Saturday, 29 October 2011

A Note On Synthetic Phonics

I've just glimpsed this report on the BBC website about criticism from academics and teachers of a reading text based on phonics.

Case #4: Maria Miller, liar?

Either a National Review on Disability Living Allowance is going to be published soon stating that DLA overpayments are £600 million because claimants are failing to inform the DWP of changes in circumstances(and explaining how they calculate that figure), or Maria Miller is a liar.

How does she differ from a bullshitter like John Humphrys? Well Humphrys doesn't know what he's saying, Miller I can say unequivocally does. The overspending due to fraud and error for DLA is £220 million. Maria Miller wants you to believe that is not representative of overspending in DLA. She wants you to have the number '£600 million' in your head in relation to DLA and overspending. Like with her claim about drug and alcohol addicts claiming more higher-rate DLA Mobility than Blind and Deaf people, she doesn't always state the clarifying point to get fact-checkers off her back(and they rarely are on her back when she's feeding these figures to our complacent mainstream media). Her garbage on that was subject to a fact-check by FullFact.org about it but it wasn't an outright lie. Miller has lied frequently about a lot of things, but never on the public record where she could be caught out. Until now.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Case #3: The British Bullshitting Corporation


Depending on the response to a significant number of complaints that are being made to the BBC, they may have to be included along with the Labour party in the case files investigating the motives, intentions and methods of the government and wider establishment in their actions towards social security. I have attempted to submit a complaint to the BBC but the webpage gave me no confirmation that it had worked and ended on step 4 of the form when it jumped back to step 1. On the third attempt it finally did confirm. The complaint I attempted to submit is as follows.
I am hoping that the BBC will make a transcript available for this programme as from start to finish it appears to deliberately mislead the audience. Few claims are directly asserted by the presenter, most are made by third-parties but which are not corrected and would leave most of the audience believing that such statements were in the programme because they were true. Of those claims that are made by John Humphrys, the majority are also untrue. I can not go into specifics because there are more omissions, half-truths and blatant untruths in the programme than there are minutes in it: more than one falsehood is promoted to the audience per minute. Clarifying the context missing from the programme would require a line-by-line rebuttal.

Every inaccuracy in the programme is serious. The sheer number of them demonstrate that there was no intention to be balanced or rigorous with this investigation of social security. Talking points which are common among government ministers and newspapers hostile to benefit claimants were presented as concrete facts and clearly were intended to advance the shared agenda of all of them towards Britain's existing welfare system.

Please provide a transcript so that all of the inaccuracies can be documented in full as soon as possible, with the hope that the BBC will look at them and consider whether an apology and retraction of significant portions or the entire programme itself are necessary.
The BBC may also be broadcasting the Panorama special 'Britain On The Fiddle' next Thursday, or the complaints may cause them to cancel it. It's a repeat and the episode doesn't seem to be available anywhere nor is there much information on it, but I expect I'll also be making a complaint about that.

John Humphrys Is Not A Liar...

...He just doesn't know what he's talking about.

Maybe though we need to recognise the difference between a liar and a 'bull-shitter', which is something which developed in popular culture in the years following the second Gulf War when an essay from 1986 by Harry Frankfurt was republished called 'On Bullshit'. In it the philosopher defined the two different distinctions between dishonest people. He put it:
"This is the crux of the distinction between the bullshitter and the liar. Both he and the liar represent themselves falsely as endeavouring to communicate the truth. The success of each depends upon deceiving us about that. But the fact about himself that the liar hides is that he is attempting to lead us away from a correct apprehension of reality; we are not to know that he wants us to believe something he supposes to be false. The fact about himself that the bullshitter hides, on the other hand, is that the truth-values of his statements are of no central interest to him; what we are not to understand is that his intention is neither to report the truth nor to conceal it."

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Tabloid Logic: Modern Tents Are So Good They Are Always Empty

Tents are supposed to keep the weather out and the heat in. The key bit being the heat staying in or you might as well not have it. What they are made from hasn't changed much in recent years but the way they are made has, incorporating thread patterns on a minute scale to give the fabrics properties that wouldn't otherwise be possible. Cotton is known for being warm and is so because it catches air in tiny pockets, but that alone wouldn't stop enough heat escaping that it couldn't be visible on say a thermal imaging camera like the one used by the Telegraph(and now the Daily Mail) at the occupation outside St Paul's. Rather than using the properties of cotton to catch and store warm air in little pockets, it can be threaded into a form where it simply reflects that heat so in the case of a tent, the whole thing is a big warm air pocket. It's very efficient and some forms of it can actually reflect more than 99% of the heat back whilst still being a breathable material.

