Archive for 22 May 2011

Going for Gold – Should athletes give up Magners?

David provided me with evidence that street cannabis, marijuana, was safer than caffeine in the diagram in my previous post and therefore should be made legal.

My basis on using caffeine as a bench mark was that it created less dependency than alcohol, was in between alcohol and street cannabis, and more importantly caffeine is regarded as a substance not prohibed by the International Olympic Committee.

So to be fair, I thought I’d look at all the criteria used by the Olympic authorities and compare them against Caffeine, Alcohol, and Cannabinoids. I have taken the criteria from the BBC and performed a brief literature search on the equivalent scientific terms associated with them.

Stimulants – Drugs that boost bodily functions, including heart rate and brain activity.

Caffeine: Caffeine has been shown by Silvio Buscerni to have no effect on the QT-Interval. It has been shown by D.M. Warburton that caffeine has the effect of improving cognitive functioning, in terms of attention, problem solving and delayed recall. Therefore, whilst caffeine may not have a positive or negative effect on heart rate it does have a positive effect on brain activity.

Alcohol: Alcohol has been shown by Karl-Jürgen Bär to increase the QT-interval after withdrawal, which has the oppostive effect to boosting heart rate. Alden Gross has found that sustained alcohol use has the effect of impairing cognition in later life.

Therefore alcohol can be seen to have a negative effect on heart rate when withdrawn from. It also has an eventual negative effect on cognition, so may not be suitable for long-term use by athletes.

Cannabinoids: Cannabis had been shown by Kimina Hanormand to have a negative effect on cognition when compared with non-use. According to GW Guy cannabis has a minimum effect on boosting QT-interval shortly after consumption, so has a minor performance reducing effect.

Therefore cannabis does not have the performace reducing effects of alcohol in terms of increasing QT-interval, it does have short-term performance reducing effects in terms of cognition, whereas this is only true of alcohol in the long-term.

Narcotics (Painkillers)

Caffeine: According to TA Astotino caffeine has no effect on reducing perception of pain, so should therefore not be seen as a performance enhancing drug in this context.

Alcohol: According to SA Shah alcohol has a positive effect on reducing pain up-to a period of 9 months.

Cannabinoid: As previously stated, David Blake has shown that the cannabis-based medicine, Sativex has a positive effect as a pain-killer in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Joy Goebel has found that the use of alcohol and other substances like cannabis for self-management of pain has little beneficial effects in veterans.

Diuretics

It is acknowledged by the IOC that alcohol and caffeine are diuretics. Also, I have found no studies assessing the diuretic properties of cannabinoids. So therefore I have not considered this in great detail.

Summary of Findings

Alcohol has the effect of reducing performance, as the withdrawal effects boost the QT-interval. Cannabis on the other hand has minimum impact on QT-interval, and caffeine none. Caffeine has the effect of increasing performance in brain activity, whereas cannabis reduces it in the short-term to long-term and alcohol in the long-term. Caffeine has little effect as a painkiller (narcotic) whereas alcohol and cannabis do. There seems to be little relevance in the use of drugs as diuretics other than their effectiveness at masking the use of banned substances.

Conclusions

Whilst cannabis has a greater immediate negative effect on brain activity than alcohol, the long-term outcomes are the same. Caffeine on the other hand has positive effects in brain activity. Also, withdrawal from alcohol has a greater negative effect on heart performance than cannabis. Therefore, if the IOB wishes to ban cannabis because of reduction in performance then it should also ban alcohol. If it is willing to ban other drugs which improve performance then it should also ban caffeine.

Alcohol has been shown to have painkilling advantages, just as cannabis has. Caffeine has no such properties, but it can boost concentration to overcome the attention focus on pain. Therefore if the IOB wants to ban cannabis then it should also ban alcohol.

I therefore conclude that in the long-term alcohol has the same harmful effects as short-term use of cannabis in terms of cognition. Also, alcohol has the same harmful effects on heart-rate on withdrawl as other QT-prolongers such as anti-psychotics, potentially leading to stroke and therefore reduced cognition.
While as an employer the immediate benefit of having a workforce who are able to self-medicate and still perform effectively using alcohol and caffeine instead of cannabis which has more immediate cognition-reducing effects, as a society we need to consider the externalities of alcohol on cognition in later life, and potentially after withdrawl. That is the costs to the NHS of dealing with elderly patients or stoke victims may be the same for those who consumed excessive alcohol leading to associated disorders as those who consumed cannabis.

