Unsightly

Scanning down the BBC News headlines page I came across a few headlines that bothered me and I think they show a disconnect between what the public think and what is correct. This has always been the case but social media and the ease of connectivity now means that people who are wrong can gather together and think that being in a community of like-minded people means that their views are correct.

Holocaust Denial
Holocaust Denial

Apparently 5% of the population do not think the holocaust happened. Whether this is the same as denial I am not sure. Perhaps they just haven’t appraised the evidence. Apparently 45% of people polled didn’t know how many people were killed in the holocaust but I think that is more forgivable. To know something happened is one thing but to know numbers about it is another. As long as they all know it was a bad thing then we should be ok. There were 17 million victims in total.

What this news article seems to be pointing out is that we clearly are not learning from the mistakes of the past. We are also pretty poor at appraising evidence. Too many people don’t understand how to read articles critically and to appraise their sources of information. Too many people can easily be swayed by group-think and the idea that many people saying the same thing over and over must be right.

What’s more these people also probably don’t care that they are wrong. They are going to believe what they want because they can. They also probably think that there isn’t objective truth. They probably struggle to cope with the idea that they can be easily manipulated and are possibly being used by other forces or that they are just stupid. The reason we have experts in certain fields of human endeavour is so that not everyone needs to be an expert about everything. People should be accepting of allowing us to defer our human knowledge to people who have spent their lives pursuing the best-as-we-know-it truth in these matters. We also need to understand that it’s not just a single expert we should trust but the consensus view of the world of experts.

This is what science does. Science changes its views with evidence and sometimes it changes quickly and sometimes its a more gradual change but over time the direction of scientific knowledge is to getting things correct. In terms of history we should listen to the consensus view of academics while we learn more and more. In terms of economics we shouldn’t really listen to anyone because it’s not a science, more a dark art. In terms of Brexit we should listen to the lawyers, the economists and the scientists. We should not be listening to the MPs because they aren’t experts in those fields. They are people elected by us to represent us whom, we would think, have the best interests of the country and its citizens as a whole. But we should also recognise that they are human and so fundamentally flawed individually.

We also need to understand that sometimes we just won’t know and answer to a particular problem or that the question isn’t a valid question. Think about something from history, something like what Masham said to Queen Anne. We can’t know what was said but we can use the best evidence we have to try and build a picture. Think about the start of the universe, we have a pretty good idea of what happened and asking “what” is a very legitimate question. The problem with that one is asking “why”. Although why something happens is a legitimate question the answer is unknowable and this makes the question reasonably void. It is these gaps in answers to questions that humans don’t seem to like and in those are inserted many stupid theories along with the concept of god.

Education is how we get out of this. We need to educate the country in particular matters so that people understand why and how. This is not an easy process. To allow a decent explanation to the country on matters of importance with a series on TV or radio or the internet somewhere. Mind you, you can’t make the horse drink. Some people will choose to be willfully ignorant and others are just ignorant. Personally I think this is correlated to good effect with empathy, but that is something I haven’t investigated.

Holocaust
Holocaust

This is how it is done. We educate people. We let them understand the experiences. We talk to them. We hope they are willing to listen and learn. I do think, however, that there is an awful lot of the Dunning-Kruger effect going on with people who choose not to learn.

Asstrology
Asstrology

Two more headlines next to each other on the very same BBC News front pages as the others in this communication. I did not read each article and that may be the start of the problem but I want to point out the following:

Astrology is bollocks and, unfortunately, people fall for its charm and simplicity. Perhaps if we could educate people more about appraising evidence and understanding a little more physics we could kill off this bollocks and other religious bollocks too.

Finally, putting a question mark at the end of a headline does not good journalism make. It is really lazy. It implies that the answer is yes but also shows that the journalist doesn’t really have any proper evidence to answer the question because otherwise the question mark wouldn’t need to be there. If you have evidence then it is fact and you can write something like that as an indictment of underfunding of our roads. But if you are just using “anecdotal evidence”, or to give it its proper name; “anecdotes”, then you are just a lazy piece of shit and you shouldn’t be a journalist.

Always remember when your aunt starts telling you that she took activated carbon tablets and that cleared up her cancer that the plural of anecdotes is not evidence. People are flawed and terrible at understanding evidence. That is why science and experts exist.

