Archive for the ‘ politics ’ Category

A brief note on BiLingo

We were going to let this one slide, given that BiLingo appears to be a coughed up left over of gogwatch, and we’ve largely done that one to death already. However BiLingo have managed to garner much more attention than their parent site gogwatch ever did, so perhaps some attention is warranted. Plenty of other Welsh political bloggers have covered the details of this story already, but to summarise, BiLingo appeared as a front for alleged concerns from parents in Ceredigion. Accusations were made which essentially suggested that child abuse was rife in the region, as punishment for not speaking the Welsh language. This was quickly jumped upon and promoted by the Telegraph and Mail. As the story developed though, the allegations suddenly vanished from the website – perhaps the owner of BiLingo got more than ‘he’ bargained for with the coverage, and suddenly considered the legal implications of what many presume to be the unfounded allegations of a single individual. Regardless of the legitimacy of the comments, they were made, heard, and now a temporary hoohah has broken out regarding the Welsh language.

Now, it’s somewhat difficult to be specifically critical of the BiLingo website, simply by virtue of the fact that it’s owner seems to be redesigning it on an hourly basis, as the legal ramifications of their accusations appears to dawn on them. But the current (as of Friday afternoon) webpage argues that for BiLingo, ‘the main issue seems to be the lack of choice’. This certainly has echoes with the old gogwatch pages, after all, they never wanted to get rid of Welsh did they…no, of course not, what they advocated was choice. Maybe a cursory glance at the BiLingo twitter feed will enlighten us further.

Excellent to see so much coverage of our website today. Join us on our glorious march out of the dark ages – we say ONE world ONE language.

This is the very first tweet from the BiLingo feed. One language they call for…one language. So BiLingo, your concept of choice actually boils down to offering no choice at all, how very gogwatch of you.

We’re standing on the shoulders of giants @gogwatch

This would seem to indicate that whether BiLingo claims to be connected to gogwatch or not, they certainly see themselves as being in similar company. 

Bilingo – a campaign for language human rights and justice for the silenced

and yet, lines like this, that espouse the merits of human rights, are simply direct echoes of that which gogwatch relied upon as a central theme to their complaints. Not gogwatch, but something that sounds exactly like it. 

Welsh is a wonderful language, but why should we use it to punish children? Their only young once #cymru

While BiLingo makes the odd brief concession to the Welsh language, they still see it’s presence in an educational setting as a punishment in it’s own right.

@mark4ceredigion will you join our campaign? We want representation at Westminster to stop the pro welsh madness

But then, BiLingo still fall back on the fact that what underpins Welsh language in education, is madness – again, how inclusive of them… 
It’s just a snap shot of the usual vitriol that comes out of this community, a campaign to eradicate the Welsh language dressed up as an attempt to create ‘fairness’. Yet, as with gogwatch before it, the only sense of ‘equality’ that will be enjoyed by such campaigns will be only for English speakers, and the paranoid anti Welsh minority. May they enjoy their moment in the limelight, it won’t last long – and for their sake, they had better hope that they have something substantial to back up their claims, we can imagine there are many in the teaching community in Ceredigion who are lining up all sorts of law suits against this little site.

Why Wales Gets Angry.

Earlier this week, Cardiff was home to shocking scenes of random violence, which claimed the life of a well loved member of the community, injured a dozen more and terrified people across the city. The motivations for the cowardly attacks by an individual driving a van into members of the public who had no hope of protecting themselves from his actions, are as yet unclear. Certainly though the impacts of his callous attacks will be felt for a long time, and we can only imagine what  will be going through the minds of the children affected by this event the next time a speeding white van comes near them.

The story was appalling, and yet, as the day of the incident wore on, another story developed on the pages of social networking sites. For an attack on a capital city which had affected so many, there was a lingering sense of confusion, and then anger, as to why this merited so little coverage on the news. Early on the same day, Conservative pleb basher Andrew Mitchell had resigned from Government, and it was this that seemed to preoccupy the minds of the national news networks.

No doubt the crumbling of the Westminster Government was newsworthy, but surely on a day when a capital city in Britain had witnessed such widespread attacks on the general public, it could not in any way be considered as the ‘top story’? The following day, the print media community continued to wash over the events of the previous day in Cardiff, preferring to salivate over a prominent politician’s demise. Meanwhile blood stocks in Wales continued to be in critically short supply following the high treatment demand resulting from the van driver’s attacks.

