Iraq debate: the result
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
25 government majority.
Ah well, worth a bash.
Iain Dale tells us he's a blogger, an Essex Boy, West Ham season ticket holder, Audi lover, golfer, iPod addict and so on.
But he's also a signed-up member of the establishment.
Strange then that his new internet TV station, 18 doughty street, should pretend not to be. It's 'anti-establishment TV' all about 'empowering the little people,' says Dale.
Recent guests include David Trimble, Ann Widdecombe (twice) and David Davis. Little people, if they are there, must be so small they aren't showing up on the screen.
But last week, Dale admitted what we knew all along. 'Guido and I have joined the media Establishment according to the Press Gazette's LIST of the 50 People Shaping Online Journalism,' he writes on November 10th.
So why deny it? Dale could soon be a Tory MP, and he's already getting irate at suggestions from certain Welsh bloggers that he perhaps isn't being as frank as he'd like to be.
There's a pub around the corner from 18DS. Here's a map. Iain, if you're reading, get down there, talk to people and start taking the establishment less seriously.
It may be fun talking to big names, but that won't empower any little people.
William Hague has just spoken. The Tories will back the motion in favour of an inquiry, even though they have their 'differences' with it.
Looks like there won't be enough Labour rebels to result in a government defeat though.
Blunkett has just spoken on Cosovo: "Our intervention prevented genoice. The illegality of the action fades into history."
That's some presumption.
To be continued...
Pontypridd has lost one Welsh language school and gained another.
Rhydfelen Comprehensive has long campaigned for a new building - it never sought a new name.
This year it got both. A controversial Private Funding Initiative paid for the new school, which had the name 'Gartholwg' imposed on it by the local council.
And now all that's left of Rhydfelen, the first Welsh language comprehensive in South Wales when it opened in 1962, is this (see left).
A humiliating end for one of Wales's proudest institutions.
You can see more pictures HERE.
So much for the campaign blog to keep Burberry's Rhondda factory open.
It claims to be...
A day to day rundown of the closure of the Burberry manufacturing plant at Treorchy in south Wales.
Total posts? 2
Last post? Friday, October 6.
The nationalists are changing the rules at Westminster.
Over three years after the invasion of Iraq parliament will today vote on whether or not to hold a public review into the lead-up to the war and its aftermath.
Seems eminently sensible. So why is it an SNP/Plaid motion and not a Lib Dem/Tory one?
On this and on cash for peerages the nationalists are leading the opposition in holding the government to account. These are key issues that resonate up and down the country.
Who wouldn't have sided with Plaid's Adam Price in this exchange last year?
Adam Price (East Carmarthen and Dinefwr) (PC): Tomorrow is the second anniversary of the vote on the war in Iraq. A motion of impeachment is before us, and there is compelling evidence that the Prime Minister misled the House in taking us to war. Is it not high time that we held him to account—
He left the chamber for saying what the majority of the population take as given. That's a boost for principle and two-fingers to parliamentary convention and unaccountability.
There's an opportunity to deal a real blow to the government today, with the Lib Dems and up to 30 Labour MPs siding with the nationalists. Will the Tories have the balls to join them?
Too many blogs
Monday, October 30, 2006
The internet doesn't do understatement.
When the dotcom bubble burst people were picking off bits of ill-thought-out website debris all over the world.
Now blogging is the new thing. Most blogs, including I suspect this one, have an average of one reader: the author.
So I was surprised that the Guardian launched yet another blog site today.
The Arts blog looks very much like the Guardian's main blogging space, comment is free, but online editor Emily Bell sees it as an important extension of the paper's arts coverage.
Except there already was a space for arts pieces in comment is free. Those blogs would be seen by many thousands in the Guardian's prime blogging quarters. Now they'll be stuck among hundreds of articles nobody will ever read in an obscure corner of a global blogosphere that's more overcrowded than a Japanese commuter train giving away free sushi.
Today is launch day, and already there are more blogs than the total number of comments.
Couldn't the Guardian have made the most of their prestigious and respected brand to set up a site which would aggregate existing blogs on the arts rather than flooding the market with more of the same?
Exclusive footage of Elis Thomas v Marek
This previously unseen footage leaked from the Welsh Assembly.
Presiding officer Dafydd Elis Thomas and Deputy presiding officer John Marek fight it out during a plenary session.
In the world of Dafydd Elis Thomas there's only one heavyweight politician in the Senedd: himself.
Yesterday, the Welsh Assembly's presiding officer spoke out against what he sees as the Senedd's inability to act like a 'proper parliamentary body'.
