Thursday, May 31, 2007

Fisking Richard Garside.

Richard Garside writes:
Having oscillated between 40,000 and 50,000 during the 1980s and early 1990s, prison numbers in England and Wales rose to more than 60,000 by the time Labour came to power in 1997.
Oddly enough this was the 1980s saw large rises in crime and when Michael Howard began raising prison numbers crime fell. Since then 1997 the trend has been less clear cut as recorded crime and surveyed crime have diverged on occasion.
The argument that "prison works" might once have been a rather disreputable stance. Today it is becoming positively de rigueur to celebrate high prison numbers and call for even more.
The word 'disreputable' sums up much of the opposition to prison. It isn't evidence based but founded out of a belief that it is the sign of someone who shouldn't be part of polite society. People often oppose prison because it is more emotionally satisfying to congratulate themselves for showing mercy to convicted criminals.
Superficially, the argument is persuasive. In the 10 years from 1995 to 2005 the official crime rate, according to the British Crime Survey, fell by roughly half. During the same period the number in prison increased by roughly half. Crime apparently fell because we successfully imprisoned the kinds of people who commit it. Keep locking up more of those people who commit most crime and crime will fall further. The equation appears rather simple.
That is essentially correct, most prisoners would be committing around 200 crimes a year if they were outside so 40000 extra prisoners accounts for 8 million fewer crimes. Obviously there are diminishing returns to this approach as less prolific offenders get locked up but essentially it works.
However compelling this argument might appear, and however popular it currently is within certain circles, it is in fact one that is at best misleading and at worst spurious. To understand why, let us start by considering the kind of people that make up the current criminal justice caseloads as convicted offenders.
Yes, let's.
They are largely men from poor or working class backgrounds. They will tend to be in their late teens or early 20s.
Certainly, that is the at which offending peaks, it declines drastically from the late 20s onwards, so people in their late teens and early 20s commit the majority of crimes. Age is an even better correlating factor for crime than sex.
A notable proportion will have drug and alcohol problems.
This is true, although that might not be a cause and effect issue. Drugtaking is generally a rather impulsive form of behaviour, just like crime. So the people who abuse drugs are often the same people who would be committing crime even if drugs did not exist.
Poor literacy abilities and intermittent employment histories will be common.
True, people who are likely to commit crime are generally of below average intelligence (obviously there are major exceptions) and somewhat impulsive, these are not traits that make great employees. Again these literacy levels and unemployment are symptoms of their poor behaviour.
While the majority will be white, a disproportionate minority will be black or from other minority ethnic groups.
I think he is implying that they may be victims of racism, however several ethnic minorities have muich lower crime rates than the white population. There are few British Hindus in prison for example.
These are the people who are both vulnerable to repeat conviction and repeat incarceration.
What an extraordinary phrase, it is like saying that matadors are 'vulnerable' to being gored by angry bulls. It is a direct result of their behaviour that creates this vulnerability.
It should not surprise us then that such individuals might regularly find themselves in trouble with the police, prosecuted in the courts and filling up our prisons.
Yeah they just wake up and 'find themselves' in trouble with the police for no good reason don't they?
Yet whether it is domestic violence or child abuse, middle class fiddles or corporate corruption, sexual abuse or the abuse of power, most crime never features in the official crime rate.
What 'middle class fiddles' exactly? it is almost an nebulous as 'abuse of power'. I'm willing to bet that domestic violence and (non sexual) child abuse are most concentrated amoung the sort of men who are likely to commit the more mundane robbery and burgalary.
Crime is a far more common and cross-class phenomenon than is apparent from the caseloads of police, prisons and courts.
Not greatly.
If we were serious that "prison works" we would have a prison-building programme that resulted in a gulag society.
Since when have Guardian hacks considered Gulags a bad thing? More seriously the argument that if you believe that something is good you must believe in taking it to an extreme without any consideration of the trade offs is preposterous. It is like arguing if you believe that 'speed kills' you have to demand that speed limits of 5 mph are enforced.

At best, the argument about prison and crime is about a small proportion of all offenders, responsible for a small proportion of all crime.
The whole point is that a small proportion of offenders are responsible for an extremely large proportion of crime.

Incidentally Britain doesn't actually jail that many people when considered as a proportion of all crimes committed.

PS. I'm in a hurry so I'll have to flesh out this post with related links later this evening.

Update: I had forgotton about Pommygranate's post about Richard Garside a fortnight ago, despite the fact I have used the identical title for my post.

Irony Watch.

Lecturers have voted unanimously to oppose government plans urging them to fight against extremism on campuses.

They had been asked to monitor and report suspicious behaviour amongst Muslim students.

