Monday, March 17, 2014

Damned Statistics

One of my better buys was a very cheap second hand copy of a book called Statistical Evidence relating to the Welsh Language 1801-1911, part of that excellent series Cyfres Hanes Cymdeithasol yr Iaith Gymraeg.

Now the book comes with a health warning that is particularly relevant to Radnorshire and which deserves to be featured more prominently than it is "there are various pitfalls for the unwary."

The chief pitfall is that many of the 19C census figures refer not to the historic counties but to registration counties, a very different kettle of fish.  Radnorshire, more than any other county in Wales is affected by this statistical confusion.and it's surprising just how many authors fall into the trap.

Nineteen parishes containing around a quarter of Radnorshire's 19C population were actually consigned to Breconshire as parts of the districts of Builth and Hay.  The Rhayader district is correctly listed as in Radnorshire although it did contain the Breconshire parish of Llanwrthwl.   The Presteigne registration district, before it was abolished,  was more in England than in Wales - some Radnorshire parishes subsequently ending up in the English district of Kington. A large part of the population of the Knighton registration district was also made up of parishes in Shropshire and Herefordshire.

How did this come about?  Well a future Govenor General of Canada,  Edmund Head - a man who translated Icelandic sagas but considered the Welsh to be a "miserable race of Celtic savages" - was the commissioner responsible for Central Wales and Herefordshire. One of his tasks being to set-up the six Poor Law Unions covering Radnorshire - Rhayader, Builth, Hay, Knighton, Kington and Presteigne.

Head deliberately sought to weaken Radnorian influence over these districts claiming that "the inhabitants of the central part of Radnorshire are exceedingly ill disposed towards the Board ... the only way of enforcing the Act is to unite as many (parishes) as possible with unions in England or on its borders."

By doing so Head wanted to "raise the character of the Radnorshire farmers." elected to serve as Guardians overseeing the work of the Unions with the hope, presumably, that they would learn from the superior - I would suggest he might consider the Germanic - character of their fellow Guardians from east of the Dyke.

A failure to understand that much of the census material relating to 19C Radnorshire actually refers to parishes in the neighbouring English counties and that a good deal of the county was included in the Breconshire figures is certainly a pitfall that needs to be, but frequently isn't, avoided.

Some say that Monmouthshire was included in the English court circuits because of the strength rather than the weakness of its Welsh character.  In the same way I think that Radnorshire should take some pride in the fact that it was considered a problem for the Malthusian and Teutonic claptrap rattling through the brains of the Victorian elite.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Musical Interlude

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Ukraine, an apology

In my recent post about the Ukraine I suggested the following in regard to the Kiev killings:.

"the president finally lets the cops off the leash and the inevitable happens.  The inevitable which was the plan all along, the desired outcome."

Now we have the leaked telephone conversation between Commissioner Ashton and the Estonian foreign minister which casts a great deal of doubt on the matter.  What we need is an outside investigation and clearly the US, EU, UN and Russia should not take part, too many axes to grind.  Who can be trusted to carry out such an investigation is a difficult question, perhaps India, Brazil or some other law-based, non-aligned country.

It's a disgrace that the Western media is so far attempting to bury all of this, perhaps they are waiting for the CIA to concoct a plausible denial story.

In the meantime I apologize for jumping to the conclusion that the Ukranian police were involved, albeit under extreme provocation.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The Octoroon

We're all pretty suspicious about the historical accuracy of Hollywood war films or the dream factory's take on the Wild-West, but when it comes to depictions of slavery?  Well all of a sudden  no-one doubts a frame and the Oscar is in the bag.  For myself, I think where are the octoroons?  People like the slave Celeste who Solomon Northup met on a Louisiana plantation: "It required a close inspection to distinguish in her features the slightest trace of African blood."  For Celeste was "far whiter than her owner or any of his offspring."

American slavery and racism may be closely linked but they were not the same thing.  If they had been then there would have been no black slave owners, - over 3700 in 1830 for example - and there would have been no "white" slaves like Northup's Celeste.  The status of a slave in most of the southern states wasn't a matter of race, it was inherited from the mother. If the mother was a slave then so was her child, no matter if it might have, for example, only one black great grandparent - an octoroon.