Elis Thomas took particular issue with the way in which the opposition opposed the budget rather than voting down the government in flat-out no confidence motions.
He then slung more mud in the direction of his deputy, John Marek, questioning his decision to vote against the government rather than help chair the debate.
Elis Thomas doesn't seem to grasp that the Senedd is not Westminster. And it's a jolly good thing it's not.
The opposition has every right to negotiate the budget. The government is ruling under a minority administration and shouldn't have carte blanche with the budget while there is a majority of elected representatives who don't agree with it.
The attempt to reign in Marek for the debate was infantile.
Elis Thomas is right: Wales does need grown up politics. For that it needs new presiding officers as soon as possible.
Flag burning issue
Sunday, October 29, 2006
This from Mayorwatch:
The Metropolitan Police have called for the Government to outlaw acts of flag burning.
The call for new laws comes from Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur who told BBC Radio Five "There appears to be a growing public perception that policing of demonstrations is unduly lenient".
Yes, more laws and police control - that's just what we need.
Google censors the internet in China and yet still insists that it's 'helping to advance the cause of change.'
The first ever Internet Governance Forum meets in Athens tomorrow. Among the 90 countries present will be Egypt, Iran and Syria - all accused of restricting free expression on the web.
Amnesty will be there to scrutinise Google's filtering of search results in China.
Search for Tiananmen Square in google.com and you get pictures of tanks, brutality and blood-covered protesters. Search in google.cn and you get fireworks.
'Do no evil,' says the Google motto.
Practice what you preach, says gaaagle.com, a website dedicated to exposing restrictions of free speech in China.
Never far from McDonald's
Saturday, October 28, 2006
I did a google search for a list of countries at war. Instead it gave me a list of countries with McDonald's franchises.
It looks like McDonald's has failed where the British empire succeeded: colonising Africa.
So what do you do if you're in the Congo and gagging for a McFlurry?
Do you dodge the McHutus and the McTutsis and treck thousands of miles to the nearest golden arches in Egypt?
Or do you head south through the McGenocide and the desert towards South Africa and hope that you come across a trot-thru for you and your camel along the way?
[The countries in grey have no McDonald's]
Amnesty for bloggers
Friday, October 27, 2006
I can write whatever the hell I like. But in other parts of the world people are being locked up because of what they say on the internet. Today, Amnesty is launching a campaign to do something about it.
But the guilty aren't just the usual suspects - China and Iran. Amnesty claims that online giants Microsoft and Yahoo! are also implicated in releasing information about web users to repressive regimes.
The whole attraction of the internet is that it's largely unregulated. Multinational corporations should be mindful of this when they're asked to restrict people's liberties in countries which aren't as free as our own.
Ever thought all those Tory blogs are just a bit too chummy?
Well one young conservative clearly thinks so. And in making his point he's taken on the leader of the right-wing blogistocracy - Iain Dale.
Young James Skinner of Conservative Future says that just like all the other 'scum' Dale is guilty of the political establishment's old tricks. He takes particular issue with Dale's smug swipe at Margaret Beckett's appearance.
But then Dale doesn't get it all his own way. A canny commenter on his blog remarks that Dale's voice bears more than a passing resemblance to that of Rick Stein. I think he should be invited onto Iain's Tory TV programme so the viewers (all three of us) can decide.
USA gifts to UN Security Council
Thursday, October 26, 2006
After 41 rounds of voting the UN still can't decide whether they want Venezuela or Guatemala on the Security Council.
What's certain is that if the current trend continues, whoever wins the vote will get a lot more money from the US and a fair bit more from the UN.
Research from Harvard academics Ilyana Kuziemko and Eric Werker says that countries that take one of the two non-permanent security council seats usually see a whopping 59% increase in aid from the US.
This little nugget comes from fellow Harvard don Greg Mankiw, whose blog is certainly worth a read.
It would be very interesting if Venezuela got the seat. I doubt Bush would want to give Chavez any sweeteners.
Of course, the US already ploughs money into Venezuela, but it does so in the form of 'pro-democracy programmes' which allegedly aim to undermine the Chavez government.
Finger on the button
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
If George Bush was as clumsy as two members of the Welsh Assembly the world might have ended by now.
Yesterday, the chamber was full in anticipation of the big budget vote at the end of the day. But there were other items to get through first.
The opposition planned to vote out the Business Statement in the same way that they later rejected the budget.
The result should have been 29-30 against the government. But they ended up winning the vote 30-28.
Apparently the electronic voting system was just too complicated for some politicians.