Bad Whatever

The news yesterday was about what the Bank Of England reckons could happen if we exit the EU with various agreements. Most headlines I could see focused on the idea that we are going to screw over the economy if there is a “no deal” Brexit.

Bank warns no-deal could see UK sink into recession – BBC News

This seemed to be scaring all people into accepting any sort of deal, even the one the PM has fleshed out. But what most headlines have failed to point out is that ANY exit from the EU will cause massive financial harm to the UK.

If Brexit is disruptive rather than disorderly, GDP falls 3% over the five years to 2022, house prices slide 14%, and unemployment reaches 5.75%

If a close trading relationship is agreed, the economy could still be 1% smaller than if the UK had remained in the EU but 1.5% higher than the bank’s most recent estimate.

If it is less close, the economy’s growth could be 3.75% less than if the UK had remained in the EU and 0.75% less than forecast over the last inflation report.

These figures cover the period to 2023. – BBC News

So, it’s pretty shit for all scenarios but just really shit for nearly all of them. I mean, we could just NOT LEAVE you stupid bastards.

I hate this whole issue. We are led by people desperate to argue for making our country a worse place. Fuckin’ stupid.

Radio

Over the last two years the news has become increasingly depressing. I think that is because everything I hear goes against my views of what our society should be. All the politics since the EU referendum and election of May and Trump has been frustrating. I have often switched off from one of my twitter accounts because I find it depresses me, makes me worried for the future and makes me feel helpless.

I have tried to cut down the amount of news I consider. Recently I have found that listening to BBC Radio 4 a lot hasn’t helped my mood. The presenters don’t seem to approach the discussions in the way I think they should and they seem to miss all the important issues facing this country at the moment.

I went through a phase of listening to music in the mornings and evenings while in the kitchen and I am now at the point where I miss the voices. I like the music but I miss the discussion of talk radio.

So, I spent a little time last night trying to get a radio station from New Orleans play over my Sonos system. I am pretty sure that this station, WWL, broadcasts only to the USA and the website I get directed to doesn’t work properly in my browser. I don’t do any VPN type thing yet, although that might happen at some point.

So, I spent a little while trying to find the URL I could use to add WWL to my Sonos system. Sonos uses TuneIn Radio to connect to streaming services and WWL doesn’t broadcast over that network. However, you can add stations manually if you can get a streaming URL.

It took a little clever Googling around to find a source that would work but eventually I did it. I have now added WWL to my sound system. I am looking forward to, once again, learning about the weather in Louisiana and how the traffic is near the big lake.

A previous communication in 2016 covered this media switch also.

Why New Orleans? Because I follow their American football team, that’s why.

Not A Normal Distribution

So, I’m feeling grumpy today. Just am. Not sure why. And then I go and stupidly read an article in on the BBC News website about most babies being born at 4am. You can read the article here and I’ll be taking quotations from it.

Four o’clock in the morning is the time most babies are born spontaneously in England, with the majority arriving between 01:00 and 07:00, a study shows.

So, four o’clock is the “average” of 01:00 and 07:00. Is that how they worked this out? I’m not sure. I’m probably not going to read the original paper but it does seem a strange thing to say. Assuming that spontaneous births are reasonably random the actual number arriving at 04:00 would be quite small and the variation could be little.

While planned C-section births tended to happen on weekday mornings, births after induced labours were more likely to occur around midnight.

This makes sense. C-Sections in the morning to then make sure everyone is fine during the time when the medical cover is best. Inductions probably happen at that time because they are started in the morning and it takes that long for the effects to show. These are not surprising figures and make utter sense.

It’s this next bit that turned me into a rage.

Overall, more than 70% of births took place outside regular working hours.

And

The researchers said there could be implications for staffing of midwives and doctors, with only 28% of births taking place between 09:00 and 17:00 on weekdays.

So, an event that is reasonably random is spread throughout the day? About thirty percent of births happen in a time frame covering roughly 30% of the amount of time in a day. THIS IS WHAT WE WOULD EXPECT. The working day covers 1/3 of the 24 hours in a day and the number of births in that time period is about 1/3. This sentence made me swear out loud in our staff common room earlier today, much to the ammusment of my colleagues.

I’m going for a walk to calm down.

