Samaritans — Idles
I’ve become obsessed with this song. It contains an important message that is beginning to be heard, but still needs to be heard more widely. This is a song for now.
Discovering Idles has felt a bit like discovering Pulp when they released Common People. Although 9-year-old me didn’t really understand what appealed to me about Pulp, now I think I do. Distinctive-sounding music, yes. But also lyrics that are interesting (a rarity in and of itself), and important, and for right now.
The first time I knowingly heard Idles it was when another song was played on the radio in the morning, Great. I remember sitting up in my bed, astonished at the lyrics. You don’t often hear songs that are so political, especially ones that actually hit the nail on the head — and say what I would want to say, but so much better.
Anyone surprised that Jeremy Corbyn is keen to continue with Brexit simply hasn’t been paying attention. Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party have done nothing more to stop Brexit than the Conservatives have.
Remember, Jeremy Corbyn was the first senior politician to call for Article 50 to be invoked — within minutes of the referendum result being announced. He was more enthusiastic about Brexit than any Conservative leader.
The idea that Labour Party is pro-Remain is the greatest lie in politics today. That this perception ever existed was perplexing, given that you could figure that out simply by listening to Jeremy Corbyn.
This week I found out I won’t make the cut of that Scottish independence referendum documentary I was filmed for a few months ago. Due to a change in editorial focus, apparently.
It’s actually a bit of a relief because, as you’ll see from the original post, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with how it panned out. I could actually do without any hassle resulting from being on TV.
When I texted Alex about it, her reply was: “Oh good!!!!” You know it’s serious when four exclamation marks come out.
When I asked why, she said, “I was worried about your political views being on the BBC.” (To be honest, I think we should worry about all sorts of other people’s political views that are allowed on the BBC these days, but there we go…)
Still, it was interesting to be part of the process, and good to know my blog could still get noticed in this sort of way.
It’s well known that large projects often fail. Daniel Kahneman calls it the planning fallacy.
Academics have identified six indicators of a successful large project. But they spell very bad news for Brexit.
Jonathan Calder considers the decline of the Liberal Democrats in Adur:
Checking the relevant page on Wikipedia I find that, remarkably, the Alliance and then the Liberal Democrats had uninterrupted control of Adur between 1980 and 1999.
But something went terribly wrong after that. Today there are no Lib Dem councillors on Adur and a council by-election there this evening has no Lib Dem candidate.
He suggests that churn happens to areas as well as individual voters.
I do think that they went through a period of just not being confident enough. Impartial journalism is not giving equal airtime to two people one of whom says the world is flat and the other one says the world is round. That is not balanced, impartial journalism.
It is often said (including by me) that if you are accusing the BBC of bias, it is probably because you are losing the argument.
But Robert Peston is not the first to make this point, that the BBC is giving equal platforms to viewpoints with very unequal merits.
It’s getting difficult to disagree that this is currently a major problem for the BBC. It is particularly acute on particular programmes, such as the Today programme, which is more interested in generating heat than light.
The radio institution celebrates its 70th birthday today. I enjoyed this history of the programme from Andy Walmsley.
I had no idea that Any Questions? was originally developed as a stop-gap to fill a hole in a regional schedule. From its beginnings on the West of England Home Service, within two years it was being regularly broadcast nationwide — first on the Home Service, but quickly also on the Light Programme.
Within quite a short time, sixteen million people were regularly listening to the programme. Frank Gillard had got his mass audience.
(Despite its appeal to the masses, it’s difficult to imagine a programme like this on the modern-day Radio 2.)
It seems that the programme has changed little in its 70 years, which is an extraordinary feat of longevity. Not only that, its carbon copy TV version, Question Time, appears as popular as ever. I can’t really stand to listen to or watch either of them.
How bad software design decisions can have a more devastating impact than bad policies.
At a time when Silicon Valley and the larger public are waking up to the government’s reliance on software to carry out its agenda, it’s more important than ever for tech workers to be thoughtful about how they can be a force for good.
How to measure levels of populism, and how that cuts across traditional measures of economic left/right and liberal/authoritarian sentiment.
