Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Welsh Language - no shit Sherlock

I see the Welsh intelligentsia are in 'crisis' mode over the recent release of census data for Wales aka 'will nobody think of the children'. And some in the BBC don't help, with their gloom and doom - I heard someone on Radio Cymru actually say that an increase in the number of Welsh speakers in an area due to movement of people was somehow artificial?

Take the rural areas - now you don't need a degree in anthropology to know whats occurring...

Young people are moving to urban areas for a) education and b) jobs and this is reflected in the growth of the Welsh language in Cardiff - you know a thing called urbanisation.. And the more people come to contact with the Welsh language and it's culture the more they see the benefits of allowing their children the chance to learn the language, and of learning the language themselves. Hence why Monmouthshire and Cardiff are seeing an increase in number of Welsh speakers.

So no shit Sherlock logic says you concentrate your efforts on the urban areas - to making Welsh more relevant and accessible to peoples day to day life's,  to where the population is highest and where you will find young working couples with a presentity to allow their children to learn Welsh.

And in the rural areas where the young are leaving to get jobs in urban areas, and the old eventually die, those filling the vacuum will be those seeking a pleasurable retirement, and there is nothing wrong with that, be they Welsh, English, Scottish whatever. The no shit Sherlock logic says in percentage terms an elderly family of 2 will always be lower than a young family with kids. So if the young are moving out and the retires are moving in and the elderly eventually die - you know no shit Sherlock Welsh speakers in rural areas will decline.

Now I'm not saying that Welsh speakers don't want to live in rural communities, far from it the rural idyll is still a dream for many. But there are so many considerations like where will the kids be educated - ease of access to schools and standard of education. And no shit Sherlock Welsh families with kids may be disinclined to return to rural communities 'cause someone thought shutting rural schools was a good idea.

And let's not forget when people move for jobs it could be to anywhere in the world. Over the centuries we Welsh have seen no barrier in our search for work. In England for example, I'm sure we all know relatives whom have formed strong Welsh communities within cities and towns - but whilst we know how many people speak Polish for instance in England, we don't know how many speak Welsh, I wonder why?.

Anyway if you want Welsh speaking people to remain in Wales rather than seeking fortunes elsewhere, like Paul Williams, aka The Druid, who is in Japan to name just one, then we need to improve the economy. So no shit Sherlock the decline in Welsh speakers in Wales is strongly linked to the decline in the Welsh economy....Or its the economy stupid.

Lets not forget that the majority of Welsh people in Wales cannot speak Welsh, but I suspect that if asked a high percentage would like to, and will give many reasons why they have not learnt Welsh, raging from never had the chance to thinking it's too hard.

So no shit Sherlock - if you want people to learn Welsh, first you must speak their language.

Turning to a thing called Pride - why do we tolerate the dismissal of us Welsh especially of  the Welsh language as not important. A bit like saying to a Jew well you could be Catholic couldn't you, most of us here are Catholics don't you know. Ever thought why religious intolerance is given greater weight than language intolerance?

And that's why its important that we also start stop apologising for yourself and start demanding we are treated as equals. That we don't tolerate stupid comments made by stupid people like Ann Robinson or twat face Roger Lewis who think it acceptable to be demeaning to the Welsh.

If we want the Welsh language to thrive, we have to make it happen - that's us the Welsh, by raising the standard of Welsh education, by providing skilled jobs in Wales, by making the Welsh language seem relevant and necessary to youngsters. By rediscovering our 'pride' as in to plagiarizer a quote "Welsh pride is real pride – the sort that requires no justification or excuse."

One thing for certain it wont happen if we blame everyone else for the decline i.e that it's all the fault of immigrants, and neither will it happen at all if all we do is argue amongst yourselves over an ever rescinding puddle in the heat of exposure.

Now get a grid for as you know its no shit Sherlock.

Please note - comments demeaning to the welsh language will not be allowed as a response to this post.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

No nuclear storage = no Wylfa B?

Has a decision by Cumbria County Council to pull out of feasibility study into underground storage of radioactive waste scuppered plans for Wylfa B?

See Nuclear expansion plan thwarted after Cumbria no vote to underground store

As reported in 2007 "Britain must not go ahead with a new generation of nuclear power stations until it has a "clear and robust" plan in place for dealing with the twin problems of decommissioning and waste treatment, the world's leading energy body warned yesterday. The International Energy Agency also said that any new nuclear programme must be funded entirely from the private sector, without any government subsidy or market intervention."

So it's not looking good at the moment the it will - will not happen saga continues....

See also: BREAKING NEWS: Cumbria County Council says no to nuclear repository plan

My thoughts on UKIP and it's 75% proof..

Who are UKIP exactly? - have you ever thought that, not sure, well neither does the popular media it seems. Of course in one sense it doesn't matter, the more support UKIP have the fewer the Conservatives have. And if the Conservatives don't win an overall majority in 2015 then it's unlikely there will be a IN/OUT referendum on the EU. Unless that is I suppose they form an unholy alliance with UKIP. But is that likely Messrs Farage and Cameron not being best of buddies, though Nigel Farage has said he'd deal with the devil if it got them what they wanted.....interesting that....look and listen: You Tube....

So maybe we should be taking a bit more attention of UKIP, and challenge them whenever we can, especially in social media. Because if you challenge them on the actual detail of their grandstanding the weakness of their argument is soon exposed. But not only that it's also fun, my favorite move at the moment is to quote them Churchill, especially his United States of Europe speech. I wait to see if they add him to a growing list of what the right wing see as traitors ranging from David Cameron to the Her Majesty the Queen.

Now as we know UKIP want out of the EU but why? - I wonder what their website says...

ah here it is the THE TRUTH ABOUT THE in capitals letters so it must be true.