It was after the Civil War and particularly in the early 20C that race moved centre stage. In the first half of the 19C inter-marriage between free blacks and whites was common enough. In Alabama, for example, census records show nearly 18% of the free blacks and coloureds (classifications based on appearance) had a white spouse - the most common combination being a coloured husband with a white wife.

Starting with Tennessee and Louisiana in 1910, and driven forward by followers of the widely accepted "science" of eugenics, southern states quickly adopted one-drop laws.  One drop of black blood ensured that a family would be classified as black, and fanatics such as Naomi Drake trawled through the public records to ensure that no-one escaped.

One-drop laws appeal to both white racists and black nationalists and it is only in the 21C that the American census has once more allowed for the possibility that mixed-race folk might consider themselves to be, well, mixed.  This American nonsense has been imported into the UK, where public bodies in Wales can easily tell you the supposed racial composition of their employees but will have no accurate figure as to how many of them speak Welsh.

For Hollywood, that great centre of greed and amorality, films about slavery allow the movie world to feel good about itself.  Complex issues are reduced to simple tales of good and evil.  "Why how many slaves are there on this bayou as white as either of us" asks Bass in Northup's book.  It's a question Hollywood won't be confronting anytime soon.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

For what?

How many demonstrators do you need to legitimise the overthrow of a democratically elected president - 1000, 20000, a million?  It's clearly not a question that bothers most of our mainstream media, the demonstrators were good, the president was bad and actual votes cast by ignorant folk in far-off cities count for nothing.

It's a familiar playbook: occupy a central square, provoke the authorities, complain loudly about repression, hang-on until something cracks.  The various occupy movements read the same book but what chance did they have, a bunch of hippies, no money, no press support.  What is needed is a sponsor with deep pockets and some guys who are up for a fight.  Maybe you remember that football tournament a couple of years ago, the one where the Western media worried about how black supporters would be treated?  Do you remember the interviews with scary men in training camps and their dreams of "racial purity?"  Those are the type who are needed, ship them off to a neighbouring country, train them in police tactics, they're good soldiers - brave and cruel.

Imagine 13 policemen being killed in Central London or New York or Berlin. Would the media fail to mention it?  Of course not, but let's remember who is pulling the strings here, the ones with the deep pockets.  So instead we hear the most powerful man in the West talking about "peaceful demonstrators" and we disbelieve our lying eyes.  After days of holding a line, of being beaten by the guys with 14 and 88 on their shields, the president finally lets the cops off the leash and the inevitable happens.  The inevitable which was the plan all along, the desired outcome.

Now the suits from Germany and France broker a deal.  The president will bring forward the elections, he'll go back to the old constitution, he'll send the riot-cops back to their barracks.  The political parties sign-up, the EU signs-up, the Russians sign-up .... but not everyone is happy.  The people with deep pockets aren't happy and neither are the street fighters, the ones hired to slug-it-out, not voice an opinion.

The president flees, a new government is formed under the watchful eye of those thugs the liberals thought they could control.  Their crazy dream of "racial purity" is becoming a reality and they ensure the new body passes laws, laws aimed at the national minorities, the folk who don't fit in with the world view of the worst elements now struting through the corridors of power.

Of course the deep-pockets are happy, those billions spent have shown results, regime change, a big step forward.  Why they might soon take over that Black Sea naval base.  Even with that hopeless guy in the Oval Office, the Neo-Cons have still chalked up a victory.

Is Berlin happy?  For sure the thugs who did the fighting really hate the EU, but they'll soon be gone.  This is a long game, Mitteleuropa, and all achieved without a shot being fired .... well just a few.

But there was something they all forgot, big nations have rights too.  Did they think Russia would just sit back and take it?  The proposed looting of the industries in the east, the military threat, the new laws against a population who look to them for protection?  Did the deep-pockets think that a great nation which once drove Nazism from the face of the earth, would tolerate those swaggering goons?

So what now?  The guy in the Oval Office must decide between humiliation and war.  Names you thought were long gone appear on our TV screens, they don't care if it's Putin or Obama who backs off, the old battle lines will have been redrawn, it's win win.

Update: I wish to apologize for the suggestion that the Ukranian police or President Yanukovych had anything to do with the sniper attacks on the crowd in Kiev.  The leaked conversation between Ashton and the Estonian Prime Minister suggests clearly that the killings were the work of elements within the new regime.