Friday, November 26, 2010

Hate to say I told you so...

The blogs are alive with the sound of facepalms this morning, as the Daily Express looks like this:

I pointed out a while ago that the Express is fond of applying results of its self-selecting reader polls to the wider population. So, following that logic, that's 61,174,080* people who want us out of Europe. Only 617,920 people in the whole country either want the UK to stay in the EU, or are agnostic on the matter.

Which brings me again to the vexed issue of babies. There are 784,200 under-ones in the UK. That means that there are at least 166,280 babies who have developed the language skills and mental agility (or lack of) to agree with the Express. Plus, of course, every single man, woman and child over 12 months in the whole of the UK. Every politician, every foreign EU citizen (who, we are told, love nothing more than exploiting the UK's membership of the EU for their own financial gain), every sectioned mental patient, every serial killer - we all agree with the Express.

The Express hasn't, on this occasion, chosen to multiply its poll results by the population of the UK. But it did a few weeks ago, when the results were less overwhelmingly in its favour. The anomalies and absurdities above show just how little regard the Express has for its readers' intelligence. But somehow, I doubt they'll notice.

Hat-tips: Enemies Of Reason and Minority Thought and doubtless many others.

*2009 figures

Saturday, November 20, 2010


For the uninitiated, Openbook is a great little site. In the guise of exposing Facebook's lax default security settings, it offers a terrifying insight into the thought processes of people who are too thick to change their security settings away from the default. You enter a search term, and Openbook shows you all the status updates containing that term.
A good one to start with is "not racist but". Most of these are copy-and-paste jobs about the poppy-burners from last Sunday, but you get a few gems like:
Julia Mullan I love christmas but it hasnt been the same for me since I was in playschool and we went to visit Santa in fantasy island, that Santa turned out to be a black man, I'm notracist but it was the first black person I'd ever encountered at that tender age and it's stuck with me until this day! Plus the book he gave me was shite so I dropped it behind the radiator and stole someone elses!
In her haste, Julia has created a new compound word: Notracist. This does not mean 'not racist', rather it means 'not wanting to be seen as racist but Christmas has forever been tainted by the fact that I once spied a black fellow'.
David Jones y do people give a shit what imigrunts n others think thay are visiters in our country y should thay have a say in what we do we went to war to fight for our country n now its over run by peps hu carnt talk english its not right poor lil pigs lol thay wont remove peper pig though to much money to be maid im not racist but i am british n proud of it
Poe on David. Surely that must be a pisstake. 'Imigrunts... carnt talk english... ' pull the other one. Surely, surely he can't be for real...
Now let's try 'Muslims'. Again, it's 90% burning poppies and removing pigs. Not all copy and paste - one guy at least is speaking his own mind (using the term loosely)...
Phil O'donovan Muslims burn poppys in r country I say we all burn turbans and those bedsheets they were on there head ! N them
Can you picture Phil? Can you imagine his face as he realised how much better his post would be when he added 'N them' at the end, to show that he doesn't just want to burn the clothes he imagines Muslims to wear, but he wants to burn THEM too? Can you picture him? Does he look like this...
Yes, yes he does. And ladies, he's single. You can click through to these dickheads' full profiles, you see. One of Phil's 656 friends pointed out that it's Sikhs who wear turbans, not Muslims, and he replied that he didn't want an R.E. lesson. Cunt.
Ah, but he's one of the ones polite enough to use the word 'Muslim' rather than an actual racial swear word. Unlike...
Jimmy Smith i cant wait till my kids are old enough to understand that it was you who fucked things up and stopped me seeing them... another point for the welfare system free legal representation while working dads suffer the consequences... id rather be a paki
Classic Facebook. This is presumably directed at the mother of his children, poor things. After airing his dirty laundry in the most public way possible, Jimmy spits out a racist slur for no discernible reason, other than to get everyone on his ex's side.
Sammii Latham Had a gr8 nyt last nyt wid lou n after aswell, had a good chat <3 + cannot believe we saw tht dirty horrible paki agn lol! Ewwwww
I feel a bit harsh for highlighting Sammii in this way because she's clearly about 14 - but if you're racist enough, you're old enough.
Sam Livesey What a stupid effin PAKI, cant believe he tried to run me over i hope all your effin family die tomorrow smelly ARAB GRRRRRRR@ asif our benefits aint enough you want our effin lives anall !!!!!!!!!
Better luck next time mate.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Incredible, Holmes!

The latest report from the Institute For Pointing Out Really Obvious Things is out. Apparently, far-right nutters like the EDL 'can encourage extremists'. Join us after the break to find out if bears will leave the woods to answer a call of nature... and for a little rumour we've heard about the Pope's religious persuasion...

Pissing in the wind

Roy Greenslade has taken a break from foretelling the doom of the of the newspaper industry. Instead, he's wondering if we should mourn this or celebrate it. The Mail and the Telegraph took a story about a council restricting the smell from a cafe and they pretended it was about Muslims. When two daily papers, one of them a 'quality' broadsheet, can publish such lies, what's to mourn?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ups and downs

The beauty of the Daily Mail's reader comments is that they can be voted up as well as down. So just as you can often tell if you'll get along with someone by comparing the people and things you dislike, I find it a great time-saving tip to look at the worst-rated comments and base my opinions on those. Saves a lot of, you know, thinking about stuff.
So, some Celtic fans unfurl a few banners complaining about the poppy on their heroes' shirts, on the grounds that the British Army hasn't always been a great friend of Republicans and Catholics. What do I think? Over to Chloe in London...
Wearing a poppy is an individual decision. A freedom that soldiers died for in the past. If Celtic fans disagree with the wearing of the poppy, they are entitled to protest. They should not be prevented from doing so.
A net loss of 136 Daily Mail fwends for Chloe there. KT in the South-West has more...
The danger with the poppy is that it is almost like we continue to support our Government whilst they send our wonderful and brave men/women into ridiculous wars which do not make any difference ... I support the British Legion and Help for Heroes campaigns and happy to put money in a box but I wonder whether the plastic flower, which was a great idea during the two World Wars, is relevant today?
Boooooo, KT. Boooooooo 40 times.