Now let's see did you know that "The EU is a fraud on ALL Europeans". OMG a fraud on ALL Europeans that's half a billion people all victims of fraud. Of course "The European Union seemed a good idea in the 1970s" - but hold on I though the EU was founded on 1 November 1993, and in the 1970's it was the Common Market and that Prime Minister Heath took us into the European Economic Community (EEC), and a key argument behind the conspiracy theory is that in 1975 we voted in for the free market and not the EU, I'm confused now.

Let me think - we didn't vote for the EU but we where thinking the EU seemed a good idea in the 1970's, but we didn't vote for it. And "It’s not just Britain that wants out of the EU. Many other Europeans would vote to leave, if given the chance."

Yes there is a long list isn't there, Greenland they left and Greece, well maybe shouldn't have become a member of the Eurozone in the first place, but even they aren't proposing to leave the European Union. And it seems to me there are more countries joining the EU than leaving or talking of leaving, other than the UK.

Hold on what's that UKIP Wales "New German opinion poll shows majority believe euro membership carries more disadvantages than advantages" - yes but we are not in the single currency are we, so that argument is a bit pointless...other than it got the letters eu in it, they being the devils letters seemingly - EUrope BAD - EU BAD - EUrozone BAD.

Let me introduce UKIP Rule Number 1 - Anything that does not agree with you be they polls, elections,statements of fact etc.. are FRAUD, even more impressive if it's FRAUD against ALL Europeans. Your not just fighting for a small right wing minority you've got ALL Europeans to defend. You know and join in - I'd like to teach the world to sing,  in perfect harmony, i'd like to hold it in my arms and keep it company - oh bless... a will no one think of the children moment there.

But how much does this all cost us - "The EU costs Britain £50 million a day."...that's...where's my calculator...that's..£18,250,000,000 or £18 billion....OMG that's a big number - but also a meaninglessness number, the net contribution of the UK to the EU in 2011 was around £7.4 billion or £21 million a day or 0.00304276% of  UK GDP.

UKIP Rule Number 2 - Numbers when quoted should be big, even if meaningless...also keep in mind Dr.Evil. principle.

Did you realise "The EU means lower wages....because "Open borders have brought cheap labour, lower wages and more unemployment to Britain.

True studies have shown that for low paid jobs - mostly part time seasonal jobs, fruit picking etc.. immigrants do lower wages a little, but they are for jobs that most UK workers wont do 'cause they get more on benefits   and also don't we have the minimum wage. But other than that they actually increase wages, so on balance we are better off. And of course they get paid such a low wage because they are exploited, as they have fewer rights. But we do like our Asparagus don't we, as long as we don't think how they where picked.

Next shock horror open borders means increased crime, ah the classic evil monkey in the cupboard for you there. As we all know crime rates in the UK are falling.

UKIP Rule Number 3 - Blame all problems on immigrants the EU and large multinational corporations.

And now for a classic - the We have no control over immigration

Did you know fact - "almost 500 million EU citizens are entitled to work, live and claim benefits in the UK" OMG when do they arrive, have you a spare room 'cause apparently someone said that all of the EU should move to the UK - Rule 2 in action there - a classic use of a big number.

But there's more - "Britain’s borders are now effectively North Africa, Russia and Turkey; not the White Cliffs of Dover."

Rule Number 4 - Try and link any message with a nostalgic link to the WAR - you know the one and only WAR, so our borders stop at the White Cliffs of Dover, so people of Gibraltar on your bikes.

Do remember "The 1975 referendum was a trick" though not a fraud apparently. And now the EU is making over 70% of our laws - this seems to be pick a number and repeat it often gambit, I've found a claim that in 2001 the Bow Group said that 55% of UK legislation was originated by the EU, and then apparently the German Government calculated in 2005 that about 70% of its laws originated from the European Union. Or in 2009 Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan mentioned 84%; UKIP leader Nigel Farrage said it was 75%, the figure most often mentioned by anti-EU types (such as French National Front leader Jean Marie Le Pen or the Libertas Party) is that 80% of our laws come from the EU, while in a speech elsewhere last week, Conservative leader David Cameron said that “Almost half of all the regulations affecting our businesses come from the EU”.

Confused, well don't be they are all wrong, the website Nosemonkey -   What percentage of laws come from the EU? explains why.

And the UKIP 70-75% claim - does not apply to the percentage of laws in individual member states that stem from the EU, but the percentage of laws that stem from the EU that the European Parliament has a say in. That’s an entirely different kettle of fish – and so the 75% figure can safely be dismissed as based on a (deliberate?) misunderstanding.

Now as we know  the EU is evil (it has the letters EU)  and British MPs have little say on many issues. Unelected Brussels Commissioners have much more power than our own MPs. And of the 27 EU Commissioners, at least eight are ex-Communists.

OMG OMG - unelected Commissioners have more powers than our MPs .....not going to mention MEP's then I see, not going to mention the job Nigel Farage does, 'cause they seem to be voting on something over there in the EU...not going to mention this year EU parliament session....the 3874 votes by democratically elected MEP's of which Nigel voted in 50.28% of take it the UKIP MEP's do something....don't they?

What's that....oh yeah at least eight are ex-Communists and you know what that means SOCIALISM, not only is the EU EVIL but its run by SOCIALISTS - run for the hills people Stalin is taking over, he tricked us all, he's not dead he's coming back. After all Russia need do is just cross our border that we have LOST CONTROL OF (it's next to Russia remember) and we will all be COMMUNISTS. And what of the WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER then...people or should that be COMRADES ...did you know there are 142 million Russian and it's a gateway to Asia and there are 4 billion of them, they could take over the EU, for every one of us there are 64 of them, think what would happen if they came over here to work.....OMG..OMG......

