I have only just realised that the high priest of Welsh political reporting, Clive Betts, has been blogging for the past fortnight. His blog Cambriapolitico can be found here.


Is the USA it's own Worst enemy?

I am not a big fan of American novels. I have never been to the USA, so many of the cultural references are alien to me, I don't know what a condo is, or a clam bake and if I was asked if I understood my Miranda rights I would have to answer No!.

However, I bought a few John Grisham books in a charitable car boot sale (an Americanism that seems to have killed the native jumble sale) a few weeks ago. John Grisham is one of the most popular novelists in and from the USA, he writes books about the American legal system. The legal system portrayed is totally corrupt!

Juries are vetted by multi million dollar experts, not in order to create balance, but in order to insure bias for the highest bidder. Guilt and innocence is decided, not by justice, but by money. Policemen, lawyers, judges and witnesses are routinely murdered in order to pervert the course of justice, and when that fails jury members and judges are bought or threatened in order to secure a favorable outcome for the wrongdoer.

Its not just Mr Grisham's books that portray the US in such a poor light. I don't know how many films that I have seen where people have been found innocent by a court but are perceived to be guilty and are then executed by a hero in the name of justice!

I have a Playstation game, thrown in as a bundle when the machine was bought. Liberty City Stories has, amongst the missions in the game, murdering the mayor in order to create a by election; installing a candidate favorable to a drug dealing gang; killing canvassers for the opposing candidate and destroying ballot papers. All of these activities are perceived as positive and give credit in the game.

Outside the realm of fiction, in news reports, we are told about a different America. An America where democracy, freedom and the rule of law are paramount. An America that wishes to export these values to the rest of the world.

Which image portrays the truth about the USA is, to a certain extent, unimportant. What is important is which image is perceived to be true. Because American culture is all prevailing, the image of the US that most of us have is the fictional image.

If Wales was portrayed in a less than favorable light in a book, a film or a game, I would be up in arms! I would be writing to the press, I would be calling for a boycott, I would be protesting on the streets. I would hope that the Welsh (and parts of the UK) press would be writing articles saying No Wales isn't like that!

Why don't Americans protest about books, films and games that portray their country as foul and corrupt? Why do they give literary and film awards to those who portray their country as a corrupt, unjust and undemocratic nation?

If the America portrayed by popular culture is the true America, then the USA needs to have a good look at itself and reform within. The America of the books, games and films is no better than Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe!

If the true America is the one where democracy, freedom and the rule of law is paramount, then the USA desperately needs to get to grips with the way in which it portrays itself in popular culture. Giving awards to books, such as Grisham's, tells the world that his image of a corrupt USA is true image and that the US of A is proud of the fact!


Falling out in England?

There appears to be a split in the English Democrat Party.

The split seems to be on two grounds:

A) Some people are uncertain whether the EDP is for Independence for England or for Devolution / Federalism to include England within the UK

B)Others seem to find the EDP as just anti-Scottish rather than pro English.

As disappointing as learning about this split is, it reminds me of the pangs of both the SNP and Plaid Cymru in the 60's. Something that the EDP might learn and reflect on.

If one goes back in history the SNP use to follow Plaid Cymru.

Since 1979 that changed. The SNP took the lead.

The reason is clear, since 1979 Plaid has dallied with different forms of devolution, federalism etc, for fear of losing its 70’s gains. Plaid has avoided the I (shhh - for independence) word. Plaid has been in the doldrums. The SNP has come to the ascendancy by sticking to plain and simple Independence.

The SNP is the government in Scotland, whilst Plaid props up Labour with dreams of what might happen in 2051.

Whatever the academic support for Plaid’s evolution of devolution or the intellectual ideas behind federalism, both are woolly ideas that aren’t made for popular support. People know what independence is. It is a clear cut idea that one is either for or against.

If the EDP wants electoral success it should follow the SNP’s clear cut independence line, rather than Plaid’s maybe, sort of, independence line.

As for the EDP being anti-Scottish (or Welsh)I can only ask, why not?

Welsh, Scottish, Cornish and English nationalists do have things in common, where we can work in common we should do so.

But if you are an English person who thinks that you have been let down, ripped off or otherwise disappointed by your Celtic neighbours, shout out loud about the iniquity. Nobody else will shout out for you, and lying back an thinking of England wont stop us Celts from shouting at you.

Stand up proud for independence for England!


Lost in translation #2

When I wrote about the need for a better Welsh Language computer translations service last week, I thought that such a service was needed for researchers, family historians and learners. It appears that I may have missed out a section of the community that desperately needs such a service. The anti-Welsh bigots who want to discredit the language by painting false nationalist graffiti!

As a number of bloggers have pointed out the Cai Maes Sais graffiti was produced by the piss poor translation service.

Others have already dealt with the issue (see some links below)

But I think that blogs should provide a community service, so for the sake of anti-Welsh graffiti artists posing as nationalists here is some guidance:

North of Dyfi Bridge use Saeson Allan
South of Dyfi Bridge use Saeson Mas
alternatively use the generic Twll Din Pob Sais throughout Wales.

On the other hand just grow up and accept that linguistic diversity is one of the treasures of humanity and something that should be valued by all.

Further comments:
James; Cynical dragon; The Secret Person; Hen Ferchetan; Rhys Wynne

Can we expect any apologies from the papers / broadcasters who peddled this rubbish?

No. I though not!


Blog Gethin

I mentioned in an earlier post that my nephew in law, Gethin Williams, is standing as a Llais Gwynedd candidate in the forthcoming council elections.

He has a campaign blog to support his candiadature HERE.

