Rhodri Morgan's latest efforts to persuade people in Wales to vote for Labour are getting lamer than that one-legged duck he's fond of mentioning.
At Labour's spring conference in Swansea he said: "A vote for Plaid Cymru or for the Lib Dems is a vote to let the Tories sneak back in charge of the health service in Wales, or in charge of dole queues in Wales, or in charge of schools in Wales."
Yes, we don't want those pesky Tories in charge... who knows what they might do? Give peerages for loans from anonymous millionaires... get involved with corrupt Italian prime ministers... privatise everything Thatcher failed to do... allow big business to profit from people's illness... oh.
Perhaps Rhodri would be more honest if he said "A vote for Labour is a vote to let the Tories in through the front door."
It seems we've retreated from the bold claims of "clear red water" between Wales and London to the usual Labour paranoia and smear about its real fear - a Plaid-led Assembly after 2007.
At what point do politicians lose all contact with the real world? Is it when you have monthly mortgage repayments of £16,000 to make and feel poor because you're struggling along on a household income of £500,000? Maybe.
Is it when you feel able to take £14 million in "loans" (how was Blair planning to pay them back?) from Labour's Dirty Dozen millionaires? Probably.
Is it a lack of concern that your deputy Prime Minister, the party's treasurer and any democratic body within the Labour Party knew about these secret loans? Certainly.
Unless the leaks continue, it's unlikely we'll ever know whether Blair and his cronies promised the millionaire mob peerages for their "loans". But a nod and a wink, as well as looking at Blair's past track record, would have made it a fair bet for these fat cats.
What else were they buying apart from some ermine? Influence, dear boy.
Lord Sainsbury loans £2m on top of the millions he's donated in the past to Labour. He's in the Cabinet, unelected, as Science Minister and keeping a watchful eye over any pressure the Government might bring to bear on the supermarkets' monopoly.
Lord Crapita "loans" £1m and gets £817m in government contracts for his awful firm, which has managed to screw up computer systems from the CSA to Passports Agency over the years.
Blair believes can ride out this latest exposé of his love affair with the obscenely rich. I'm not so sure - Iraq saw the end of any trust voters had in Blair and the realisation that he was just another politician. This will be another nail in the coffin of Blair's legacy.
BAe Systems is Europe's biggest arms company and it's growing all the time. Glascoed near Usk is home to a former Royal Ordnance factory taken over by BAe Systems in 1987. The main activity of the 400 employees at `Land Systems Munitions & Ordnance Glascoed' is the filling, packing, & supplying of finished munitions including tank shells, mortar shells, small arms ammunition, missile and torpedo warheads, (including Hellfire missiles), depth charges and warheads.
Other sites produce parts of weapons that are then shipped to Glascoed to be filled with explosives and fuses. The company supplies an estimated £100m of ammunition to the Ministry of Defence each year through their exclusive ammunition contract the vast majority of which would pass through Glascoed. Though BAe gets more income from the US Defence Department than from the British MoD, BAe also boasts that it supplies munitions and small arms to more than 50 other countries although it is reluctant to say which ones.
Last November BAe opened up a new education centre for primary school children at the Glascoed site which will, according to Managing Director Steve Rowbotham, be "a unique learning experience to bring the subject of World War Two to life".
The hypocrisy is obvious - a producer of weapons of mass destruction that maim and kill thousands of men, women and children throughout the world for profit inviting children to their death factory to show them a war exhibition!
We are informed that learning about war means that the children can try on gas masks and "learn about about what life was like". We doubt if they will be:
• shown the carnage, slaughter and real effects of war, about how armament companies profit from war by selling weapons to anyone who wants them regardless of the consequences;
• told that BAe Systems build and supply armaments like cluster bombs and, in the past, depleted uranium shells (widely believed to be the cause of `Gulf War Syndrome');
• told about making a fat profit from humans being killed and ripped apart in the most horrific ways.