Populist sentiments are more common on the left than the right of the economic dimension, and authoritarians are more likely to be populist than liberals but the patterns are complex…
The Labour party win a clear majority of the votes of those on the ‘liberal’ and ‘centre’ left. But their vote share is lower among the ‘authoritarian’ left than it is among the centre liberal position. In fact, the Conservatives gained greater share of the left-authoritarians (regardless of populist sentiment).
Pontevedra banned cars from its centre, pedestrianising 300,000 square metres.
Miguel Anxo Fernández Lores has been mayor of the Galician city since 1999. His philosophy is simple: owning a car doesn’t give you the right to occupy the public space.
“How can it be that the elderly or children aren’t able to use the street because of cars?” asks César Mosquera, the city’s head of infrastructures. “How can it be that private property – the car – occupies the public space?”
There are some interesting details in here about exactly what causes most congestion, and why car-filled cities are so undesirable.
Reading between the lines of the end of the article, the scheme isn’t without its critics, or its problems. But I think the time has come for us to more seriously consider how many car journeys in city centres we really need — and how much better the city might be if more people could walk and cycle around without having to watch for motorised vehicles.
The calculations that were going through Donald Trump’s head when the UN laughed at him.
Part of the way humans respond to laughter is to work out whether we are included in it or excluded from it, and whether we are being laughed with or laughed at. I see people’s brains truly light up in the MRI scanner when they listen to laughter, as they’re trying to figure this all out.
Fascinating piece from Nick Barlow on why it is problematic for the Liberal Democrats to attempt to chase centrist voters. Because while most people report having centrist views, when you analyse what their views actually are, more people are actually economically-left authoritarians.
These views are the effective centre of views in Britain, but they’re not really at the centre of political debate and in conjunction they tend to be the most unrepresented.
What is concerning for a liberal is that there do not seem to be many of us generally. Moreover, Nick Barlow’s analysis suggests that liberals tend to be on the economic left, not the centre.
When you’ve started stockpiling ambulances, maybe it’s time to admit that Brexit is a mistake.
The emergency vehicles, built by Mercedes in Germany and finished off in Ireland, are desperately needed by London Ambulance Service to help hit 999 response times over winter. Concern at the highest levels of LAS over a no-deal Brexit has seen the order rushed through to ensure they arrive before Britain leaves the EU on March 29 next year.
Thirty of the vehicles, which take months to build, will enter service by March, with 82 being “stockpiled” in case Brexit results in supplies drying up.
How our political views throughout our lifetimes are shaped by our formative years.
If you were politically aware in in your teens and early 20s in the mid-80s, you’ll have vivid memories of how the SDP did indeed weaken Labour, and how early hopes for the party were dashed. Amongst 50-somethings, these memories create a jaundiced view of new centre parties – a view perhaps not shared by those younger than us…
The psychology here is simple. There is such as a thing as an impressionable age – in this context, our teens and early 20s. I, for example, have vivid memories of most of what happened between around 1976 and 1989, but everything before then is what I’ve only read or heard about, and everything since is a bit of a blur, mostly of minor significance.
I definitely feel that. I followed politics very closely in the late 1990s and into the 2000s. But for the past ten years or so, the day-to-day detail has all felt rather less significant.
This is so messed up, especially considering the concept of British culture is inherently multicultural.
Evidence that racism or anti-refugee sentiment is correlated with Facebook use.
Wherever per-person Facebook use rose to one standard deviation above the national average, attacks on refugees increased by about 50 percent.
It’s a radical idea — interviewing extremists without pandering to their extremist ideas. It turns out that by asking them about their policy positions instead of just letting them bang on about their racist ideas, you can quickly show them up.
German television viewers found out Sunday night when the broadcaster ZDF ran a major interview with Alexander Gauland, a co-leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which capitalized on anti-refugee sentiment to earn its first-ever seats in the German Parliament last fall. Ahead of the interview, ZDF’s Twitter feed teased the interview as dealing with “climate change, retirement, digitalization—and without refugees.”