But at the University and Colleges Union annual conference in Bournemouth, delegates rejected the demands, saying they amounted to spying on students. ...
"Universities must remain safe spaces for lecturers and students to discuss and debate all sorts of ideas, including those that some people may consider challenging, offensive and even extreme.
Well that's good to know, the UCU will defend academic freedom and oppose the demonisation of minorities.
University lecturers threatened yesterday to provoke international condemnation by forcing their union into a year-long debate over boycotting work with Israeli universities.

Delegates at the first conference of the new University and College Union in Bournemouth voted by 158 to 99 for "a comprehensive and consistent boycott" of all Israeli academic institutions, as called for by Palestinian trade unions in response to Israel's "40-year occupation" of Palestinian land.
Except when they don't support academic freedom and ethnic demonisation.

( via Harry's Place & House of Dumb )

Update: More wacademia from the UCU over at ATW.
All negative characterisations by teachers of lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender people, identity and lifestyle should be outlawed and classified as an act of discrimination and an incitement to hatred based on sexual orientation.
So when the UCU reps were clamouring for the freedom to discuss ideas 'that some people may consider challenging, offensive and even extreme.' they only meant view that other people might find 'challenging', not those that they themselves find offensive.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Heightism Watch.

Does anyone else think that Guido Fawkes is being heightist in his depiction of the Labour deputy candidates?
Time for a song:

Labour Deputy Leadership Contest.

As I am not a supporter of Labour I don't have any great objection to them shooting themselves in the foot. Deputy leader is a meaningless role that puts a millstone around the neck of the leader, nothing positive can be accomplished by the office although a great deal of harm can be done by an elected deputy who takes a different public stance from an annointed leader. Labour's best interests would be served by electing a unfailing yes man, or yes woman, who will agree with anything Gordon Brown says, someone so unprincipled that they will subsume even any pretence at independence. Hazel Blears is the outstanding candidate in my view.

Mass Murderers & The Guardian.

What is it with the Guardian and bearded mass murderers? Following on from Gerry Adams and Osama Bin Laden they now print one of Fidel Castro's rambling monologues as an article. Needless to say the comment thread is soon filled with totalitarian groupies. 'Ideas cannot be killed' declares Castro, no but dissidents can be.

Immigration From Eastern Europe.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation have released a report on the state of integtration of Eastern European immigrants to Britain, the BBC's news story about the study highlights:
Migrants also experience prejudice from the UK population. Just 39% of those surveyed felt British people treated them equally.
This is true but misleading as every other news story about the JRF report pointed out:
Although almost 40 percent thought British people treated them as equals, three in 10 said they did not and less than half of those who had been in Britain for three years were confident Britons were interested in friendship.
In other words around 7 in 10 immigrants did not feel that they had been treated unequally, quite a different spin that anyone who relied on the BBC would have gotten.

My own thoughts about Eastern European immigration are that in the long term they will integrate and second generation immigrants will be indistinguishable from the natives, this is based on the success of previous groups who have entered Britain from Poland after the second World War. Whilst we won't see long term parallel communities emerge as as happened with certain other groups, such as Asian communities in the North of England, there will be short and medium term costs. Particularly to the people currently at the bottom of the employment ladder as they are priced out of work. The fact that the immigration enthusiasts have lied about how many would arrive from the East has meant that public services have been woefully ill prepared to cope with a sudden influx of new people, for example schools have had to deal with considerable numbers of non English speaking pupils and are generally unready for the task.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Elephants Found.

Exactly how you lose a herd of elephants in the first place is the real question.

International News.

Freetown - British Prime Minister Tony Blair is due on Wednesday in Sierra Leone, a west African country where he is popular for bolstering a fragile peace process to end one of the most brutal civil wars of recent history....

....In Freetown, many homes are adorned with potraits of Blair
Many homes in Britain also have portraits of Tony Blair, but seeing as darts isn't very popular in Sierra Leonne I've no idea where they put theirs.

(In fairness Sierra Leone is one of the rare examples of Tony Blair accomplishing something positive.)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Wisdom Of The Chattering Classes.

On 'Any Questions' they were discussing Control Orders, this exchange between James Delingpole and Jeanette Winterson, at around 23 minutes in, just about sums up the intellectual sophistication of the chattering classes.

James Delingpole: I don't believe that the answer is simmply bombarding these people with love. The fact is Jihadists are committed to destroying our way of life....

Jeanette Winterson: And so is George Bush!

{ audience cheers }

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Selfishness & The Left

John Denham, Labour mp, declares that Labour has to stop believing that the south of England is a selfish place. It has always seemed bizarre that the one region of the country whose wealth was transferred to the rest get characterised in this manner. In fact the way the left use the term 'selfish' is bizarre full stop, people who want to keep the money that they have worked hard to earn are selfish but people who receive money that was earned by other people are not. Selfish and greedy are rarely used to describe people or organisations who live off the taxes paid for by the supposedly selfish tax payers.