There is a pervading sense that, in general terms, the media simply don’t care about Wales. Certainly there had been plenty of coverage over the tragic story surrounding April Jones, but then, without wanting to be too cynical, the national media will often prioritise a missing child. The sense remains though, that had this been a story breaking in an English city, London perhaps, that there would no doubt as to the leading story, ‘terror in London rampage’ would have represented the tone of the headlines. Yet, if it happens in Wales, it’s probably just not that important. One wonders how many people would have needed to die for this to be considered the most important news story of the day?

Put in context, BBC News have given more coverage and commentary time today to whether or not an English footballer worse a t-shirt, than it did to the events in Cardiff. It is this disparity in coverage that incenses so many in Wales, we often feel like second class citizens in this ‘United’ kingdom, because that is the way we are treated. Sadly, the priorities of all the national news carriers illustrated that even when areas in Wales are subject to attacks that would dominate were they to happen across the border, their locality in this instance means that they are just not that significant.

And that is, one of the reasons at least, why Wales gets angry.

The Valleys: Why Wales Fumes.

Okay, perhaps the second part of that headline needs to be qualified as ‘why the political community and well to do celebrities of Wales fume’, because there are no shortage of people in Wales who look on at The Valleys and nod with a smirk of agreement. You see for many in Wales, The Valleys on MTV is not a reality television programme designed to shock its viewers into tuning in week after week, it is more akin to a documentary summarising the average Friday and Saturday night out in Cardiff. Most of those living in south Wales will long be familiar with the weekly flooding of Newport and Cardiff railway stations, as hoards from the valleys come down for a night out. It might not always be clever, but it is certainly not out of the ordinary. Yet we have the likes of Chris Bryant and Leanne Wood of the political spectrum lamenting how unrepresentative such scenes are of the valleys, and plenty of Welsh celebs pointing the finger of judgement. Perhaps the outcry over The Valleys can best be summarised as such: everyone knows this sort of thing happens, but we’d rather the rest of the world didn’t know.

And perhaps such attitudes are not unfair, after all, balanced representations are not the name of MTV’s game. Where for instance is the documentary on the communities in the valleys, as opposed to concentrating on people who don’t want to be there. Where is the reality television programme on a valleys rugby team, a valleys choir, a valleys community project? Okay, none of these things might be 100% representative of valleys life, but they are part of the story, and MTV’s offering is certainly not 100% representative (things are not great, but equally they are not that bad). And this is where the real concerns of Bryant and Wood should fall, not that such a programme exists, but that there is no voice for everything that represents the opposite of a cultural cesspool where fucking in a nightclub corner is the limit of ambition.

For instance, type ‘the valleys’ into a search engine. Now, imagine yourself as a potential investor, someone considering bringing business to this place that they have heard of, these valleys. Wikipedia entry aside, potential investor, or tourist indeed, will be met with a block page of reference to the MTV production of the same name, all of which highlight the depraved, base and generally despicable aspects of the programme. A ‘cast member’ of the programme was interviewed in WalesOnline this weekend, where they confidently asserted “people need to realise we’re not in there to represent Wales or the valleys as a whole”. Excellent to hear, sadly though, that is exactly what they are doing.

Chris Bryant and Leanne Wood know perfectly well that the MTV show reflects some of what goes on in both Cardiff and wider valleys communities on a weekend. They also know there are many things in both places that are the exact opposite. But the other thing they are only to well aware of, is that even amongst those who have and never will watch The Valleys, they will have heard of the programme, and this is what they will think of first when the area comes up in conversation.

This programme is clearly exploitative. It is exploiting the idiots lining up to take part in the programme, and the idiots who lap it up as some example of societal ambition – put simply girls and boys, make a career out of waving your genitals around in public, and you won’t have a very long career in anything…apart from porn perhaps, but you’ve already stooped lower than that, because you have found yourself on MTV, something much worse than pornography, arguably worse than genocide…perhaps. But it is also exploiting the name of the valleys, an area historically exploited, abandoned, and then done all over once more. The valleys are not some sort of magical rose garden full of sparkling bunny rabbits granting wishes, with unicorns dancing in ponds of crystal water, they are, in places, pretty rough. The last thing these communities need is for the masters of youth distraction to stomp in with hammer and nail, and close the coffin on the area once and for all. That is what Bryant and Wood are scared of, that is what they fear from this programme, and why they and others are so angry that this car crash of a television programme exists at all.