What's this I hear from 5CC? Someone has put the word 'person' after the word 'gingerbread', in contravention of the Use Of Words 'Gingerbread' And 'Person' (Correct Order) Act of 1863? I don't know what to say. Save me, Neil in Wales...

I'm really, really trying to be outraged by this non story but I have a life. Sorry.
I'm afraid your apology isn't good enough for 97 Mailites.

Come clean and admit this is yet another piece of rubbish fiction from an under-employed DM journalist - send her/him on a course - or sack her/him.
Jimmy Vegas in Preston, if that is your real name and location (though one seems more likely than the other), your use of gender-neutral compounds is not wanted here. 55 Mail Maries for you.

Finally, a woman falsely accused a man of rape. Look at these two comments and try to guess what rating each of them has. First up, Dave in Gloucester:
It makes my blood boil. If this poor man had been convicted of rape he would probably have been sent to prison for 8 years or so yet this woman only gets 12 months for making the false allegation. She should have been given the same sentence he would have got had he been convicted!
So, Dave in Gloucester thinks making a false rape accusation against somebody is as serious an offence as raping somebody. He thinks this so vehemently that it 'makes his blood boil' that a charge of perverting the course of justice carries a lesser sentence than a charge of rape. The man who was falsely accused in this case has obviously been cleared of any wrongdoing, as his accuser has admitted making it up. Police time has been wasted and the man has been put through the wringer, but no-one's been raped.
In the opposite corner, Mrs B in London:
To all of you arguing that she should have received the same sentence as a rapist I ask this question: If, god forbid, you had to endure either one of the two crimes, which would you opt for? Think. The offences are completely different and therefore have different sentencing policies. Same your ire for killer motorists.
Right, let's have your answers.

And the results are...
Dave: +736
Mrs B: -483

You couldn't make it up.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tony Pulis is wrong. Here's why...

So, according to Stoke City manager Tony Pulis, Premiership referees should face relegation to the Championship, based on an annual rating from Premiership managers. No, they shouldn't. And here's why.

  1. Championship games need good referees too. Better, sometimes. I'd want a better ref for Cardiff v Swansea in the play-off final than for a meaningless end-of-season kickaround between Fulham and Bolton. At the moment, the biggest games get the top referees. Top referees will still make mistakes.
  2. It doesn't make any sense. He said: "Every club should have one vote [annually] and mark referees after every game. Then they have a chance of being relegated to the Championship. It would be a great system." What does that mean? Which part of this 'great' system gives refs a 'chance' of being relegated? Is it the annual vote or the after-game marking? 
  3. Why would a Championship manager vote honestly when they know that, under another part of Pulis' idea, the best-rated refs from the Championship will be promoted?
  4. Picture the scene: United v Chelsea, near the end of the season. The referee knows he's got a few big decisions wrong over the course of the season, and fears the managers may be gunning for him. Both teams have dropped points in games he's refereed, and both sets of players are getting in his face about it. If he goes down to the Championship, his pay goes down and his family will have to move house. Drogba goes down in the box and everybody's shouting. The ref really should have been concentrating on the game.
  5. Managers are people too - they are flawed, they are biased, they are petty, they bear grudges. They will vote against referees who made decisions which may not have been wrong, but which turned out badly for their team, or well for rivals.
  6. This is the main one, so it goes in bold: The only reason Tony Pulis has come up with this idea is that Stoke have had a few bad decisions go against them. Any match will involve tight decisions and mistakes that go against both sides. It's pure luck that the referee didn't see a handball here, or did see a push there, or thought this player or the other touched the ball last. Any of these decisions - from a penalty to a throw-in on the half-way line - has the potential to influence the result of the game one way or the other. It's like flipping a coin. And had Pulis not had a few tails in a row, he would not have come up with his 'great' idea.
Look, football fans whinge. I still bear a grudge against Roger Milford which I shall take to my grave. It's part of the fun and we can't expect managers to be any different. But when they start coming out with rubbish like this, we shouldn't indulge them. Because next week, things will go his way again - and this 'great' idea will be forgotten.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

The tiniest of victories...

I assume this will put the matter to bed, and come Euro 2012, there will be no talk of a ban on England shirts. I also assume there is a unicorn in my garden.

Know what I blame this on the breakdown of? Society

Sky News website readers, your challenge is to grind an axe of your choosing on a story about real children suffering real abuse. Ready... GO!
I could never understand how parents could leave their little ones with a woman who looked like Vanessa George in the first place. I'm not a lover of lewd language and rarely use coarse phrases, but goodness me, she is one ugly cow isn`t she?
'Beethoven' gets the ball rolling. Bad news for ugly childminders, however good they are. Imagine parents turning up for their toddler's first day at nursery, taking one look at the staff and turning right back round again. 'Plod' agrees:
Its a wonder any child got through the door with an ugly woman like this.I thought Halloween was the other day.
Haha, an ugly child molester. A paedotroll. 'Akira Khan' won't let this happen again:
is it just me or when ever you see pictures of these sub sub sub sub sub humans, I can't help but think, does no one see it there in their eyes, I mean look at them!? absolute scum in-carnate, even the guy, how can these people walk about without others being suspicious? im sorry but I don't tend to know many ugly scum like this but if I was to come across one my instincts would be to think what the hell are they up to and maybe report them to the police regardless, I mean it's a win win situation, if they are not what I think they are at least they should be removed as to save the eyesight of law abiding citizens everywhere, what an ugly ugly troll of a living sack of meat. utter contempt for this phat thing
Turn you down, did she? But to some posters, this focus on Ms George's looks is puerile nonsense, distracting attention from the sins of the villains of the piece - THE VICTIMS' MOTHERS. 'Rothschilds Nemesis' explains:
What sort of world do we live in where mothers 'have' to go to work, and cannot/will not stay home and be a mother, keeping an eye on their children and taking responsibility for the human being that they brought into the world? If women took more pride in actually doing feminine things, as nature intended, then this problem would never exist in the first place.
Doing feminine things as nature intended? Your glasses are steaming up a bit there. The Gibbons Family know who to blame as well:
We should be discouraging parents from hiring others to bring up their children and stand against the propaganda printed in radical feminist magazines and still expoused by baby-boomer activists and their brainwashed children.
But it's sooooo tempting. The other day, I was in WHSmith and I caught sight of the cover of Radical Feminist Monthly and the cover line was 'LEAVE YOUR CHILDREN WITH A PAEDOTROLL, THEY'LL BE FINE'. But I managed to resist.