The Pot Hole We’re in – A ‘conversation’ between Ed Miliband and Will Hutton

Will Hutton: Ed, the railways and roads are in a complete mess, I’m going to write a book called ‘The Pot Hole We’re In’, any suggestions?

Ed Miliband, erm, ah, well. I’ve got my party back now, so nationalisation is back on the cards.

Joe Public: What about our pensions and ISAs? Many of them are in the private rail companies, and motor industry.

Ed Miliband: We’ve got the state pension, that should be good enough, it is pretty much the same for everyone, and it is important eveyone is treated the same in a socialist society.

Will Hutton: I’ve got a fact on that. It might not help you in any way, but I’m sure I could write a few pages on it for my book.

Ed Miliband: Yes Will, your analysis is always very good. I’m still working through your 1995 book, ‘The State we’re in’, it’s time to go back to basics with the Labour Party, see if we can fool the plebs into believing we can actually do something like they did in 1997.

Risks on cannabis – Response to Comments

I had a lot of comments to my ‘risks of cannabis’ article. I will provide my responses here.

People who raised the alcohol vs. cannabis argument

There are a lot of studies showing how moderate alcohol use can prevent terminal illness like cancer. Only misuse of alcohol has externalities for the NHS, whereas when I visited East Glamorgan Hospital’s Mental Health ward in Llantwit Fardre when I was the councillor for Llantwit Fardre I saw the extent to which cannabis use cost the NHS.

If you look at the above diagram you can see that a higher dose of alcohol is required to be damaging than marijuana, or street cannabis as I call it. So on this basis I would say that to consider cannabis to be safe it would have be in the form of a cannabinoid which falls somewhere around the Caffeine mark. Caffeine is considered safe by the International Olympic Committee to be suitable for athletes, so I think this should be the benchmark. As can be seen from the diagram, street cannabis has a lower dependence rate than alcohol, but is more lethal compared alcohol, where one would need to consume more to have the same effect. So unless there is a cannabinoid with a higher active dose threshold, then it would, as I said, be preposterous to legalise it for off-prescription use.

People who raised the ‘safety’ of street cannabis

Consider the Prisoner Dilemma. A black market drug dealer has in their possession ‘safe’ cannabis of a street value of £1000. They also have an imitation of the same quantity with a street value of £10 which contains toxic substances. Which do you think they would be most likely to sell? If it was proved to be safe, without the regulation of cannabis to the extent of alcohol then people can be sold a pup, and they won’t know whether it will make them barking or not.

People who raised the ‘health benefits’ of cannabis argument

I accept that studies have shown cannabis derived medicines have greater efficacy over placebo in treating pain and anxiety. However, as someone who has taken medication for both pain and anxiety after a car accident, I know that even the most ‘proven’ medicines have side effects. I want to see clinical trials comparing the efficacy of cannabis derived medications with current treatments. If the cannabis medications are proven to have greater efficacy than placebo then they should be recommended by NICE and then only issued if approved by the person’s GP. If my GP thought it would be better at curing my anxiety than my current mediation without any serious side-effects then maybe I’d be willing to take it as a medicine. However, I am not even willing to take diazepam at present because long term use can mean its efficacy can be reduced and it can actually make the situation worse not better – I would like more longitudinal studies in the efficacy of controlled cannabinoids.

Compromise

I would be willing to budge on wish to ban substances like cannabis and nicotine and have minimum tax on them if those wishing to use them off-prescription for recreational use had to do the following:
1. Take out private/people health insurance to cover any treatment needed, which their employer can claim from to fund replacement staff while they are being treated, and the NHS can to recover costs of lifestyle choices.

2. Be restricted in their vocations if a risk assessment shows up potential problems, such as that they could injure others through not operating machinery correctly for example.

If all this happened I would be happy for a ‘safe’ cannabinoid to be sold to an even greater extent than in the Netherlands where it is still illegal but not prosecutable for personal use. I think it should also happen for people who abuse alcohol. It could be part of one’s household insurance policy, so someone who calls in sick to work with a hang-over for instance would either have to not be paid for the day or claim off their household policy. Any long term absences costing the government or business money would have to be paid by the user’s insurance

If this was not accepted, or if it was accepted and someone was not able to provide a receipt on request of where they bought the cannabinoid from, or they were drunk/stoned and disorderly, then the following would apply.