The resulting 19-minute interview, in which Gauland struggles to answer basic questions about his party’s positions on such issues, has been lauded by opponents of the AfD as masterful.
I had sort of missed this story while I was on holiday, but this from Torcuil Crichton seems to be a useful summary.
Salmond’s fight for “fairness”, as he labels it, only serves to telegraph to them, and us, what forces are stirred when women choose to cross a powerful man, as he undoubtedly is.
Are you a fascist? Have you been throwing your toys out the pram because some digital platforms have finally grown a pair and removed you? If so, Bruce Lawson has some advice for you on how the open web works.
Of course, it’s perfectly possible no-one will visit your website to read how Bin Laden faked the moon landings in order to draw attention from the fact that Marilyn Monroe was a CIA-funded muslim who invented income tax and fluoridated water in order to seize your guns and pollute your precious bodily fluids. But that’s freedom.
It’s always good to read/see/hear Stephanie Flanders. Here she asks why politicians no longer have a favourite economist, in the way that Margaret Thatcher liked Milton Friedman and John F Kennedy admired John Kenneth Galbraith.
In one sense, this feels like a concern I have been reading about for a decade or two. But it also feels like an extension of the more recent phenomenon of refusing to listen to experts.
Nevertheless, there are some real questions for economics to answer. Why does it not have the influence today that it enjoyed in previous decades?
We’re also hearing mainstream economists talk more loudly about the possibility of shifting the balance back toward labor with wealth taxes and reduced taxes on earned income. That’s a big shift for a profession that seemed to think until recently that reducing the tax on capital was always and everywhere a good thing. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for an elected politician to decide that any of this advice is worth listening to.
Very interesting analysis of how people perceive what probability is meant by phrases such as “likely” or “real possibility”. It turns out there is a lot of scope for misinterpretation.
However I would quibble with the following:
You are trying to assess the probability that the [product launch] doesn’t happen. The way to frame your bet might be: “If the product fails to launch, I receive $1 million, but if it does launch, I get nothing.”
Now imagine a jar full of 25 green marbles and 75 blue marbles. You close your eyes and select a marble. If it’s green, you receive $1 million, and if it’s blue, you get nothing. You know you have a one in four chance (25%) to get a green marble and win the money.
Now, which would you prefer to bet on: the launch failure or the draw from the jar?
An interesting thought experiment, but not quite true. People prefer to receive an amount of money sooner rather than later. So you’d still rather place the bet on the jar, even if you thought the probability of product failure was 25% — because you wouldn’t receive the money until the unspecified future date.
Thanks to my colleague Lauren Tormey for the tip.
How architecture is used to place poorer people in harsher environments.
Texture is a class thing. The more money you have, the more texture you get. The reverse is true of lighting and sound: the more money you have, the less of both of those you get.
These are not universal rules, but a return from a month spent in Europe to the United States, which is always much harsher in its economic realities than the countries over there, made it evident to me how prevalent the reality of texture discrimination is. Let’s call it walmartism: the transformation of the spaces used by those with the least means into boxes devoid of texture.
A more extreme example of a similar phenomenon is where a tower block such as Grenfell is re-clad to make it more pleasant for the rich people outside the building to look at, but more dangerous for the poor people living inside it.
For an issue that has (rather rarely in politics) been one of sustained public interest, with many twists along the way, it’s perhaps surprising that there hasn’t been greater movement, not even in the form of bouncing back and forth between pro and anti.
Mark Pack concludes:
…you need to move people at a deeper level than a recitation of facts about a technical policy detail.
Sadly, as much as we would like it to be, people’s minds aren’t changed by facts. Particularly on emotive topics like Scottish independence and Brexit.
For those of us who are rather keen on reality, it’s disturbing. So how can we influence people another way?
The theory that women are paid less because they are less likely to ask for a pay rise appears to be nonsense.
The bottom line of our study is that women do “ask” just as often as men. They just don’t “get.”
Even we were surprised by the results. We had expected to find less asking by the females. Instead, we found that, holding background factors constant, women ask for a raise just as often as men, but men are more likely to be successful. Women who asked obtained a raise 15% of the time, while men obtained a pay increase 20% of the time. While that may sound like a modest difference, over a lifetime it really adds up.