More to follow.... including "which with other democratic, freedom loving organisations, [...], across Europe." UKIP is working with.

UPDATE: In a rather pathetic letter to the Daily Post on Thursday 31/1/13 John Bell - Con. NW Chair said and I quote  - "In addition, if the EU is to survive as a prosperous trading entity with the rest of  the world, it has to ditch its outdated, central-controlled, highly regulated, bureaucratic, undemocratic one might say, socialist model".  Yes SOCIALISTS.......OMG OMG run for the hills people....

And there was me thinking that the banking collapse of 2008 had something to do with failure in the capitalist model.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Austerity isn't working?

The narrative we are expected to swallow by the Conservative led Coalition Government and those on the right, is that the UK had a massive structural deficit and that it was all the fault of the previous Labour administration, especially the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown for 'maxing out the countries credit card'. Therefore we were told that there was only one way to our salvation and that was strict austerity - things were so bad, we had to have an emergency budget. For example we were told that last government left the biggest debt in the developed world.

In order to sell the strict austerity package to you and me, we had to be convinced that it was really really bad, and that there is only one way to salvation -  that the reason for cuts in our working conditions, be that working hours or wages or health and safety or job security; or cuts to welfare - is to ensure all our future prosperities, we are all in this together remember, rather than a ideological driven neoliberal approach. See: The Guardian: The march of the neoliberals.

However, the deficit myth is simply wrong, but don't take my word for it, read what Conservative economist Ramesh Patel has to say:

Finally! Exposed! The Deficit Myth! So, David Cameron When Are You Going to Apologise? Exposed! 

Osbornomics Via Childish Proverbs, Idioms, Soundbites, Tricks and Utter Bollocks!

Not that the previous Labour Government should escape blame totally, in the context that during his tenure as Prime Minister Gordon Brown had increased public spending by too much, based on overoptimistic forecasts of the economy. Although he cant be really blamed for not foreseeing the collapse of the world economy in 2008.

In the words of the IMF "[In 2008] [t]he financial meltdown originating in the U.S. mortgage markets reverberated around the world, and led to the deep retrenchment of the world financial markets and the largest global recession in living memory."

And then put simply; because I am in essence a simple man, the money dried up, confidence was lost, nobody trusted what the other said and economy stalled. This required a massive bailout by central banks and governments to stop the world economy falling into a deep depression.

I think it's important to remember that the financial meltdown occurred primarily because we had over leveraged private debt. And not as we are led to believe due to massive public Ramesh Patel says "Labour in 1997 inherited a debt of 42% of GDP. By the start of the global banking crises 2008 the debt had fallen to 35% - a near 22% reduction[..]. Surprisingly, a debt of 42% was not seen as a major problem and yet at 35% the sky was falling down?"

In 2008 world confidence had collapsed, the world economy had in effect stalled -  it needed a kick-start to get going. But with private debt over leveraged and banks not lending to one another, it was down to governments to provide the stimulus to kick-start the world economy. And I'm not just talking about the bailout of the banks, but direct support to businesses to keep workers on during the difficult period etc...

In the UK we had a conventional Keynesian approach to a recession, increased public spending and tax cuts as a means of kick starting the economy. And as such I suppose you could say it was working,.for by the end of 2009 growth had returned, albeit small at 0.4%.

To paraphrase, the Keynesian Model is - you cut the structural deficit during the boom years, and you spend your way out of a recession. However, you cant carry on increasing public spending (in real terms) over the long term, because that could lead to the economy overheating resulting in inflationary pressures reducing the competitiveness of the private sector resulting in a lower GDP and lower tax take.

I think what is often forgotten is that had Labour won in 2010 they also had plans to cut public spending and lower taxes, but that they proposed to do it over a longer period than that proposed by the Conservatives. I recall reading somewhere that the difference between the two parties was around £5 billion, which in the context of GDP of over a trillion is a small drop in the ocean.

In essence I think, we had two approaches a Keynesian approach by Labour and a neoliberal approach by the Conservatives. Neoliberals believing in small government, low taxes and self regulating markets; and that how a person spends their well earned money should be left to the individual.

And in the 'emergency budget' of George Osborne, the Chancellor, the Conservative led coalition Government set in motion strict austerity measures, with an aim of restoring confidence, retaining the UK's AAA rating and eliminating the structural deficit by the 2015/2016 financial year.

Now and again put simply - a central premise of this approach is that by cutting public spending and red tape you make more money available to the private sector who then find it easier to invest which results in a growing economy. And there is evidence from history that shows that in certain circumstances this fiscal contraction approach does indeed result in growth in the economy driven by the private sector.

However, there is a growing consensus amongst economist; I think, that this is not one of those circumstances. Professor Robert J. Shiller gives a much more knowledgeable explanation in his post: Does Austerity Promote Economic Growth?

And it's evidential that Plan A isn't working as explained by Guardian Economics Blog.

'The only plan on the table' had at it's heart a need to inspire confidence in the private sector; especially from overseas investors, that the UK was a safe bet for which to do business with, that the plan was credible not only in the short term but also the long term, and that investment for the long term was also safe in the UK.

Now ask yourself this question - do you think the recent announcement by David Cameron that there is to be an IN/OUT referendum on EU membership in 5 years time, for which he would say YES to staying in the EU only if he gets some powers back, although we ain't sure which powers he's referring to, is it more likely  or less likely that overseas investors will see the UK as a safe bet?

If you want to see how bad the recession of 2008 was compared to others I refer you to the Guardian - Recessions compared: how does Britain's GDP compare to every recession since 1930?.