1. If found with street cannabis or drunk/stoned and disorderly, they should be given the option of taking a fixed penalty notice of £75 or going on a drug rehabilitation programme.
2. If they chose three fixed penalties they would get an ASBO. On the fourth time if they refused to go a drug rehabilitation programme they could go to a correction unit for two years.

Those dealing in street cannabis outside of the safety net would, if I had my way, face prosecution under international criminal law after an investigation by Europol.

Wales’s Rubbish Union

I went to the play-off between Pontypridd RFC and Llanelli RFC at Sardis Road last night. My side, Pontypridd, did not win, but I was speaking to one of the fans about the circumstances leading to that game and the information she gave me led me to believe there was a breach of Competition Law.

First I would like to look at the legal status of the Welsh Rugby Union and the Scarletts/Llanelli.

The WRU has 100% of the rugby market in Wales and under Article 106 of the EU Treaty this means they are a monopoly and have a dominant market position. The Scarletts are one of only 4 teams that can compete in Wales and therefore they are an oligopoly and have a dominant market position.

In competition law there is the term, ‘concentration’. Two companies that want to merge are a concentration. Also, two companies wanting to commit to a joint venture are also concentration. By being a ‘concentration’ they must be treated as a single company.

The Scarletts and Llanelli could be considered a concentration if this definition covers them: “combination of companies pursuant to which one or more companies may directly or indirect exercise an influence over another company which is substantial as regards competition.” This could apply if for example one club or the other can request or share players from the other.

Scarletts and Llanelli

Before going on to look at abuses of dominant positions I would like to look at some rules under Article 101 of the EU Treaty which Llanelli and the Scarletts may have breached if they were separate clubs. If they are considered a ‘concentration’ then we should ask which league do they want to play in – the regional or local premiership?

Exclusive distribution agreements

The European Court of Justice has ruled that where an exclusive distribution agreement was designed to restrict competition impermissibly so breached Article 101. Since Consten and Grundig, a block exemption has been passed by the European Commission to allow certain exclusive distribution agreements between two undertakings for the exclusive supply of certain goods for resale. However, if the Scarletts are refusing to supply their players to any club other than Llanelli this is exclusive distribution agreement, even if is just a gentleman agreement. So if at the Premiership play-off match at Sardis Road last night they had supplied Scarlett players to Llanelli and not offered any to Pontypridd RFC then that falls within Article 101 and is a breach of EU law.

Market Sharing

Like production quotas and price fixing, market sharing has the outcome of restricting competition between undertakings. Often market sharing agreements take the form of agreements to restrict trading to certain territories. In the Soda-Ash case, two firms, namely Solvay and ICI, were found to be operating a market sharing agreement, which was referred to as the ‘Page 1000’ agreement, which had been in operation since the 1870s and renewed in the 1940s. Motta (2004) points out that what is noticeable about this case is that each firm admitted that it had no intention of invading the other’s home market, but simply because it feared retaliation if it had done so, which they argued justified a collusive outcome as the result of independent decisions that made sense from a business viewpoint. Therefore, Llanelli/Scarletts can be seen to be sharing markets in terms of rugby players and falling foul of Article 101.

Now I have established that the WRU and the Scarletts have a dominant market position and raised the question whether Scarletts/Llanelli are a concentration I shall consider whether they have abused that dominant position.

First the WRU. I would say they could have abused their dominant position in the following ways – which is most of the ways in which it is possible to!:

Market partitioning

Where a dominant undertaking imposes upon its customers obligations that bring about a partitioning of the markets, this constitutes an abuse within the meaning of Article 102, so much so that a clause prohibiting distributors from reselling bananas when they are still green was condemned as abusive by the European Court of Justice. So the WRU by stating that there should be only 4 regional teams they are partitioning the Welsh rugby market and inhibiting competition.

Refusal to deal

The refusal to deal with a supplier or a customer can amount to an abuse of dominant position even where it does not lead to a deterioration of the competitive structure, so much so that where a dominant firm stops, without valid reason, supplying a well-established customer abiding by commercial custom and whose orders do not have any abnormal character, this constitutes an abuse (Stuyck & Vogelaar, 2000). The WRU could fall within the due to it refusing to deal with the owners of the Celtic Warriors and London Welsh or anyone else wanting a regional side in maintaining that there should be only four regions.

