26 June 2010

About me

At work I'm a PhD candidate in theoretical astrophysics at Cardiff University. As an undergraduate I studied general physics with a minor in mathematics and I think — hope — that this background in the sciences informs the political work I do.

I've always been on the left ideologically, self-identifying as a lowercase-s socialist, ever since I was quite young (I read the Communist Manifesto when I was ten), but I only radicalized around early 2009. I did so out of exasperation: I was an Obama voter, I sensed the mood in the US was not just for "change" but for dramatic reform of the American economy toward something more structurally fair, and I was hugely disappointed that Obama, like every other government in the developed world, whether they called themselves Democrat or Labour or Socialist or Christian Democratic or whatever, did the exact same thing: give huge amounts of money to the banking sector but do nothing to bring those industries under the control of the public. At this point, I finally became convinced that only revolutionary change, rather than reform, could fix the deep problems of society.

I joined the Socialist Party on May 1st, 2009. I chose the SP out of apprecation for its complete picture of activism: not merely handing out leaflets and going on demonstrations but taking part in campaigns top to bottom, bringing together the trade union movement with a broader layer of activists from colleges, universities and the general public. I sit on the party's Wales Committee and the executive of the Cardiff-East branch.

I'm currently the Mature Students Officer at Cardiff University Students' Union until August 2010. I'm also active in my branch of the University and College Union and attended UCU Congress 2010 as a delegate from Cardiff University.

I was born in France to American parents and moved to Wales in September 2005 after living in Washington, DC from 1997. I currently live in Cathays, Cardiff.

23 June 2010

If this is the question, the answer is yes

The Wales Office has sent a draft power referendum to the Electoral Commission:

"At present, the National Assembly for Wales (the Assembly) has powers to make laws for Wales on some subjects within devolved areas. Devolved areas include health, education, social services, local government and environment. The Assembly can gain further powers to make laws in devolved areas with the agreement of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (Parliament) on a subject by subject basis.

If most people vote Yes in this referendum, the Assembly will gain powers to pass laws on all subjects in the devolved areas. If most people vote No, then the present arrangements, which transfer that law-making power bit by bit, with the agreement of Parliament each time, will continue.

Do you agree that the Assembly should now have powers to pass laws on all subjects in the devolved areas without needing the agreement of Parliament first?"

21 June 2010

Seven unions, one message: fight the cuts!

Education institutions across Britain took part in a multi-union Day of Action on the 21st, with lecturers and support staff rallying together in anticipation of savage ConDem cuts and education bosses' callous "economizing". UCU, Unite, Unison, GMB, EIS, ATL and students' union NUS all signed on to the campaign.

20 June 2010

TUSC will return in...On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Good news greeted us last Sunday, as the meeting of Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidates in London decided that TUSC will continue in future elections.

This is an undoubtedly positive development.

19 June 2010

Stop the Splott incinerator (leaflet)

Last year, a campaign of ordinary people stopped Cardiff Council's plans to build an incinerator on Ocean Way, which would have brought pollution and traffic to Splott, Adamsdown and Tremorfa. Now, the Council have brought back the same scheme, at the same location, with the same problems. We urgently need to campaign to stop this incinerator, this time for good.

Where there's fire, there's smoke
Air quality in north Adamsdown is already dangerously poor. An incinerator would add nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from the incinerator itself, plus the exhaust, and odour, from 144 garbage truck arrivals every day -- that's one every four minutes. An incinerator would make noise 24 hours a day, ruin the view from several homes, and risk contaminating groundwater. It would sit half a mile from a water conservation area. And the problem of transporting tonnes of hazardous fly-ash to England still has not been solved!

False promises
Viridor, the company proposing the incinerator, claims it will create a few jobs and generate 30,000 homes' worth of electricity to sell to the National Grid, assuming the incinerator will operate at full capacity all the time. No incinerator in Britain has ever achieved more than 65% efficiency. Viridor were asked to report on the impact of alternate plans...and simply refused!

Nobody wants it!
Most importantly, Cardiff's residents are being ignored. We are not NIMBYs; we all want to do our bit. The Council gives us complicated waste disposal schemes and even uses anti-terrorism legislation against fly-tippers, but they've never presented a rational solution for the city's garbage. Councillors have admitted they've brought in poorly-researched schemes “even though some red lights were flashing.” The incinerator is a bad plan. We can do better.

A greener alternative
Incineration is the glorified equivalent of burning rubbish in a barrel. In Europe, many communities are using an elegant, simple technology for waste disposal. Anaerobic digestion is a scaling-up of composting which uses natural processes to convert organic waste into fertiliser, creating carbon-neutral electricity as a by-product. An anaerobic digestor in Trident Park would be silent, produce no fly-ash, and cost less to operate. Most inorganic waste in Cardiff, meanwhile, comes not from homes but from government offices and construction sites. Why can't Cardiff Council get itself or big business up to scratch environmentally?

For a democratic, environmentalist Cardiff
To get an environmentally-sound waste disposal scheme, we need a government that looks out for us, not for multi-million-pound companies like Viridor. Electing fighting working-class councillors and AMs, subject to constant review and recall by the people they represent, will get bad plans rejected and good ones put forward; meanwhile, a “Yes” vote in the Assembly powers referendum means the Welsh Assembly Government will have access to the resources it needs to create green jobs and impose tough sustainability rules on companies. Join our campaign, get involved, and get active, and together we can make Cardiff Council recycle something other than its incinerator plans!

10 June 2010

I Don't Want Your Freedom

The Dutch general election took place last night.

The Freedom Party is the 3rd-biggest party in the Tweede Kamer, the Dutch lower house of parliament. We may not know a coalition deal for months and it's nearly certain that whatever the outcome, it will be like the outcome in Britain: the coalition will be clearly against what the majority of people want. (And this, by the way, is the appropriate time for the left to start quoting Gramsci.)

Whether the Freedom Party is in government or leads the opposition, this is a disaster for anti-racism in the Netherlands.

07 June 2010

A vacuum above

The question is fairly posed, in the wake of Cardiff's successful counter-demonstration against the EDL this Saturday: why do we only hear left slogans in the anti-far right demonstrations, if these events are meant to be from the whole community?

02 June 2010

In the news

I've got two articles up this week in Socialist Party publications.

In University and Colleges Union: Congress votes to fight I report back from the UCU congress, which I attended this past weekend as a delegate from Cardiff University UCU.

Then in BA strike blog Air Strike they're running my interview with Penny White of Bassa (a shorter version is running in this week's paper as well).

Go read them!