Incidentally this is John Denham's career to date:
After leaving education in 1977 he became an advice worker at the Energy Advice Agency in Durham, before becoming a transport campaigner with Friends of the Earth in 1978. He was Head of Youth Affairs at the British Council from 1979 until 1983, and was responsible for public education and advocacy for War on Want from 1984 to 1988. He subsequently worked for Christian Aid, Oxfam and other development agencies until his election to Westminster.
So he has not done any work that involves him being a net contributer to society, he has only ever spent other people's money and you can guarantee that he doesn't view this career path as selfish.

Nationality & Incarceration.

Prison numbers by nationality as of December 21st. Interesting numbers I reckon, the most striking aspect is that Jamaican prisoners number around 50% more than any other nationality (except British of course). There are all sorts of lesser points of interest too, such as the surprisingly large number of Vietnamese prisoners who outnumber Indian or Chinese inmates. The huge sex difference in male and female inmates from Pakistan, 447 men and only 12 women from that country are in UK prisons, in comparison female Thais are equal in number to their male counterparts.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Guzzling Is Good.

The Guardian's most frequently sensible columnist is Simon Jenkins, this is damning with faint praise I admit, in an otherwise mundane column on urban planning he writes:
Tony Blair's will be remembered not just for Iraq, but for giant warehouses and hypermarkets on urban fringes and for pepper-potting the capital with carbon-guzzling glass towers.
Surely if they were 'carbon-guzzling' this would be a good thing, trees for example do 'guzzle' CO2. Obviously he means carbon emitting, but the use of the word 'guzzling' does demonstrate how much of what passes for comment journalism is simply spouting off buzz words without comprehendng what they mean. Guzzling is most frequently used in the context of 'gas guzzling', as it is an emotive way of describing consumption of petrol, Jenkins is trying to transfer the same emotive terminology to buildings even when it makes no sense whatsoever.

Polly Toynbee- Dictator In Waiting?

Polly Toynbee goes off on a rant about the government's ridiculous idea for 'Home Information Packs'*. Many of the critics of HIPs believe that they are horribly intrusive in a free society, which is perhaps why they are supported by Polly Toynbee who asks:
Can democracy bear the weight of what needs to be done to stop climate change in the short time left? Or will oppositions always find some good excuse for challenging any green law with convenient reasons for not taking action this way, not here, not now?
Isn't that the clarion call of all tyrannies, 'our situation is so urgent that opposition cannot be tolerated'?

* They are ridiculous because anyone with half a brain would get their own survey done before purchasing something as expensive as a house so the HIP will just duplicate the work.

Animals- Not Good Role Models.

The news that a gay flamingo couple have adopted a chick has been seized on by some incredibly silly commentators as a blow for gay rights. Whilst the story is quite amusing, particularly how they tried abducting eggs before being given a chick, I don't think that taking advice from the animal kingdom on child rearing is wise. Sure flamingos are nice but what about the new feckless single mothers in the shark world (the shark keepers could probably offend a lot of people by calling the offspring 'Jesus'). Come to think of it if taking advice from animal relationsother species becomes widespread god only knows what to make of the infanticide prevalant amoung lions and bears.

As long as no one suggests taking tips from seahorses, I probably shouldn't worry about it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Courtroom Quiz.

This a story about a lawsuit brought by an American judge against a dry cleaning company that lost his trousers. I've deleted the amount he is suing for, see if you can guess how much:
A $10 dry cleaning bill for a pair of trousers has ballooned into a $***** civil lawsuit.

Plaintiff Roy Pearson, a judge in Washington, D.C., says in court papers that he's been through the ringer over a lost pair of prized pants he wanted to wear on his first day on the bench.

He says in court papers that he has endured "mental suffering, inconvenience and discomfort."

He says he was unable to wear that favorite suit on his first day of work.
As a clue these are the settlements he has turned down:
First, Pearson demanded $1,150 for a new suit. Lawyers were hired, legal wrangling ensued and eventually the Chungs offered Pearson $3,000 in compensation.

No dice.

Then they offered him $4,600.

No dice.

Finally, they offered $12,000 for the missing gray trousers with the red and blue stripes.

Pearson said no.
Click here if you can't wait for the answer.

Monday, May 21, 2007

5/21 Trutherism

Or 21/5 trutherism if you prefer. As many people will know the renowned American metallurgist Rosie O'Donnell debunked the idea that the World Trade Center could have collapsed by the means that have been presented to the mainstream media, because fire doesn't melt steel. Many of the Bu$Hitler zionist illuminati dismissed O'Donnell's point by pointing to examples of fire melting steel such as the Oakland bridge incident last month.