The first European case to consider refusal to deal was Joined Cases 6/73 & 7/73 Commercial Solvents v. Commission of the European Communities [1974] E.C.R. 223; [1974] 1 C.M.L.R. 309, hereafter referred to as Commercial Solvents. In this case, there was a refusal to supply nitropropane or its derivative, aminobutanol, a raw material for the manufacture of ethambutol. The European Commission found that the supplier had “a dominant position in the common market for the raw material necessary for the manufacture of ethambutol” by virtue of its “world monopoly in the production and sale of nitropropane and aminobutanol”, and that the refusal to supply constituted an abuse under Article 102. The ECJ confirmed the European Commission’s finding of a dominant position and their finding of abuse. A refusal to deal may also occur where an undertaking with a dominant position at one stage of production establishes a subsidiary to supply their product to and then refuses to supply undertakings competing with that subsidiary that are dependent on them for a particular product. Indeed, the ECJ said in the United Brands case that an undertaking in a dominant position for the purpose of marketing a product cannot stop supplying a long standing customer who abides by a regular commercial practice, if orders placed by that customer are in no way out of the ordinary. Therefore the WRU by refusing to deal with those wanting to keep/re-found the Celtic Warriors or any other regional side is refusing to deal and abusing their dominant position.

Unfair trading conditions

The imposition of unfair trading conditions is also prohibited by Article 102. In the Tetra Pak II case, the Court of First Instance considered that, where a supplier of packaging machines requires its lessee to pay to it, at the time of delivery of the machine or shortly thereafter, an initial rental amounting to the entire value of the rented machine, this constitutes the imposition of unfair conditions since the lessee does not benefit from the legal advantages deriving from the right of ownership although his position is economically comparable to that of an owner. Also in the Tetra Pak II case it was upheld that the practice of tying the sale of packaging to the sale of the machines also breeched Article 102. Tying the products of one particular undertaking as was done in the Tetra Pak II case can be seen in trading conditions where the customer is required to purchase a less critical product from the same undertaking in order to purchase the critical product or where the customer is required to purchase an unrelated product in order to receive the product they want. An example of this sort of tying is in Case T-201/04 Microsoft Corporation v. Commission of the European Communities [2005] 4 C.M.L.R. 5, [2005] Info. T.L.R. 179, [2005] E.C.D.R. 19, where the undertaking concerned, which offers e-learning technology, was found to be tying the sale of their operating system to the sale of their software for playing multimedia files, something which has been referred to as compulsory licensing. Therefore I would regard the WRU to have abused its dominant position by requiring that clubs who want to play in the premiership agree to a playoff rule probably not used elsewhere. Also, by only having four regional teams they are applying dissimilar conditions to the other clubs in Wales and London Welsh.

Exclusive purchasing agreements

Exclusive purchasing agreements enable the supplier to plan sales with greater precision, ensure that their customers’ requirements are met upon a regular basis and allow both to limit risk owing to disruption to market conditions.

However, while the European Commission has indicated that whereas non-exclusive contracts for the supply of fixed quantities of industrial raw material which do not last longer than two years are permissible under Article 102, an exclusive supply agreement of such products for five years amounts to a restraint of trade within the meaning of the Article. By the WRU forcing the regions to only take players from certain clubs they are forcing them into exclusive purchasing agreements which is an abuse of their dominant position.

Selective distribution agreements

Selective distribution agreements are characterised by supplier selectivity in granting distributorships whereby the potential for reduced competition arises because the criteria used to choose distributors may, either intentionally or unintentionally, have the effect of limiting the number of outlets for the product in question meaning that those distributors who are selected by the producer would to some degree be insulated from rivals carrying the same goods. The WRU by distributing resources and rights to only the 4 regions is falling foul of Article 101 by reducing competition in rugby.

Risks of cannabis

Last Saturday some members of the public took to the streets of Cardiff calling for the legalisation of cannabis.

Street cannabis has serious side-effects from psychosis to mortality. In fact, 63% of paedophiles have used cannabis or other narcotics according to Dr Reuben Lang of the Institute of Psychology and Law.

Dr Louis Fabre of the American Medical Association has found that the synthetic cannabinoid drug, Nabilone, has greater efficacy in treating anxiety than placebo and does not have the serious side effects of the street drug.

Dr David Blake of the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases has found that the cannabis-based medicine, Sativex, has greater efficacy than placebo of reducing pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Despite these controlled benefits of cannabis, to say that legalising cannabis off-prescription therefore makes sense is preposterous.