Not unsurprisingly following such a recession there is a period of low growth, as  you ain't going to recover over night. And growth is key, if you are going to reduce your structural deficit in the long term, you have to accept that initially your structural deficit will grow, by the very simple fact of growth being lower than inflation. (the Bank of England inflation target being 2%)

What you hope to avoid is falling back into recession, because then you will have lower GDP and lower tax receipts and rather than investing in infrastructure for growth, your paying the price for a failed economic policy.

We know there is plenty of private monies available, the Bank of England alone has dumbed £357 billion into the economy, and that large multinational are sitting on trillions, but there seems a reluctance to invest. We know this because lending to SMEs contracted in the three months to November, statistics from the Bank of England show - see Bdaily.

And if the private sector isn't investing, and public confidence is still low as well as disposable income, and export markets are weak and the service sector is still de-leveraging - where will growth come from?

What we need this time is not "austerity" but "investment in growth-boosting infrastructure measures." - not my words but those of Mayor Boris Johnson

Friday, 25 January 2013

They work for us - MEP Wales

Talking of Europe, ever wondered how hard our Welsh MEP's work:

Attendance or voting record in % terms -Click on above to enlarge

Looking at the above chart, pretty hard I'd say - with Derek Vaughan topping the attendance and voting records. All Welsh MEP's break the 3/4 barrier.

Data from Vote Watch Europe, last updated 17/12/2012 - i.e see Derek Vaughan MEP, and information correct at time post published.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

The Common Market and the EU

Let me start by saying that I think we should remain a strong part of Europe, and that Europe is also stronger if the UK remains part of the European family.

In a 'landmark' speech; which I urge you all to read, the 'State of the Union' address of 1941 President Roosevelt said inter alia:

..there is nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy. The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic system are simple: 

They are:

Equality of opportunity for youth and for others

Jobs for those who can work

Security for those who need it.

The ending of special privileges for the few.

The preservation of civil liberties for all.

The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living....

He also set out the four essential human freedoms:

In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression - everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way – everywhere  in the world.

The third is freedom from want – which, translated into world terms, means economic understanding which will secure to every nation a healthy peace time life for its inhabitants – everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear – which translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion than no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbour – anywhere in the world.

And in 1946 in another 'landmark' speech made by Sir Churchill at the University of Zurich, that I have posted about previously - The Council of Europe said:

...Yet all the while there is a remedy which, if it were generally and spontaneously adopted by the great majority of people in many lands, would as if by a miracle transform the whole scene, and would in a few years make all Europe, or the greater part of it, as free and as happy as Switzerland is to-day. What is this sovereign remedy? It is to re-create the European Family, or as much of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe....

I am going to say something that will astonish you. The first step in the recreation of the European Family must be a partnership between France and Germany. In this way only can France recover the moral and cultural leadership of Europe. There can be no revival of Europe without a spiritually great France and a spiritually great Germany. The structure of the United States of Europe, if well and truly built, will be such as to make the material strength of a single state less important. Small nations will count as much as large ones and gain their honour by their contribution to the common cause. The ancient states and principalities of Germany, freely joined together for mutual convenience in a federal system, might take their individual places among the United States of Europe. I shall not try to make a detailed programme for hundreds of millions of people who want to be happy and free, prosperous and safe, who wish to enjoy the four freedoms of which the great President Roosevelt spoke, and live in accordance with the principles embodied in the Atlantic Charter...

And in 1949 he said:

Britain is an integral part of Europe, and we mean to play our part in the revival of her prosperity and greatness. But Britain cannot be thought of as a single state in isolation. She is the founder and centre of a world wide Empire and Commonwealth. We shall never do anything to weaken the ties of blood, of sentiment and tradition and common interests which unite us with other members of the British family of nations.

But nobody is asking us to make such a desertion. For Britain to enter a European Union from which the Empire and Commonwealth would be excluded would not only be impossible but would, in the eyes of Europe, enormously reduce the value of our participation. The Strasbourg recommendations [that is the first session of the Council of Europe] urged the creation of an economic system which will embrace not only the European States, but all those other States and territories elsewhere which are associated with them. 
(Source: Churchill by Roy Jenkins)

In 1957 the European Economic Community was formed, which the UK joined much later in 1974. The Treaty of Rome says in Articles 1 to 3:


By this Treaty, the HIGH CONTRACTING PARTIES establish among themselves a EUROPEAN ECONOMIC COMMUNITY.


The Community shall have as its task, by establishing a common market and progressively approximating the economic policies of Member States, to promote throughout the Community a harmonious development of economic activities, a continuous and balanced expansion, an increase in stability, an accelerated raising of the standard of living and closer relations between the States belonging to it.


For the purposes set out in Article 2, the activities of the Community shall include, as provided in this Treaty and in accordance with the timetable set out therein

(a) the elimination, as between Member States, of customs duties and of quantitative restrictions on the import and export of goods, and of all other measures having equivalent effect;

(b) the establishment of a common customs tariff and of a common commercial policy towards third countries;

(c) the abolition, as between Member States, of obstacles to freedom of movement for persons, services and capital;

(d) the adoption of a common policy in the sphere of agriculture;

(e) the adoption of a common policy in the sphere of transport;

(f) the institution of a system ensuring that competition in the common market is not distorted;

(g) the application of procedures by which the economic policies of Member States can he co-ordinated and disequilibria in their balances of payments remedied;

(h) the approximation of the laws of Member States to the extent required for the proper functioning of the common market;

(i) the creation of a European Social Fund in order to improve employment opportunities for workers and to contribute to the raising of their standard of living;

(j) the establishment of a European Investment Bank to facilitate the economic expansion of the Community by opening up fresh resources;

(k) the association of the overseas countries and territories in order to increase trade and to promote jointly economic and social development.