I'll let Bruce Coleman-Wood have the last, bewildering words. Watch out for the bit in the very first sentence where he accepts that the children of single parents are pretty well certain to get paedotrolled, and that we might as well save our efforts:
Why do ladies work when married (single mums & dads are not in this argument). One possible reason is that they work to better their families & of course there are many other reasons. however, if that is your only reason, consider this (& this is really controversial girls): The minute the market knows families have more cash to spend (e.g. housing & consumer markets), prices go up. so are you all working for nothing? Lets bring that debate into the 21st century. I include married dads whose wives have the capacity to earn more than they do.
That BLOODY market. My wife got a job, starting salary £14,000, goes to the shops - everything's more expensive than it was before! They must have seen her coming - I told her (& this is really controversial girls) not to tell the market she'd got a job.

In summary: I too long for the days when women knew their place and no child ever, ever got abused, because the only setting in which child abuse has ever happened is a day nursery for evil grasping career women. Run by a paedotroll.

Friday, November 05, 2010

A hundred trillion gazillion

Ian Duncan Smith says broken homes (whatever that might mean) cost the country (whatever that might mean) £100 billion. He said this to make a point about two-parent families and how important they are - and in modern politics, if you want to people to believe something matters, you have to put a price tag on it.

The price tag he chose, £100 billion, was apparently chosen pretty much at random, according to Edgar Gerrard Hughes at Full Fact. EGH tracks down IDS's stats to a report which, he notes, 'includes some projections that may overstate the total figure'. For example, it includes costs related to domestic violence and care for the elderly, which can hardly be blamed on falling marriage rates.

EGH adds:
Perhaps most contentiously, the authors consistently assume direct, one-way causal links between family breakdown and social problems. It is quite plausible that much of the causality could act in the opposite direction, or that various “third factors” - whether cultural, socio-economic or otherwise – account for the correlation.

So, with all these caveats, what figure do you think the report gave as the total cost of relationship breakdown? £37 billion. Thirty-seven. Not 100.

It's called anchoring, that - giving a falsely inflated  figure as a starting point will result in people's estimates of the 'true' figure being higher. So even people who think '£100 billion? Pah, it'll never be that much' will be affected subconsciously.

Surely, our magnificent press will rush to correct this 'mistake'?

Cue the Mail.

And the most recommended reader's comment reads:
so true...bring back the daddy from the shadows and into people's homes...a family with a man and a woman and a child is a family...The state cannot keep subsidising the single mom's(or feminists who believe that men are unnecessary) (Stewart, London)
Yeah, bring back the daddy. More of the top rated comments:
When LABOUR made it easy for young mothers to move out and get a place of their own, I realised back then that we as a nation would be facing these problems in years to come. But tony blair got his way and labour hailed it as a great thing. Perhaps thinking they would gather more votes by these dysfunctional familes. (Mutal Bilah, UK)
My God, you're right! If we make it more difficult for women to leave their husbands, domestic violence will fall for sure. And finally:
Of course the loony left have expended enormous effort in undermining the family unit because it is the basis of our society which they seek to destroy and then rebuild to their liking. (Ethel, London)
Of course.

So what have we learned today? That politicians will take unreliable figures and exaggerate them in order to promote their political agenda. That sections of the press will repeat this unquestioningly as fact. And that Daily Mail readers are a right bunch of bellends. Class dismissed.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Worst. Analogy. EVER.

Simon at Adventures In Nonsense has confused me. Like every opinionated SOB out there, I tend to expect certain things of people based on whether their opinions are similar to mine. Simon campaigns against pseudo-science and nonsense. His all-too-infrequent posts are filled with gems like this (in which he pesters Boots with email after email about how much non-water there is in their homeopathic remedies, if you can't be bothered clicking through). As Cheryl Cole might say, that means he's right up mah street.

And then he goes and spoils it all by saying something stupid like this. It's not quite the stupidest thing on the internet, but it's the stupidest thing I've ever read from someone I usually agree with. Feel free to make up your own minds, but I think an argument so flawed, backed up with logic so twisted and morality so dubious deserves a step-by-step takedown.