We wonder if Career Wales, Newport City Council and Don Touhig MP (Minister for defence & veterans), who fully support the educational centre, could get together with BAe Systems to open up a similar facility in Iraq to teach the children there about the benefits of being the victims of war?
Or maybe, part of the "war experience" for the children of the 250 schools in the catchment area of this facility would be to take them on a school trip to Iraq? To see how children their age get to feel BAe's engineering up close. No doubt, Steve Rowbotham and Don Touhig could explain how a career as an engineer at BAe systems making weapons of mass destruction will "pull out all the stops to challenge outdated perceptions of engineering being all grim and grimy"!
Companies like BAe are very keen to put money into education, it is here they find the next wave of people to build and innovate new & more efficient ways of committing murder. Through its Education Programme of school visits, special child friendly website & new educational facilities, BAe is targeting school children, some as young as nine with its "Schools Challenge" which asks schools to get children to design `vehicles of the future'.
Perhaps the "Schools challenge design an emergency vehicle project", will come up with an ambulance that has the capability to hoover up children's body parts? But hey, why let the bloody gore of war get in the way of the militarisation of our young children's minds!
Locally, Victoria Primary and Penygarn Junior in Pontypool, Rogiet Primary in Monmouthshire, St Illtyd's Primary in Rumney and Ty Sign Primary in Caerphilly have all invited BAe specialists into their schools to try to convince children that making and selling weapons to kill people is acceptable.
As well as reaching out to children locally, BAe train some of the world's deadliest killers just down the road from Glascoed in Cwmbran. Since January 2000 1600 student from 40 countries have been taught at `BAe Systems Cwmbran Training College'. BAe's premier training facility uses simulators & interactive technology to show professional murderers how to use BAe's products to kill better. BAe boast that all their instructors in subjects like electronic Warfare, Air Defence & Battlefield Management, have had recent operational experience.
Taken from Gagged, the excellent publication by Gwent Anarchists - contact firstname.lastname@example.org to subscribe online
Hopes that 2006 would see Flintshire County Council avoid headlines for all the wrong reasons have proved way off beam.
Its housing director Steve Partner has been suspended after councillors were told of a £700,000 overspend on repairs on an annual budget of under £5m. An investigation is ongoing.
Its chief executive Phillip McGreavy has also gone public to make astounding allegations of being "bullied" by senior councillors. An investigation is underway into that matter as well.
The council has already been subject to two public interest reports in the past four years after an internal auditor was sacked for highlighting financial irregularities.
But another investigation that has yet to emerge into the public arena may prove even more damning.
Manchester property developer Alex Hamilton, sole owner of Courtford Ltd, bought a prime plot of land from Flintshire CC on the outskirts of Mold town centre for just £650,000.
He also bought the adjoining former Arriva bus depot for another £450,000 - a total of £1.1m.
Within months he and his company Courtford Ltd had sold the land on to Homebase for a cool £3.5m - a profit of £2.4m.
Hamilton is better known locally as the owner of Wrexham Football Club and the man who tried to take the Racecourse ground from the club.
Local residents are curious to know how such a profit could have gone to Hamilton rather than direct to the council, which has recently been forced to introduce a budget cutting 101 jobs and services because it has a £6m budget shortfall.
The council, in its defence, says it got above the market valuation for the land. But, as any fule no, the market value of land like this changes dramatically once you have planning permission.
Hamilton knows this, which is why on 15 February 2003 Courtford Ltd entered into a conditional contract with the council. This made clear that Hamilton would only pay the asking price if he got outline planning permission for the land and was also conditional on letting the site to a large retail development. He put down a 5% deposit - £32,000 - on what was a cast-iron banker for him.
At this stage even the guy in charge of paperclips at Shire Hall in Mold would have realised that the land was going to be developed and that meant the market value of the land was going up drastically. But despite the contract - and unfortunately for the taxpayers of Flintshire - the council failed to maximise its income from this valuable plot of land.