You see the above,  I hope, sort of throws a light on this idea that somehow we where tricked into or were lied about the European Union. As you can see what is sometimes conviently forgotten is that many things that people object to, such as movement of people goes hand in hand with an economic union, that for instance the free movement of people came about because of economic union, read Articles 48 to 51.

And let's be clear the economic union did concern itself with social issues see Articles 117 to 122.

Put simply our prosperity and peace depends on common policies with Europe, and we would be worse off outside it, and Europe would be worse off without the UK as part of it.

In a previous post I pointed out why we cant do a Norway... Should the UK leave the EU and do a Norway?

And as for Switzerland this is what the CIA Factbook has to say:

"The Swiss have brought their economic practices largely into conformity with the EU's, to enhance their international competitiveness, but some trade protectionism remains, particularly for its small agricultural sector. The fate of the Swiss economy is tightly linked to that of its neighbors in the euro zone, which purchases half of all Swiss exports."

As for referendums which seems the to be in thing these days, aren't elections where you gain a fresh mandate? - this is what a Commission of the Conduct of Referendums had to say in a report in 1996:

....only 25 years ago referendums were regard as unconstitutional; they had no place in the political process....

The principal message of [their] report was:

"..referendums cannot provide a panacea for major political problems; but they can significantly assist governments before controversial legislation is introduced, and they can give greater legitimacy to new policies after legislation had been enacted..."

And in their lies the horn of dilemma for David Cameron, he knows that the UK should remain an essential part of Europe - but he also knows that his party is divided on the matter. Labour on the other hand should remain firm and say no to a referendum and seek a fresh mandate at the next election, by pledging to remain part of the European Union and grow and strengthen ties with it.

That is why UKIP and others want a referendum, because they know at the election ballot box they can't win.

I fear that in order to save the Conservative Party, they are willing to risk the unity and prosperity of the UK, and what of the consequence of this decision on next years Scottish know one argument having being 'don't vote for independence cause that'll mean you'll be out of the EU...if now it has to be amended.... but you needn't worry we might be all out of the EU after 2017.

As the New York Times said recently:

"Domestic politics have regularly trumped broader European concerns throughout the six-decade-long history of the union and its predecessor organizations, to the dismay of those who want to see Europe live up to a commitment in the 1957 Treaty of Rome for an “ever closer union.”

But Mr. Cameron’s pledge to hold a referendum on European Union membership threatens to elevate national political calculations over common interests to an extent that has alarmed even countries that often share British concerns."

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Has BBC Wales forgotten what its purpose is?

I read with the interest the call by BBC Wales for actors to be given an exemption from the smoking ban in Wales, so that they may be allowed to smoke on set in the interest of 'historical accuracy' - see Smoking ban could force dramas out of Wales, BBC warns

The question is - is 'historical accuracy' that important to such a detail?

There are a lot of things we know people did in the olden days that society in general do not tolerate these days - take language for instance, they are certain words common place in the past that we would not tolerate being used today...and it should be the same with smoking.

Smoking is bad for you, and not only to you but those around you - the link between passive smoking and cancer is beyond doubt. See Cancer Reaserch UK

Which brings me to the purpose of the BBC and it's Royal Charter which says:

3.The BBC’s public nature and its objects

(1)The BBC exists to serve the public interest.

(2)The BBC’s main object is the promotion of its Public Purposes.

And its Public Purposes are (inter alia):

(a) sustaining citizenship and civil society; 

(b) promoting education and learning; 

(c) stimulating creativity and cultural excellence; 

Not forgetting BBC responsibility to protect the health and safety of its employees.

Therefore the BBC purpose is to serve the public interest, and to promote and educate - in example a healthier lifestyle.

Which begs the question has BBC Wales forgotten its purpose? - Is it really necessary for 'historical accuracy' to see someone actually smoke on set? - even when the consequences of smoking are integral to the storyline....of course it isn't.

Would not seeing anyone actually smoke in a period drama make it better or worse, or would the fact that you noticed no one actually smoked mean it was a poorly written drama in the first place?

After all smoking in films and on television does have an affect...the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention in the USA says regarding movies:

Exposure to onscreen smoking in movies increases the probability that youths will start smoking. Youths who are heavily exposed to onscreen smoking are approximately two to three times more likely to begin smoking than youths who are lightly exposed

If it's a choice between promoting public health and protecting employees from passive smoking and so called 'historical accuracy' then public health should trump every time.

Monday, 21 January 2013

A fall in household finance

I suppose we all know it, the Markit Household Finance Index™ on Monday said that [a]round 31% of respondents noted a deterioration in their financial situation, compared to 6% that saw an improvement.

Though when compared to last year those asked were shall we say less pessimistic at the start of this year - The headline Markit Household Finance Index (HFI) picked up to 37.7 in January, from December’s seven-month low of 36.8 - with neutral threshold being 50.

The key points of the Markit Household Finance Index™ for January are:
  • Squeeze on household finances weakens in January…
  • …and respondents are the least pessimistic about year-ahead outlook since September 2012
  • Sentiment regarding ease of access to unsecured credit is least downbeat in four-year survey history
  • Appetite for major purchases falls at slowest pace since October 2010
  • Least marked drop in job security since the start of the survey in early 2009…
  • …but activity at work stagnates and income from employment declines at fastest pace for six months

See also: Reuters - Households slightly less gloomy on finances in January -survey

Saturday, 19 January 2013

UK says no to 'Right to be forgotten'?

Do you remember the proposal for a new European Law that would give consumers the right to be forgotten?

As reported by the Telegraph in January 2012 "Embarrassing, inaccurate or simply personal data will have to be deleted from the internet and company databases if consumers ask, under a new set of European laws."

What is less reported is the British Governments opposition to such a law.

