I’m thinking about blogging in Welsh, but confidence and competence are a problem. I’d like to be able to practice Welsh, but Knighton is not a Welsh-speaking town. So, if I am to practice, writing is best.
I need to decide what write about. I get press releases from various astronomical research bodies. Translating exactly is difficult, but it’s not an exam. A rough outline is possible. It’s easier than thinking of something original each day.
Also I don’t know where to blog. Here, with two categories English and Welsh? Or on a new blog at WordPress or Kinja? My biggest concern is I will make mistakes. I like Gweiadur and Cysill Ar-lein, but they are not enough to overcome my ineptitude. That’s life. But it would be helpful to have a note saying “Please tell me if I’ve made a mistake.”
Dw i’n meddwl blogio yn Gymraeg, ond hyder a hyfedredd sydd problem. Dw i’n awyddus i ymarfer Cymraeg a dydy Tref-y-clawdd ddim yn siarad Cymraeg. Felly, os dw i’n mynd i ymarfer, mae ysgrifennu yn gorau.
Dw i angen i benderfynu beth i ysgrifennu amdano. Dw i’n cael datganiadau i’r wasg o gyrff ymchwil seryddol amrywiol. Cyfieithu yn union yn anodd, ond dydy e ddim yn arholiad. Mae amlinelliad bras yn bosibl. Mae’n haws na meddwl syniadau gwreiddiol bob dydd.
Hefyd, dw i ddim yn gwybod ble i blogiau. Yma, gyda dau gategori Cymraeg a Saesneg? Nei yn blog newydd ar WordPress nei Kinja? Fy mhryder mwyaf yw bydda i’n gwneud gwallau. Dw i’n hoffi Gweiadur a Cysill Ar-lein ond dydyn nhw ddim yn ddigon i orchfygu fy anfedrusrwydd. Mae’n fywyd. Ond byddai e’n helpu cael nodyn sy’n dweud “Plîs dywedwch i mi os wnes i wneud camgymeriad.”
Today is a chance for major constitutional change in the UK. If ‘yes’ wins, then the result would be a shock for both sides. Given the choice Devo-Max, Scotland would stay in the UK. A party with one MP in Scotland decided this couldn’t be an option as it would be a win for the opposition, so it’s a gamble all or nothing.
There’s various reasons it’s come to this, but one is that there is no provision for painless constitutional change in the UK. This is stupid.
The unwritten constitution of the UK is a mish-mash of arrangements built over hundreds of years. The idea that something that worked a couple of centuries ago should be immutable is simply ridiculous. Communications, education, society have all changed. We are governed in a system which haven’t consented to and have little legal opportunity to change unless someone can manufacture a crisis. So we let problems fester till we lurch from one place to another.
Plaid Cymru are asking for ideas to govern Wales. I have one, but I’d be happy for any party to take it up for the UK. It’s this: There should be a constitutional conference every 25 years.
Too frequent and the rules become a free for all, but too infrequent and there’s no gradual evolution of the state and every change becomes a trauma. Twenty-five years is up for discussion but it’s close enough that a reasonably young adult could have hope of being consulted on their participation in a democracy. It also means that there is (relatively) recent precedent so the next conference isn’t a complete shock to the political body.
Moving fundamental political questions, like constituency sizes, how often should general elections be, how to the member countries relate to the UK, onto a scheduled basis would remove them from being laid down by an ad-hocracy.
Whatever the result today, it’s the payoff of a massive gamble by David Cameron who’s put everything on Red (White and Blue) and is hoping the right number comes up. There’s got to be a better way to manage a constitution than that.
This week I finally met my local MP for the first time. If I’d been on the ball I’d even have got a photo to prove it, but it’s just as well I didn’t as I was having an ill day, so I would have simply looked sick and sweaty next to him. Instead here’s some concept art you can pretend symbolises politics and science.
The reason I was meeting him was an interview for the Evidence Information Service. I first heard of this back in March and thought I ought to do something about it. The idea is that while the civil service and parliamentary researchers can do a good job, they’re not experts on everything. It wouldn’t be sane to expect them to be. The Evidence Information Service is a proposal that there could be a system to provide MPs with expert advice on topics. The first step for such a service would be working out what MPs want and what they could use.
This is where you and I come in.
The EIS is looking for local champions to interview their MPs (and AMs if you live in Wales). There’s a questionnaire to see what it is that MPs are looking for. They already have plenty of people lining up to give them information. Is there a way that scientists can contribute more signal than noise?
This obviously isn’t March. I was busy at the time and things like this tend to get put off into the to-do list and then forgotten as more stuff gets added. The spur to sign up and get it done came via Kevin Folta. In particular the first image in this post.
It’s not reasonable to assume MPs and AMs will pick up my disapproval of poor science through some kind of psychic osmosis. There are many reasons why fringe ideas might get pushed. Sincere belief and misunderstanding is one. Another reason might be economic interest. Taking a small step to counter-balance this seemed more productive to me than putting an X in a box every five years, as a political action.
As it happens it was a reasonably painless exercise. The EIS provided a basic questionnaire, and Roger Williams made time for me at the local constituency office. As it happens Brecon and Radnorshire is the largest constituency outside Scotland in the UK, so local was a bit farther for me that it might be for you, but it was simple enough.