The concept of pressing a button against the vote got the better of the Conservative Party's Alun Cairns, who accidentally voted in favour of it.
"I need to confess that the opposition lost the Business Statement because I voted the wrong way. I can’t explain. I must have had my mind on other things," he said.
At least he managed to press a button at all. Eleanor Burnham of the Lib Dems failed even to register a vote. For some reason Lib Dem blogger Peter Black isn't so smug about her ineptidude as he is about Alun Cairns.
So the Welsh political agenda now takes a slightly different track because a couple of politicans have their fingers on the wrong buttons.
Thank God we have no nuclear weapons.
Mandy's in town
Monday, October 23, 2006
It was a room full of slick grey manes and dark pinstripte suits.
Cardiff's business leaders turned out en masse to hear Peter Mandelson, European Trade Commissioner, speak tonight in the bay. Despite not strictly being a business bigwig, I snuck in too...
On the challenges facing Britain:
'We should be modernizing our public services - tailoring them to our individual needs. And we should be doing so in an affordable way in partnership with the private sector.'
That's definitely an ex-communist speaking then.
On international development:
'The EU accounts for over half of development spending around the world. We make the world more stable as we seek to redress the balance in the global economy to support those who currently do not have a stake in it.'
Wonderful. But why do we still give aid at the same time as we collect our debts?
Mandelson consistently speaks about the 'challenges of globalisation' in terms of what's best for Britain. Code for 'let's preserve the status quo.'
Nobody in the upper echelons of government seriously believes that redressing the global economy would be in Britain's economic interest.
On the Liberal Democrats:
'Quivery quivery, wibbly wobbly.'
'Why do the Chinese negotiate with me? Not because I represent the 60 million people of the UK, but because I represent the 500 million people of Europe.'
That's some mandate. Shame we didn't vote for him.
The mystery behind the Cardiff City takeover is no more.
It's now been revealed that the man with the plan is... Keith Harris.
But we won't be seeing any ducks or monkeys at Ninian Park.
The Keith Harris at Cardiff is head of investment bank Seymour Price.
See more price - I guess that's what the investors want to happen to our shares. Prophetic.
Labels: Cardiff City FC
This is what Merthyr Tydfil looked like in its prime.
Now, the trams have gone, the shops have gone and worst of all the life has drained away from the place.
A Channel 4 programme says that Merthyr is the third worst place to live in the UK. Only Hackney and Tower Hamlets are more unpleasant.
I've never been to those alleged London hell holes, but in my experience Merthyr is no paradise.
There was a time, of course, when Merthyr was plagued with disease, people threw raw sewage out of the window and drunken mass brawls were commonplace.
But we've moved on from the 1990s. And these days Merthyr is little better.
The Gurnos council estate is one of the most deprived in Europe. Wales has simply left it behind.
Ironically, leisure and cultural facilities were probably better during the industrial revolution. There's no excuse for the people of Merthyr to help each other out of this rut.
If we believe the council and the Welsh Assembly then our biggest hope is a massive and potentially damaging opencast mining project.
There'll be lots of angry denials from councillors and politicians in the press today. But that won't help Merthyr wake up to the reality of its situation and drive itself into a brighter future.
What's certain is that we can't go on as it is.
Labels: Merthyr Tydfil
'Ridsdale sheds light on reasons behind shock Hammam exit,' trumpets the Western Mail this morning.
Oh no he doesn't .
Who are the mystery financial backers then Peter?
"They are just financial institutions, not people, and at this stage they do not want to be identified," he said.
Not people? How could they be identified if they are not people? Do they have some sort of secret bar code?
There's something very War of the Worlds about all this. Beware.
Jargon Junk No. 001
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Sam Hammam has stepped down as chairman of Cardiff City.
He's going to be replaced by Peter Ridsdale.
Shocking news indeed. But what have our local sports journalists been up to? There wasn't a sniff of this in the press.
And just to complicate matters, Cardiff released this statement:
"In order that the current debt levels can be reduced and then eradicated and for the Club to have additional working capital, an agreement has now been reached for a debt equity swap with institutional hedge funds, who have acknowledged the unique huge potential that exists with Cardiff City Football Club."
Who's sleeping with the nationalists?
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Coalition talk is beginning to dominate Welsh politics in the run up to next year's Assembly elections.
Plaid aren't ruling out an agreement with Labour.
The Tories will buddy up to anyone apart from Labour.
And the Lib Dems have already specified what flavour biscuits they'd like at the first cabinet meeting with their Labour chums after the election.