The New York Times reported on Friday, 18 January 2013 that "...[d]uring an informal meeting in Dublin, the ministers expressed reservations about elements of the proposal, which would impose new limits on data collection and profiling and give national regulators the ability to levy hefty fines equal to 2 percent of sales on companies that failed to comply...."


"..According to [a] memo [and summary of the meeting seen by the International Herald Tribune], representatives of Britain, which has one of the largest advertising industries in Europe, repeatedly objected to many elements, citing concern for how the measure would affect the Internet’s development."

As we have known for a long time when it comes to consumer protection versus business interests - business interest will always have the trump card.

To read the full New York Times article: Ministers Express Doubts on Expanding Data Protection Law

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The Council of Europe

As we wait for that 'landmark speech', I think again that it's important to distinguish between the European Union (EU) and the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe was set up following the Second World War and a desire in all nations for lasting peace.

The following is an extract from the Statute of the Council of Europe:

The Governments of the Kingdom of Belgium, the Kingdom of Denmark, the French Republic, the Irish Republic, the Italian Republic, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Kingdom of Norway, the Kingdom of Sweden and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,

Convinced that the pursuit of peace based upon justice and international co-operation is vital for the preservation of human society and civilisation;

Reaffirming their devotion to the spiritual and moral values which are the common heritage of their peoples and the true source of individual freedom, political liberty and the rule of law, principles which form the basis of all genuine democracy;

Believing that, for the maintenance and further realisation of these ideals and in the interests of economic and social progress, there is a need of a closer unity between all like-minded countries of Europe;

Considering that, to respond to this need and to the expressed aspirations of their peoples in this regard, it is necessary forthwith to create an organisation which will bring European States into closer association,

Have in consequence decided to set up a Council of Europe consisting of a committee of representatives of governments and of a consultative assembly, and have for this purpose adopted the following Statute.....

See also Council of Europe

And as we know the European Court of Human Rights is part of the Council of Europe and not the EU. The Council of Europe was founded on 5 May 1949 by the Treaty of London, and in a speech at the University of Zurich on 19 September 1946, Sir Winston Churchill said:

I must now sum up the propositions which are before you. Our constant aim must be to build and fortify the strength of the United Nations Organization. Under and within that world concept we must re-create the European Family in a regional structure called, it may be, the United States of Europe. And the first practical step would be to form a Council of Europe. If at first all the States of Europe are not willing or able to join the Union, we must nevertheless proceed to assemble and combine those who will and those who can. The salvation of the common people of every race and of every land from war or servitude must be established on solid foundations and must be guarded by the readiness of all men and women to die rather than submit to tyranny. In all this urgent work, France and Germany must take the lead together. Great Britain, The British Commonwealth of Nations, mighty America and I trust Soviet Russia - for: then indeed all would be well - must be the friends and sponsors of the new Europe and must champion its right to live and shine.

Therefore I say to you: let Europe arise!

Friday, 11 January 2013

Building a prison on Anglesey would be stupid!!!!

Putting aside that super prisons don't work....talking to BBC News....Andrew Coyle, University of Essex emeritus professor of prison studies and a former governor of Brixton Prison, has "a real feeling of déjà vu" about the latest plan. [The former Labour Government in 2009 scrapped proposals for three 2,500-capacity "Titan" jails.]

He points out that while in opposition, Conservative minister Dominic Grieve criticised Labour's prison proposals as akin to building "giant warehouses".

"We have clear evidence from the chief inspector of prisons and others that the ideal size for a well operating prison is about 500 - to go beyond that and you do begin to warehouse," Prof Coyle warns.

He says the move to giant prisons could "make the situation much worse" for prisoners already spending "too much time in their cells".

The possible locations of a super prison and the relocation of prisoners away from their communities is also a concern.

Mr Coyle says: "There are not 2,000 people in prison in north Wales. And if it is to be built in London, then the cost of both providing the land and building on it is going to be astronomical.

If you asked the question where would you build a prison in North Wales, and a super prison at that, then logic says that the only place to build it would be in Wrecsam. After all North Wales depending on whom you believe has a need for a 500 to 800 capacity prison, which means 1,200 to 1,500  prisoners from England. And surely as the case for a prison in North Wales is the travelling distance for relatives as well as logistics, then it would be rather silly if we then build a prison that would increase the travelling distance for what would be the majority of relatives.

On Anglesey two sites have been suggested, one at Rhosgoch...the former Shell oil terminal.  Sorry, but whoever suggest that site as a suitable location for a prison of any size must be really, really, and I mean really thick...mad utter bonkers.

The other proposed site is Anglesey Aluminum at Holyhead.....well it does have a direct link into the national grid for the electric chair I suppose.

But seriously, I suspect even Holyhead with its rail link and A55 connection would a be logistical no go area for a super prison, not forgetting the cost of clearing the site in the first place.

Now don't get me wrong I don't have any problems with prisons per say, after all travel to Shrewsbury on  train and when you disembark you're within walking distance of the prison, and it doesn't seem to deter know seeing how we should always think of the tourist, apparently....

So please can we stop this utter nonsense - whilst there is a case for a prison for North Wales prisoners in North Wales, in my opinion there is no logical argument that can be put forward that supports a case for a prison on Anglesey.

As for the former Rhosgoch Shell depot, I suggest we turn it into a solar park, akin to the one recently approved at Bodorgan Estate (see BBC News) to bring some income into the Council at least.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Our colder summers and Greenland

Last year we had a cold and wet summer, relatively speaking, in fact for the months May to July total max temperatures have been falling year on year as shown in the chart below:

Now as we have discussed before one reason for last years colder weather was the jet stream that stalled see:  Is this the summer of our futures?

And a possible reason for the jest stream stalling was a high pressure that parked itself over Greenland.