The Telegraph and the tabloids neglect to mention this, nor do they say if they actually went and checked some of the tents that showed up as 'cool'. A well-insulated house with furnaces burning can look empty on a thermal image where it is obvious to the naked eye that it is not. It's not really an interest of mine what the occupation does and what critics say, but if they're really having to scrape the barrel like this and rely on the basic scientific illiteracy of Britain(who also haven't watched Predator because they're hooked on the rubbish that passes for 'action' these days), then they are somehow managing to lose an argument they claim isn't even being had.

There is no way to tell from the images taken how many tents are occupied. It is the occupiers word against those that say thermal vision 'proves' the tents are empty with absolute certainty. 
 
EDIT: when I creep around sleeping people with my thermal vision goggles, I get arrested.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Panorama: BBC On The Fiddle

Some time ago the BBC current affairs programme Panorama did a 'special investigation' into benefit fraud in the United Kingdom. They tastefully called it "Britain On The Fiddle". I did not watch it and now I wish I did. It will be repeated either this Thursday according to the BBC website, or a week on Thursday according to the Radio Times. It could be both, Panorama seems to jump around the schedule though brand new episodes are shown on Mondays. The Radio Times listing for what is on around 8 o'clock on the date the BBC gives the programme as "The Future Of The Welfare State" with the same slot a week later being Britain On The Fiddle.

From what I have read, it is replete with its writer's opinions, loose with the facts and excessively sentimental and tabloid-ish. This is probably what caused me to avoid it the first time, but that was also before I began my efforts on understanding the welfare system and its history. It is it seems exactly the kind of  'docu-commentary' the BBC insists it does not make and leaves to Channel 4 to commission.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Hardest Hit (And A Banana-Shark)

The second Hardest Hit march is today and this time takes place around the country. Due to alarming things that alarm me, I will not be able to attend any event. It does however mean there is a chance of a spike in visits and I had hundreds in a few hours during the last one in May. This could mean that today I will get the 10,000th visitor.

Such a milestone justifies a celebration with a prize....

This, is a Banana-Shark. They are a real animal/fruit. They are not fake, they are not even Pokemon. This one can be yours. I don't actually have a Banana-Shark, I mean the picture can be yours. I don't have a physical picture of a Banana-Shark, I mean you may right-click and 'save as' this picture. Please only do this if the counter at the bottom of the page says you are the 10,000th visitor or that would be wrong. You would be stealing the hard-won glory of exclusivity from my 10,000th favourite person.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Free Dumb Informaton

Some disturbing developments have come to light, the facets I think will justify two separate posts. 

On the 8th of August the Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) made a Freedom Of Information request to the Department of Work and Pensions, asking in details but seeking in general how many ESA claimants Atos Healthcare had assessed since the nationwide roll-out of the Incapacity Benefit transition to Employment Support Allowance 'began in April'. They did this because they are the contractors for government welfare to work programmes, namely the Work Programme and the almost completely unpublicised Work Choice (hint: they park all the most difficult cases on this in some desperate attempt to not let the Work Programme fail as badly as Flexible New Deal did). The context is that the prime contractors have taken a lot of heat recently because they are squeezing the sub-contractors and not referring clients to them. The indication is that the prime contractors themselves aren't getting enough referrals to cover their costs through the initial referral fees, so they wanted to know why the ESA Work Related Activity Group from which many of their 'clients' will come from isn't being filled up by the 1.4 million Incapacity Benefit claimants who should now be being transferred onto ESA.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

A Year Of Consequences

Back in June something alarmed me. At Prime Minister's Questions Edward Miliband used all five of his permitted questions to ask the same one. Each time he did, David Cameron gave a response that could only mean he didn't understand the question, didn't know anything about the policy he was being asked about or both of those. The leader of the official opposition asked if the Prime Minister was aware that seven-thousand recovering Cancer patients would be kicked off contribution-based ESA after just twelve months under plans in the Welfare Reform bill. David Cameron seemed to think 'recovering Cancer patients' meant 'terminally ill'. The Prime Minister made this mistake five consecutive times in a row, even though Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan-Smith were sitting close enough to whisper to him where he was screwing up. Either they shared his ignorance or they didn't want to risk exposure to themselves and their plans in the house during PMQs. Or they hate David Cameron and secretly relished him making a fool of himself. Cameron compounded this ignorance, with arrogance; he actually acted as if though it was Miliband who was confused and didn't know what he was talking about.