figure gains in Wales with a Tory wipe out.

The fact that the people of Wales see the Tory's as their saviour in the face of Labour failure is an indictment of both Plaid and the Lib Dems. These are the parties that pissed off Labour voters have felt comfortable to support in the past. Both must ask themselves why they are being passed over in favour of the Hairy Arsed Tory Monster in Wales? The monster that Wales last gave majority support to in Westminster in 1832!

If Plaid's left cant make a forcible case for left of centre social democratic nationalism in the present political climate then it may as well give up, because it is never likely to have more favourable circumstances!

The alternative for the party, of course, is to ditch socialism and campaign for the center right vote that seems to be gaining ground in Wales as old style socialism breaths its last, a center right vote that Politics Home suggests is being hoovered up by the Welsh Conservatives!