Linky Love: 22nd January 2010

  • Liberal Conspiracy – Exclusive: MPs were misled on alcohol deaths: Liberal Conspiracy has uncovered evidence that strongly suggests that a parliamentary committee which, last week, came out in favour of introducing a statutory minimum unit price for alcohol, was given misleading evidence on the scale of alcohol-related deaths in the UK. We’ve found that that official government statistics for alcohol-related deaths, produced annually by the Office for National Statistics, have routinely been inflated by anything up to 1,100 deaths a year by the inclusion of deaths from liver diseases for which alcohol was not identified as a cause on individual death certificates. One of these diseases, biliary cirrhosis, which accounts for around 160-180 deaths a year in the UK, was initially linked to coeliac disease in the late 1970s (Logan RF 1978) and was clearly identified as being caused by an auto-immune disorder by the year 2000 (Nakanuma Y 2000). It was not, however, excluded from official statistics for alcohol-related deaths until 2006. However, there is also clear evidence that, overall, official ONS estimates fail to show the true extent of alcohol-related mortality in the UK by excluding mortality data for a significant number of causes of death in which alcohol use is known to be a significant causal factor, including several common cancers, road traffic accidents and alcohol-related violence.
  • My David Cameron – Vital Statistics: MyDavidCameron went live at 4pm on Thurs 7 Jan 2010… In total we received 105,928 visits (89,827 of them absolute unique visitors) during our first two weeks, the great majority of those visits in the second week. Our busiest day to date was Friday 15 Jan, when we received20,343 visits. We had also recorded more than 1400 tweets linking to our site (although there were many more tweets that referred to us without linking and these were not recorded). More than500 posters have been submitted.
  • Tabloid Watch – on the death by Haemorage of the Daily Express: More significantly, Express Editor Peter Hill has overseen a massive fall in circulation of 173,449 copies per day since he’s been in charge. Express owner Richard Desmond bought the paper when sales were at 985,253, so he’s been responsible for shedding 307,503 readers. Good.
  • Paul Sagar – Poverty, Inequality and New Labour: It seems reasonable to assume that it was Labour’s redistributive actions that prevented inequality from increasing as much as it would have done under unchanged Tory policies. It also seems reasonable to assume that the poverty-reduction achievements Labour did manage were also brought about by redistribution. Labour has not – contra Tory propaganda – presided over mass increases in poverty. Yet the results are less than many might have hoped for (not least given the huge majorities possessed after 1997 and 2001). A natural question to ask is: “could Labour have done more to aleviate poverty if it has also aimed to reduce inequality?”
  • Matthew Yglesias: Income and Distribution (with useful graphs): At the bottom decile, things look totally different. The poorest ten percent of Americans are in about the same shape as the poorest Greeks or Czechs. Even the UK, which is not normally thought of as pursuing especially egalitarian or statist policies has poor people doing way better than ours. Is it all immigration? Well, Sweden has a higher proportion of immigrants than the United States and the poorest Swedes have more money the poorest Americans. Our rich people [in the US], however, are kicking ass. It’s also worth looking at the definition here… I’m not sure if I’m understanding this correctly, but I think it means that the conclusion that the median Canadian earns slightly less than the median American doesn’t account for the fact that the median Canadian also gets free health care on top of that.
  • Anton Vowl follows Lenny, Andy and my own concerns about the racist reporting of Haiti’s Earthquake, and concludes it is affecting aid distribution: For example, the camera in the aid truck, watching a sea of dark brown faces waiting for a handout, then the inevitable scrabbling around when it’s thrown down. We, the viewers, literally look down on these people – do we see them as unfortunates or subordinates? There’s a kind of ‘feeding time’ thing going on which doesn’t sit entirely comfortably with me. You could well argue that these events are, of course, happening, so why not describe them? But the camera is always on the aid truck. We are always looking down. We are never in that sea of humanity, looking up. I’d say that sort of thing, though, is a cliche, a bit hackneyed rather than being deliberately harmful in the impression it gives, other than a them-and-us narrative – which, after all, is how a lot of people do feel towards people in other lands, with vastly different lives and cultures. It can be an instinctive reaction. The one that is a little different, though, is the one about machetes.
  • The Guardian – How Britain’s data was set free: Last spring Gordon Brown was at Chequers, hosting a dinner for recipients of the Order of Merit – which, as it happened, that year included Sir Tim Berners-Lee, best known as the inventor of the world wide web. Berners-Lee had already decided that 2009 should be the year in which he got more involved in how governments deployed data. Though based in Massachusetts, he travels frequently – including visits to Britain. And that March he had given a talk at the TED conference, which gathers influential thinkers and visionaries, in which he made the case for better public data provision and led the audience in a chant of “raw data now”. Brown, seeking a technological initiative and seeing just the sort of person who might know what it should be, said to Berners-Lee: “What’s the most important technology right now? How should the UK make the best use of the internet?” To which the invigorated Berners-Lee replied: “Just put all the government’s data on it.” To his surprise, Brown simply said “OK, let’s do it.” Berners-Lee now says: “I was so much more used to hearing ‘no’ from government that it was a big shock.”
  • You can access the website. Bloggers take note, this may become one of the most useful tools at your disposal. Its always nice to have firm facts to back up strident opinion.