Letters From America: To Bear or Not to Bear?

The 2015 UK General Election is now a possession of history, but here in the colonies the political machines are revving up in anticipation of the 2016 Presidential Election.

The American political landscape is an increasingly polarized one, and the highly politicized topic of gun control is reflective of this. Already it is being brought into focus as political hopefuls give vent to their thoughts on the issue.

On one extreme can be found gun control advocates calling for stringent gun laws and even the outright banning of many firearms, while on the other end of the spectrum hardliner gun rights lobbyists point to what they feel is a clearly stated constitutional right to bear arms.

There exists in the middle both gun control and gun rights advocates alike who voice their support for modest reform, such as mandatory background checks for gun purchases and increased firearms education. Leaders from both sides of the aisle (and an overwhelming number of Americans in national opinion polls) support expanded background checks before the purchase of guns. Guns sales to felons and the mentally ill are prohibited, and background checks help enforce this. But when it comes to specifics, the divide shows- and it has proven difficult to make progress in the direction of compromise and reformed gun legislation.

For instance, some congressional Democrats are pushing not only for expanded background checks, but also for broadening the requirement for records of sale transactions. Many gun rights supporters see this as a move towards establishing a national gun registry, and vigorously oppose it. In their corner is the might of the gun manufacturing industry, which directs the political stance of gun ownership clubs like the National Rifle Association.

Furthermore, this is not just a federal matter but one state rights, as each state puts forth individual state laws regarding gun sales. This lends further ravelment to an already thorny issue.

Gun related death rates in the United States dwarf those of most industrialized Western countries. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2013 Crime Report, 69 percent of murders were gun related. With mind towards gun fatalities the U.S. ranked 4th, with 669 times more murders with firearms than the UK, which ranked 39th. The U.S. had nearly 7 times the number of gun homicides per capita that did Portugal, which lays claim to one of the higher rates in Western Europe. In fact, overall gun violence in the U.S. readily compares to that of some of the deadliest places in the world, including South Africa, El Salvador, Pakistan, and The Democratic Republic of the Congo. Staggeringly, at least 1.4 million Americans have been slain by guns since 1968, comparable to the U.S.’s accumulated war dead in that same period.

The U.K. has had plenty of experience with gun legislation; its first gun policies date back to the reign of Henry VII in the 15th century. Today, its method of gun licensing is thorough and strictly regulated- and it has one of the lowest rates of gun violence in the world. Yet despite Europe’s model of strict gun control policies, scrupulous licensing practices, and lower levels of gun violence, not everyone here is convinced that more vigorous gun laws are the answer for America. Looking closer to home, they point to stringent guns laws as not always delivering the desired results.

For example the state of Illinois, which has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, suffered 364 murders by firearm in 2013. By way of comparison, the state of Vermont, which has the loosest gun laws in the country had 5. The District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) prohibits the ownership of guns, yet bears witness to its fair share of gun violence’s. In this nation’s capitol, which has a population a shade higher than Vermont’s, 103 murders occurred in 2013, 81 of which were gun related. In fact, from 1985 through 2012, Washington D.C. had the nation’s highest murder rate eight times, most recently in 1999. During these periods the city had mortality rates of 70 or more per 100,000 citizens.

And thus follows an argument– if the bad guys are always going to get their hands on guns, why shouldn’t I be able to defend myself with one? Supporting this mentality, the 2007 Harvard Gun Study came to the conclusion that stricter gun laws do not prevent gun violence, pointing to high gun murder countries like Russian- where guns are banned.

According to a 2014 FBI study, there were 160 active shooter/mass shooting incidents between 2000 and 2013 in this country. In light of the recent mass shootings in America, supporters of gun control cite lax gun licensing practices as a serious factor. There are contrary arguments that gun laws are not the problem here, but rather the mental health status of Americans, with the mass-shooting phenomenon emblematic of a surplus of physic tension among our citizenry. Additionally, they argue, five of these incidents were ended by the intervention of armed citizens, a boon to the argument for gun rights.

At their core, the issues of gun violence and gun control in this country have deeply rooted social origins. Mine is a comparatively young nation, one that was a frontier not all that long ago, and our blood-steeped Civil War had political and social ramifications that resonate to this very day. This coupled with an unfortunate history of racial tension do factor into the equation. Be it the prevalence and accessibility of firearms, a mental health crisis of national proportion, or an admixture of both, one thing is certain. Gun violence is on the rise in this country and in the bloody wake of gang violence, riots, hellish mass shootings, and a lamentable body count, some solution must be identified.

Edward Swanson is a journalist from Vermont in the United States and the author of two historical thrillers, Mesmer’s Disciple and Madoc’s Legacy (Ranked by Kirkus Reviews as “Best Books of 2014”).

The BBC – A Bonfire of Vanities?