Ronseal

You see, sometimes the news headline writers don’t get it right. Below is the front page headline from BBC News.

Pay Gap Headline
Pay Gap Headline

It makes it look as though firms are rushing to publish their details because they want to. They want the world to know how much they don’t pay women. It makes it look like there’s a race to publish, like they really want to get that information out there. But, when you click, you get more details:

Reality
Reality

This article goes on the explain the reality. Firms are behind in publishing their details. It’s funny isn’t it, the original headline makes it look as though companies can’t wait whereas the reality is they haven’t been bothered to publish the details so far. Perhaps it’s time for new headline writers but not those employed at the Daily Mail though.

 

Lazy Headlines

A trend I have noticed more and more in the news these days is the use of quotations in a headline. This is probably because of two reasons. The first is that it is incredibly expensive to defend “libel” accusations in the English court system. This gags publishers to a certain extent. The second reason is that it makes headline writing easy and removes controversy because the publisher can say “we were using quotes”. Here are some examples from the best UK news organisation the BBC.

Quotation Marks Excuse
Quotation Marks Excuse

In the Toby Young article the term “regret” is used in quotation marks because it’s a feeling that an organisation is having. It’s obviously a bullshit term for the fact that the Office for Students’ were WRONG, but rather than admit to being wrong they claim the organsation has “regret”. Let’s face it, they were wrong.

“Intorlerance” is written because someone said it and the BBC don’t want to put any form of objective fact into the reporting. Also, this article relys on what MPs and Peers said rather than any form of what does and will work. It’s entirely opinion and therefore possibly wrong. Hence the quotation.

“Down to privilege” used in the third article is ammusing. Being in quotes means that it’s treated as an opinion rather than a potential objective truth. This saves the BBC from having to defend their wording for the article because all they are doing is quoting a scientific study, or maybe they are putting their own spin on it. It doesn’t really matter. What the BBC have done is shy away from stating an objective truth.

The world these days doesn’t seem to like the idea that some things can be known for sure and they are truths. We can test them. Hell, you can test them if you want to study for long enough. Other things are opinion. I’m not sure opinion belongs in headlines.

Not Risking It
Not Risking It

Look at these headlines. The BBC aren’t claiming the welfare system is at critical point. They aren’t being objective about it. They haven’t looked at the evidence and declared it is fucked. They have been lazy and just written down what someone said. It weakens the argument being made for investment.

“Lots to do”, if we were honest and objective then we could clearly state, without the need for speech  marks, that there is a ton of stuff still to do on Brexit. Once again the quotation weakens the argument being put forward. It lends a sense of opinion rather than reality.

“Cheating”, yeah. They were lying weren’t they. They spent more than they were allowed and yes they cheated. It doesn’t have to be in quotation marks. We know that’s what they did.

“Sexism”. This headline says that although someone accused Boris, the sexist, of being sexist, we aren’t sure and are really relying on the speech of someone else rather than declaring our foreign secretary a rascist, sexist idiot.

Just look at the US press. They accuse their president of telling “untruths” or being “misleading”. Bullshit. He’s a liar. Let’s call him that.

News agencies have a duty to report the objective truth as much as possible. The rising use of quotations means there’s less chance to offend people who can’t cope with objectivity.

Natural Consequence

Listening to the radio this morning and during the “What The Papers Say” section the presenters discussed an article in the Daily Mail. Now, clearly, anything in the DM is utter bullshit and should be ignored but I couldn’t help but be curious at the language the news BBC presenters used. It went along the lines of:

Councils are going to charge more for car parking . . . . . this will affect Sunday shoppers and church goers.

I’m not sure I agree with their assessment. I think it will affect people who want to park their cars. What those people do after they have parked their cars is entirely up to them. If you are using a service then you should expect to pay for it somehow, this seems a sensible approach to me. I’m don’t even want to get started on the righteousness invested in “church goers” as if they should have the freedom to do their religioning. I’ll shout this out later but going to church regularly doesn’t make you any more “moral” than the next person. May I kindly remind you of which system of moral belief has spent the last fifty years systematically covering up child abuse: step up the catholic church.

Councils charging more for the services they provide is a natural consequence of the austerity measures imposed on this country by successive governments since  the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Local councils have had their central government funding cut massively and so they need to either raise more money by themselves or cut services. It’s ingenious because it keeps the anger at local politicians rather than those in Westminster as your local council has to charge more but it’s NOT their fault.