Now however we are being told that the fire on the Cutty Sark might not have been as disasterous as it first appeared to be because the Iron frame wasn't damaged by the fire. So clearly Rosie O'Donnell has been thoroughly vindicated.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Judge Peter Openshaw Eats Babies

Actually he doesn't but he's unlikely to sue no matter what I accuse him of because he will never read this:
A judge has stunned a court by admitting he does not know what a website is.

Judge Peter Openshaw, 59, brought an Internet terror trial to a halt when he admitted he struggled to cope with basic terms like "website".
Not the most suitable judge for the case is he? Actually given that judges are, no matter what you think of them, extremely intelligent people I wonder of these outbursts of fogeyism that occur every so often aren't some kind of strategy to keep everyone off guard.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Irony Is....

....The Guardian writing a story about a website owner failing to moderate the discussions that take place, adequately. Not like Comment is Free eh?
The Conservatives were forced to apologise last night after it emerged that a forum discussing the "sexiest female MP" had been left on David Cameron's website for three days.

Users of made unflattering remarks about Labour MPs and debated the qualities of politicians including local government secretary Ruth Kelly and Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather,

What sort of debate could you have about Sarah Teather's anyway, whether she should wear a burqa or not? (says the anonymous blogger whose photo is not public).

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Iain Dale: Consistent & Diverse.

I'm trying to work out if these tow points from the same post are reconcilable:
This is an argument we didn't need to have. Instead of attacking the concept of grammar schools we should be encouraging diversity in education - and grammar schools are a part of that diversity.
Okay so diversity is good. Agreed.
Consistency is a key word here and it's something David Cameron rightly makes a lot of. If you really believed grammar schools were part of the problem, you'd not only not build more, you'd abolish the existing ones. It's called having the courage of your convictions. This is why I always questioned the wisdom of voluntary grant maintained schools in the 1990s. I thought that if Conservatives really believed that this policy was best for schools all schools should be grant maintained.
How can you be simulataeously consistent and diverse? If the Tories made all schools Grant Maintained because they thought it was a good idea then it really wouldn't be very diverse would it?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Grammar Schools & The Conservative Party.

The decision by David Willetts and David Cameron to turn Conservative Party policy against grammar schools was shocking to me initially and my reaction was that it was a a bunch of public schoolboys pulling up the ladder to ensure that grammar school pupils no longer threatened their status as the elite. However the more I think about it the greater my sympathy for the decision is.

Conservatives generally support grammars because they were extremely effective in giving bright young children good educations and because of the inadequacy of the comprehensive system that replaced them. The shortcomings of comprehensives are that they fail to challenge the brightest pupils, they treat their inmates like interchangeable widgets in a factory, and they leave poor children with little hope of getting a good education. One of the major factors for me in support of grammars in the past has been the cold ideology of their opponents, who are motivated by class envy rather than a desire to improve education, people like Fiona Miller who believe that children exist to serve schools not the other way around. In the comprehensive ideal as envisioned by socialists parents would have absolutely no choice even of which school their children went to, children are allocated to which school they must attend by the state.

Yet focusing on the failings of comprehensives doesn't actually provide an answer for the question of why grammar schools are the solution. Many of the failings of comprehensives are only slightly alleviated by grammars. They are still an incredibly statist way to run an education system, as Margaret Thatcher has said having the state test children then deciding what school to assign them to is " more consonant with socialism and collectivism ... than with liberalism and conservatism."

Comprehensivism is the equivalent of demanding that everyone eats porridge for breakfast regardless of what they would prefer, but selection is like demanding that 80% of people have porridge whilst those who you deem worthy can have cornflakes. Neither option provides an option for those who want croissants or bacon & eggs, to continue the analogy past the point where it is useful.

David Willetts is also correct about how the costs and benefits of a selective system, the people who are currently stranded in sink comprehensives would by and large be the same people that would be stuck in sink secondary moderns, we would still have an under educated underclass.

My personal preference would be to have a voucher system where parents, or at the age of 16 pupils, can choose from an array of different schools, some will choose schools with small class sizes, some will choose schools that specialise in particular subjects, some will choose schools that offer a good deal of child autonomy or schools with a traditional 'grammar school' ethos. The point is that rather than students competing for schools, schools will compete for students.

Vouchers aren't the only alternative possibility either, perhaps the government 'City Academy' program will work, perhaps schools can be devolved down to local government instead of national government. There are many options other than 'Grammars' versus 'Comprehensives'. Since the introduction of comprehensive schools in 1965 there have been 22 years of Tory government under three different prime ministers. Despite the Conservative party's supposed sympathy for grammar schools none of the PMs have sought to reintroduce them, by dropping the pretense that they might do so attention can now be focused on politically plausible ways of improving secondary schooling.

