Left Outside

Cunt Watch: Melanie Phillips

If still in doubt, try this thought experiment. Imagine the Government was planning to recognise polygamy and polyandry (marriage with more than one woman or man), or marriage between ‘zoophiles’ (people who have ‘loving and committed relationships with mammals’, or bestiality to you and me) and their, er, partners.

That’s correct, she comparing homosexuality and bestiality (via).

On a more serious note, I don’t have much problem with polyandry or polygamy, so long as all partners consent and the washing up is distributed fairly.

Filed under: Society, The Media

How accurate were my predictions for 2010?

Last year, at about this time I published some predictions and I thought I’d review how accurate I was. First off, the things I got correct, then those I kinda got correct, and then those which were rubbish.

1) Uncontroversially, I predicted that Labour would lose the General Election, but that the Tories do not win it. I was correct in predicting that this would result in a coalition between the Lid Dems and the Tories. 2) Part of this prediction was based on the recovering building pace throughout 2010. The economy certainly did improve, but as predicted, not well enough to get me a decent job. 3) Perhaps more controversial at the time, I predicted another round of fiscal stimulus, and although I was wrong in prediciting it would be passed via budget reconciliation, I was correct that it was delivered.

That’s what I got right. I was middling on a few other predicti0ns. 1) I jumped the gun on the failure of a referendum on introducing AV; however, I was correct that an AV referendum would be scheduled. We remain to see whether this referendum will succeed or not. 2) I predicted a right wing blogosphere torn apart by fraternal infighting and a leftwing blogosphere in ascendency. The left is certainly doing well, but the right wing blogosphere seems to be marked by boring relative decline rather than entertaining implosion. 3) I predictioned there would be no more major terroist incidents in the west, but I was wrong to say that major piracy in the Gulf of Aden and its subsequent militarisation would leave to trouble in Yemen. Trouble in Yemen appears to be happening anyway.

I was wrong in my more international predictions, perhaps showing I’m not as clever as I thought. 1) Whereas there was much labour unrest in China (when isn’t there) it did not reach the scale, nor provoke the harsh crackdown I predicted. 2) Iran saw no democratic (or at least anti-autocratic) revolution, a prediction I am sad to have got wrong. 3) Likewise, my prediction that an Orwellian memo being leaked proved wrong. The idea that a “Doubt is out Product” style document is out there by prominent Climate Change denial outfit remains my belief, but we may never find it. 4)

My final prediction is neither right, wrong, or middling, I think it is just premature. I predicted that we were poised on the brink of some major immigrant scapegoating in 2010, that didn’t materialise (in fact, the BNP were routed). However, I don’t think I am wrong here, I just thing 2011 is the year. I have no plans at the moment to make further predictions, but consider that a preliminary outing – 2011 will not be a good year to be a foreigner in the UK.

Filed under: Economics, Politics, Society, The Media

I’m not saying the Economist are spying on me ’cause I’m so great…: UPDATED with more self congratulatory onanism

…but if the Economist want to hire me then all they have to do is ask.

August 24th 2010, Left Outside.

India has not grown as dynamically as China has, and the last decade has seen a clear divergence between the successful India and the very successful China. In the medium to long term however, we are likely to see each system stress tested; for a variety of reasons I think it is very likely India will prevail in any contest.

2nd October 2010, The Economist.

Despite the headlines, India is doing rather well. Its economy is expected to expand by 8.5% this year. It has a long way to go before it is as rich as China—the Chinese economy is four times bigger—but its growth rate could overtake China’s by 2013, if not before (see article). Some economists think India will grow faster than any other large country over the next 25 years.

Were I not so ambivalent towards intellectual property I’d be seeing if Jack of Kent would help me sue for piracy pro bono.

+++Update+++

Scott Sumner is also thinking along similar lines.

Last year the professors at George Mason asked me for my most outrageous belief.  Initially I couldn’t think of one; I thought my views on the Fed were sufficiently outrageous.  (Of course that’s before Fed officials themselves started calling current policy “restrictive.”)  I finally ended up with a post predicting that India would have the largest economy in the world 100 years from now.  Unfortunately, events are moving so fast that this prediction no longer seems outrageous enough, and I plan to move the date much closer to the present.

Filed under: Economics, Foreign Affairs, The Media

Matthew 25:31-46 I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me +++ Alternatively titled; Those who treat immigrants like scum will probably treat everyone like scum, given the chance

Migration Watch are infamous bastards who pick on immigrants; I hold this truth to be self evident.