After a brief preamble, he begins:
I’ve experienced employment law on both sides of the fence: as employer and as employee. And while I acknowledge that for some people these laws are a benefit, I personally see them as an attack on my freedom. In my experience, the situation seems far worse for the employee than it is for the employer.
This is a bold statement to make. Nothing wrong with bold statements. But really? Employment law as a whole makes things 'far worse' for the employee than for the employer?
So much so, that as an employee in 2000 I spent around £1200 with an accountant to help me waive my employment “rights”. Why, might you ask, would anyone actually pay money to waive their “rights”?
I might. I might also ask what an accountant can do about all these horrible, horrible rights you were lumbered with. Nice to know you can afford to splash out £1,200 on their services though.
I wanted to waive, amongst other rights:
  • My “right” to 20 days paid leave (it’s 28 now).
  • My “right” to sick pay, and protection of my job while I’m sick.
  • My “right” to a long drawn out disciplinary procedure if my employer no longer wants to employ me.
  • My “right” to paternity leave and pay.
So why did I want to waive these “rights”?
Ooh, it's getting interesting now. As an employee, he didn't want sick pay or paid holidays. Why indeed? I'm all ears, I bet this is going to be brilliant...
Let’s use an analogy: TV rentals.
A TV rentals salesman is pitching to you. It’s the perfect TV and you love it. But there are some strange terms and conditions.
Here is where my heart began to sink.
Firstly, you don’t get your TV all year round. For 28 days, you can’t have it. You can rent another TV for that time, but you have to keep paying for the first one. 
Secondly, the TV may break. If it breaks, you get a slight discount on the rental price while it’s being repaired but you do need to keep paying for it. If the TV is broken for a long time, you are able to get out of the contract but only after a long drawn out process.
Thirdly, the contract lasts until the TV is 65 years old. If you think the TV is no longer up to the task and wish to change it – or you just no longer need it, you’ve got to follow a long drawn out process. You need to fully document this process in advance, and stick to it to the letter or the TV company may sue you. If the TV company no longer wishes to continue renting the TV, they can take it away easily.
Fourthly, the TV company might need the TV back for a while to help make another TV. They can decide to do this at any time, but you need to keep renting the TV at full price for the first 6 weeks of this process, and then at a reduced price for up to a year. At a time decided by the TV company, they can bring the TV back and you need to put it back in your home and continue paying full price. You can rent another TV to cover this period, but of course it will be under the same contract terms.
Now it should be fairly obvious that if you are trying to rent a TV under this contract, then you’re not going to get a great deal of money for it. This is a very silly way to rent TVs.
But, I hear you say. This isn’t about TVs, it’s way more important than that: these are people’s lives.
Phew. Glad you heard me say that.
And you’re right. My life is way more important than a TV and if I’m going to sell a significant portion of it, it is critical that I am able to negotiate the best possible terms.
Hang on a minute though, are you the owner of the TV or are you renting it? Or are you the TV? Leaving aside the awful, awful analogy, you started off by saying how things were 'far worse' for the employee as a result of these laws, then you spoke from the viewpoint of the employer for a while about how rubbish it would be if TVs had paternity leave, now you're back to bemoaning the lot of the poor employee.

You hit the nail on the head when you said people's lives are way more important than TV rentals. Then, sadly, you turned the hammer round, prised the nail out and poked yourself square in the eyeball with it. See, the problem is not simply that 'people are not TVs', the problem is also that EMPLOYING IS NOT RENTING. My boss doesn't own me for the 37.5 hours a week I spend working for him, just as you didn't own the people who worked for you when you were the boss. The power relationship in the workplace is a unique situation and no amount of twisting your clumsy analogy will make it fit.
I can save up for my holidays; I don’t need my employer to do this for me. I can put money aside for when I’m sick. I can imagine nothing more demoralising than turning up to work and demanding pay from someone who no longer wishes to employ me. I will only make the decision to have children if I can pay for them myself.
Ah, 'only have kids if you can pay for them yourself'. You're like an old friend, good to see you again. Where was it I saw you last? Oh yes, Jeremy Cunting Kyle, that's where. Maternity leave exists in order to give women two things: Time to recover from the physical and mental trauma of new motherhood; and the chance to spend a few precious months nurturing their young. It does NOT exist to 'pay for' the child. Paternity leave is a relatively modern invention which gives men time to support their partners just after they've given birth and to spend some time with their young. It does NOT exist to 'pay for' the child. Children are bloody expensive - they cost a lot more than a few weeks' paid leave.

And you'll 'put money aside' for when you're sick? Good luck with that. How much money? How sick are you planning on getting?
Waiving these “rights” gives me the negotiating power to demand more of what I do want. For me personally that means more holiday time, flexible hours, better pay, great people to work with and interesting & challenging work.
Well, bully for you. No, really, well done. You can obviously afford to play fast and loose with those rights. Sorry, "rights".
I’m not negotiating a simple contract to rent a TV; I’m selling a significant portion of my life.
No you're NOT. You have real ISSUES if you think your boss owns you. Never mind fighting to give up your rights as an employee - maybe try finding a job where you don't see yourself as being property of your employer.
When the government forces me to sell under these ludicrous terms that personally offer me little benefit, they’re not controlling and devaluing my TV.
Oh, back on TVs, are we? Not everything has to be like renting a TV, you know. Do you behave like this in everyday life? When you get on a bus, do you spend the whole journey complaining to the driver that you wouldn't rent a TV if it stopped every few minutes to let a few more people watch it, and you had to stop watching after a while because it was time to change the driv... I mean, cathode ray tube?

Come to think of it, I think I was on the next table to you in a Beefeater this one time - I heard someone complaining to the waitress that you wouldn't rent a TV if it was covered in gravy.
They’re controlling and devaluing my life. Controlling another person’s life when they are causing no harm is immoral. Controlling another person’s life in a way that significantly devalues it is exceptionally immoral. This is the morality of employment law.
Which sixth form debating society drop-out are you plagiarising this shit from?

Simon, if you want to believe you live in a world where mental illness and cancer and break-ups and car crashes and recessions and unwanted pregnancy don't happen, join the fucking club. And if you want to chance your arm and sell your rights down the river, knock yourself out. You've got what you wanted anyway, thanks to your accountant and your £1,200. But please don't demand that the rest of us join you in your great big gamble. Some of us happen to think we've got too much to lose.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

What babies think

The Express has finally lost the plot. Its idiotic CRUSADE FOR CHANGE campaign to stop the clocks going back has been well covered by Atomic Spin and Tabloid Watch, doubtless among others, but I wanted to focus on one particular aspect of the coverage - namely, the brazen misuse of mathematics.

"29 MILLION SUPPORT" screams the headline. What a lot of people. This Crusade certainly has captured the  public's eye - a number of people many, many times higher than the Daily Express readership supports it. But of course, that's not actually the true number of people who responded positively to the poll. No, what they've done is take the 'yes' percentage - 58% - and multiply it by 50,000,000 - roughly the population of England.

Why England? Well, the Scottish Express isn't so enamoured with the campaign. And Welsh people don't count. Regardless of this, is it reasonable to assume that support for the Crusade really runs at 29 million people?