Authenticity, When You Can Fake That, You're Unstoppable.

The Guardian's most over rated hack is undoubtably Jonathan Freedland, he isn't quite awful but is just relentlessly mediocre. Today his column consists of seven pieces of advice for Gordon Brown.
5 Remember, authenticity is your strongest suit

Aficionados of the West Wing still cite the episode titled "Let Bartlet be Bartlet": it taught the crucial lesson that, even if they can pick up new presentational skills, politicians must remain true to themselves if they are to be believed. One cabinet colleague says that the most important sentence Brown has uttered since launching his campaign is, "I am a conviction politician." If David Cameron were to say that, notes the minister, even his best friends would laugh. Brown's consistency and solidity might not be flashy or exciting but they remain virtues
.The idea that there is anything authentic about Gordon Brown is questionable, this is a man who tried to boost his English credentials by claiming that his favourite goal was Paul Gascoigne's goal against Scotland in Euro 96. Suppose however that Brown is indeed authentic, look what Freedland's third item of advice is:
3 Hire Tony Blair's speechwriter

Whatever else you think of him, you cannot deny that Blair has been unrivalled as a communicator. Most of that has been down to his own skill, fluency and delivery. But the material has helped, too. Brown is a deep, scholarly thinker but, by his own admission, the simple, memorable phrase does not come to him easily. Rather than rely on his immediate circle, he could bring in Philip Collins, who has crafted some of Blair's best speeches in recent years.

If that's too much, then Brown should get more professional backup - including an "advance" team to ensure that never again will an autocue screen stand between him and the camera. I'm told he's already taking guidance - from film director Alan Parker among others - and it is noticeable that he now speaks more slowly, addressing his audience rather than the lectern. He was more relaxed on Andrew Marr's sofa on Sunday, too. But he still needs to curb the instinct to step on his own applause lines.
Nothing like an autocue to demonstrate authenticity is there? Much of the hostility towards Blair deries from his tendancy to make extravagant promises in public speeches which could not then be delivered upon in the real world.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

How Stalin Ruined Eurovision.

The silly regional blocks that exist in the Eurovision song Contest's voting have widely been ascribed to some kind of pan slavic solidarity. This doesn't really work as an explanation though because most Eastern European countries hate each other, for example Estonia's recent spat with Russia demonstrates that no love is lost there, yet Estonia gave Russia 12 points.

The problem is that Eastern Europes borders are so arbitary that each country contains large numbers of people whose ethnic allegiance is elsewhere. In the case of Russia, Stalin's policy of moving Russians into other parts of the Soviet Union has all but guaranteed that Russia will pick up votes from it's former subject nations. And look what the bastard did to the Poland, moving it Westwards so Belarus has millions of Poles.

The situation in the Balkans is even more complex, one might even say it is Balkanised.

The only solution to save Eurovision is for the powerful western countries to invade the east and vanquish the slavic scum to create living space for our people. One People. One Nation, One Song! ...... Sorry I got carried away at the end there.

{ This is an extended versioon of a post I made at Blognor Regis, plus the borrowing of Mark's comments about Poland's borders }

Labour Leadership Contest.

It looks as though John McDonnell is going to be the Labour left's candidate to run against Gordon Brown. What does it say about the state of the Parliamentary Labour Party that an unapologetic supporter of mass murder can get the signatures of forty plus Labour MPs? Ironically his big selling point is that he's anti war.

Update: Only 27 Labour MPs are sufficiently degenerate to sign John McDonnell's nomination papers. Perhaps he should go on hunger strike until he is placed on the ballot.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Why Businesses Outsource To China.

Radio 4 has just concluded a series of the Chinese in Britain, a minority that largely goes unnoticed perhaps because they don't appreciate the joys of loud racial grievance mongering ( seriously could you imagine a chinese Yazz Monster or Darcus Howe ). Unfortunately I didn't get to hear any of the series but there are episode summaries on the BBC's website, the summary for episode three begins:
British shipping companies first started employing Chinese sailors during the Napoleonic wars to replace the British sailors who had been called up to the navy. They soon discovered that they were cheaper, didn’t get drunk and were easier to command.
Not much has changed in the intervening 200 years. This isn't an entirely flippant point, it provides a further example of how persistant cultural traits are over the course of hundreds maybe even thousands of years, they aren't immutable but they aren't transient either. In the case of China despite the political turmoil it has suffered in the 20th century the economic success of their diaspora be it in South East Asia or the West is remarkably consitent.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Newsnight Fun.