It gets worse. We have seen an internal e-mail from a council estates officer called Peter Rice raising his concerns about the deal. In October 2004 Hamilton wanted to extend the conditional contract, which effectively locked out other bidders. Rice reveals: "There is another party interested in a residential development and as this is at a higher figure we need to consider the respective merits and I am not inclined to agree an automatic extension."
Hamilton wanted the extension to his contract because he hadn't got the finances together for the full purchase, nor had he got a big retailer for the site. He evidently wanted more time. Why was he given more time after 18 months of dragging his heels?
For some reason Rice was over-ruled and the deal went through in spring 2005. So not only was the land sold cheaply to Hamilton with a written guarantee that it would increase dramatically in value - it trebled in value in a matter of months - but there was another bidder willing to pay more. How much more? And why this bidder wasn't given the same opportunities as Hamilton was over 18 months?
We do know that the people of Flintshire lost out to the tune of £2.4m on this one deal.
When challenged, the council said: "In the circumstances the Council has no comment to make about the value of the land."
We understand that, behind the scenes, there have been frantic efforts to ensure that the council does not hit the headlines for yet another tale of dubious financial dealings for which it's become notorious in recent years.
Some opposition councillors are now waking up to the more suspect aspects of the land deal. They have forced an internal investigation by Barry Davies, the council's monitoring officer. That has been passed on to external auditors PriceWaterhouseCooper for comment. That report will go before the audit committee on 22 March.
The guy who sweeps things under the carpets at Flintshire CC is expected to be working overtime for a while.
In the context of Tessa Jowell, the cash for honours scandal and Labour's indebtedness to millionaires such as Bernie Ecclestone, the selection of Alun Davies as a candidate may seem unimportant.
The ex-Plaid Cymru activist has been chosen to top the Mid & West regional list for Blair's party. Davies has had one of those Damascene conversions that took him from left-wing activism and charity work to lobbying for tobacco manufacturers and defending Blair's big business agenda.
But what's surprising is that they overlooked Jon Owen Jones, a decent if uninspiring ex-MP, to select a man who's main claim to fame is that he was the only Labour candidate to come fourth in Wales last year. And that he's had a drunken scrap with actor Rhys Ifans.
Labour seems quite willing to stop people smoking in public places but not to stop its own people profiting from cancer sticks.
"Try to image an airplane suddenly losing its engines. It was really a crash" - this is how Jorge Mario, a Cuban economist, explains the period when Cuba lost 80% of its oil after the Soviet Union collapsed.
It was a crash that put Cuba into a state of shock. There were frequent blackouts in its oil-fed electric power grid, up to 16 hours per day. The average daily caloric intake in Cuba dropped by a third.
Read more on this fascinating grassroots recovery on www.socialistunitynetwork.co.uk/voices/peakoil.htm
Sweden plans to stop using oil within 15 years...
Brazil intends to power 80% of its transport using sugar cane ethanol within five years...
Iceland will be powering all its cars and boats with hydrogen created by renewable sources by 2050...
Little Britain "aims" to generate 10% of its electricity using renewables by 2012.
As ambitions go, it's pretty limited. But timid little Britain's energy policy is much worse than that. Its government is still debating whether to return to the bad old days of nuclear energy after its mad dash for gas while the rest of the world is actively investing in renewable, clean energy sources.
Wales, with the potential to be a self-sufficient energy-rich country, is tied up with this timid approach - we need to break free and start providing for our energy - and those of others - with innovative new schemes. One is the bio-mass scheme being investigated by Tower Colliery - if 400 miners at the top of end of the Valleys can develop an ambitious plan for long-term energy, why the hell can't the Assembly Government. Oh sorry, forgot it's still under the thumb of timid little Britain.
There are plans to build 40 houses on the Meadow View playing field on Tanyfron's Bryngwyn Road, despite the fact that there are 400 homes being built on the reclaimed Brymbo steelworks site nearby.