Equally, criminalising users of street cannabis, who may have been pressured into using it, is also wrong – they are victims and should be given help not punishment.

In my view the only “self-medicating” drugs that should be available to buy off-prescription should be those with which moderate use would have no negative impact on one’s quality of life or life expectancy.

Street drugs like cannabis and behind the counter drugs like cigarettes have such a negative impact so should be banned.

If I was an MP I would ban cannabis and cigarettes in the UK and imports from the rest of the EU, using the public health criterion of the rule of reason under (Article 34) of the EU Treaty.

Yr Cymuned Mawr – Small Government for Strong Communities

Membership of the Community

The committee is made up of a cross-party power sharing executive of three councillors from different parties elected by the people. This is like what happens in Northern Ireland. They could be drawn from a larger community council or a community council in their own right.

The community is made up of every elector in the ward and their dependents. For example, a mother with two children will have three votes which she can vote for on their behalf. Others in a household can act as proxies for anyone else in that building providing they are on the electoral register.

Procedures and competencies

The ordinary procedure is used for:
– Making Decisions relating to
* Town and country planning
* Priorities relating to policing, play areas, parking, etc
* Licencing consultations
* Other externally-directed statutory consultations
– Under the ordinary procedure the public can veto or approve any decision where a qualified majority say so and 1 councillor supports them

The co-decision procedure is used for:
– Making decisions relating to:
* Increasing/reducing the precept (tax)
* Payment of grants to individuals, charities, voluntary sector
* Appointment of governors
* Internally-directed statutory consultations
– Under the co-decision procedure the people can veto a particular point of detail of a proposal if a qualified majority say so and 1 councillor supports them

The special procedure is used for
– Reporting problems and making decisions relating to:
* Parking and motoring offences
* Environmental problems (e.g. noise, litter, dog fouling, fly posting, footpaths, grass cutting, bus shelters)
* Disorder (drunk and disorderly, offensive language and behaviour)
* Child protection (selling alcohol to a minor, offensive behaviour towards a minor, truancy by a minor)
– The government have right to veto a persons request under the procedure if two councillors say so.

Determining a Qualified Majority

The determining who who is allowed to vote is based on the European principle of ‘representativity’ which means only those affected by an issue can vote on it. In the EU this meant that Trade Unions have managed to get Business leaders to agree to maternity rights for example. Also in the EU a ‘qualified majority’ is used so that decisions can be made without one objecting voice holding everyone else back.

In terms of an Yr Cymuned Mawr government, a qualified majority is made up of the number of residents affected by an issue (for example, everyone in a certain street if another person in that street wants to put up a conservatory or extension).
– Under the ordinary procedure a simple majority of the people affected is required to make a decision binding on councillors, except where the number of people affected is 10 or less when 100% is required.
– Under the co-decision procedure where everyone is affected, majority of 75% approval of the public is required providing that at least 150 people are present.
– Under the special procedure, where a single person has made a request to the government, such as requesting a fixed-penalty notice be served on an illegally parked car, the government may veto this if two councillors think it would be too costly or be discriminatory for example.
– Alternatively the councillors could give another person, such as a volunteer, the authority to issue fixed penalty notice, and the person it was issued to will have the right to appeal if they think it was unfairly issued, and if two councillors say so it can be withdrawn.

Three strikes and they’re out

Where someone is issued with three fixed penalty notices under the special procedure for the same offence, then an application will be made for an Anti-social Behaviour Order, which will mean on the fourth instance they commit the offence they could go to prison for up to two years if a Court says so.

The Public Sector

– The public sector is the local authority, police, environment agency, state hospitals and schools, parliaments/assemblies.
– Where the public sector is responsible for a particular matter and they can resolve the matter quickly they should be used.

The People Sector

– The people sector includes charities, social enterprises, voluntary organisations, and other statutory not-for-profit organisations, like Welsh Water.
– Where possible the government should seek to collaborate with the people sector to meet the people’s mandate on a co-operative basis.

The Private Sector

– The private sector consists of private individuals, such as residents, who may be freelance or self employed, formally incorporated businesses, or other organisations run for-profit.
– The government should use the private sector where they can provide the most competitive tender in terms of quality and price (i.e. where they are the best person for the job).

The Clerk – The invisible hand

– The Clerk would be the sole employee of the government and would act as a ‘referee’ and the sole administrator and project manager, making sure every decision is implemented.