The above maps are from ClimateWatch Magazine's article - Summer weighing heavily on Greenland Ice Sheet, which explains:

'The map on the left shows the difference from average pressure at the 700 millibar pressure level from May-July 2012 compared to the 1981-2010 average. Gold colors indicate higher-than-average pressure. A large dome of high pressure camped over Greenland and the Northwest Atlantic this summer. The influence on temperatures (map on right) was dramatic. Temperature anomalies at the same altitude were as much as 11 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average over Greenland....

[And]...Research published earlier this year found that since the late 1950s, the 6 warmest summers and 5 of the 6 largest melt years in Greenland have occurred since 2000. A similar “dome” of persistent high pressure was common to each of the episodes, but it is probably not the sole cause of the unusual warmth and melting.'

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Conservative dogma flies against facts

Manchester International Airport

The Welsh Conservatives; at the Welsh Assembly this Wednesday, will hold a debate on the current bid by the Welsh Government to purchase Cardiff International Airport. A private company would then run the airport on behalf of the Welsh Assembly, on what I take it would be a not for profit basis.

The Conservative following their long held dogma against anything in public ownership oppose the purchase. Conservative transport spokesman Byron Davies said to BBC News "I don't believe nationalisation is the way forward," [....]

"There is no current reason to believe their ownership of Cardiff airport will be anything but another financial calamity."

Although facts really don't hold up that argument, as most of the worlds best airports are in public ownership.

In 2012 in the World Airport Awards the top 5 where, with majority shareholder shown:
  1. Incheon International Airport (Government of South Korea)
  2. Hong Kong International Airport (Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region)
  3. Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (Dutch Ministry of Finance)
  4. Beijing Capital International Airport (Chinese Government)
  5. Munich Airport (Free State of Bavaria)
And the winner of the Europe Regional Award was Hamburg Airport with the City of Hamburg being the majority shareholder.

And as we have discussed before the award winning Manchester International Airport is another good example of a public/private partnership see.. The Thursday Quiz - Regional Airports.

Also as argued by Neil Clark writing for the Guardian in December 2010 'Why we should nationalise our airports', 'the failure of BAA to deal with recent snowfalls has exposed the price we pay for having our infrastructure in private ownership.'

And the private ownership of Cardiff International Airport cant be said to be a success can it? - surely if we are to encourage international business to invest in Wales we need an international airport to be proud of, something we don't have currently, and as we know public/private run airports can be successful as proved throughout the world.

Finally some airport trivia - did you know that a major shareholder in Bristol Airport with approximately 49% is Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Meanwhile in 2012 the USA sizzled in the heat...

So we here in the UK had a wet and grey 2012,  meanwhile over in the USA it was a bit warmer.

According to ClimateWatch Magazine:

'By a wide margin, 2012 was the United States’ warmest year on record

According to the latest statistics from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, the average temperature for the contiguous United States for 2012 was 55.3° Fahrenheit, which was 3.2° Fahrenheit above the twentieth-century average and 1.0° Fahrenheit above the previous record from 1998. The year consisted of the fourth-warmest winter, a record-warm spring, the second-warmest summer, and a warmer-than-average autumn.The map above shows where the 2012 temperatures were different from the 1981–2010 average. Shades of red indicate temperatures up to 8° Fahrenheit warmer than average, and shades of blue indicate temperatures up to 8° Fahrenheit cooler than average—the darker the color, the larger the difference from average temperature.'

And the New York Times in a report on Tuesday 8 January says:  It’s Official: 2012 Was Hottest Year Ever in U.S.:

'......Last year’s weather in the United States began with an unusually warm winter, with relatively little snow across much of the country, followed by a March that was so hot that trees burst into bloom and swimming pools opened early. The soil dried out in the March heat, helping to set the stage for a drought that peaked during the warmest July on record.

The drought engulfed 61 percent of the nation, killed corn and soybean crops and sent prices spiraling. It was comparable to a severe drought in the 1950s, Mr. Crouch said, but not quite as severe as the Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s, which was exacerbated by poor farming practices that allowed topsoil to blow away.

In addition to being the warmest year since extensive records for the contiguous United States became available in 1895, last year turned out to be the second worst on a measure called the Climate Extremes Index, surpassed only by 1998.

Experts are still counting, but so far 11 disasters in 2012 have exceeded a threshold of $1 billion in damages, including several tornado outbreaks; Hurricane Isaac, which hit the Gulf Coast in August; and, late in the year, Hurricane Sandy, which caused damage likely to exceed $60 billion in nearly half the states, primarily in the mid-Atlantic region......'

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Are we part of the EU - of course we are!

Edward Heath,  a distinguished Prime Minister

You may have heard of the 'Heath Conspiracy', which in short alleges that in 1972, and the passing of the European Communities Act 1972 that the then Prime Minister Edward Heath committed 'high treason' and that somehow the bill was null and void etc etc....just Google 'Heath Treason'.....there was a letter about in the Daily Post in the last few days.

Part of the conspiracy argument; which I think involves the Monarchy, subsequent Prime Ministers, Parliaments and the Police, is around the English Bill of Rights Act 1689. Now this Bill shouldn't be confused with what we now know these days as a  'Bill of Rights'

The 1689 Bill of Rights does not constitute what is generally understood as a modern “bill of rights”, if by that term one means a document which defines and guarantees the basic human rights of individual citizens. Nor is it, on its own, the equivalent of a written constitution....

The Bill of Rights was an historic statute that emerged from the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688-89, which culminated in the exile of King James II and the accession to the throne of William of Orange and Mary. Its intentions were: to depose James II for misgovernment; to determine the succession to the Throne; to curb future arbitrary behaviour of the monarch; and to guarantee parliament’s powers vis a vis the Crown, thereby establishing a constitutional monarchy.
 (extract from House Commons Library - for full text see Bill of Rights 1689)

It should also be remembered that in 1689 not many people had voting rights.