All the best with the campaign and the blog Gethin.

Hwyl Wncl Alwyn!


Bad Show for Plaid?

Because few county council wards have a proper general election type competition with all the main parties contesting each seat, local elections are not a real test of what might happen in a general election to either Westminster or the Bay. The best indicator isn't the votes cast, but the numbers of candidates that a party can persuade to stand in each county.

In this respect Plaid Cymru seems to have been weekened by the coalition with Labour rather than strengthened. Apparently there will be fifty fewer Plaid candidates standing this year than there were last time the Welsh counties went to the polls.

It's not just fifty fewer candidates though. In Gwynedd, Ynys Mon, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire (Plaid's heartlands) Plaid is boasting that it is standing more candidates than ever before. So if Plaid is 50 candidates down on 2004, overall, but is competing in more seats than ever in its heartlands, there is a strong indication that the party isn't doing too well outside the Welsh Speaking West.

If Plaid really wants to challenge Labour as an alternative "lead party" in Welsh politics, it must fly the flag throughout Wales. Shrinkage in party candidate numbers outside the western heartland doesn’t auger well! Just one candidate in the whole of Blaenau Gwent, for example, (same number as the BNP)!!!!

If Plaid wants to be serious about being considered as the "Party of Wales" and the biggest Assembly party in 2011, it should have candidates, if not in all Welsh wards, in at least a majority of wards for each council.


Lost in Translation

This is the first paragraph of the French newspaper Le Monde's report on the elections in Zimbabwe:

Alors qu'au Zimbabwe, les premières estimations des résultats à l'élection présidentielle ont donné une légère avance au candidat de l'opposition au premier tour, le président Mugabe préparerait sa sortie, selon des proches cités par des médias anglo-saxons. L'homme fort du pays depuis un quart de siècle n'est plus apparu en public depuis samedi, alimentant les rumeurs d'une fuite en Namibie ou en Malaisie, où il se rend fréquemment.

Here is a computer-generated translation of the paragraph:

Whereas to Zimbabwe, the first estimates of the results to the presidential election gave a light advance to the candidate of the opposition to the first turn, president Mugabe would prepare his exit, according to close relations' quoted by Anglo-Saxon media. The strong man of the country since a quarter century has not appeared any more in public for Saturday, feeding the rumours of an escape in Namibia or Malaysia, where it frequently goes.

Not perfect English, but one can get the gist of the article!

This is the first paragraph of Normal Mouth's column in last week's edition of Golwg:

Dyma'r mis pan ddaeth yr encilio economaidd - o ran ei ddisgwyl os nad ei brofi - yn swyddogol. Roedd cydnabod y gair ddychrynllyd hwn yn ddigon i gael effaith ddramatig a chyflym ar y farn gyhoeddus, gyda'r gwahaniaeth rhwng Ceidwadwyr a Llafur yn y polau'n troi'n agendor.

And here is a computer-generated translation of the paragraph:

Here' is group month when he came he drives retreat economic he he shares you go look if no you go prove officially. He was acknowledge the one has frightful this donely I have dramatic I go chyflym signs the he judges public , with ' group difference between Conservatives I go Labor crookedly the polau'n turn ' heartburn gulf.

There is something almost poetic in the translation:

I go Labour crookedly
The polls turn

I love it LOL.

But the translation is a nonsense; it makes no sense of what Normal Mouth actually said (what he thought he said can be seen here)!

There are two reasons why the translation machine can make sense out of French, but not out of Welsh. One is practical, the other is political.

The practical reason is that the French and English translations are based on a corpus of millions of translated words and phrases that have been fed into the databases that inform the translation facilities. English and French academic institutions have provided much of the corpus of information in order to enable on line translation.

An individual Welsh learner, who supplied a private database of fewer than 50,000 words and phrases, provided the Welsh corpus.

There are huge corpuses of Welsh language data available in digital form. Y Beibl Cymraeg Newydd (The New Welsh Bible) is digitised and could be easily compared with its digitised counterpart The New English Bible.

Geiriadur yr Academi, The Welsh Academy Dictionary, which is a dictionary of translations of terms and of words more than a dictionary of definitions, is available in electronic form. As are many other databases of Welsh language words and terms; including the databases that runs the Welsh language and grammar checkers Cysyll and Cysgair.

The political reason for not letting on line translation facilities use these databases is the fear that on line translations will be seen as a cheep option. People will use the on line facility to provide translations rather than pay for a true translation by a professional translator. The poor English used in the French-English translation would result in poor Welsh of a similar standard!

An understandable argument, but one that supports a cause that is already lost.

The 50,000 word corpus is being used to produce crap Welsh translations on a daily basis. Examples of which are publcised in Golwg everey week. Indeed there are so many poor Welsh language translations churned out by the limited database, that a new Welsh word has evolved: Scymraeg (Scum Welsh), and Scymraeg has its own Flikr site.

When I'm not doing politics I do a lot of family and local history. I have used OCR to put a number of Welsh language books on line, a laborious task. Every day I can guarantee that I will get an e-mail that says I found the name of my grandfather xxxxx in your text can you translate this for me?

I spend hours translating, and get an e mail back saying, thanks, but your translation proves that this isn't my xxxxx!

It's high time that the academic institutions that are sitting on huge corpuses of Welsh / English data release that data to the translation machines in order to enable decent, if not perfect, Welsh / English, English / Welsh translations on line.

Whatever the arguments about perfection, the imperfection caused from a decent corpus of Welsh words and phrases must be better than the crap created, anyway, from the limited corpus of Welsh that is being used at the moment!