One reason I don’t like those who are prejudiced against immigrants is that it is usually a good proxy for whether some one is a cunt in general or not; as Jesus would have said if he was a swear blogger.

So that Migration Watch as suing Sally Bercow for libel does not surprise me.

Immigrants are vulnerable (and also laudable) people, if you go out of your way to pick on them there is probably no base act to which you will not stoop.

Filed under: Migration, Politics, The Media

Tony Benn interviewed by Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers

From The Quietus via Labour List.

As only a politics junkie like would notice, Benn sounds like notorious rightist Hayek when he says: “Every night when I go to bed I’m relatively more ignorant than when I got up that day because the growth of human knowledge is so great.” Interesting that.

Filed under: Politics, Society, The Media

#MMR Shit Storm ahoy!

A mother whose son suffered severe brain damage after he was given the controversial MMR vaccine as a baby has been awarded £90,000 compensation.

The judgment is the first of its kind to be revealed since concerns were raised about the safety of the triple jab.

From the Daily Mail. Six facts;

  1. This is a tragedy and the long fight this family has faced deserves publication.
  2. However, we know that no medical procedure is without risk, including vaccination, even if in aggregate it is a good procedure.
  3. We know that there is no significant link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
  4. In this case we know it was in fact epilepsy, not autism, which presented following the vaccination.
  5. We also know that The Daily Mail are scaremongering bastards keen to take advantage of any vulnerable individual to push an agenda.
  6. Nadine Dorries MP for mid-Narnia is involved saying “If an independent panel has reached the conclusion that there has been a link between the MMR vaccine and the brain damage suffered by this boy in this case, then it is fair to assume that there could be as many as thousands of children and parents in the same position. There should be full and easy access to all documentation relating to the judgment for any parent or professional to read and assess.”

Five questions;

  1. Are there any new scientific developments in this case to merit the reopening the “debate” on MMR, given the the suffering already caused in increased Measles, Mumps and Rubella cases?
  2. If the MMR jab remains proven relatively safe (and no new research has been presented suggesting otherwise), is the above story merely the abuse of an anecdotal evidence?
  3. Has advantage been taken of this family’s tragic story push an anti-vaccine agenda?
  4. Couldn’t this have been a story about the difficulty in negotiating the legal system surrounding vaccinations rather than a quasi hatchet job on the MMR Vaccine?
  5. If The Daily Mail are merely pushing an agenda, as it appears, what has made them choose this particular campaign?

I would suggest “no,” “yes,” “yes,” “yes,” and “because they market themselves to a bunch of moralising fuckwits who use science when it seems to suit them (Wakefield) and insult it when it doesn’t (all subsequent research on MMR and autism).”

Any alternative answers anyone would like to submit, as I readily admit I have not had a chance to read the judgement of look at the medical records?

Filed under: Science, The Media

Lynne Rosenthal/ Stupid Bagel Woman/ Please shut down the Evening Standard

Sometimes you pick up a copy of the Evening Standard and regret it. In fact, often I regret it. It isn’t that the paper is written badly, lots of papers are, it is the angle which it imputes in each story.

With exception of some of the columnists, the gutter press always take the path of least resistance. In most cases this involves appeals to “common sense,” even when this involves backing idiots.

Idiots like Professor Lynne Rosenthal. After ordering a Bagel in a branch of Starbucks, she is asked if she wants butter or cheese with it. Rather than saying no just plain please, this woman takes option b) [1]

b) Throw a fit, saying that if you had wanted butter or cream cheese you would have asked for it, and that the fact that this obvious logic was not understood illustrates the bad grammar of the staff, tout the importance of correct language and, sticking relentlessly by your position, eventually call the staff person an “asshole” until you are thrown out?

What an “asshole!” [2] As The Economist points out, Ms Rosenthal is showing how little she understands language. There are many nuances in asking for a Bagel, and for every one person pedantically asking for one expecting no butter there is one person expecting butter without asking. Being asked to clarify takes no time compared to having to replace an incorrect item.

She subjects a poor service clerk to a barrage of abuse for asking the question which she or he has been trained, nay drilled, to ask. Anyone who has worked behind a counter will be familiar with the easy air of arrogance with which you can be treated. This Professor made a cruel stand against people who could not fight back, people who at best could continue to ask her perfectly reasonable questions.

In the end the police had to be called, three policeofficers ejected her from the premises, that is how unreasonable this woman is. Yet she is lauded because it is an easier story to write than that exploring the abuse those in the service industry endure.

How do the gutter press report on this? The make her a martyr of course! She was only standing up for common sense of course! The phone some rentaquotes called the Plain English Campaign to explain this particular subject “drives people mad” of course!