Low costs such as overheads and staffing

– There will be no office, as the councillors will be responsible for handling the case work and the Clerk administration and compliance.
* All post will be delivered to a local PO Box address at a fraction of the price of maintaining a building.
– There will be no permanently employed staff other than the Clerk
* By not employing any staff other than the Clerk the precept will be much lower than at present.
* Instead of employing staff to man the phones 9 til 5, a professional receptionist, such as those offered by Regus will be used at a fraction of the cost proving a friendly ear with essential information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
* Instead of employing maintenance staff on a permanent basis, as and when an issue arises, whether cutting back growth or issuing parking tickets, an approved list of providers, which may include residents, will be contacted on the basis of ‘competitive dialogue’. This will mean that he one with the most competitive tender, whether public, people, or private sector, will get the job. There will be no ‘jobs for the boys’ – the best and cheapest person for the job will always get it.

Yr Cymuned Mawr in Treforest

For an example of how this model of community decision-making might work in Treforest view this post on my blog

Disagreeing to Agree – Micro-bloggers at War when they are on the same side

I just had a paper accepted for a conference paper called “Mum’s the WordPress: A comparision of political and mommy bloggers”, didn’t talk much about microblogging, but discovered some of the problems in an interaction with Iain Dale earlier today. I wonder ‘tele-autism’ is manifested greater in microblogging, where offence is easier to occur between people because of the communication restrictions similar to what I as a person with High Functioning Autism experiences elsewhere in public life.

Iain Dale is one of the most respected political bloggers on the Internet. In 2007 he ranked me No 88 in the Top 100 Labour Bloggers. For someone in politics to give me such high regard, means he must be a pretty decent person, looking beyond how as a Labour Party member I was an “outlier” and not typical of the norm.

However, I was slightly shocked today. On Twitter, he called a presenter of Britain’s Got Talent a word meaning phallus beginning with “d” for not letting through a group of black people and instead letting through a “pub singing poodle”. -As much as I would agree with his dissent if the decision was based on race, even indirectly because the person didn’t like ‘Black Music’.

I have been arguing for universities to have quotas for Black people based on the numbers in society, and for international students not to count against this quota. Many Black people in this country don’t “make the grade” for university due not to lack of ability, but a biased exam system.

Black music is not always done by Black people, as Eminem shows, but just because someone is of a generation that doesn’t like this, as Iain was alluding to, someone should not be rejected from a competition because the judge doesn’t like their music which is typical of their race. Equally someone shouldn’t be derided because their nationality is different from the country they are in, as Iain later presented, just because they were picked by a possibly racist judge – two wrongs don’t make a right.

As I said to Iain; that under the Communications Act 2003 it is illegal to send an offensive message via a communications service. As a public figure, and someone who I respect as one of the most knowledgeable people in politics (perhaps why he is not in government), I expected better. The Equality Act 2010 protects people from direct or indirect discrimination on the grounds of race, whether against someone who is Black, White or other identity. I would suggest to him to make a complaint to Ofcom if he felt the decision was based on race, as he is right to point it out if that was the case – I just think he should have moderate his language.

Hopefully he will be re-running his Top Blogs some time. I wonder how he will rank me as someone who is a Co-operative Party Councillor and member of the Conservative Co-operative Society who is in coalition with Plaid Cymru on Pontypridd Town Council and has acted as a counting agent for the Official Moster Raving Loony Party and recently been out leafleting for the Labour Party!

How Labour are you?

Are you a member of the Labour Party, a Labour voter, or someone from another party? Take this quiz to find out how ‘Labour’ you are.

Question 1 – Representatively and Subsidiarity
Which of these do you most agree to:
a) Decisions should be taken by those in the community affected by them.
b) Decisions should be taken by local politicians who can act in the interest of the whole community.

Question 2 – Choice and Innovation
Which of these do you most agree to:
a) In order to have a dynamic economy we need a thriving private sector to encourage choice and innovation.
b) The means of production, distribution and exchange should be in the hands of the public sector in order to provide for everyone regardless of their background.

Question 3 – Sustainability and Growth
Which of these do you most agree to:
a) Competition goes hand in hand with co-operation and you can’t have one without the other.
b) Competition is bad, as it means it is more difficult for people to co-operate.