Inside the Mind: Jeremy Hunt

The ‘Inside the Mind’ series probes the potential realities that might be experienced were we able to walk through the subconscious experiences of individuals. Today we explore subject 043: Code name Jeremy

Field Notes Summary:

Upon entering the mind of Jeremy, you are immediately struck by how white everything is. While there is certainly no shortage of baggage in this reality, clear outlines of boxes can be made out, but they are cleverly disguised under white canvas sheets. There is the sense that the mind creating this can keep going on as normal, so long as it forgets whatever is hidden in all these boxes. Through deniability, the user has created a tranquil haven. We might presume while the user is in this particular space, they might exhibit a slightly dull, vacant smile, removed from the rigors of reality.

As we moved through the subconscious of 043, we discovered a huge domed room. Clearly indicated above the only doorway into this space was the title ‘Policy’. It was with some surprise that in this vast cavernous area, there were only two things. On the left of the room, sat in a golden chair, was a huge man, bearded and shimmering. He was scribbling bible passages down on scraps of paper before tossing them into the air. On the ground, miniature versions of subject 043 scurried at the feet of this deity like figure, tearing at the shreds of paper and consuming what remained. Those who eat enough of the bible passages then appeared to float skywards, we presume, though have not confirmed, to a part of the subjects subconscious that is responsible for rational thought and behavior.

On the other side of the space, further miniature versions of subject 043  (hereby referred to as Hunts) swing with enthusiasm on the handles of a giant pair of scissors. The  Hunts chant the word ‘cut’ in a low mantra, while above the scissors, further Hunts feed the letters C, U, L, T, R and E through the blades. The letters N, H and finally S sit stacked on a pile nearby the cutting tool, and seem destined to follow the path of the previous letters.

This is a troubled mind indeed, defined by a need to please figures that will always wield more power than himself, by committing to symbolic acts of cutting based sacrifices. The subject’s only coping mechanism in this reality is to deny, and it seems to be working for him.

Take a last look.

This image was one of a series of images used by Visit Wales to promote Wales to the United States as part of a major international folk festival in 2009. Take a long look, because with planning permission relaxations about to be unleashed on the landscape, it could all look very different so very easily. Bigger houses in already crowded areas and new mansions for the wealthy in the middle of landscapes such as those above, can both be looked forward to, all in the name of the economy. Well, if it works, perhaps we’ll be able afford some land reclamation projects from the sea and build some new countryside, but it’s unlikely. What is likely is that those who can already afford to will be allowed to systematically wreck what is left of our landscapes, while making already cramped urban areas unbearable mazes of backyard extensions. It might help the economy, but it will serve to create an island in which few want to live.

Phase 3 of the ConDem ‘bollocks up Britain’ plan is well and truly in motion. Look forward to compulsory military service for juniors next.



Bonkers attack on Free Prescriptions.

There are plenty of things that you can take the Welsh Government to task over…plenty of things. In general, the most obvious thing you could go after them on is their inactivity. The slow haul towards a legislative Wales has been as painful to endure as it has been uninspiring, even more so given the legal arse up led by Carwyn’s administration over the one piece of post 2011 legislation to get given the Senedd green light. But to attack the free prescription programme, once again, is somewhere between bonkers verging on loopy.

It seems to be the bi-monthly bug bear of the opposition…well, we say opposition, what we really mean is that it is the bi-monthly bug bear of the Welsh Conservatives who seems utterly incapable of just letting this one go, and regularly dust off the cobwebs from their increasingly worn out complaints before wheeling it out once more. Today, led by the ever audible Darren Millar, were the really shocking revelation that since free prescription medication was introduced in Wales, that more people are taking prescription medicines. Jaws must really have dropped when that bombshell was dropped on the Welsh political community. When things are free, people take more of them…take a moment, you must all be in a state of mental paralysis reading this.