In short, the writers of the Evening Standard and all the gutter press act in a worse way than even Ms Rosenthal. She can only be an “asshole” to one small group of people at a time (perhaps a 20meter radius delineates the maximum), the Evening Standard pollutes the air it all the way to Newbury, that’s 60 miles away! This is why people don’t buy papers any more and look bored while they read free ones they find in the bin on trains.

Ms Rosenthal is an “asshole,” she went out of her way to ruin someone else’s day. All because she has a messiah complex in which only she can save the English Language. Given the above, the fact that this Professor is a hypocrite too should come as no surprise. Ms Rosenthal is offended by the “language fascism” of Starbucks. For someone who is “a stickler for correct English” I find it amusing that she considers comparing a coffee shop to the world’s greatest monsters appropriate.

Like I said, “asshole.”

UPDATE: Here is the link to the original article, which I did not originally include. http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23868473-bunfight-over-a-starbucks-bagel.do

_______

[1] I’m quoting from The Economist because it is excellent (apart from the flippant reference to Asperger’s which seems unnecessary.)

[2] She’s American, so the spelling is correct for her vernacular.

Filed under: The Media

I’ve got to say I’m a little confused by The Economist at times

Last week’s Economist Debate:

This house believes that industrial policy always fails. Do you agree with the motion?

28% voted yes

72% voted no

The debate is now closed

This week’s Economist leader disagrees:

In the rich world, meanwhile, the record shows, again and again, that industrial policy doesn’t work.

It’s very complicated of course, but the Economist shouldn’t canvas people, including Josh Lerner and Dani Rodrik, and then proceed to ignore them.

Instead, perhaps they could show some internal consistency; it is their regular readers who they are alienating and that ain’t very capitalist of them.

(In defence of The Economist, this does look like an interesting debate. Pity it seems they’ll ignore the result.)

Filed under: Economics, The Media

Bah! Morons, the world is run by morons

This really is getting silly:

You might remember the story last November about police being issued with a 90-page elf ‘n’ safety manual on riding a bike. It was rubbish, as the Association of Chief Police Offers was quick to point out:

This work was neither requested nor drawn up by ACPO and we do not endorse it.

It was put forward by a group of well meaning police officers with an interest in this area. ACPO will not be taking it forward.

Some enthusiastic cycling policemen proposed a cycling guide for the force and it was rejected. Just another non-story (albeit one that snuck into the Independent). Except that, er, it’s now popped up in the government White Paper on police reform:

Whole shopping trolleys’ worth of guidance is loaded onto the police during the course of a year. Whether this is guidance for officers on how to dress or 92 pages on how to ride a bike – this has to be reduced.

It’s not the first time a Tory’s used tabloid rubbish to make a point, but you’d think a government document laying out policy proposals might have better standards of evidence…

I hope Jamie doesn’t mind this being exerted in full but this needs to be publicised. There is no reason to base policy on lies, there are enough real problems in the world to worry about.

Hey look over there!

This is why, despite my occasional scepticism I am still convinced of the need to blog the media until they are honest. I’ll leave the conclusion to the ever excellent Angry Mob:

My point is, as it always is, that tabloid journalism has real consequences for all of us – whether we read a tabloid newspaper or not. We are all passive tabloid readers, unavoidably inhaling the hatred, the outrage and the distorted media narratives on a range of topics that impact on our lives. You cannot stop inhaling tabloid messages by turning your head any more than you can stop inhaling a rank smoke that engulfs us all. In the end we all have a choice, we either quietly gulp it down and pretend it does not exist, or we do everything in our power to challenge it and stop it at its source.

Filed under: Politics, The Media

ITV News propagandising for the racist BNP

BNP leader Nick Griffin has been denied entry to a Buckingham Palace garden party over claims he “overtly” used his invitation for political purposes.

A spokesman said his behaviour had “increased the security threat and the potential discomfort” to other guests [from the BBC].

Nick Griffin is claiming that this is a ploy by the “political elite” to keep him down and to subjugate a representative of the true voice of the whole of the British people (except the Black, Jewish, Muslim and Asian British people of course).

This is a claim that ITV news allowed him to repeat. While they did challenge him and repeated the Palace’s accusations that he had “overtly” used the invitation for party political purposes, they did not go far enough in exposing him for the “gutless coward” that he is.

Nick Griffin is a gutless coward because rather than admit he made a mistake, embarassed the his party and let down the misguided people who voted for him, he invented a fantasy world where he is the (white, male, middle class) victim. ITV could have shattered this illusion but instead provided a nice, “balanced” news report.