In early-19th-century Britain very few people had the right to vote. A survey conducted in 1780 revealed that the electorate in England and Wales consisted of just 214,000 people - less than 3% of the total population of approximately 8 million. In Scotland the electorate was even smaller: in 1831 a mere 4,500 men, out of a population of more than 2.6 million people, were entitled to vote in parliamentary elections. Large industrial cities like Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester did not have a single MP between them, whereas 'rotten boroughs' such as Dunwich in Suffolk (which had a population of 32 in 1831) were still sending two MPs to Westminster. The British electoral system was unrepresentative and outdated. (extract from National Archives - Getting the vote before 1832.)

The section of the Bill of 1689 most referred to is:

...that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state or potentate hath or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm.that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state or potentate hath or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm.

But if you look at the full text:

And that the oaths hereafter mentioned be taken by all persons of whom the oaths have allegiance and supremacy might be required by law, instead of them; and that the said oaths of allegiance and supremacy be abrogated.

"I, A.B., do sincerely promise and swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to their Majesties King William and Queen Mary. So help me God."

"I, A.B., do swear that I do from my heart abhor, detest and abjure as impious and heretical this damnable doctrine and position, that princes excommunicated or deprived by the Pope or any authority of the see of Rome may be deposed or murdered by their subjects or any other whatsoever. And I do declare that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state or potentate hath or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm. So help me God."

Of course those who might be required to take the oath is dependent on the law, which could and can be changed and has been since, after all who swears an oath to King William and Queen Mary these days?

Those who claim 'high treason' are I think.....saying that before the then Prime Minister, Edward Heath sought a vote at both Parliaments on the passing of the European Communities Act 1972 he should have either held a general election or a referendum to seek the consent of the people, or otherwise it was unlawful because it gave away power to Europe without the consent of the people.

But if that is the case surely the same could be said of Prime Minister Winston Churchill when he signed the Treaty that created the Council of Europe and subsequently the European Court of Human Rights in 1949?

Also it couldn't be high treason because high treason according to Wikipedia  is

High treason [in England and Wales] today comprises:

Treason Act 1351:
  • compassing the death of the sovereign, or of the sovereign's wife or eldest son and heir
  • violating the sovereign's wife, or the sovereign's eldest unmarried daughter, or the sovereign's eldest son's wife
  • levying war against the sovereign in the realm
  • adhering to the sovereign's enemies, giving them aid and comfort, in the realm or elsewhere
  • killing the King's Chancellor, Treasurer (an office long in commission) or Justices

Neither in my humble opinion did Edward Heath commit treason, if treason is thought of as giving away Parliament sovereignty ...after all the European Communities Act 1972 says in Section 1:

3)If Her Majesty by Order in Council declares that a treaty specified in the Order is to be regarded as one of the [EU Treaties] as herein defined, the Order shall be conclusive that it is to be so regarded; but a treaty entered into by the United Kingdom after the 22nd January 1972, other than a pre-accession treaty to which the United Kingdom accedes on terms settled on or before that date, shall not be so regarded unless it is so specified, nor be so specified unless a draft of the Order in Council has been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament. (my emphasis)

(4)For purposes of subsections (2) and (3) above, “treaty” includes any international agreement, and any protocol or annex to a treaty or international agreement.

Which I think preserves the sovereignty of the Houses of Parliament.

In any event in 1975 following the General Election of 1974; where Labour in their manifesto had promised to renegotiate the terms of the treaty and hold a referendum on continued membership of the EEC, the then Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson partially satisfied with the new terms of the treaty did indeed; as many of you may recall, call a referendum on the continued membership of the EEC.

Its an inconvenient truth for those who peddle 'UK not part of EU' -  that in 1975 67% of those who voted in the UK said they wanted to remain part of the EEC.

In my book a referendum called by a properly constituted Parliament and supported by the majority of  those whom voted trumps legislation that is over 300 years old drawn up by a Convention Parliament which  in no way was representative of the opinion of the people of Great Britain.

Don't get me wrong the Bill of Rights 1689 is sort of important in the development of UK democracy; but it's not what some would wish - for ever overriding subsequent legislation,  for this bill re-established the sovereignty of both Parliaments over the Crown.

Whether we should remain part of the European Union, albeit on the sidelines, is of course another matter, and for what its worth in my humble opinion we would worse off in the long term if we did decide to end our membership - but as they say that's another story..... 

Friday, 4 January 2013

Are we heading for a 3rd recession?

Things are not looking good for the UK economy.

The latest Markit/CIPS UK Services PMI® says the UK service sector activity fell in the final month of 2012.

The key points are:
  • First reduction in service sector output since December 2010 
  • New business volumes post second successive monthly reduction 
  • Confidence unmoved on November’s 11-month low

Chris Williamson, Chief Economist at survey compilers Markit said: “The first fall in service sector activity for two years raises the likelihood that the UK economy is sliding back into recession. The services PMI follows an equally disappointing construction survey for December, leaving manufacturing – which accounts for just 10% of the economy – as the only bright spot. Taken together, composite data from the three surveys posted its worst quarterly performance for three-and-a-half years, and are consistent with the economy contracting by approximately 0.2% in Q4.

“Bad weather is likely to have played a role in dampening service sector activity in December, but the fact that incoming new business dropped for a second successive month suggests that underlying demand remains very weak and that activity may continue to fall in the New Year.

“The service sector is also cutting employment in the face of weak demand and an uncertain outlook suggesting unemployment may soon start to rise again as private sector lay-offs add to public sector job cuts.”

See also:  Reuters -Surprise fall in UK services activity raises recession risk