That deal is all but sewn up. The electorate, meanwhile, is being stitched up.
Parties should either contest the election as a pre-formed coalition or put a stop to the conjecture.
They won't, of course, because it's a political game.
The Tories love the idea that they can ruffle some nationalist feathers by talking up the possibility of a coalition with Plaid.
Plaid countered that by threatening to get into bed with Rhodri (and Julie) Morgan.
Problem is it's a bit crowded in there already with the Lib Dems' Mike German snuggled up and dreaming of becoming deputy first minister.
You do sense, though, that the Tories are itching for power. They're even prepared to care about the NHS. And if they can do that they might fancy their chances of sweet talking anyone.
But they need to be caereful that they're not seen as the loose woman of Welsh politics. By all means get into bed with whoever can make you happy - but shut the door and close the curtains.
Not content with being the greenest party or the bloggiest party, the Tories now claim they are also the 'Welshest' party.
Apparently we have them to thank for S4C and the Welsh language board.
Nick Bourne, leader of the Welsh conservatives, said today that the Tories have a track record on bilingualism. It was after all a Tory government that oversaw the revival of the Welsh language in the past forty years.
What next? Will Margaret Thatcher come clean as the brains behind the anti-poll tax movement?
Forty years on and Aberfan still grieves.
But it grieves in public.
Today is the anniversary, but there's been no let up all week. Front page splashes, breakfast tv and endless documentaries. Dermot Murnaghan did his sympathy face, newspapers reached for sombre adjectives and production teams brought out all the usual cello-heavy laments for their soundtracks.
I wasn't convinced about the sincerity of it at all. For me, the most poignant moment came at the end of a BBC Wales programme, broadcast this evening, about a modern art project which set about normalizing the village in the eyes of the world.
One old lady closed the programme with the words, "there's nothing more to say."
The press should take note. In ten years time, when the 50th anniversary comes around, they should stay away.
Aberfan needs no help remembering.
Oil, Oil, Oil
Friday, October 20, 2006
Whenever there's a manmade international crisis, arguments over oil bubble and spit not far from the surface.
The Soviet Union, Iraq and now North Korea.
Today, Kim Jong-il is thought to have come into line and called off threats to conduct a second nuclear test.
China supplies 80% of North Korea's oil and threatened to cut off the pipeline.
It's as simple as that.
Is this the end of it?
Japan now has cause to revise its constitution and openly strengthen its already formidable military. China emerges emboldened as a power with genuine influence on the world stage. America has renewed justification for its nuclear programme and a mandate for its continued presence in east Asia.
And North Korea knows it can easily stir up international paranoia at the touch of a button, albeit at the expense of a few frozen assests and the confiscation of a couple of tins of caviar.
But American scientists have revealed an ingenious new way in which they might find out just what's going on in notoriously secretive North Korea.
They've come up with an invisibility cloak.
And with all that's happening in Iraq at the moment, not to mention the possibility of crushing defeats for the Republicans in the midterms, George Bush could probably use one.
How to save £1.599161 million
Thursday, October 19, 2006
That's how much the Welsh Assembly spends on... chairs!
I came across an information request on the Assembly's website in which Plaid's Owen John Thomas asks for details about the companies bidding to provide leather for the chairs in the chamber.
As you can see, the Assembly is a swanky new building and the chairs are in no way uncomfortable.
But £1.6 million to pad a politician's backside?
They could've gone to ikea and bought some sexy looking 'snille' chairs for just £13.99. The blurb says, "ideal for occasional use or shorter sitting purposes". Perfect for AMs who can't sit still for more than ten minutes.
I wandered over to the Welsh assembly yesterday.
The main chamber is situated beneath the public gallery, where the plebs can peer down through glass panels.
Some of the assembly members prattle on about budget deficits and fishing quotas. But the majority of them stare blankly into their computer screens.
Occasionally the debate will switch into Welsh, at which point those that can be bothered reach for their earpieces, which are wired into their desks.
They look like automatons docking for recharge.
There's constant movement down below. I'm not sure what's in the water, but one buxom Labour AM seems to be doing laps of the chamber. Many more go for loo breaks. Some don't come back.
First minister Rhodri Morgan turns up for the commemorative statement on the Aberfan disaster before he buggers off for the rest of the session. He's late for something else presumably.
Meanwhile, AMs patter on their keyboards. The technologically competent are happily touch-typing. But a surprising amount of them use the one finger approach. Every cautious stab and puzzled squint at the monitor is an indication of how out of touch these people seem to be.
But the Assembly isn't without its prolific bloggers. Indeed two of them are engaged in a blog war as the chamber sits.