Nick Griffin’s claims that his banning is an “absolute scandal.” This is of course nonsense, likewise it is nonsense that he was kept out simply because he is a horrible racist BNP MEP. He repeatedly emphasised he was there in the capacity of a BNP member, representing BNP members, and repeatedly admitted that he was using the party to raise the party’s profile.

But how do I know there wasn’t a conspiracy to ban him from the party?

Well, if you’re banning members of the BNP from garden parties for political reasons, you don’t allow the other MEP of the racist BNP, Andrew Brons, to attend. It is shameful that Griffin’s rhetoric wasn’t challenged directly by ITV when they had the chance.

You can always rely on a fascist to be incompetent, hypocritical and manipulative. Unfortunately, you cannot always rely on journalists to expose this. Luckily there has been much better reporting of this on Channel 4 and the BBC.

Filed under: Migration, Politics, Society, The Media

The Press, the PCC and Mass Murderers

The press has always had a macabre interest in murderers and their victims. Since at least Jack the Ripper the gruesome details of murders have been reported in some detail. The public of course love a good murder, its one of the reasons Albert Square is more dangerous than Basra, and the press haven’t shied from giving them what they want.

It is not an entirely reprehensible hobby either. Death is fascinating and usually terrifying and thus makes fantastic copy for hacks who need a good story. But sometimes giving the public what they want can have negative side effects.The reporting of Derrick Bird’s murders may have been a contributing factor to Raoul Moat’s actions last week.

Johann Hari asks if the media helped to pull the trigger on Moat’s shooting spree? Whenever killing sprees are widely reported, the chances that a copycat killing spree will occur rises. The same happens with widely and vividly reported suicides, whether real, like Marilyn Monroe, or fictional, as on Casualty.

As Charlie Brooker tells us and as these scientific studies show, the Press can help cause murder. There’s no way to know if the press inspired Moat, but on average the evidence suggests that if they didn’t inspire these actions, its only a matter of time until they do.

The obvious answer is special powers to restrict reporting during a killing spree. Force a focus on the victims, don’t show the killer’s face, don’t turn coverage 24/7, don’t turn the killer into an anti-hero, make the story boring. In short, stop the press doing what they want, because the result is very often not what we actually want.

Sadly, the power to censor the press during a spree killing is the power to censor the press, period. This is not acceptable and, to be somewhat intentionally provocative, I am prepared to say a few extra deaths a year are worth it. There is of course an alternative to the state regulating the press, the press can regulate the press. This is of course no easy feat. Just look at the laughable incompetent Press Complaints Commission.

But there is one area where the Press regulates itself rather well. Dog does not eat Dog. Although there is a sizeable market for articles criticising the Daily Mail for its illiberalism (to which I cater) and a possibly bigger audience that loves to mock the Guardian (many blogs do this too) these sorts of stories do not appear in the pages of our papers.

Desperation is not the answer; papers are desperate for readers and revenues as few of them make any money. Fear is more likely; all papers are aware of how full of holes their operations are. They all plagiarise wirecopy from the Press Association so none of them can report each other’s churnalism for fear of being exposed.

Likewise, the fact checking to which blogs expose our Press is absent from our press precisely because the need to fact check exist. If one paper began to criticise its rivals its circulation would rise somewhat but would soon collapse as  each newspaper began to turn on the rest. Soon everyone  would realise what we bloggers are aware off; our newspapers are full of press releases, selective quotations, bad science, misleading diagrams and lies.

What this says to me is that when the stakes are high enough the Press can regulate itself. The press may not seem capable of regulating themselves but they can and do. If the dozen or so editors of our press can be convinced its in their interests not to cover each others mistakes, lies, distortions and fuck ups, then they can be convinced, perhaps with a little arm twisting, not to contribute to mass murders.

Filed under: The Media

In defence of Cunt

Tim Ireland has started a campaign to end the use of “Cunt.”

Obviously, if your intention is to abuse/offend as many people as possible, ‘cunt’ can get you halfway home without difficulty, but if your intention is to abuse only one person (or a small group) where is the justice in any potential/widespread collateral damage just by using the wrong word?

I think this misses some of the nuance of cunt, some of the depth and character that this word can bring that no other can. If you really want to denigrate, really want to express your disdain then there really only is one word.

First of all there’s the visceral sensation of saying it, from the click at the back of your throat to the burst of spittle from your tongue bouncing of the roof of your mouth, it is a word which feels like an insult even before you know what it means.