Austerity has royally screwed this country over and the natural consequence of less money around was Brexit. The Tories have imposed their version of hatred on the peoples of this land and will make us all poorer.

Just for amusement here are some quotes from the DM website article about the parking charges and my comments:

Motorists face steep hikes in parking charges to plug holes in council budgets.

True, but no explanation about why the government isn’t funding the councils.

Some town halls are bringing in fees on Sundays to catch shoppers and churchgoers.

Replace “catch” with “charge for services”.

A number of local authorities are in extreme financial difficulties with much of the pressure coming from the rising cost of social care.

Because we don’t want to help those who are less well off or damaged within society. We want to park for nothing. The pressure is coming from chronic underfunding and rising inflation costs.

‘The war on motorists has got to stop,’ said Tory MP Robert Halfon.

“WAR”. Ha ha. Making people pay for a service they use is considered “WAR”. Perhaps the Tory MP could argue for increased central government funding for the councils to ease the legitimate parking charges. I hadn’t noticed a “war” on motorists. I’d love to hear an expanded explanation about that.

Dover and Bristol are planning to reintroduce Sunday charges in car parks as well as on streets.

So why the fake outrage? It’s hardly a war is it if these charges were in place before.

‘When will councils recognise that growing their income depends on low-cost and accessible parking, not knee-jerk cash grabs from hard-working motorists?’

English councils made a £819million surplus from parking fines, fees and permits during the 2016/17 financial year.

“Cash grabs” interpreted means paying for services. “Knee-jerk” implies a sudden change and easy decision. I suspect that having to raise charges is the last thing the councils want to do but is a necessity. The £819 million figure is disingenuous as it includes parking fines and is spread over the whole of England. Let’s face it, if you park somewhere you shouldn’t and get caught then pay the fine. There is no distinction in the article about how much income comes from those who break the rules. This figure use is designed to increase rage at councils rather than place that anger where it is deserved. This is what happens when your media is biased. To balance this I will probably have to have a look at a left leaning newspaper and so I promise to do that at some time.

Ninety-five per cent of town halls plan to increase council tax next month. Meanwhile, bin collections, libraries, social care and other services have been slashed.

NO DISCUSSION OF AUSTERITY MEASURES IMPOSED BY CENTRAL GOVERNMENT.

The number of households enjoying weekly rubbish rounds has plummeted by a third since 2010, the National Audit Office revealed this week.

OK, and this is important because? . . . . . . .

There are three paragraphs defending the action and it would be remiss of me to neglect to mention them.

Martin Tett of the Local Government Association said: ‘Local authorities remain on the side of hard-pressed motorists, shoppers and businesses and do not set parking charges to make a profit.

‘Car parks cost taxpayers money to maintain and improve and any surplus is spent on essential transport projects, such as tackling the £12billion roads repair backlog and creating new parking spaces.

‘To protect such provision, and in the face of an overall funding gap that will exceed £5billion by 2020, councils are being forced to make difficult decisions.’

These are followed directly by a paragraph telling of charges increasing in Bournemouth. The overall “reporting” in this article is designed to keep people angry, to keep them annoyed at “social costs”, to keep them thinking that motorists are hard workers and shouldn’t have to pay for these things. This is social engineering on a massive scale and it keeps happening in EVERY article in the piece of shit newspaper and website. The DM claims that the web version is an entirely separate entity but as Private Eye points out they both share the same executive editor.

The DM and Express along with other media have used their positions and influence over the last 12 years to engineer a social divide, to encourage hatred, to encourage an insular approach. They are the scum of this country. They are the ones fostering hatred towards people who are different or have needs. They promote the entitled view they so desperately mock.

It is time for me to stop or I’ll end up in a full blown rant and that’s not needed on a Saturday morning. I’ll leave you to ponder the use of language by our media.

Oh, I’m Soooooo Grateful

This has made me so angry:

News Article

Wedding Text

The royal family is ALLOWING some SCUM (public) to attend a shindig within the GROUNDS of a shitting castle.

The language in this news article and the way it has been reported on the radio implies that WE SHOULD BE GRATEFUL. Fuck them. I am not grateful. I don’t care that two people are getting married. I don’t want to live in this bullshit hierarchical society.