Michael howard confronting Alastair Campbell on Newsnight, which I mentioned earlier, has now been YouTubed:

Alastair Campbell's petulant reaction continues for some time after the video ends needless to say.

BBC Mourns Blair.

The BBC's treatment of Blair's resignation has been verging on the hagiographic, except on Iraq. Their news coverage was one sided enough, unashamedly presenting New Labour's own narrative* as the gospel truth, for example asserting that Britain is more tolerant than ever before despite the fact that there seem to be an awful lot of arrests for thought crimes in the last ten years. The Newsnight special however hit a new low, it featured 6 guests, Michael Howard, Charles Kennedy and no less than four Labour supporters from the Blairite wing of the party, Alastair Campbell, Alan Milburn, Polly Toynbee and David Hare.

There was all sorts of rewriting of history to portray pre 1997 Britain as some kind of apocolyptic wasteland where public services were in meltdown and the economy in chaos. As Michael Howard pointed out according to the OECD public services were improving at a greater rate before 1997 than after, but facts matter for little when you are outnumberd 6 to 1 so this was ismissed. Polly Toynbee** made the bizarre claim that Labour's obsession with spin should be understood because the press is 75% Tory, which is bizarre when you consider that Labour have the support of the BBC, The Sun, the Mirror, The Times, The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Independent wheras the Tories only really have the support of the Telegraph and The Daily Mail. That she was on a panel with 5 left wing members and one right, plus a host who was obviously sympathetic to Labour didn't seem to occur to her.

Poll Pot's claim was in response to the highlight of the programme where Michael Howard laid into a clearly rattled Alastair Campbell about his record of deceit, bullying and coarsening of the political culture. Like most bullies Campbell is pretty pathetic when confronted directly and spent the rest of the show acting like a brat trying to make cheap shots at Howard.

* The 'Narrative' is Labour's attempts to manipulate how the past is remembered by simply asserting a bogus version of history. If people are constantly told that before 1997 schools were crumbling and the economy was in chaos then eventually they will start to remember it that way regardless of what actually happened.

** Toynbee also made an absurd misuse of the British Crime Survey. again. I don't want to get started on that once more though.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Trutherism Widespread.

This sadly doesn't surprise me:
Democrats in America are evenly divided on the question of whether George W. Bush knew about the 9/11 terrorist attacks in advance. Thirty-five percent (35%) of Democrats believe he did know, 39% say he did not know, and 26% are not sure.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

No Politics In Eurovision.

Does anyone believe the results of this survey?:
Performance and lyrics, not politics and diplomacy, will decide this weekend's Eurovision Song Contest, according to one university researcher.

Dr Alan Howard, from Reading University's school of human sciences, has surveyed 1,000 fans of the contest on how they would cast their votes.
In fairness Britain will almost certainly do badly because of the irredeemable crappiness of our entry. Honestly though the level of nationalism and politics on display at the Eurovision Song Contest makes it what the Potsdam conference would have been like if they had had more sequins.

Monday, May 07, 2007

'Strangers Into Citizens'

In the year of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade, it is a grave matter that close to half a million people living in Britain today do not enjoy the protection of the law.
Shocking. This is from a statement by the 'Stranger into Citizens campaign who held a rally in London today. Why would these poor people be arbitarily deprived of the rule of law?
These people are termed "illegal"
So it's a reference to people who have chosen to break UK law by entering without the legal right to do so. I guess they really don't 'enjoy' the law. They are of course entitled to the protection of the law but choose not to avail themselves of it in order to conceal their own law breaking.
These people from far-off lands are not strangers to the churches, mosques and communities which they frequent, and where they have found consolation and protection. There they are not considered foreigners but friends.
Are 'foreigners' and 'friends' really a mutually exclusive concepts? If somebody is in the UK illegally it is simply a statement of fact to say that they are a foreigner. That this campaign objects to this description pretty much sums up their intellectual integrity.
So we believe that the conscience of our society must again be shaken and seek to extend to undocumented workers the recognition of the law.
'Undocumented workers' is an American euphemism for people who have entered a country illegally. Which is kind of ironic when they are demanding that everyone should have the 'recognition of the law' for people who have declined to recognise the law. If spmeone wishes to enter this country, then they can attempt to meet whatever criteria is set by the government in an honest an open manner, there is no excuse for people decidng the law shouldn't apply to them.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

French Election.

I haven't written much about the French presidential election because I don't know enough about it, but I did like this description by Sarkozy of the side of France that he represents:
[the France] that gets up early in the morning and works hard,
A more succinct distinction between the supporters of socialism and the supporters of enterprise would be difficult.

Measuring Crime.