It's yet another example of Wrexham Council selling off land for needless property development and short-term financial gain. Last time it was Labour, now it's the Lib Dems.
Local residents say they weren't told of the plans, which are now out to tender, and are furious that their field is being sold off to property developers. So they've organised a protest this Saturday @ Meadow View, Tanyfron @ 11am.
What makes this protest different is that a Labour politician will be attending to voice her opposition. Nice to see Karen Sinclair AM for Clwyd South jumping on this particular bandwagon. She was silent when there were moves to sell off Nine-Acre Field, silent when Barker's Lane School playing field was being sold but has suddenly found her voice now.
Why? Perhaps it's because those were sold off by Labour and it's now a Lib Dem council in charge. To add to the hypocrisy of this senior Labour politician, she's part of the ruling party in Cardiff Bay that has failed to offer any safeguards for playing fields in Wales. Little wonder the National Playing Fields Association is tearing its hair out in Wales, where there is less protection for playing fields than in England.
All communities have the right to a certain level of open spaces according to the number of children but, scandalously, the Assembly Government does not count under 8s in this calculation!
Make sure hypocritical Labour politicians aren't allowed to jump on this bandwagon without getting a mouthful.
Join the protest @ 11am, Saturday 11 March 2006 @ Bryngwyn Rd, Tanyfron, Wrexham.
Just caught the tail-end of the official opening of the Senedd building by Mrs Windsor and her tribe. It seems nobody bothered to tell the people of Wales about this "historic" day because, apart from a busload of schoolkids, there was an embarrassing lack of people to greet the Queen.
Exposed for all to see was a procession of the great and the good preening themselves while the broadcasters talked up the day. Can Huw Edwards get more smug and annoying?
John Davies was disappointing - describing it as (yawn) an historic day and one of the happiest of his life... come on, Bwlchllan, you've had happier lectures!
Yes, we can admire the architecture but this is about political power. The sight of the British head of state opening this building was indeed symbolic (another cliche rolled out with monotonous regularity by Edwards) - symbolic of the grip the British state retains while devolution is begged for.
The visit ended with a half-hearted rendition of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau and half way through Mrs Windsor decided she wanted her dinner, so she ambled towards the car. Quite right too, why show any respect for a nation whose politicans (with a few honourable exceptions) fawn at your feet and tug their forelocks?
St David's Day sees Mrs Windsor and her family of scroungers turn up for another freebie at our expense. A small group of socialists and republicans will give her a warmer welcome than most.
It's the day the Senedd building is opened - the name is just another sop to those who want to believe that this is historic, when in fact it's an adminstrative change of address. Real change will only come when the people of Wales have the right to make their own laws as they see fit without outside interference or veto. That is not the case now and will not be the case under Hain's colonial-style Government for Wales Act, passed last night.
Hidden among the verbiage is a clause allowing a veto by the Wales Secretary that could prove to be very interesting in the event of a Plaid-led coalition government in Cardiff Bay or a Tory government in London. Neither are impossible in the next 10 years.
It is obvious that Welsh public opinion is ahead of the three British political parties judging from this morning's opinion poll in the Western Mail.
When asked about the political settlement they favoured, these were the responses:
16% favour total independence,
39% want full lawmaking powers,
21% want the status quo
20% want it abolished altogether
UKIP is looking to cash in on the 20% who want the Assembly abolished, who will be mainly reactionary Tories and incomers with no sympathy for or understanding of Wales. The majority for full powers or independence - 55% - should give Plaid's leadership a massive boost. They are the party clearly associated with greater powers - the British parties are seen as supporting the status quo or marginally improving the situation.
It's a question of whether Plaid, which seems to have turned a corner in recent months, can seize the time. They're kicking at an open door - Labour looks tired in London and Cardiff with jockeying to replace Rhodri and Blair. The Tories and Lib Dems in Cardiff Bay are virtually indistinguishable, having embraced devolution but nothing more. The fringe parties will do nothing.