On Tuesday, Peter Black and Leighton Andrews fought a semantic battle about the rights and wrongs of each other's blogging agenda.
They didn't grasp that the biggest wrong was that they were having this discussion on our time.
I'd like to think that we're paying politicians to do more than surf the web and escape to the toilet when they are supposed to be representing us.
At least the presiding officer stayed in his seat. But then, he was probably asleep.
Ignore maths questions
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I've just asked Ashley Crossley, conservative candidate at the last election, what the answer is to 8x7. My mouthpiece was Iain Dale, presenter of Vox Politics on 18 Doughty Street.
Ashley lost to Julia Goldsworthy in the Falmouth and Camborne constituency last year.
Julia subsequently shot up the Lib Dem ladder and became Shadow Chief Secretary of the Treasury within a year of getting elected. Journalists were queuing to trip her up - she is after all young and female - and she duly fell flat on her face.
8x7? 42 she asserted.
The Indy and the Mirror had fun with that one.
Ashley Crossley, though, refused to answer.
This is, of course, the correct approach.
Except that he's a partner and tax lawyer in the biggest law firm on earth. Surely simple sums should be rolling off his tongue?
Fancy a holiday in North Korea?
You'd better book quickly because if America gets its way there'll soon be no crossing the 38th parallel.
The American nuclear envoy has been in Seoul, fluffing cushions in preparation for Condolezza Rice's imminent visit.
And he 's not happy that South Korean tourists are feeding money into the North Korean economy at a time when sanctions are supposed to be starving the country into submission.
For more, see this article in the Digital Chosunilbo.
Cardiff 1-0 Southampton
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Just back from the Cardiff game tonight.
Fantastic result for the bluebirds. Still six points clear after Preston won at Ipswich.
I was expecting one of those painfully inevitable 0-0 anticlimaxes.
But Steve Thompson put in an inspired performance and pinched a well-driven goal five minutes from time.
It's great to see Ninian Park full these days. For so many years it seemed like there was more atmosphere on the moon.
A design company is taking on the Japanese over their 'lame English'.
It's currently a fad in Japan to wear t-shirts printed with a litany of English nonsense.
This is one of them:
But London-based Ichikoo is fighting back.
They've have launched a range of deliberately bad Japanese t-shirts, which feature phrases like "Ignorant foreigner using Japanese to appear sophisticated," and "I eat small carpets with much enthusiasm".
The problem is that you could never wear them in Japan.
Japanese people are already convinced that foreigners are stupid idiots and the irony, I fear, would be lost.
Then again, at least we know our ACB...
Rhodri Morgan: A Lost Leader
Labour's next party political broadcast perhaps?
What future for Maggie's children?
Monday, October 16, 2006
2056 - What future for Maggie's children?
That's what the policy exchange asked in their new study about the eighties generation.
The conclusion? We're a bit 'unlucky'.
Impossible house prices, student debt, increases in the retirement age...
and to cap it off 'the erosion of family ties increases [our] risk of isolation as [we] grow older'.
Great, I'll look forward to that.
For me, the most exciting thing about mother Maggie is that she was part of the team that invented whippy ice cream in her days as a food scientist. The Tory authors of this report have certainly taken the soft approach as Maggie emerges blameless. That's a bit like a coroner overlooking the cause of death.
Good news, though. If David Cameron gets elected he'll implement an 'incentive-based planning system' to sort it all out.
Do you want a flake in that?
Virtual suits and sofas
Saturday, October 14, 2006
18 Doughty Street is the UK's first online political television station.
Leighton Andrews AM isn't a fan - he took a pop at the project in his video blog.
"I don't think people want more suits on sofas" he said.
What's that you're wearing Leighton?
Today I had nothing for breakfast and a tuna crunch sandwich for lunch.
Then the UN voted unanimously to impose sanctions on North Korea.
There's no military clause so we shouldn't see world war three anytime soon.
But North Korea won't be seeing any material that can be used to make missiles or nuclear weapons - they're banned.
Japan announced its own sanctions earlier in the week, including a ban on luxury goods. As if a dearth of Oil of Olay could cause a revolution in one of the world's most oppressive regimes.
In South Korea people eat deep fried sausages on sticks. These are re-fried in batter and covered in curly chips. These are re-fried and covered in breadcrumbs. These are then re-fried one final time. (And they wonder why the Japanese have a longer life expectancy.)
In North Korea people rely on the the World Food Programme. At the moment it has received just one tenth of the money promised.
A sausage would be some luxury.