I can’t say what he said, as the results are going to be anonymised. But I did find him and his office very open and helpful. It’s a reminder of what a bad advert for MPs the House of Commons is. I certainly learned some things about how Politics works that made my head spin.
If you are keen for better science in politics, then it’s worth checking out the EIS welcome letter and seeing if you live in a constituency without a local champion. If mysticism in Westminster makes you grumpy, then you can at least be satisfied you’ve done your bit.
It certainly was yesterday, with Michael Gove among the people campaigning against Scottish independence in London. It might be an example of where the Unionists have misunderstood both the opposition and their own campaign.
The ‘No’ campaign is a campaign against nationalism. It’s a campaign against quite a dated idea of nationalism. One of the successes of Scotland is that they have built a civic nationalism, so ethnic minorities aren’t excluded from being Scottish in the way that they seem to be excluded (or avoiding) being English in England. No doubt there are some Anglophobes voting to get rid of the English, but that’s nowhere near enough to account for the popularity of the Yes side. What independence offers is John Major’s catchphrase subsidiarity. It moves decision making down locally from a distant government to administration that has to sit in the mess it makes. Defence and foreign policy could be made at the UK level, but given we work within the EU and NATO there is something to be said for cutting out Westminster as the middle-man.
If the UK government had offered Devo-max, then there’s little doubt that would have won the referendum. The inability of Westminster to see it is problem in the UK that causing it so much trouble. Another problem No has is that it campaigns against itself. The form of nationalism they’re against is, in a different colour, the form of nationalism they cling to.
It’s difficult calling reasonable people British nationalists, because the phrase is so closely associated with being a member of the BNP (a fascist party, for non-UK people). However, when Cameron made his plea for the union, wrapped in the flag at the velodrome, he was being a nationalist. When Ed Miliband briefly flirted with the idea of posting border guards at Hadrian’s Wall, it was the act of a nationalist. That rally in London yesterday with Clegg and Gove? It’s nationalist.
Not only that, but it’s the dated form of nationalism that the SNP and Plaid Cymru have been moving from. The SNP and PC both want to manage most policy locally. Defence and foreign policy might be more difficult, but these are negotiated with the EU and NATO. Westminster isn’t going to unilaterally solve problems like Ukraine. So if economy and justice can be managed locally, Westminster looks like an unnecessary middleman. It’s an internationalist nationalism that makes Unionist appeals to people living on the same island look a bit tired and parochial.
However, the Unionists haven’t considered taking the independence movement seriously till very recently, because they thought it impossible. If they weren’t reacting to the Yes campaign then what were they geared to fight?
I’m wondering if the refusal to offer serious powers on the ballot wasn’t about Scotland, but about the other devolved powers. More power to Scotland, and to the Welsh Assembly, would inevitably lead to renewed calls for devolution in England. What powers would the London Assembly, and other regional assemblies, have? Whatever was ceded to Scotland could be demanded by London, and the greater the independence for London, the more difficult life becomes for the national government in Westminster. I don’t think there’s a conscious anti-regions campaign in Westminster, but a long held desire to accumulate power in the centre. It wasn’t enough for Westminster to win the vote, they wanted to concede as little as possible.
This is not a plan.
Even now, working out the relationship between England and the UK is being left to the fringe. The Barnett Formula the three leaders have pledged to uphold was a quick fix in for 1979. Scottish and Welsh devolved chambers came in 1999. There’s still no reform of the House of Lords beyond the 1999 bodge. For all the complaints that Salmond has no plan B, no leader of the big three parties has a Plan A for the Union if they win.
Win or lose, the Unionists need rethink how democracy works in the ®UK and that will mean moving outside central London.
The Swansea Bay 10k run is offering events for kids too. Including “the Dylan Thomas Mile and Mascot Race” or in Welsh “Dylan Thomas Milltir a Masgot Hiliol”
Race in the sense on running quickly would be Ras so what exactly is that mascot?.
The first Formula E race is due at the weekend. On paper the FIA’s electric series isn’t a match for Formula 1, and the F1 racing has been good at the front. However when Virgin announced their driver line-up for Formula E, it underlined F1’s big problem.
The one on the left is Jaime Alguersuari. He was quite good racing in F1 in Toro Rosso and was sacked at very short notice for two even younger drivers. With a bit more notice he might have found another team and still be racing in F1 today. The driver on the right is Sam Bird. He came second in the GP2 championship, missing out on the title in the last race to Fabio Leimer, who also isn’t in F1. It’s hard to tell if he’s good enough for F1. Marcus Ericsson, 6th last year in GP2, has a seat with Caterham, where he’s doing nothing much — but that could be partly the car.
They are good drivers, and while F1 fans might say they’re not the best in the world, if you were drawing up a list of the best available drivers, these two would be on it. The Formula E teams seem to be hiring the best they can. In contrast if you look at the F1 grid, half the F1 teams have at least one driver who is the most profitable a team can hire, not the best. What keeps Alguersuari and Bird off the F1 grid is a lack of money, not talent.
I’m not sure about the cars. They look the part, but it’s hard to be sure about speed. The times at the first test were slow, but there was almost a roadblock by the Old Hairpin. Buemi finished day five of testing 1m31.792s, and for comparison the lap record for Formula 4 is 1m31.603s. However, the Formula E cars won’t race on GP circuits, so headline speed might not be the issue.