It was reported that several Welsh Tory spokespeople were vomiting with horror at the news that the general public were actually getting their hands on medicines, after all, that’s the last thing we want isn’t it? But of course, the whole point of free prescriptions was in response to the fact that large proportions of Welsh society were not taking up prescription medicines, you know, those things that doctors were telling patients ‘you need this to stay alive’, because they were too expensive. Millar was very happy to point out that millionaires can pick up pain medication for free, but duly ignores the fact that Wales is not littered with millionaires, and that it is in fact littered with people living below the poverty line, the very people who stand to benefit from this programme.

It would appear that Darren Millar’s policy would be to price out two thirds of the population when it comes to medication, no doubt resulting in widespread death amongst those troublesome working class voter groups, in turn minimising the Labour vote in Wales…it’s possible at least. Certainly were the free prescription policy to be withdrawn, Mr Millar would be able to enjoy a whole host of new hospital based issues to whine about, as treatable conditions rapidly turn into untreatable terminal illnesses, and already stretched hospital wards become crippled by the sudden influx of deathbed patients, who might have been fine at home, but could no longer afford the medication.

Just a final point on price, the Western Mail reported this morning that while the cost of free prescriptions stands at over £500m, it is a sum that is decreasing rather than increasing. On top of that, given Mr Miller’s determined stance to cut out this unsustainable and unbearable weight on the tax payer, one wonders how he would looking back over his summer indulgences, where he spoke at length and with great enthusiasm about Jubilee celebrations and Olympic entertainments, the combined cost of which would cover free prescriptions for all in the UK (not just Wales) for over half a century…just a thought for anyone wondering how ‘waste’ might be defined.

Olympics End, Reality Bites.

In a scene reminiscent of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the massed British television audience that has been mesmerised by two weeks’ worth of moving images and flashing lights, will emerge from their homes in a state of confusion, rubbing eyes startled by daylight and sore from televisual staring. In that moment a new instinct will take hold, one forged from hours and weeks committed to watching strangers from foreign lands leap, and sprint, and dive and dash, as their eyes adjust to the outside world they run, charging forwards, their lungs carried by all the hope and expectation that accompanies seeing somebody else win a shiny piece of metal…

…and then, then they begin to remember. A shrivelled corner of their memory sparks alight strangely familiar sensations. On the streets upon which they have just sprinted, where there should be flags of every nation, where there should be lithe individuals being carried aloft the shoulders of adoring crowds, where there should be a nation in which not just post boxes are painted in gold but the very roads and pavements as well, where there should be this ‘great’ Britain that they have been told about for so many days, they find something else…

…the masses would have been safe from the truth had they not stepped out of the front door, had they not left the security of their living room where the BBC and front pages of the Sun would keep them blissfully unaware. Their mistake was to be inspired. Having left their sanctuary and ran out in the expectation of buying several hundred pounds worth of exercise equipment, they found that their local sports shop was no longer there. A sun stained ‘closing down’ sale sign peaks out from behind cracked white washed windows…

…in that moment of deflation, another shock hits the masses, they had just been running, something most had not contemplated for half a decade and more. Feeling a touch on the side of hungry, the masses attempt to remember what they once did for nourishment before a time when Olympic success could sustain them. Each mind strains to recall, and then it comes to them, a powerful image, burnt into their frontal lobes, McDonalds, McDonalds, McDonalds, McDonalds…and would you like a Coca Cola with that…

…heavy with fatty foods and disappointment, they remember, ‘we can always buy those things on the internet’. Ah the internet, home of the Nike sponsored florescent shoes and home delivered exercise bikes. Too tired to run back, they wait patiently, then increasingly less so, for the bus to take them home. As they wait they find people sleeping in corners, in rough clothes…what are these things, these unfamiliar wretches? Surely this is not Britain, there were no homeless people on show in the opening ceremony, so where did these come from? They hand over £3 to ride the bus, littered with shredded pages of the Metro, each tattered page carrying a memory of an athletic hero. The masses remember the faces, the names are on the tip of their tongue…they are sure it will come back to them…

…getting home, internet on…Nike shoes on sale and an exercise bike on its way. It seems a little expensive, but the masses follow the Government example and spend based on dreams and ambitions, rather that which remains dwindling in the broken bank. 3-4 days to delivery…3-4 days to wait. Television had delivered so many heroes recently, perhaps there will be some more while we wait. Eastenders and Coronation Street are our heroes now, and we sit, and begin to fester once more…