No, of course not. Here's a few reasons why:

  • The article itself admits that 58% of respondents said the government should 'look at the system', which falls some way short of the unequivocal support hinted at in the headline.
  • The survey was of Daily Express readers. In general, if the Daily Express runs a poll asking readers 'would you like a large man to stamp on your testicles until you vomit?' then the 'yes' vote would be in the upper 80s at least, provided it was linked in with an article headlined NOW SPONGING EU MIGRANT BRIGADE SAY NO TO BRITISH BOLLOCK STAMPING. In context, a meagre 58% is something of a snub.
  • You simply cannot extrapolate a poll about political opinions to the whole population like that. Look at that picture, for example. What do you see? That's right - babies. Babies don't care about politics. They don't care about immigration, the NHS or the deficit. Things might affect them, but they don't care about the issues as long as the milk keeps flowing. They certainly don't care about the clocks going back. (Well, the one on the left might, because he lives in Scotland, but he doesn't count.) And yet the Express included them in its data, because they multiplied 58% by the WHOLE population of England, not just the non-baby population*. The fallacy involved here becomes more obvious when the next Express poll comes back with a 97% 'yes' result - such a figure would account for everyone in England over the age of nine.
I simply do not buy the idea that this mathematical incompetence was an honest mistake. When they get a 90%+ poll result, they don't multiply that by 50 million because the answer would look ridiculous. Just because the 29 million figure isn't actually impossible, doesn't mean that the methods used to obtain it weren't a complete crock of shit.

Add this to the usual cherry-picking of data, bold assertions and the odd truly mystifying claim (including that 'a third of us will oversleep' when the clocks go back - think about it), this whole campaign is a masterclass in pointless newspaper rubbish.

* 2009 figures here. If you're anything like me, that's you done for the day.

Friday, October 29, 2010

What most sensible people do

Ah, bobbing for apples. Nothing says 'by gum, it's Hallowe'en' more than sticking your head in a bucket of water and trying to grab an apple with your teeth. As the Mail puts it:
Most sensible people consider it a jolly Halloween tradition that poses a danger no graver than getting a squirt of water up your nose.
See how the tone of the 'news' article is set by the intro - if you disagree with the Mail, you disagree with sensible, jolly, traditional folk.
And now - boo, hiss - enter the baddy in the second paragraph:
But now apple bobbing has fallen foul of the health and safety police – with participants advised to wear goggles, remove stalks and use bottled water.
Playing the villain is opthalmologist Parwez Hossain. Pfft. Opthalmologists, eh? What do they know about eye injuries?
Mr Hossain said three people were admitted to the hospital with apple bobbing injuries last year. He added: ‘Casualty staff have seen children and adults turning up on Halloween with scratches on the cornea and eye injuries from impacts caused by apple bobbing.'
 Oh, OK, he knows a fair bit. But don't listen to him, kids, he's the health and safety police. Like the police, only without any authority, and speaking in a purely advisory capacity, partly because we asked him to. Listen instead to 'Hallowe'en enthusiast' Ben Richards:
‘I’ve done apple bobbing for years and never had any problems’
 Ben has clearly got his wires crossed, and thinks that Mr Hossain (boo, hiss) was saying that absolutely everyone who bobs for apples will be injured.
Less enthusiastic about Hallowe'en, but probably more so about apples, is Adrian Barlow, chief executive of English Apples and Pears, who said:
'I have never heard of anybody suffering an injury as a result of apple bobbing.'
Speak to Mr Hossain, he saw three last year.
The punchline of the article is a crescendo of further Hallowe'en health and safety 'horrors', culminating in:
[The hospital trust] advised care when using glow sticks because the contents can cause irritation if splashed in the eye.
Yeah, you know what? I think I'll probably actually take that one seriously.

And it's two for the price of one. Accompanying this article is a short piece about champion swimmer Alex Crossland-Robins, 10, who has been 'banned from wearing goggles in the pool under health and safety rules'.
Turns out it's policy to let children get used to the feel of water in their eyes - so they are less likely to panic if they find themselves in deep water without goggles, presumably. Oh, and it only applies in Alex's school swimming lessons - he can wear goggles whenever he likes on his own time.
He's pictured with about a dozen medals and trophies and is obviously dead good at swimming and that. I doubt he won those competitions in school time, so it's completely incongruous to link his 'champion' status with his school's rules about goggles.

Never mind though, the die has been cast and the narrative established. By next week, Littlejohn will be riffing on apple bobbing being banned by Muslim lesbian PC do-gooders - and the facts will be nothing but a distant memory.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Name shame

The Office of National Statistics has released its annual list of the most popular baby names. And the big news is that, after 14 years at the top, Jack is no longer the most common boy's name! Isn't it?

No, it's not. The big news is that Mohammed is now the most popular name for baby boys ahead of Jack and Harry. Kind of, if you combine all the different spellings of Mohammed but fail to combine all the different spellings of, say, Oliver. This bullshit comes back every year. The Daily Mail (among others) wants to tell the story of SCARY MUSLIMS COMING OVER HERE TAKING OUR JOBS AND OUR WOMEN AND NOW THEY'RE NAMING OUR BABIES TOO!!!!!!!!

It's beautifully summarised by Jonathan at No Sleep 'Til Brooklands here... no, hang on a minute, here. The Mail, Express and Telegraph are cherry-picking their data and twisting it to fit their narrative. We're all used to that.

But the BBC... surely you can rely on good old Auntie. Far from the liberal-biased monster some would have you believe, the Beeb is the closest thing we have to a neutral media organisation. And how has the Beeb reported the baby names report? With a flashy graph and the headline Oliver and Olivia top names' list. Not sure about that apostrophe (actually, I am sure - it shouldn't be there) but at least it sticks to the facts.

But what's this... after mentioning the clean sweep for olive-based names, and Jack's slide to second spot, and the lack of new entries in the top 10, the story reads:
Mohammed was at number 16 nationally...
What sort of chart rundown is that? 1, 2, 16. No wonder Top Of The Pops got axed. At least the BBC didn't mash the figures to make it number one... but in a way, that makes it even odder that they've mentioned it at all. Without wishing to sound crude, it doesn't mention where Hardeep charted, or Stavros or Sergio or Vladimir, or any other foreign names for no reason other than that they're... you know... foreign.