LFW thought it might be interesting to re-publish an extract from an article written by the editor, for Labour Uncut back in April 2014 particularly as the BBC’s Charter renewal is under investigation by both the House of Lords and the Commons, so here we go:

Tom Wolfe has railed against the excessive and greedy vanities of New York society.

The Taffy piece de resistance however, must be BBC Wales.

As reported in previous Uncut columns (and in the national press), a good number of its presenters and a journo or two – not to mention its previous controller Geraint Talfan Davies, father of present Director Rhodri Talfan Davies– have either received personal taxpayer hand-outs for their autobiographies amounting to many thousands of pounds (although not so much of the ‘auto’ I hazard, most of these books have been written by ghosts) or their Welsh ‘publishers’ have received grants to publish them – in many instances the public purse has been nobbled twice. A pay-out to the author and a pay-out to the Welsh publisher to publish them.

Here are just a few examples:

Mal Pope – £4000 for his autobiography ‘Old enough to Know better.’ Well, that’s debatable!

Owen Money – £6000 for his auto biography ‘Money Talks’ – doesn’t it just!

Chis Needs, £7,500 for his auto biography ‘And There’s More’. There certainly is.

And ‘there is more’ than meets the eye at the studios of BBC Wales’ flagship television news programme BBC Wales Today.

Derek Brockway its ebullient weatherman, has had his books about traipsing around Welsh mountain tops etc, paid for by the taxpayer too – one can’t help wondering if his designer outdoor weatherman weeds were also part of the deal?

And what about taxpayer funded royalties to all these BBC Wales presenters come amateur scribblers?

Mr Brockway’s Welsh publisher Y Lolfa, confirmed tax payer subsidy but refused to comment on royalty payments, such comment being ‘inappropriate’. One cannot help but be remined here of an observation by Margaret Hodge MP in reference to her duties on a Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee:

‘Where public money is being spent by Companies they cannot hide behind ‘commercial confidentiality’. It is simply not good enough. It’s not on. It’s unacceptable!’

And the BBC’s press office response? Here it is word for word:

Dear Mr Ruck, 

Thank you very much for your contact with the BBC Press Office on Thursday 8th May and again on Monday 12th May. 

Firstly, I should make you aware of the fact that the BBC should not disclose confidential information relating to individual commercial and/or contractual matters and transactions, unless required to do so by law.  More specifically, the matters which you enquire about appear to be regarding contractual arrangements between third parties not involving the BBC and in such cases the BBC would not be privy to such terms or information. 

Thank you again for your enquiries. 

Readers must draw their own conclusions but it would appear that it’s not quite enough for BBC Wales’ staffers to be paid by the taxpayer, they must also have their life stories squeezed out of the public purse too. It should also be noted here, that a BBC Wales journalist, one Brian Meechan, has also received £4000 from the taxpayer for his own unwritten, let alone published, ‘book’?

Karen Owen, former Producer of Religious Programmes at BBC Cymru, has just received £6000 from Literature Wales, I assume to‘re-imagine’ a bit of rhyming verse, as has yet another BBC Wales former Assistant Editor of Welsh Current Affaires, one Catrin Geralt, who has just been given £3000 – but get this, Ms Geralt is on the very Literature Wales Management Board that dishes out all these literary alms!!

Readers will be forgiven for concluding that there is no cronyism like Crachach cronyism.

And the BBC Trustees didn’t want to know about any of this, everything is as it should be according to them.

To conclude?

I can’t help wondering what Lord Reith would make of all this, although on second thoughts……….?

PS BBC Wales announced on 7.5.14 that Welsh language S4C’s peak time audience viewing figures have dropped by a sixth. That’s a sixth of 1%.

S4C has cost the UK taxpayer more than £2.2 billion to date and as for it generating £2.09 of investment in Wales for every £1.00 of grant? See post below.


It all started with Lord Kilbrandon and ‘Scotland’s oil’.

At least this is what the possessive nationalist SNP called North Sea oil, back in the 1970’s.

Almost out of the blue, the old refrain of Scotland being too skint to be independent was for the birds. Scotland was loaded and England was on the back foot of abject poverty.

Wales was starting to agitate for cultural nationalism by using the Welsh language as a weapon to achieve a fanciful and utterly deluded, RS Thomas independent end. Arson and the jailbird Saunders Lewis were back on the agenda and English hating had become the  nationalist sport of the ‘Home Rule Army of Wales’ as Plaid Cymru was originally called.

Political nationalism was on the rise in both countries – LFW uses the word ‘countries’ reservedly, neither are sovereign States – with oil and a minority  language being used as the foundation stones for a new Celtic revival.