It is also not just any other word, it has a heritage that few other words can match. It dates back centuries and has had an impact across all our towns and cities and great literary masterpieces.

Don’t believe me?

What ails you that you grumble thus and groan?
Is it because you’d have my cunt alone?
Why take it all, lo, have it every bit;
Peter! Beshrew you but you’re fond of it!

That’s Chaucer and The Wife of Bath’s Prologue from Canterbury Tales. Cunt is no ordinary swearword it is dirty word that your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-granddad knew and knew well.

There’s more of course. You might live there, you might think there’s nothing cunty about living on Grape Lane, but there is.

http://appleyardimago.co.uk/images/products/fulls/grape_lane.jpg

You see, Grape Lane hasn’t always been Grape Lane. It used to be Gropecunt Lane until the 16th Century PC brigade began changing the names. Place names used to reflect what happened there and Gropecunt Lane was where you went to grope cunt and procure yourself a prostitute.

That’s what makes it a good swear word, it has a weight of history about it. Survival isn’t easy when you’re a word. There’s always upstarts trying to take your place so it takes real class to survive, and cunt has class in abundance.

So when Anton Vowl says that Littlejohn isn’t a cunt he is right, the man is a cynical bastard. Cunt gets overused, people like Obo and DK cheapen it a little because it is a world with gravitas it should be used sparingly.

Cunt should be saved for special occasions. Like this:

Cunts.

…and this:

Cunts.

Sometimes nothing else will do. Sometimes you need centuries success to ensure your message gets across. The Express and The Star and their owner the gay pornography Richard Desmond aren’t just scum, they’re cunts.

Filed under: Blogging, Society, The Media

The Left has a communication problem

The left should be in the ascendancy following a crisis of capitalism, but it is not. The right is resurgent across the globe as the G20′s call for austerity shows. The right is leading for a number of reasons but just one of the problems for the left is that the narratives and explanations it offers tend to be more complicated than those offered by the right.

When David Cameron describes the UK’s debt as an overdraft it doesn’t matter that he’s wrong, it is easy to understand. When a Government’s finances are compared to a households it is intelligible to all whereas thinking about the public sector deficit as a mirror image of a private sector surplus seems counter-intuitive.

In this animation radical sociologist David Harvey presents an honest left wing analysis of the crisis in an accessible and genuinely entertaining way. Presenting information in an easily understandable way is something the right has done for years, it is time the left caught up.

Filed under: Economics, Politics, Society, The Media

…and finally: A Fetish for the Elderly

The Daily Mail does seem to have a penchant for the pensioner, a delectation for near decay, an obsession for the obsolete. It isn’t that The Daily Mail merely likes the way things were, it enthuses that things were better then than they are now.

Some articles are just a little bit of fun: “…and finally” sections which don’t inform us at all. It is easy to think that this story: Do you remember your first car? ‘Yes, it cost £150 in 1956 – and I’m still driving it’ from the Mail is just that, a little bit of fun. In fact, it tells us a great deal about the paper.

Picked up by Angry Mob earlier this week the article has since been edited, but you can’t hide from the cache! As originally reported in The Mail:

Many people eventually get round to trading in their first car. But not Mike Harrison. He loves his 1931 black Bentley sports coupe so much that he’s still driving it – 54 years after he bought it.

The story is full of awe and inspiration, not so much for the car or the man as for the idea of this car and man. Woven throughout is that this car still works because things were better then. Old things last, not like that new tat. The car has now done over 100,000 miles, yet according to the Mail it “still runs like clockwork”, couldn’t get a new car to do that!

Health and Safety rears its head too in this story. The Mail breathlessly recalls how “he drove the car on the roads of France soon after Caroline was born and his most vivid memory is of Jenny breastfeeding the baby as she sat in the front seat while he drove at 110mph. ‘You couldn’t do that now – the safety brigade would make sure of that,’ Mr Harrison said.” Oh, those were the days!

Of course all of this is nonsense. The article is full of the evidence which contradicts these weird sentiments but you have to read between the lines to see this article’s true meaning. The car may “still work like clockwork” but Mike Harrison has spent £1000s of pounds keeping it running and countless hours were spent by Mr Harrison “helping out with the repairs by passing Mike the spanners the whole time.”

The article informs us that only three are left still in existence. Of course there are only three, its because they’ve all bloody fallen apart. This tells me that no, this isn’t an awe inspiring car, it just got lucky and had an owner with a lot of time and money on his hands and an owner’s wife with a lot of patience. Old stuff seems built to last, in part, because we only see what survives. Rather than see this as a happy quirk of fate, The Daily Mail builds this into an edifice of faith: The Past was Better.

