1) The Scientific Fundamentalist – British Newspapers make things up (Hat Tip Ben Goldacre):
…Most British people consider the Times of London to be the most respectable “broadsheet” newspaper (as opposed to “tabloid” newspapers) in the UK, despite the fact that the Times, along with most British “broadsheet” newspapers, is now published in the tabloid size to make it easier for people to read it in crowded London subways. Last week, the Sunday Times published an article with the headline “Blonde women born to be warrior princesses.” The article reported that “Researchers claim that blondes are more likely to display a “warlike” streak because they attract more attention than other women and are used to getting their own way – the so-called “princess effect.”” The Times article quotes the evolutionary psychologist at the University of California – Santa Barbara, Aaron Sell, and his findings are purportedly published in his article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, written with the two Deans of Modern Evolutionary Psychology, Leda Cosmides and John Tooby.
As it turns out, however, none of this is true, as Sell explains in his angry letter to the Times. He and his coauthors do not mention blondes at all in their paper and they don’t even have hair color in their data. The supplementary analyses that Sell performed after the publication of the paper, as a personal favor to the Times reporter, show the exact opposite of what the Times article claims. After he presumably listened to Sell explain all of this on the phone, the Times reporter nonetheless made up the whole thing, and attributed it to Sell…
2) Neil Robertson – Once more on the “Visible Poor”:
…If there is a ’social recession’, it is limited to members of a small, troubled, self-perpetuating group, which is neither reflective of the communities they blight nor the fault of one political party. It is a problem which has existed for generations and will probably persist generations from now: the only thing left to argue about is whether it’s gotten better or worse, and whether it can be solved.
But despite being unrepresentative of either the poor or the wider working class, cases such as the Edlington attacks are often the only time the media takes the time to report on poverty & deprivation. Prior to news of this attack, who can honestly say they had even heard of this small South Yorkshire town, let alone understood its character and problems? Prior to the kidnap of Shannon Matthews, who can honestly claim to have known where Dewsbury Moor was, or the demographics of the people living there? My own knowledge of Haringey is limited to the appalling crimes which happened there; I know nothing of the area or its people.
Because our view of these areas is restricted to its most infrequent but appalling crimes, we rarely take the time to examine the more generic, structural problems which exist. What’s the quality of the housing? How might the schools be improved? Do social workers have enough time to do justice to their clients? Where offending behaviour occurs, are there opportunities for community sentencing? Is there enough Early Intervention for parents who’re at risk? When your first introduction to a place makes you recoil in horror, these questions are rarely asked, and answers rarely sought.
The challenge, then, for people who campaign against poverty & inequality, is to humanise the problem; to demonstrate the struggles and champion the success stories which occur in these communities and – above all – give its residents a voice. Without that, we’ll just have to make do with a succession of bleak headlines which neither gives a true reflection of the communities in which they occurred, nor truly grapples with the causes.
One reason we think society is broken because parts of it remain invisible. That’s something we can – and must – seek to change.
3) In tandem with Neil’s Post Tom Freeman has written on the only way to end poverty:
We hate the poor. And we’re right to hate them.
We try to ignore them, and usually we succeed. Then sometimes they go and do something monstrous, and they’re all over the news. We see it and we hate them all the more, and resolve to ignore them even harder. Everything we’re forced to find out about them is disgusting, and proves how right our instincts were, and proves that their material poverty is caused by their poverty of conscience. Is it any wonder we want to keep them far away?
But we’re good people. Really, we are. After all, we’re not poor, so that pretty much makes us good by definition. And, of course, hate isn’t a bad thing when it’s justified. So even despite our loathing for them and our desperate need to have nothing to do with them, we still want to help the poor. Even though they don’t deserve it, we show them such saintly kindness.
So we gave them social services. These are people we pay to go into whatever noxious holes poor people live their repellent lives and make them become, if they can, just a little bit less vile, just a little bit more like us. Especially the children. Because children born poor haven’t yet proved that they deserve their poverty (although almost inevitably they will grow into the kind of people who bloody well do – it’s like a kind of predictive natural justice, or at least a sign of their tainted genes)…
4) Septicisle – Baby P to Edlington and angels to devils:
I’ve gone over this before, but one of the most telling contributions [on child protection] at the time was from Martin Narey, the head of Barnardo’s, who suggested had Peter survived he may well have grown up to be the “feral yob” of tabloid nightmares, condemned and castigated without a thought as to what made him. It was part of a speech which was intended to provoke, which is what it did, but it has also now rung almost too true. The case of the two brothers who committed their crime in Edlington could almost be the inverse of the Baby P case: there, an innocent child killed and tortured by those meant to be taking care of him; in Edlington, two “brothers from hell” torture and almost kill two other young boys. On the one hand, the angelic, on the other the demonic. The biblical implications of referring to the unnamed boys as the “devil brothers” is not openly alluded to, but it is there if you look deep enough: “the battle” between good and evil itself seems to be only just below the surface.