What's happened is that the Mail et al have won. Their narrative - invading armies of super-virile Muslims colonising our white and pleasant land - has poisoned even the most innocuous of stories. So much so that even the BBC, which doesn't even attempt to gerrymander the results so Mohammed is top, feels it has to mention it. Simply because, if it didn't, it would be accused of being part of the conspiracy.


'BRITAIN'S FOREIGN AID BILL SCANDAL' screamed the Express on Tuesday.

Scandal (n): 1. A publicized incident that brings about disgrace or offends the moral sensibilities of society: a drug scandal that forced the mayor's resignation.
2. A person, thing, or circumstance that causes or ought to cause disgrace or outrage: a politician whose dishonesty is a scandal; considered the housing shortage a scandal.
3. Damage to reputation or character caused by public disclosure of immoral or grossly improper behavior; disgrace.
4. Talk that is damaging to one's character; malicious gossip.

Hmm. Definitions 3 and 4 certainly don't fit... so what the Express is saying is that Britain's foreign aid bill either 'offends the moral sensibilities of society' or 'ought to cause disgrace or outrage'. And what is so offensive, immoral, disgraceful and outrageous about Britain's foreign aid bill?

It's the largest in the EU.

Good on us, you might think. There's a recession on, sure, but at least in this country there's not a famine on, or an AIDS epidemic on, or a civil war on. That's the kind of namby-pamby liberal-lefty thinking which the Express simply will not tolerate.

How scandalous.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Newspapers report on TV shows as though they are news. It's OK, I've got over that. Hence pages 4 and 5 of the Sun on Monday being devoted entirely to X-Factor stories such as Woman wears striped tights and Viewing public treated like idiots and are idiots.

But the page lead was headlined MENTORS... IT'S WAR. It was written by Lucy Connolly, and in the print edition it was tagged as 'EXCLUSIVE'.

That's right, EXCLUSIVE. In the context of newspapers, EXCLUSIVE has a very specific meaning. It means a story that only one newspaper has. Marking a story as EXCLUSIVE tells your readers that your reporter has sniffed around, ruffled a few feathers, dug a little deeper and mixed their metaphors until they've come up with something nobody else knew about.

Or, like Lucy Connolly, they might have just joined several million other people and sat on the sofa watching Saturday night TV. She begins:
TENSIONS between the X Factor judges have turned into open warfare - with them tearing into each other over how they mentor acts.
OK, so I understand that the Sun wants us to buy into this myth of 'tensions' between the judges. It's the show's USP, after all. So we are asked, in the name of trashy entertainment, to suspend our disbelief. Fine. 'Open warfare'... well, call that journalistic licence. What she means is, these tensions have become more... tense. And with this being an EXCLUSIVE report, she must have some behind-the-scenes scoop, right?

Wrong. There follows 16 paragraphs of story. Eleven of them simply report things that happened on the weekend's two X Factor shows. Things like:
[Louis Walsh] reckons [girl band Belle Amie] could be major stars - but are being cheated of the help they need because Simon, 51, is interested only in boy band One Direction. He told the singers: "You've got a problem because you're on your own in this competition."
Later on ITV2's Xtra Factor, the pair continued the spat when Simon declared: "The difference between me and Louis is that I listen."
Yes, we know. We actually WATCH this shit, OK? And anybody who doesn't watch it will have skipped straight to the next page, surely.

The rest of the story is either baseless speculation:
Things are now so poisonous finalists fear they are being criticised for their mentors, instead of for their performances.
Or made-up anonymous quotes:
A source said: "It was obvious that it was a sideways swipe at Cheryl. She was grimacing trying to bite her tongue but her expression said it all."
Rubbish. And people wonder why newspapers are struggling.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Journalism's ruined. I think I might become a homeopath. Surely, all I will need is some water, a big book of pseudoscientific buzzwords and a Conscience Blocker 3000.

Ooh, but I'd best join The Society first, otherwise people won't take me seriously. I won't be alone - according to The Society, all kinds of people take the plunge. Why? Well...
You may have been inspired by the qualities and expertise of your own homeopath. You may have had homeopathic treatment which has changed your life, or know of someone else for whom homeopathy has made an enormous difference. You may be a parent who has prescribed first aid remedies for your own children, or a professional in another field interested in changing direction in your work life or extending your present career.
Hey, I'm a parent! I've prescribed first aid remedies for my children! Not homeopathic ones, mind. If my daughter cuts her finger, I put a plaster on it. I don't put a drop of her blood into some water, then dilute it until none remains, then rinse the cut. That would take ages. But maybe there's a quicker way.

Sadly, I have neither the time nor the will to actually shell out for a course in homeopathy. But I can take the 'individual route to registration'. Which is to say, you don't need to take a course to be a homeopath. You need a certificate.  So once you've printed off the certificate, filled out a couple of forms, fabricated a couple of 'patients' - you're in. Once you've paid The Society between £250 and £500 for the privilege, that is.

Don't worry, you'll get it back. Once qualified, you can charge in the region of £85 for an hour of your time. And that's to say nothing of the cost of the 'remedies'.

Fair enough, you might say. If people want to spend a lot of money on not much water, why not let them? Fools and their money, so on and so forth. But sadly, it's not just individuals who pay for this rubbish. The state does as well.

That's right, despite the complete lack of evidence that homeopathy works, an overwhelming body of evidence that it cannot work, a whacking great recession and a Tory government cutting funding for such expendable luxuries as wheelchairs for disabled people, the NHS still funds homeopathy. The last government commissioned a report which advised that this should stop. The last government ignored this report in the name of 'choice'.

To be honest, the cost of homeopathy to the NHS is a drop in the ocean (like the remedies themselves). NHS Choices estimates it at £3-4m a year, which wouldn't make much difference to the deficit, or the state of the NHS. But its survival as a state-approved system of medicine is testament to its special status. It's just water, it really is.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Odious little man

Full Fact is currently ploughing through Gurning Gideon's Big Tory Cutathon. First up are his claims about welfare and employment. And of four statements of fact analysed, one was true. One. Out of four. That's about 25%, George.