The good old days weren’t that good. In 1956 things were terrible, rationing had only ended two years ago and indoor plumbing was the exception not the rule. Of course indoor plumbing wasn’t the worst thing about the 1950s. At this point being homosexual was still legally proscribed and socially prohibited.

Today is much better. You won’t find a single computer made today that will work in 50 years time but that is a good thing. Old things last in part because they were made too well, a computer in 50 years will be useless, much like a car that needs continual repairs is useless today.

Homosexuality is not just legal now but they are accepted by society. We let gay people form civil unions and adopt children. In fact, as Ryan Avent points out homosexual couples have made better parents than their heterosexual counterparts. Children are being better brought up thanks to the changes our society have seen.

The new world, our new world, is far better than the past. There’s no need to look back to the 12th century for improvement or lament the lost days of the 1950s . This is a scary prospect for those comforted by what they know. When what people know is in the past the improvement and dislocation of the present can be scary.

This is what The Daily Mail is for: It exists to denigrate the present and laud the past. The evidence is in everything in it, no matter how trivial. Its a pity really, its a great world out there, I hope The Daily Mail doesn’t put people off.

too

Filed under: History, Politics, Society, The Media

The International Security Forces-Afghanistan have got “no reports, no intel, nothing” on Patrick Mercer’s claims of the Taliban’s HIV Bombs

I wrote last week on Patrick Mercer’s bizarre claims that the Taliban were using HIV infected needles as booby traps and shrapnel for their improvised explosive devices.

Many other bloggers Septicisle, MacGuffin and Richard Bartholomew covered this story to (all recommended reading).

The Rumour Doctor dug a little deeper than I was able and discussed Marcer’s source with him.

“This is not a weapon as such,” Mercer said in a phone interview. “These are needles and razor blades which are put in position around probably dummy improvised explosive devices, so that anybody trying to lift one of these is likely to be scratched or cut.”

Mercer said he learned about these devices from British bomb disposal technicians training ahead of their deployment to Afghanistan. The technicians have been issued Kevlar gloves to counter the threat.

He could not say for certain whether the Taliban have used these devices.

“That wasn’t a question I asked directly, but I got the impression that these are certainly being employed by the Taliban, al-Qaida, etc.,” he said. “I’m not aware of any injuries that have been caused by it so far.” [Emphasis mine]

So unfounded was Mercer’s claim that the International Security Forces-Afghanistan had no idea “no reports, no intel, nothing” on Mercer’s alleged HIV bombs.

I remain highly sceptical on the likelihood of these existing. However, I am utterly convinced of the malfeasance of Patrick Mercer.

Filed under: Foreign Affairs, The Media

Polling companies are scoundrels

The YouGov poll for yesterday’s Sunday Times included this ridiculous question:

Do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

The government could save billions of pounds by eliminating unnecessary “non-jobs” in the public sector.

Agree 85

Disagree 6

Don’t know 9

Can you imagine a more loaded phrase than “unnecessary ‘non-jobs’ in the public sector”? I’m amazed that even 6 per cent disagreed. I mean, they might as well have asked people: “Do you agree with the state paying people to do nothing?” It would have elicited the same response.

From The New Stateman. Utter codswallop.

Filed under: The Media

North Korea invades the US

As a dedicated Korea watcher, this is highly entertaining (via Jamie). It could never happen though…

OR COULD IT????

No, it couldn’t.

OR COULD IT????!!!11!1

No, really, it couldn’t.

Filed under: Foreign Affairs, History, Society, The Media

Does Patrick Mercer think the Taliban’s HIV bombs will work?

There’s something fishy about this story. In case you haven’t heard and the above title is confusing you, let me fill you in.

What?

Reported in The Sun this morning, and everywhere else this afternoon as the world’s churnalists fell on the story, was an interesting development from Helmand Province (Hat Tip Septicisle at The Sun Lies).

The Taliban are reportedly placing HIV infected needles atop their improvised explosive devices. These are reported to become “deadly flying shrapnel” once the bombs go off, spreading HIV.

Who?

Patrick Mercer is the man  “that continued to work with the discredited Glen Jenvey for 2 months after he had sold the “TERROR TARGET SUGAR” story to the paper, a report which he had entirely concocted himself after posting on the Ummah.com web forum.”

He is allegedly an authority on terrorism but his conduct, as documented by Tim Ireland et al., has been less than recommendatory.

How?