In a by-election held in the Labour heartland of Merthyr Tydfil in 1972, Plaid Cymru (the Party of Wales) gained 37% of the vote and came within 4000 votes of winning the seat. In 1973 the electorally bomb proof Labour seat of Glasgow, Govan, fell to the SNP candidate and firebrand Margo MacDonald.

In the final days of his government Harold Wilson, in his profound wisdom and no doubt in an effort to appease those who would divide and conquer, set up a Royal Commission on the Constitution.

The result?

The Kilbrandon Report, named after the Scottish judge who completed the Commission’s work following the death of his predecessor, Sir Geoffrey Crowther.

The Report was explosive.

The majority who sat on the Commission proposed elected assemblies in Wales and Scotland; it should be noted however, ‘that none of the said Commissioners supported outright separation’.*

What the Report did do, was ‘endorse the central nationalist claim that Scotland and Wales had distinct identities and interests that deserved special recognition.’*

The gauntlet of a war on centralised government had been thrown down and it wasn’t going to take prisoners.

‘The fundamentals of Britain’s territorial constitution would be in contention, as they had not been since the battles over Irish Home Rule before and immediately after the First World War.’*

Scotland, it cannot be denied, has a valid claim to a separate ‘identity’, one only has to consider its constitutional history, legal system, contributions to politics, philosophy, engineering, literature and the arts generally, however LFW must argue that Wales has few of these things and is merely a poor relation attempting to create a nation state where none before existed.

Scotland enjoys some serious history. Wales does not.


Lord Kilbrandon and his team meant well in 1973, but the seeds they planted have now grown into a bloody great, venomous Triffid!


*‘Britain Since 1918’ – David Marquand 

Corbyn’s Progress is boring a donkey’s glass eye to sleep. Try this:The Matron’s suspenders!

LFW felt it was time to offer some light relief from all the Corbynite political soothsaying.

So here we go, should set the feminista off if nothing else!

Can’t have men being let off the collar and leash now can we?



LFW talks with Sam Gould, UKIP Wales Election 2016 Camapaign Manager

Letters From Wales: “What impact do you envisage UKIP having at the Assembly elections next year?”

Sam Gould: “Labour is unrecognisable now. We’ve done the analysis, and if our general election results were applied to the proportional voting system in Wales, we would have won 7-8 seats at the Assembly.

“An ITV poll in June put us at 8 AM’s next year.”

LFW: “Assuming you pick up some seats, because let’s be honest here, polls are hardly reliable just take the General Election fiasco, what part do you see UKIP playing in a Welsh administration next year?”

SG: “As I say, we are aiming to get between 8 and 10 seats at the Assembly. This is achievable. We are far more organised and have Mark Reckless overseeing our Welsh policy team.”

LFW: “What are you offering Welsh voters that is different?”

SG: “There are a large number of Labour voters who want to leave Europe. We are responding to this. The key question for Labour voters is this:

‘What has Labour done for you?’ When you ask this question on doorsteps people are stumped.

“Are Labour still looking after the working class? Are they protecting benefits? How is uncontrolled immigration protecting the working class? When you look at Welsh Labour’s handling of these things it’s atrocious.”

LFW: “Ok, UKIP thrashes immigration which is fair enough, but can we look at three principle areas where it could be argued Welsh Labour has totally messed up ie education, health and the Welsh economy?”

SG: “Labour’s record on all three has been appalling. Our detailed policies in respect of all these issues are being worked out as I speak.”

(Still some ducking here, but let’s give UKIP the benefit of the doubt.)

LFW: “Can we look at Welsh medium schools then, for a moment?”

SG: “You have to look at the fact that if you are learning a scientific subject, say physics or biology in Welsh, you’re limited if you want to become a doctor. The technical vocabulary isn’t there. You have to relearn everything in English.

“The debate on the Welsh language needs to happen. Yes it needs to be protected and yes it is part of our culture but the lengths to which it is being pushed on young people in schools for instance, is not necessarily to the benefit of pupils or their education generally.”

LFW: “There is of course the cost to the taxpayer? To date £2.2bn to S4C alone, for example.”

SG: “As I say, the whole issue must be properly and openly debated.”

JR: “UKIP is always accused of being highly nationalist, do you think that the growth of Welsh nationalism post devolution is making Wales more introverted, backward looking and insular?”

SG: “Of course it is, no argument.”

LFW: “Would you get into bed with the Tories?”

SG: ”We won’t go into coalition with anyone in the Assembly. We’ve made this very clear. What we might do and we will make this decision after the elections, is enter into a pact on a policy by policy basis in order get some of our key policies through.”

LFW: “If the Tories pick up more seats which they might well do, it could mean that together you hold the balance of power at the Senate?”

SG: “What you are referring to is a rainbow coalition of some sort, so my previous answer stands. I firmly believe that Welsh Labour will be in a minority after the Assembly elections. We are Labour’s biggest threat and Carwyn Jones knows this.”