"In the last three months alone," he smugged, "the economy created 178,000 jobs." For a given value of 'the economy created' (25,000 of those were people registering as unpaid family workers, while a further 43,000 registered as self-employed), that number is accurate. So, well done. Pats on the back and cheers all round. Oh, you already did that.

The other three statements were about benefits. My word, these Tories hate people having benefits, don't they? Full Fact is rather charitable on these, giving Gideon the benefit of the doubt - doubt which he created with his imprecise use of language. For example...

"The benefit bill of a single out-of-work family," he snorted, "has amounted to the tax bills of 16 working families put together." How precise. And at the same time, how imprecise. Is it 16 average families? Or 16 high-earning families? Or 16 low-earning families? Let's assume he means the average. Full Fact does the math(s): On average, each taxpayer contributed £12,180 in taxation in 2009/10 - about £5,000 in income tax and the rest in VAT, fuel duty and the like. Multiply that by 16 and you get £194,880. 

Then remember that the current political buzzword is WORKING FAMILIES, and that working families have two adults earning. So double that figure and the grand total for the average tax bill of 16 families is.......

...... £389,760.

So a single out-of-work family gets the best part of £400,000 in benefits a year.

Bollocks they do. 

Full Fact highlights a story in the Telegraph about a family getting £147,000 in housing benefit for a seven-bedroom home. Shock horror. Presumably they had quite a few kids. But even this kind of sneering story doesn't come close to £389,760. Even if they were claiming all the other benefits to which they were entitled, this family's 'benefits bill' would have been £155,639.

Gideon, I'll give you a hint here: £155,639 is less than £389,760. A lot less.

"Benefit bills," he puked, "have soared by 45% under the previous government." Depends how you look at it - you can manipulate the figures to give you 45%, but you have to ignore such things as the meaning of the word 'benefits'. Factor in the pesky English language and you get less than 20%. Again, imprecise language (catch-all terms like 'benefit bills' can mean a number of things) is Gideon's saviour.

But when he jizzed: "Nor will fraud in the welfare system be tolerated... We estimate that £5bn is being lost this way each year," he messed up. £5.2bn is lost to the welfare system each year, but most of that (£3.7bn) is down to error on the part of the Government or the claimants. And that is a gross figure - the estimated underpayments (according to, erm, the Government) in 2009-10 amounted to £1.3bn. So the amount lost to benefit fraud is £1.5bn, but the Government almost makes up for that by underpaying people £1.3bn.

"Full Fact will write to the Chancellor to highlight this mistake and request that the record is amended to reflect this," says a rather naive fact-checking website. It wasn't a mistake, it was a lie - part of the Big Lie that anyone who claims benefit is either a scrounger or a fraud. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

The circle of dispair goes on!

I wouldn't chop my bollocks off for £200. But then, I'm not a heroin addict. John is, and he really wanted £200. Can't imagine what for. An American charity called Project Prevention gave him £200, and he surrendered his reproductive system.

It's tabloid gold, this story. Complex social problem + uneducated working class scum + alarming, inhumane 'solution' = THE PERFECT SHITSTORM. Cue the Mail and its readers.
A good idea,But lets extend it to the jobless,Immigrants,Then most importantly the section of society which causes the most damage and costs taxpayers the most.POLATICIANS! who cost a fortune to look after even more after public life with there pensions,let alone there expenses in office,Then there is there poor kids who have little idea about life than go to public school and into government,and so the circle of dispair goes on!
Robb in Stoke-on-Trent there, speaking up for the state-schooled masses. Let's not be pedantic about the odd typo here and there. And everywhere. I like his idea about sterilising the jobless, though. We can always stitch their bits back in when they get another job.
Eugenics, plain and simple. 
Sam in Bristol gives no indication of whether he thinks this is a bad thing or not.

To be fair, a lot of people do point out that dangling cash in front of desperate addicts maybe isn't a great long-term solution to their problems. But Polly in London has no such concerns, because...
It's not like £200 go a very long way in the world of drugs.
Great point. They'll probably not even bother to spend it on drugs, as it won't go very far. But you still have the problem that some people may become parents before they are drug addicts, or before the Castration Squad can catch up with them. Fear not. Phil in Maidstone has the answer:
Everyone should be reversibly steriised before puberty, Reversal only after passing citizenship and parental testing.

The insufferable Melanie Phillips

Thanks, through gritted teeth, to The 21st Floor via Daily Mail Watch for introducing me to the latest rant from the desk of Melanie Phillips.

For a start, the headline. Not the work of Phillips herself, but cribbed from her copy. 'Druids as an official religion?' it begins, in that toe-curling rhetorical question style so beloved of the Mail titles. 'Stones Of Praise here we come,' it concludes. Ha! LOLZ. Stones Of Praise, geddit? Cos Christians have SONGS Of Praise, and Druids love STONES, and STONES begins with the same letter as SONGS!!!!!! 