The statistics on the prevalence of HIV in Afghanistan are sparse to say the least. However, as long ago as 2005 reports were warning that the country was increasing danger of widespread infections.

As one of the world’s premier poppy growing, opium producing and heroin refining sites, Afghanistan has a significant intravenous drug problem. This problem and the countries poverty have led to an outbreak of HIV which this Lancet paper discusses in more detail.

The Taliban are presumably acquiring these needles and using them in bombs.

Why?

This is the important question. Why? Not necessarily why Patrick Mercer was passed this information but why this information ended up reported as it has been.

There is almost zero chance of these bombs “working” in the manner implied. There is a large chance of these bombs killing someone because IEDs have a horrific record in Afghanistan, but the chance of someone contracting HIV is negligible.

HIV is scary, but the HIV virus it dreadful at surviving outside of the body. If you leave some HIV containing fluid on a table and it dries, the virus dies in the time it takes to dry. Of course do the same with fluid in a hypodermic needle and it takes a  little longer, as the needle prevents evaporation, but we are still talking less than a few days. In the arid heat of Afghanistan less still.

If that wasn’t enough, this fragile virus has to undergo the tremendous force and heat of an explosive that can punch through armoured vehicles.

The danger to soldiers seems utterly minimal; the logistics of assembling  these devices mean they will be rare; the biology of the virus means they will be ineffective. The Taliban are troglodytes, but not in the metaphorical sense of being uneducated, many of them know everything describes thus far; if these bombs exist, they know they won’t work.

So, why publicise this story?

The sole effect seems to be to imbibe the Taliban with an even more satanic glow and to terrorise and demoralise our troops. The sole strategic advantage of this weapon is as a method of intimidation, the battle field advantage gained is as negligible as either these bombs existing or for them actually working.

Patrick Mercer has scored a fantastic propaganda coup for the Taliban and a tremendous ego boost for himself. I hope he pats himself on the back tonight for a job well done.

Filed under: Foreign Affairs, The Media

David Blunkett only let in those darkies because he was blind and other idiocies

That’s the Telegraph’s Melanie McDonagh and I don’t think I’ve paraphrased her unfairly. First off we have this:

Mr Brogan was too kind to say, so let me do it, that one reason why much of the influx took place when David Blunkett was home secretary is that he was blind; he couldn’t actually see what was happening.

If you’re feeling stupider already then that’s because you’ve just read something from The Telegraph.

Allow me to set the scene: on walking through Kensington Ms McDonagh passed a theatre and saw a number of “amiable women over 60 with printed skirts” leaving. These are the good guys.

She also passed “women in black burqas and others in coloured scarves, Palestinians or Jordanian teenagers with angry placards, older, bearded men in white robes, any number of Turks bearing the national flag.” These are the bad guys.

By allowing people into the country who dress differently and who protest at murder and war crimes, but who do not go to the theatre, we have destroyed Britain. The two groups passes each other and were not warm enough towards one another for Melanie’s liking. This is quite easily manipulated by Ms McDonagh into illustrating how dreadful immigration has been.

Of course it doesn’t stop merely with wilful ignorance or accusation of bizarre theories that if Blunkett could see he would have been more racist. [1] She also accuses immigrants of hurting the quality of Religious Education in the UK. The Ofted report she mentions doesn’t discuss migration, because it hasn’t had an effect on religious education, but she crowbars it in somehow.

When it comes to education policy she informs us she “met a really nice Pakistani Catholic last week.” She asks us to take a lesson on how to do education from Pakistan. This woman really doesn’t do subtlety (some of my best friends are brown, she informs us) or deep thinking (Pakistan has a religious atmosphere conducive to a free society!). Bilge.

Ahhhhhhh… I hope you all enjoyed that. Cathartic wasn’t it?

[1] I’ll give you a clue if you want to know why more immigrants arrived when Blunkett was in the Home Office. It was because he was in the Home Office in 2004. What else happened in 2004? Nah, it must be because he’s blind.

Filed under: Society, The Media

Is it worth writing a blog on the media?

Ipsos-Mori have published a poll asking whether people are happy with their local areas. Surprisingly, at least for this country’s miserabilist tendency, is the fact that 72% of the population of Great Britain are satisfied with their local area. This could be better of course, the Netherlands have a stonking 95% of people happy with where they live, but it paints an overwhelmingly positive picture of the country.

Giles Wilkes maintained a watch on what he called the Miserabilists, those that abound and constantly reassure us the country is going to the dogs. Most people seem to think that their area is not going to the dogs and, since you know best how your area is doing, I think it is safe to presume that the country is not is as bad a state as many people would argue. Crime is going down for example, although you may not have heard about that. There is lots going for modern society: If you need another example then let me just say Tobacco Enema.