The voice of the people? A real chance for change?

You decide.


2012 Olympics: More scoffing and sore backsides!

In 2012 the editor of LFW predicted that the Olympics would in no way encourage our young to get out there and a row a boat or throw some spears about the place.

He was right.

Playing sport is in decline, pizza and Coke sales are up and there are more corns on peoples’ backsides from sitting down too much than ever before!

So much for all the hype and all that nobbling of the taxpayer by self-serving, executive gravy train passengers and their sporty flunkies!


Scottish Maths Higher exam ‘too hard’ but is it?

There’s still a 70.8% pass rate?

And are not exams supposed to be hard?

There are of course the mitigating circumstances for those who feel hard done by, in that these days students are allowed to take their text books into the exam room and a large percentage of degree awards is based on course work.

In 1970 there were 621,000 students in Higher Education, now there are 2.5 million plus. Elitist back in 1970? Perhaps, but then graduates didn’t generally end up behind tills and serving beverages in coffee shops.

One cannot help but wonder, how school pupils and students would cope with the ruthless rigour of academic days gone by?

Days when ’empathy’ didn’t exist and if one failed?



Leanne Wood on S4C

Leanne Wood says:

“People across Wales appreciate the quality of output that S4C currently provides.”

Really? That’s why it has less than 1% of viewing figures. 

“S4C has been a real success story within the Welsh economy.”

Has it? There is no net gain for the £74m pa S4C receives from license fee payers – £2.2bn since 1982. The ‘value added’ figures provided by S4C’s press office is based upon a Cardiff  research organisation whose 7 out of 9 staff are Welsh speakers and which mainly does business with Welsh public sector bodies.

In other words, it relies on  Welsh Labour government patronage.   

“It would be unacceptable if public service broadcasting in Welsh falls short of that provided in English.”

The only difference being that a mere 18% of people in Wales speak Welsh and even this percentage is suspect as many who claim to be Welsh speakers adopt the vernacular ‘Wenglish’ ie a combination of Welsh and English.

Also note that out of this figure, only 4% can read and write the language.  

“This is a perfect example of what happens when broadcasting for Wales is left in London’s hands – (in respect of cuts).  Plaid Cymru wants to see powers and responsibility for broadcasting devolved to Wales.”

If broadcasting was devolved to Wales and nationalist Plaid got their hands on it, then it really would be taken back to an R S Thomas, Welsh speaking bucolic nirvana, where everyone shepherded sheep during the day and slept on straw beds at night.

London isn’t to blame for the ills of Wales.

Devolution is.  

Welsh culture or English culture with a tall, pointed black hat?

The Eistedford is off, celebrating ‘Welsh culture’.

LFW has always been somewhat challenged by this notion of Welsh cultural uniqueness because as far as it can observe, the only difference between English culture and Welsh culture is that the latter tends toward druidical nostalgia, white (and blue) robes ‘an all, and the wearing of tall, pointed black hats from time to time.

Nothing like diversity is there?


PS There is of course laverbread, lamb stew and the odd corned beef pastie but LFW is not entirely sure how any of these fit into a great, occidental cultural diaspora.

Unless of course there is a Iolo ap Ramsay out there who is about to win a few Michelin Stars?

Suzy Davies AM: “Scrap Visit Wales” and let the industry take the lead.

What with Carwyn’s ‘Taffy Talk Talk’ blunder at a call centre costing £600,000 of taxpayers’ money last week, now the First Minister’s ‘Visit Wales’ initiative (a Welsh government department), is in the firing line – .

“Uninspiring” and “Unimaginative” say Welsh businesses about ‘Visit Wales’.

Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies, said that a “shift in culture” would boost creativity.

He said:

“Ultimately, Welsh tourism needs a shift in culture, with the industry itself taking the lead.

“You won’t find too many businesses in Wales who believe that politicians are the best people to drive tourism forward, and an injection of entrepreneurial spirit would boost innovation and creativity – particularly with the dire marketing we have seen in recent years.

“We want to put power back in the hands of Welsh businesses and communities, and this announcement is part of a broader Welsh Conservative drive to de-centralise power and cut Welsh Government down to size.”

Well, Carwyn’s Carriers at Cardiff Airport, Carwyn’s Cruisers in Cardiff Bay, Carwyn’s ‘Taffy’s Talk Talk Communications Company’, have all hit the skids, so no wonder Carwyn’s ‘Visit Wales’ is in trouble?

This is what happens when you let rank amateurs loose on commercial enterprise.

Failure, failure, failure and the taxpayer gets screwed every time!

The sooner a Welsh government starts to recruit some serious outside talent, instead of relying on this hopeless mantra of ‘Wales for the Welsh’ nonsense, the better.

The pool of talent in Wales is small and even this is deflated with mediocrity.