…3-4 days later, the Nike shoes and exercise bike arrive. The shoes look great, and are comfortable around the house, in the pub…the exercise bike looks complicated…it is assembled in weeks to come, and serves as the most effective of clotheslines, and dust mats…

Unlike the children freed by Indiana Jones, the masses will not run into the arms of jubilant families in a magically enhanced lush paradise of hope and opportunity, they will instead run back into Britain, and in remembering what is actually going on in the country as opposed to the magical fantasy land so expertly woven by the state, and will quickly wish that the distraction had not left them. As the wise elder spoke to Indy, ‘now you see the power of the rock’…for the masses, they might begin to understand the distractive power of the Games, and for that reason more than any sense of inspiration, they will wish it never ended.

RCT: Right Idea on Metal Theft, Wrong Focus in Video.

Rhondda Cynon Taf council made it into the news today for the launch of their so called ‘hard hitting’ video on the impact and dangers of metal theft. There can be little doubt about the damaging nature of this crime wave that is blighting Wales, and those to suffer, in particular schools, community sites and religious centres, not too mention the commemorative memorials to be destroyed through these petty thefts, are all amongst the most vulnerable victims in terms of those who are able to foot the bill for the expensive repairs required after such acts of vandalism. Why then do RCT dwell for so long on the perpetrator of the crime in their video?

The video opens to a churchyard, one location of many included in the video to have been hit by the metal thefts, but we do not focus on the church or its parishioners, instead we hear the disembodied voice of the mournful metal thief. Clearly talking to us from beyond the grave, we hear how his lift was not supposed to end like this, his widowed wife expresses her anger but qualifies in her thoughts how he was in fact a good man. The video rumbles on, a shot of school closed for the day because of metal thefts, then our perpetrator is seen near death, told he cannot have his life saving operation because of metal theft. Have we got the message yet? Metal theft is bad yes? But watching this campaign, it’s hard not to be left with the thought of ‘why should we care?’ due to the central figure of the narrative. The core ‘victim’ featured is the thief himself, not the innocent bystander who suffers because of the thief, but the man who was stupid and selfish enough to do the robbery in the first place.

While the sentiments are fine, RCT would have done well to recast its lead figure, the ‘hero’ of the piece if you will. As it stands, the video seems to be attempting to play on the viewers sympathy for the thief, which is the exact opposite message that should be pushed here. Why should we care about this individual? Frankly, we shouldn’t. A better take would have been to feature our ‘hero’ frying himself on his freshly swiped electric cable, before the cindered corpse is ditched into a lake by his disgusted partner. That might ‘send a message’, as it is, this effort, while well intended, only serves to frustrate and ultimately fail to deliver the hard hitting message that it could have done.

A Plastic Bag in the Eye.

EyeOnWales found itself wading into an impressively pointless argument on the good ol’ 5p plastic bag debate last week. In an argument of head banging against the wall proportions, we found a bizarre blogger ranting about the sinister nature of businesses exploiting the 5p bag law to generate revenue and supply low grade bags to customers, while simultaneously suggesting that the Welsh Government policy had been a failure in the first place, having no impact on bag usage, and in turn, no positive impact on the environment (this was all before said blogger descended into a diatribe on the state of Wales generally, including the Welsh language in a wonder moment of gogwatch-esque randomness – suffice to say it was not the most sensibly of constructed arguments that we’ve come across this year).

So, it was with some pleasure that the results of a couple of reports were published by the Welsh Government today, giving some indication as to the actual impacts of the 5p bag legislation. Without wanting to totally rehash the original press release, the key figures can be summarised in 70% of the survey sample now supporting the legislation, backed up by over 80% of customers making use of reusable bags, with food retailers in particular recording an impressive 96% reduction in bag use. This was coupled with the Keep Wales Tidy charity being held up as an example of one of the beneficiaries of the redirected funds from those bags which remain sold, tipping the £100,000 mark.