Alex Massie mentioned this in the context of a discussion on immigration he’d been holding with his commenters over on his Spectator blog. Alex Massie is a proper liberal and as with all proper liberals he broadly favours open borders over immigration restrictions. You will note in the above that the almost irritatingly satisfied Dutch live in a country with a very high population density which somewhat gives lie to the idea that immigration and population growth are a significant problem for quality of life. Likewise, Canada, Australia and the United States are all countries with a high proportion of foreign born residents.

It is often said that the Press exert a tremendous power of the population, shaping how they think, and usually against their own best interests. Think of the largely negative reporting on trade unions, the dreadful science reporting and the scaremongering over drugs, paedophiles and the nanny state. The classic example of this thinking is reflected in the 1992 General Election. After the votes were in and Labour had lost the Sun claimed that “It woz the Sun wot won it”  as it swung itself fully behind the Tory campaign in the last few days. Research was done examining the voting intentions of Sun readers and it showed a swing from Labour to Tory, ergo it was in fact the Sun wot won it.

I have a problem with this thinking. You see, it wasn’t the Sun wot won it. There was a shift in everyone’s voting intentions, not just those of Sun readers. The Sun simply backed the winner then, as usual, made venal attempted at self-aggrandisement. The Press didn’t lead the public it followed them and all too often I still think this is the case. This is quite an upsetting way to look at the country. If the press are vile and making the general public vile through misinformation, then it absolves my fellow citizens of blame. Unfortunately I don’t think this is the case and it seems people actively enjoy reading Richard Littlejohn and seek out disgusting slurs on gays and immigrants.

Unfortunately I do not have empirical backing for my claim that people view the country in a worse light than they do our local area, but I would hope that this is an acceptable assumption without further verification. If we accept that then we have a theory that people want to view the wider world in a more negative light than reality would allow. People want to see themselves as sensible so this means seeking out media which reinforces their view. This explains the popularity of papers which are quite frequently misleading, the world doesn’t give them the stories which their readers want so they make them up.

This all got me wondering whether or not we inflict the miserable quarters of our societies on ourselves. Numerous blogs have been created to monitor the media but I am beginning to wonder if they are tackling a symptom not a cause. They do great work, and I enjoy reading them immensely but blogging (and life in general) is about making an impact, and I am not sure if tackling the press directly is the best way to go about changing the press.

Chris Dillow has mentioned John Kay’s Obliquity and suggested that some tasks are bet approached obliquely rather than directly. For example, trying to boost profits by cutting staff and putting up prices might backfire and reduce them, letting your employees listen to the radio might boost productivity and profits. Ben Goldacre has highlighted some research that underlines why an oblique approach might be important in tackling misinformation.

Where you might have expected people simply to dismiss a correction that was incongruous with their pre-existing view, or regard it as having no credibility, it seems that in fact, such information actively reinforced their false beliefs.

Being told that what you believe – such that immigrants are benefits scroungers- is wrong – because migrants are in fact large net contributors to the treasury – can backfire and make you cling on to your erroneous belief all the more strongly. Media watch blogging (for want of a better name) is common. Brad DeLong does it, Liberal Conspiracy has its own blog feed for it and most bloggers have a sideline in criticising the press. So it is worrying that by pointing out the errors in the media there is a danger you will merely preach to your choir and further entrench the beliefs of those you really need to challenge.

I don’t have any original answers for improving our media, but do I think we already have a working toolkit. Challenge individual stories is important but will only ever be part of the solution. We won’t be able to end, choke, kill, grind into the dust, eviscerate (delete depending on level of vitriol) the career of Richard Littlejohn et al by showing them wrong, we can only get something approaching accuracy by removing their base  and challenging the wilful ignorance on which they depend.

That means campaigns to support migrant rights. It also means supporting LGBT rights where we can. etc. Bringing the oppressed into the mainstream and giving them the power and privilege that stop them being a profitable target is the only way to ensure that reporting will improve. Catholicism and Catholics were once treated with the vitriol which today greets Islam and Muslims but it has largely ceased. It was not because it was untrue that  it stopped, the “no popery” brigade were always wrong, it stopped for two reasons; Catholics stopped being an oppressed minority and asserted themselves and many people came to know Catholics and tire of hearing lies about them. The answer it seems is organisation, organisation, organisation. Fact checking blogs should be a part of it but I have worries about how effective they will be in the medium to long term.

Filed under: Society, The Media

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