The British Crime Survey has for many years been presented to the general public in a rather misleading manner as though it provided definitive figures for the level of crime in England & Wales. In fairness this is not a claim those who carry out the survey would make, but one that is made by the Home Office to the press, for example by saying that the BCS 'measures the amount of crime in England and Wales'. As journalists are mostly arts grads who flee in terror when confronted with a statistical survey, this claim is generally accepted or dismissed entirely based on their existing predjudices.

Why the BCS is not a comprehensive measure of crime.

The BCS doesn't cover certain categories of crime. Elliott Joseph's post on the BCS for example highlights its shortcomings over crimes that are serious but rare compared to the more numerous petty crimes. It is the more serious crimes that causes public anxiety.

It also doesn't include crimes without single identifiable victims, this means that crimes that damage society as a whole are often unrecorded. When schools suffer arson attacks or shops are trashed this impinges many people's quality of life as much as a crime directly against themselves.

It doesn't cover certain categories of victim. Crimes against under 16s aren't included, despite the fact that teenagers are one of the groups most at risk from crime. Nor are non residents of the UK, so crimes against tourists and migrant workers are not measured.

It is not a truly random sample. A significant proportion of the people contacted refuse to participate, and the refuseniks are more common in areas with high recorded crime rates.

Even on crimes which it does cover it isn't necessarily the best way of measuring them. People in general cannot remember with any great precision whether a crime they have suffered occurred 8 months ago or 14 months ago, so asking people to recall what crimes they have been victims of is not going to produce an accurate figure. In 'Crime and Human Nature' the authors refer to a study that was carried out in the San Jose, California found that of people who had reported an assault to the police in the previous twelve months on 48% recalled an assault when interviewed for a crime survey. The figure was particularly high if the reported assailant had been a relative.

All of the above factors are limitiations of crime surveys, not a reason to ignore them or to suppose that recorded crime figures give the full story instead (they are equally problematic). However there are unfortunately a lot of know nothing pundits, politicians and bloggers who make preposterously sweeping claims about Britain's crime levels based on it.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Leadership Elections.

I won't challenge Brown, says Clarke.
If Charles Clarke feels he actually needs to tell people that he won't be standing for leader of the Labour Party then I suppose I ought to clarify that I won't be standing either.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Return Of An Old Classic.

ideology drives out common humanity alongside common sense.

One example is locking ever more people up in prison, despite falling crime
-Polly Toynbee.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Tessa's-Space- The Dome With Pixels.

When Tessa Jowell was appointed as Culture Secretary she proclaimed that she wanted her department to be a Ministry of Free Time, that fact alone says a great deal about New Labour's sense of entitlement to control people's lives as they see fit. She's at it again with a call for a 'Civility in Cyberspace'.
Should we introduce a blogging code of conduct to increase the quality of internet debates? Today, I'll be online to discuss this.
In a word, Tessa, 'no'. In several words, 'who exactly gave you the right to become the nation's net nanny in the first place?'.
The internet is a vigorous and now invaluable part of the public realm, or what I prefer to call "ourspace". Ourspace, whether physical or virtual, includes those places and spaces where people meet as equals; where public engagement and debate takes place.
Tessa's Space is right between her ears, there's this assumption that the people, through their beloved New Labour representitives, have some sort of proprietarial interest over what people do in their own time. Yes the internet is vigorous and it achieved this all by itself without the help of the Ministry of Free Time.
Ourspace is part of the "commons" of the UK and something that goes much wider than just the state to include, for example, public service broadcasting; the arts, culture and sports; parks and other public open spaces; and of course the internet - in short, spaces where all feel welcome to participate, to enjoy themselves and to learn.
So let me get this right the Internet, sorry 'Ourspace' must be open to all and fun for everybody, with the possible exception of Gary Glitter. What if some people enjoy certain things on the internet and 'feel welcome' on certain sites, but other people prefer other sites? Perhaps we could let people decide which sites they enjoy and avoid those which they don't. Tessa appears to want 'Ourspace' to cater for every taste and offend no one. Now that I think about it she wants the Internet to become the Millenium Dome with pixels.
User-generated content on the internet - citizen journalism - is just one welcome example of "virtual ourspace" being used in this way. But as power shifts increasingly into the hands of citizens, responsibility must follow.
To a point, it very much depends on what she means by responsibility. If she means that bloggers and the like should obey the usual rules of Libel and Slander etc then that is fine. I don't think she does mean that though, I suspect she means that politicians and journalists who could once define the limits of public discourse should retain that privilage.
The internet is transforming the way the government interacts with people and the way people interact with one another. But change never comes without challenges.
I'm only including this string of cliches for the sake of completeness. No information whatsoever was conveyed by those sentences.
That's why in a lecture for the organisation Progress on Monday night, I publicly welcomed and supported the initiative by web pioneer Tim O'Reilly and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales for a blogging code of conduct.
How about a 'talking code of conduct' or a 'book writing code of conduct'?
The wonderful, anarchic, creative world of the blogosphere shouldn't be a licence for abuse, bullying and threats as it has been in some disturbing cases.
Well no, but being in government shouldn't be a licence for abuse, bullying and threats either should it? But that has hardly prevented her colleagues has it?
There is a need for serious discussion about maintaining civilised parameters for debate, so that more people - and women and older people in particular - feel comfortable to participate.
When 94 year old Rose Addis, who is both older and a woman, tried to participate in a debate about the abysmal standard of care she was recieving, Tessa's party felt that the 'civilised parameters' included leaking her medical records and those of other patients to the press and smearing her as a racist.
I'm not wedded to the specific words and phrases in the draft code that O'Reilly and Wales have proposed (that is up for debate), but I do think their proposal is right in principle and should be adopted here too. Blogging took off earlier in the US and the blogging community has become a powerful political force there - I hope the same happens here. But surely its full potential to benefit civil society cannot be realised unless the quality of online debate itself is civilised?
Of course she supports a code that could be used by Labour apologists to marginalise critical commentators.
Surely we do not want online discussions simply to mirror the often aggressive, boorish and pointless exchanges that sometimes pass for debate on the floor of the House of Commons, and which are such a turn-off for voters?
Again who is this 'we', who gets to demand how private citizens choose to discuss politics? If I don't like the tone of a site then guess what? I don't read it.
Some commentators have suggested that the idea of a code of conduct shows the growing maturity of the blogging community in the US,
Rather more commentators have suggested that it show the growing pompousity of the US blogging community, or more accurately a sub section of US bloggers.
although some of the more virulent attacks on the suggestion (and on O'Reilly and Wales themselves) have shown nothing except the immaturity of some users.
Well that's us told, it's not big and it certainly isn't clever to mock the net nannies.
But perhaps, taken as a whole, this proposal is a rare example of a good lesson for us in Britain to learn from American politics?
Or perhaps not, the main lesson I've taken from this proposal is tha however awful Cameron's Tories are they are still worth voting for ahead of Nu-Lab.