It doesn't get any better after you've negotiated the headline. Phillips is not happy. Not happy at all. Because:
[Druids] according to the Charity Commission, are to be recognised as a religion and, as a result, afforded charitable status, with the tax exemptions and other advantages that follow.
Ah, tax exemptions. Nothing is important unless it affects people financially. Welcome to PhillipsWorld. But other than the piffling cost to the taxpayer of extending tax exemptions to a faith practised by a tiny, tiny minority, surely it doesn't matter? Au con-fucking-traire:
Well, it actually matters rather a lot. Elevating them to the same status as Christianity is but the latest example of how the bedrock creed of this country is being undermined. More than that, it is an attack upon the very concept of religion itself.
The sneering tone of this article is truly distasteful. Phillips' incredulity that Druids should be 'elevated' to the same status as Christians is revealing - some supernatural beliefs are simply better than others, she is saying, and the powers that be should recognise this. 
If the Druids qualify as a religion, can other cults such as the Scientologists be far behind? Can it be long, indeed, before the wise and learned theologians of the Charity Commission similarly grant charitable status to sorcery, witchcraft or even the Jedi.
Yeah, and then after the Jedi, who'll be next? The paedo terrorist wheelie bin brigade, that's who - then the PC liberal left mission will be complete. And it gets worse - public sector workers are getting in on the act as well. Not content with growing fat off the sweat of the wealth-creating private sector, before relaxing in their dotage with their gold-plated pensions, now they've been...
... given the right to take days off to perform rituals, such as leaving food out for the dead, dressing up as ghosts and casting spells, or celebrating the sun god with ‘unabashed sexuality and promiscuity’. 
You could break down any religious rituals and make them sound ridiculous. What will those wacky Pagans come up with next - eating crackers and sipping wine and pretending it's the body and blood of a man born to  a virgin who was executed and then rose from the dead because he was the son of their deity? And this business of 'days off to perform rituals' - traditionally, the whole country has Sunday off for precisely this reason.

She goes on to link Paganism with communism and fascism and to say that without Judeo-Christian religions 'there would be no human rights'. She even uses the phrase 'political correctness gone mad' in a non-ironic way, which I didn't think anybody did any more. In fact, I'm almost calling Poe on this article, were it not for the fact that she comes out with this shit all the time.

Maybe the Mail's sub-editors agree. The words they've chosen to pick out as crossheads seem to sum up Melanie Phillips perfectly - CULT, EXTRAORDINARY and BARKING. Shame about the typo in the first one, though...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Football fans, bloody hell

Went to the football on Saturday, as did thousands of others across the land. Now, stereotyping is lazy, but it's also easy. And in some cases, it's right on the money. Witness the behaviour of some of my fellow fans.

Let's get the partisan stuff out of the way - I was at Oakwell, Barnsley, to watch my Forest, my only Forest, who make me happy when skies are grey. Although on this occasion they made me frustrated when skies were unseasonably blue. But the game, sporadically exciting as it was, isn't what this is about.

Oakwell, surrounded as it is by Barnsley, isn't the kind of place you associate with the glitz and glamour of American-style cheerleading. It's typical of a lot of grounds in the middle tiers of English football - squeezed between narrow terraced streets, shiny, soulless flatpack stands clashing horribly with the odd relic of a gentler age. Barnsley's one-season stand with the Premiership in the 1990s is a distant memory now, but some of the prestige remains - namely, the Tykettes, Barnsley FC's cheerleaders.

Glee's Cheerios they aint, but from what I could see they held their formation and made the right moves a lot more that Forest managed. Then they walked round in front of the away stand and... sigh.

"Get your tits out, get your tits out, get your tits out for the lads," yelled men old enough to be their fathers. One guy actually ran down a few rows and bellowed it at the top of his voice, apparently in the genuine hope that they hadn't heard the rest of the fans, and that his bellowing would make them stop, do a double-take, realise what was being asked of them and... well, oblige.

But, of course, they did not oblige. And this didn't go down well. First came the booing - again, were these people genuinely disappointed? Did they really expect that, on being instructed to do so by 'the lads', these girls would get their tits out?

Then came the really deplorable bit. "SLAGS, SLAGS, SLAGS," chanted my fellow fans. Yeah, because if they weren't slags, they'd have shown their tits to a football crowd on demand. That's the kind of thing girls do if they're not slags.

Saturday was a flag day for the Kick Racism Out Of Football initiative, a noble aim anywhere but especially so in places like Barnsley and the rest of Yorkshire, where the biggest ethnic minority population, subcontinental Asians, are glaringly unrepresented both in the stands and on the pitch. The tannoy man reiterated this several times over the course of the afternoon, warning fans of the criminal status of racist abuse and chanting.

Bloody right, too. The terrace racism of the 1980s did not disappear with the terraces. I only really started going to football in the Premiership era and I've heard monkey chants and similar abuse on several occasions. So anything that reduces that kind of behaviour is to be commended.

Similarly, homophobia is still rife at football grounds but recent high-profile incidents brought the issue to the fore and fans have been told that homophobic chants - at least those directed at players - will not be accepted. Again, bloody right.

But what about sexism? What about hundreds of men chanting 'slags' - an insult which can only apply to women, and therefore a sexist one - at a dozen or so young women? It's not a perfect analogy, but imagine they'd been shouting 'poof' at Barnsley midfielder Hugo Colace. He's not gay, as far as I know, but he has long hair and was running rings round us - in the 80s, he would have been unceremoniously 'outed'.

Or imagine if, as Ryan Bertrand demonstrated his complete lack of ability or willingness to even consider touching the ball with his unfavoured right foot, or as Dexter Blackstock showed off his full range of weary shrugs when another flick-on went astray, or as Guy Moussi ran around being Guy Moussi, imagine if even one Forest fan had inserted the word 'black' between 'useless' and 'tosser'. It happens - the target of the monkey noises I mentioned earlier was Jason Lee, in a Forest shirt, from a Forest fan - but it would be met with a chorus of disapproving tuts at the very least.

But when these women were subjected to sexist abuse, no-one tutted. Even, I'm ashamed to say, me. You have to have some cojones to tut alone at several hundred beered-up idiots. Individual tutting won't kick sexism out of football - only the collective tutting of an organised campaign or the institutionalised tutting of criminal sanctions can do that. Still, I should have tutted, but my cojones were lacking.

I'm sure it's not just Forest fans, though 'we' do have a vile song about Nottingham being 'full of tits, fanny and Forest', which makes me cringe every time it strikes up. The Barnsley fans (both of them) let the Tykettes do their thing unmolested - but home crowds are always more genteel than away followings. No, this kind of thing is endemic among football fans.

Nick Hornby bemoaned the strange relief he feels when he hears a man call another man a cunt but not a black cunt - to me, it seems similarly strange that a game which is taking giant steps to eliminate the persecution of minorities can at the same time tolerate such treatment of 50% of the population.