5) Mark Easton fisks Conservative estimates on violence:
Are the Tories being honest with their claims on violent crime? Last week, David Cameron told me that one reason he could justify the phrase “broken society” was because of “significant” increases in violent crime, notably gun and knife crime in Britain.
When I challenged him to produce the evidence, his party press office sent the BBC a list of statistics.
It emerges that the only way the Conservative leader can back up his claims is to ignore the klaxon warning attached to the statistics following changes in the way police record violent incidents in England and Wales.
Tory Central Office e-mailed this claim to me:
The document cited, however, includes this massive caveat:
And yet, that is exactly what Mr Cameron appears to do…
6) Next Left – The Machine versus the Movement:
…The topline finding that Labour dominates all key metrics – but due to ‘unofficial’ rather than party HQ activity – appears to strongly confirm what had been a widely believed sense, if somewhat anecdotally based, that while the left has been playing catch-up in the political blogosphere, that Labour and broader liberal movements had largely dominated the twittersphere.
Does this matter?… What I found most useful and encouraging about this report is less the “mine’s bigger than yours” sense of the cross-party competition (albeit that the Tory blogging boys sing about that a great deal when they are winning) but rather what the report captures about the quiet revolution which has been bubbling up from below in the culture of Labour politics and activism. The enduring (and once rather justified) sense of a ‘command and control’ party is now rather out-of-date, even if the national press and offline commentariat have been rather slow to cotton on to that.
There have been some false starts – such as LabourList’s initial implosion, before its impressive rebirth under Alex Smith. But today’s report offers one good indicator of how Labour – thanks to a handful of hyper-engaged MPs like Kerry McCarthy, and a larger number of campaigning activists such as Bevanite Ellie – have now got on and done it.
Yet the Conservative leadership has, to a large extent, sought to emulate the new Labour model of the Phillip Gould era, with the political message of decentralisation being combined with an ever greater focus on tight party management, and journalists briefed that barely ten Tories really “get” the David Cameron and Steve Hilton project. For all its self-projected dress down modernity, this risks being timewarp politics when it comes to the politics of party management…
7) Giles Wilkes -Banking, shadow banking, money:
Consider a primitive economy. Larry the Lord has £10 worth of Land. Peter the Peasant has £10 worth of Corn. Barry the Banker has £10 of gold. Now imagine Larry wants to dig a well, and needs £5 of corn. Now, if a land-corn market does not exist, he has a problem. If neither Larry nor Peter trust each other enough, and absent some sort of financial system, no well is dug, economic activity is lower. Shame – because Larry is a useful entrepreneur, and rich enough, but just not liquid enough.
Stage 1: banking solves the problem
But Barry is a banker. He offers to lend £5 of gold to Larry on security of half his land. Larry then buys £5 of corn off Peter by paying that gold to him. Peter deposits the £5 gold back with Barry
- Larry’s balance sheet is then: £10 land; £5 corn, £5 owed to Barry.
- Peter’s is: £5 corn; £5 of ‘M’, which signifies a deposit with Barry.
- Barry’s is: £10 gold, £5 owed by Larry; £5 owed to Peter in the form of deposits.
Because this is a static example, everyone is as rich as before – they are each worth £10. But because deposits with Barry are counted as money, there is now more liquidity – another £5. If Peter wanted to buy something for £1, he could say to the seller “transfer £1 from my name to yours with Barry” – issue a cheque. This has huge advantages over having to haul the gold over to the right person – particularly if they inhabit an economy with zillions of economic transactions to carry out, and not much gold.
8) Paul Krugman – Obama liquidates himself:
A spending freeze? That’s the brilliant response of the Obama team to their first serious political setback?
It’s appalling on every level.
It’s bad economics, depressing demand when the economy is still suffering from mass unemployment. Jonathan Zasloff writes that Obama seems to have decided to fire Tim Geithner and replace him with “the rotting corpse of Andrew Mellon” (Mellon was Herbert Hoover’s Treasury Secretary, who according to Hoover told him to “liquidate the workers, liquidate the farmers, purge the rottenness”.)
It’s bad long-run fiscal policy, shifting attention away from the essential need to reform health care and focusing on small change instead.
And it’s a betrayal of everything Obama’s supporters thought they were working for. Just like that, Obama has embraced and validated the Republican world-view — and more specifically, he has embraced the policy ideas of the man he defeated in 2008. A correspondent writes, “I feel like an idiot for supporting this guy.”