(via Peter Briffa)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Ahead Of The Curve.

Over the last few months everyone and his dog has been lining up to condemn rip off quiz channels. Can I just point out that I was way ahead of the curve on this one.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Terrorists Might Be Timelords.

Dumbjon marvels at the ability of liberals to blame the Iraq war for a terrorism plot that was hatched at least two years before the invasion began. Maybe it's the revival of Dr Who which has caused this belief because the phenomenon of muslims being influenced by future actions occurs so frequently that it would be hasty to rule it out. For example the favourite Middle East expert amoung the blogosphere's left is the academic Juan Cole, who I might add is no more anti semitic that Alan Hart. In 2005 he revealed:
According to the September 11 Commission report, al-Qaeda conceived 9/11 in some large part as a punishment on the US for supporting Ariel Sharon's iron fist policies toward the Palestinians. Bin Laden had wanted to move the operation up in response to Sharon's threatening visit to the Temple Mount, and again in response to the Israeli attack on the Jenin refugee camp, which left 4,000 persons homeless. Khalid Shaikh Muhammad argued in each case that the operation just was not ready.
The Jenin operation occurred in May 2002. In fact the 9/11 commission was quite clear that the plotting for he 9/11 attacks began in 1999, although it is possible that Cole had a copy of the report which was written at some point in the future.

Similarly when outgoing Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamed made some anti semitic remarks in 2003 Paul 'Enron' Krugman was quick to deduce that it was Bush's foreign policy that had caused Mahathir to attack jews. Mahathirs record of anti-semitism went back at least as far as 1997 as Krugman must have known since he advised the Malaysian government back in 1998 when the currency crisis was blamed on.... well you can guess.

Any more examples?

How Should I Vote?

As a crack political blogger I am always up to date with the inside gossip, so let me share a rumour I've recently heard- there are some local elections this week, or is it next week? Not being overly enamoured of the direction David Cameron is taking the Conservatives, particularly his seeming contempt for Conservative voters who were apparantly Apartheid loving, Aids spreading knuckle draggers until the Notting Hill set took over, I am in a quandry as to whether I should vote conservative or deface my ballot with a drawing of an enormous set of male genitalia. In favour of defacement are these factors:
  • My ward isn't a swing ward so my vote will have not any impact on who is elected.
  • A high Tory vote will only encourage Cameronism.
  • Local councils mostly implement policy set in Whitehall rather than exercise real power.
On the other hand voting Conservative will ensure that Tony Blair leaves office on the back of a humiliating rejection by the electorate.