Now, when the evidence suggests such massive reductions in plastic bag use, with wide scale public support for the new form of legislation, topped off with large scale charitable donations, can it really be described as a failure? If this is a failure then lets hope new legislation introduced in the future has a similarly catastrophic rate of success! Now let’s be clear, the Labour led government in Cardiff is not having the best of times of it, and Carwyn’s lumbering speech today on the trident issue was a particularly good example of the bad on offer. But that is not to say that all is bad, and on this piece of legislation, Wales has a success story, and one perhaps, even if it is held in temporary isolation, that we might be proud of.

Well done WG, you’ve got something right, now work on all the rest of it!


Debate on Gogwatch: A response.

We seem to be getting all sorts of Gogwatch related traffic coming in at the moment, after seeming to peak the interest of some on the site. It would appear that our commentary on the site a few months ago has met with disapproval in some quarters (though it also stimulated plenty of agreement at the same time). Also, some comments posted on this blog in response seemed to have an agenda of identification against those involved with Gogwatch and related sites, so perhaps we should clarify some points in regard to such issues.

Categorically, we do not want to, or care about the so called ‘exposing’ of people involved with Gogwatch or related sites. What we are concerned with is the promotion of a set of political values which, were they to ever be successfully implemented, would directly lead to the death of the Welsh language. On that point we concede nothing. Articles and commentary on Gogwatch serve one purpose, that being to illustrate so called failings of the Welsh language, occasionally based on evidence, occasionally supported by anonymous ‘first hand experiences’, or indeed, opinion. In all the ‘articles’ included on Gogwatch, not one looks to argue in favour of the Welsh language, not one looks to present an example of the positives of the Welsh language, and lacks any sense of balance in doing so. While bloggers on Gogwatch insist that they do not hate the Welsh language, they can find nothing positive to say about it. Until they do in their main articles, it is difficult to conclude anything other than their position on the Welsh language is to see it as a threat and a danger to Wales. They may argue that they do not want the Welsh language to die out, yet their manifesto of cutbacks to Welsh language support would result in the exact opposite.

So on this point, nothing has changed, and we do regard those intent on undermining the Welsh language as traitors to the notion of Wales. You can certainly be Welsh while not being able to speak Welsh, but a Wales without Welsh would not be Wales, that which makes it culturally distinctive and unique is as important as anything else we have or do in Wales today. Gogwatch seems to have become entrenched in a manifesto verging on religious fervour, that the Welsh education system, healthcare system and economy would all somehow be magically enhanced were Welsh language provisions to be cut. Indeed, as noted in the past, the themes of deaths being caused because of the Welsh language have been considered on Gogwatch – such incendiary comments serve one purpose, and that is not to provide balanced debate. However if you don’t want to provide balance, that’s fine as well, just don’t expect to not be called out on it when presenting yourself as being in the ‘majority’.

However, we will be happy to monitor and edit comments that look to attempt to remove the anonymity of any blogger (and thanks to those who have illustrated such examples, there is no moderating team as such here so keeping track of everything that ends up in the comments section occasionally gets out of hand, yet we have no interest in applying a controlled ‘moderated comments only’ policy), on Gogwatch or any other site, this one included. What we want is debate, and debate not distracted by personal agendas. If someone has a suspicion that someone is posting comments under multiple names, frankly that is not a point of concern. No doubt some will critique the comment sections here, suggesting posts contrary to the obviously political leanings of the blog would be removed. Not the case. The only comments which have been removed related to the attempt to ‘identify’ individuals. We are happy to remove such comments, mainly as they do nothing to move the debate forward. What we care about are issues. We will respect people’s privacy and anonymity, while at the same time critiquing opinions and comments made on the subject of the Welsh language. If you are reading this blog, and find examples of ‘outing’ or similar themes that you find personally intrusive or offensive, get in touch, and we will remove them if we have missed them in the past.

Finally, can we reaffirm the fact that comments contrary to our position on these subjects will not be removed. Please do explore the posting on Gogwatch, there is an equal balance I feel between voices in agreement and in disagreement (though we make no apology for deriding daft half baked comments, though welcome derision in return, it’s not a blog that takes itself ‘that’ seriously)  – debate is healthy. And to any Gogwatchers swinging by the site, you’ll note that this is not a one issue blog, however, if you want to debate the Welsh language, feel welcome to do so. We appreciate you have your own site for this, but do feel free to engage here as well. As stated, all bloggers and comments welcome, except those looking to divulge personal information, which will, categorically be removed.