Calculate your result
If you answered mainly a) then your beliefs are congruent with the Labour Party envisaged by Tony Blair, which the current constitution of the Labour Party is written in support of. You may have an entrepreneurial drive in you, a desire to better yourself while helping others, and a trust in ordinary people to do what is right for them while also being part of a strong community. You probably think it is more important for all people to have an education tailored to them, and that parents are best placed to know what is right for their children, not politicians or civil servants.

If you answered mainly b) then your beliefs are incongruent with the Labour Party envisaged by Tony Blair. You probably identify with the pre-New Labour Party of yesteryear, which envisaged a society in which everyone was treated the same way regardless of their individual differences. You probably think it is more important to maintain the homogeneous comprehensive model of education and that specialist education is wrong. You think working for profit is inherently bad, and that the only way to have a responsible society is for the state to own all the industries people depend on. You probably don’t think people can be trusted to make decisions for themselves while thinking about other people, and that allowing people to choose which education and health services they use is no way comparable to letting them choose where to buy their groceries.

A manifesto idea for Treforest – Taking control of our community

The people in Treforest are frustrated. We have many problems relating to parking, litter, dog fouling and shockingly we recently had a mugging.

The are many opportunities under the law available to use to resolve this issues on our own initiative without having to rely on the local authority, town council or police, who between them are failing us badly, making excuses time and time again.

I will summarise the outcome of these as follows:
1. We assume an identity as the Treforest Community
2. We bring under our control the precept for the ward (i.e. the council tax that currently goes to Pontypridd Town Council)
3. We bring under our control the PACT meetings, Neighbourhood Watch Schemes
4. We employ our own staff and volunteers to use statutory powers relating to fixed penalty notices (on-the-spot-fines) on a ‘contingent’ (ad-hoc) basis and use this money to pay for the clean-up or remedy of what the penalty is being issued for.
5. Bring into the group essential community organizational structures, like Taff Meadow, Trefforest Community Centre, and maybe the Residents Association and the community group for the parks in the area.
6. All the public to collectively make decisions about issues affecting them, such as planning if their neighbour want to install an extension or conservatory, etc.

With regards to 1) under the Equality Act 2006 we can define ourselves by ‘race’ in that we are the “citizens of Treforest who share a common heritage in its past, present and future”. In addition we can define ourselves by belief, such as; “We the people of Treforest believe we are more than capable of managing our own lives and that we do not believe we should have to ask the permission of others outside the community to decide how to manage our own affairs and provide for our needs that are within our competencies.”

The Community of Treforest could have the legal structure of a community council using the Local Governemnt Act 1972 to get the money from 2), to get the statutory powers for 4) and would then have a formal structure to run the schemes in 3). These powers under 4) could be used to tackle parking offences, littering, dog fouling, etc. Further examples are on Wikipedia.

With regards to 2) the Police want communities to take over PACT and the Neighbourhood Watch Schemes are easy to set up and come with funding. We as a community could use our rights under the Human Rights Act to install CCTV as party of Neighbourhood Watch which we manage ourselves without the police. We could use this to spot and record offences and then instruct our fixed-penalty notice officers to go and issue the on the spot fine. Any serious actions, like the recent mugging, can be referred to the Police through PACT with the CCTV evidence.

With regards to 5) The town council is investigating its use of Taff Meadow, and it may be this Treforest group could take it over. Also, the Community Centre, which is a separate organisation, could want to merge with this new group so that we are all able to “pool our resources” to put Treforest first, on the basis of our priorities not any other areas. It may be that the other separately constituted community groups like the one that looks after the park and the Residents Association could become part of this strategic co-operating body. With many groups into one, that would cut down cost duplications like admin and insurance, which can be spent on the community.

Even with the legal structure of a community council, which would need to elect councillors, our three councillors could just be Treasurer, Secretary, and Chair, and then we would just need a Clerk to handle the legalities, who would be the only person permantly on the Payroll, to keep costs low. Decisions could be made by the people of Treforest as suggested in 6 and all these councillors would need to do is ‘rubber-stamp’ them for the clerk to send on to the authorities.

The three councillors could come from these wards below based on the ‘Lower Layer Super Output Areas’ from the Office for National Statistics, so using their website, we can easily monitor how effective our crime-fighting measures are in each ward and how well each councillor from the ward is doing to solve the case-work assigned to them to solve long-term problems.

My ancestors, the Freeman of Llantrisant, took control of their community 665 years ago. Also it is over 10 years since the people of Northern Ireland agreed to put their differences aside and work together in government on common ground, while peaceful working towards the constitutional outcomes they wanted. If they can put their divisions behind them for progress through self-governance, I’m sure the people of Treforest can.