Oh, the NORMAL people are being chosen by the Lord Lieutenants. Woopee-fucking-do. At least we now know whose cock you’ll have to suck to get an invite.

All of this royal family OBN reporting is an utter waste of energies. All it does is fuel the social beliefs that those people are better than everyone else. It reinforces that this society exists and class exists for a reason: that the public can’t be trusted. These nobs are born into their place in the world and so the rest of us had better get used to it.

Viva La Revolution

It’s No Collapse

“Oh it all falls apart when it snows”

“An inch of snow and Britain can’t cope”.

Bullshit.

Firstly: We’ve had plenty of warning that there was going to be snow. It wasn’t a surprise.

Secondly: People should have been prepared for the roads to become bad and for transport to be cancelled. BECAUSE WE HAD WARNING.

But, why doesn’t anything work when it snows?

Because you don’t spend LOADS of money on services that are going to sit idle for 360/365 days of the year. If you want everything to work “just fine” when there’s a lot of snow then bloody well pay for it. It will cost a lot of money. It just doesn’t make economical sense.

Hopefully, many services have plans for getting through the snow. Hospitals and emergency services are important and I somewhat suspect that they HAVE plans. Being forewarned about the snow means those plans can be enacted.

Simple really.

QTWTAIN

The heading of this communication means:

Questions to which the answer is no

This applies to pretty much every newspaper or news headline which is a question. Suggesting something real by using a question is a weasel way out of getting sued for libel or defamation. The news organisations can use the “just asking questions” defence. Here are some potential favourites:

Did Aliens Build This Structure?

Does MMR cause autism?

Is The PM a paedophile?

and so on. You can see how this works. Headlines like this plant an idea in people’s brains and then, as you may or may not know, bad ideas get reinforced more and more as they are explained as wrong [see religion].

Here’s one I saw from the BBC:

If you want a question then it should really be:

Are Superfoods Real?

The answer to this question is NO. There are foods that are better for you than plenty of others but there aren’t really any foods that work wonders on your body. The rule with food is to eat a balanced diet and to then exercise regularly and maintain a HEALTHY weight.

So, the article goes into statistics. They performed a study on 94 volunteers, split them into three groups and fed them either butter, olive oil and coconut oil. These were not blinded in any way so the people knew which oil they were eating. Also, it’s quite a small number of people to be involved and so any findings would need much further study.

The measurements of LDL and HDL afterwards seemed to indicate that the coconut oil did have some positive benefits. This is interesting but not conclusive. There was no correction for type of person, exercise or general diet and health factors. To make this science more rigorous a study needs to be completed with many many more participants controlled for many other factors.

This study is a good start, but it needs much more work before anything conclusive can be suggested. Really, this article is an advert for the TV show in which these results are “exposed”. As it says at the bottom of this article:

The new series of Trust Me I’m a Doctor continues on BBC2 at 20:30 GMT on Wednesday 10 January and will be available on iPlayer afterwards.

So, I fixed the headline for the BBC:

 

ADDENDUM [added 5 minutes after publishing]:

Radio 4 is RIGHT NOW now running a segment on this food. They have a professor in from Cambridge. They are leading with the “celebrities are eating this stuff, should we”. I would argue that celebrities are the right people to tell us what to be eating, unless they are a registered dietitian. The scientist is now saying they were surprised that the coconut oil seemed to increase HDL “three times as much”. It was 15% compared to 5% and while that is three times as much it’s actually only going from 1.05 to 1.15 and so that is an increase of 9.5% which would be more appropriate as a measure rather than 3 times which is 300%.

Conflating absolute increases with relative increases is dangerous. It’s why we have health scares. As an example let’s suppose something goes from affecting 5 people in a thousand to 10 people in a thousand. The headlines would say that the risk doubled as it went from 5 to 10. The actual answer is that the risk has increased by 2%. It went from 0.005 to 0.01. Doing the sums the wrong way gives you bigger numbers which look scarier or better depending on what effect you want to achieve.

The end of the interview has the presenter saying this is early days and so we shouldn’t really change our eating habits yet, we should follow the official guidelines. WHICH IS EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT RUNNING THIS AS A NEWS STORY ENCOURAGES.

FFS.

</anger>.