May Day 2000 – The start of the opening up of the ‘Public Square’

Firstly I would like to thank the organisers for inviting me to speak today. Exactly 20 years ago, the Queen became the first British monarch to address the United States Congress. A first for free speech maybe? Well tonight I’m going to tell you about something much grander.

If I was to ask you to think about the year 2000, of what would come to mind? The dawn of the new millennium maybe? The Millennium Bug? Or maybe the ill-fated Millennium Dome?

To me personally, I remember the year 2000 as the year I received my Higher National Diploma, the year I met my first love, and the year in which I had surgery to make my epilepsy more manageable. Not necessarily in that order!

But there was something else about this year that was important. May Day in the year 2000 was the day that London became the first city in the world to make steps towards globalised independent media organisations. Up until then, the public square, which is the name for the means to be able to broadcast or publish ones opinions, had only been open to media elites and corporations.

Today many people take for granted that we can capture video on our mobile phones and send it to the world through Facebook or YouTube. Many also think nothing about turning to Wikipedia or blogs for information. But this revolution in what is now called ‘social media’ could not have happened without the first step in self-empowerment through independent citizen-led broadcasting.

On May Day in 2000, an organisation known as Indymedia UK, founded the International Media Centre, or IMC. They covered the actions in London that day and other places in the UK on a manually maintained website, and introduced some fresh approaches to reporting large actions. Today they are a global participatory network of journalists that report on political and social issues. Their idea originated during the Seattle anti-World Trade Organisation protests which occurred worldwide in 1999, and remain closely associated with the global justice movement. Indymedia uses an open publishing and democratic media processes that allows anybody to contribute to it.

Today DIY media projects are fast spreading around the planet, triggered by discontent with the mainstream media and supported by the widespread availability of media technologies. The recent revolutions in many countries in the Middle East and North Africa have started in large part due to social networking Web sites like Facebook and Twitter.  The whistleblower Web site Wikileaks has had a tremendous impact in exposing government corruption.  Even the Association of Speakers Club is involved, for now each year the online speaking competition has entries added to YouTube for the whole world to see. I’m sure hardly any of the entrants see themselves as revolutionaries, but we are all part of the new digital social media revolution.

My research colleague, Ashu MG Solo and I will soon be presenting a paper about a new field called Polnetics to the international conference WORLDCOMP. Polnetics is needed to describe these changes to the world brought about since the realisation of the first Independent media organisation in May 2000. Polnetics is a combination of the words politics and networks.  The term polnetics is derived by combining pol and ics from politics with net from networks.  Polnetics is defined as the application of networks in politics.  This includes the Internet, private networks, cellular networks, telephone networks, radio networks and television network.  The currently accepted term e-politics just refers to politics and the Internet and is therefore a subset of polnetics.

One of the most exciting recent developments in polnetics occurred in the recent Libyan Revolution against the dictatorship of Colonel Gaddafi.  To prevent rebel fighters from communicating, Gaddafi cut off their telephone and Internet service.  The rebel engineers hived off part of the Libyan cellular phone network and rewired it to run independently of the regime’s control, so their fighters are able to communicate with cellular phones again.

Groups all over the world are creating their own channels of information and distribution in order to bypass the mainstream corporate media. The idea behind most of these projects is to create open platforms to which everyone can contribute – not only media elites with their particular interests and corporately-defined editorial policies. By eliminating the classic division between professional producers and passive audiences, many issues and discussions that were previously suppressed become visible and available to all.

The field of polnetics is needed to understand this. A simple polnetics activity could be posting a political blog entry, starting an online petition, or holding a virtual town hall – all of which can use existing software tools.  A polnetics research and development activity could be studying the characteristics of political bloggers, developing new software tools for organising political activists, or developing a tool for candidates to alert voters by text message when a candidate will be giving a speech in their particular geographical area.

Even in the eleven or so years since the launch of the International Media Centre, things have changed faster than people imagined. Who would have thought that those elite media professionals would be sharing the same publishing space on a second-by-second basis with ordinary people, as on Twitter?

Well that time has come, and there is no knowing where we are going. Will the opening up of the online public square bring about dwindling political party memberships like the mass publication of the Bible did to the Church’s congregations after the printing press? Only time will tell, but I suspect it won’t be long before we know.

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