Economic studies are one way to measure the impact of immigration.
Personally, I like to measure it another way. I like to look at my son — the great-grandson of a Mexican immigrant — while he plays cricket with his friends, nearly all of whom are second-generation Indian immigrants.
When I watch my son play cricket with his friends, I come to the same conclusion the economists at Wharton do:
Our new immigrant friends are enriching our lives and making our economy better…
It’s time to say this sort of thing more loudly. There are clear and well-understood economic benefits of immigration. But people who dislike immigration don’t do so for economic reasons (even if they kid on that they do).
We should be clearer about the ways in which immigration and diversity enrich our lives as a whole. And just how sad and pathetic our lives would be if people didn’t move around and mix with others.
When going for a run gets you arrested. Border bollocks.
A young French woman who went for an evening jog along a Canadian beach spent two weeks in US immigration detention after straying across the border.
I have only just discovered this article by Danah Boyd from 2010 (and I can’t remember how). But reading it today, it feels very prescient.
I hate all of the utilities in my life. Venomous hatred. And because they’re monopolies, they feel no need to make me appreciate them. Cuz they know that I’m not going to give up water, power, sewage, or the Internet out of spite. Nor will most people give up Facebook, regardless of how much they grow to hate them.
How many people — like me — hate Facebook, but find themselves unable to give it up?
According to this article, these buildings have just failed tests that have been in place since the aftermath of the Ronan Point collapse in 1968.
…but the problems at Broadwater Farm were only uncovered in the last 12 months.
If I’m reading this article correctly, that means that these buildings have been unsafe for 40 years — but that has only just been discovered.
“It’s disgusting and it is very stressful,” said one woman who has lived in the same flat in Tangmere for 38 years. “Ain’t it funny this has just come out after Grenfell?”
Whilst cycling the other day, I crossed the Leicestershire-Rutland border. And I was shocked to see…nothing. No border controls, no passport checks, no customs officials. Here in Rutland we have an open borders policy.
Chris Dillow makes the point that most of the debate around immigration and borders does not relate to economics.
This is part of the reason why it’s futile to try to argue with Brexiteers or Scottish independence fanatics around the economics of creating new borders. When it comes down to it, they just don’t care.
Economicky arguments for migration controls are just distractions and, I suspect, often dishonest ones.
Feelings around immigration boil down to feelings about the other.
Jeremy Hunt’s scheme to create a network of low-budget local TV stations was absurd from the get-go. Seven years on, it is clear that the scheme is a complete flop, with many of the stations unable to make ends meet.
In Scotland, STV2 — which was made up of five local licenses — is being closed down. The licenses appear to have been sold to the largest local TV company, That’s TV.
This BuzzFeed article outlines exactly how delightful this operation appears to be.
In summary, this is a company that seems to have been set up with the intention of exploiting the local TV model to extract license fee payers’ cash from the BBC in exchange for unusable local news reports made by inexperienced and poorly-paid reporters.
As Western firms have begun to desert Fifa due to the corruption scandal, Chinese firms have seized the opportunity to “to get their brands in front of billions of global eyeballs”.
It has been noted that companies are more willing these days to take a stand (see also ABC cancelling a sitcom because its star is racist). But this appears to be a western phenomenon.
Chinese firms seem to have no qualms around being associated with Fifa. Perhaps this is a dimension to keep an eye on as China becomes more and more important on the global stage.
This year’s Fifa World Cup provides a unique opportunity for little-known Chinese companies to get huge amounts of exposure to global consumers.
Why Jamie Oliver’s stunts like trying to ban two-for-one pizza offers are counter-productive and damaging to the poor.
…there’s a deeper and nasty question here: if we can’t trust the poor to feed themselves properly, what can we trust them to do?…
The problem is capitalism, not the poor.
Some of you might have an inkling as to why the millionaire Jamie Oliver and old Etonian Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall don’t choose this route.
Paul Taylor argues that the professional class will bring about its own demise. He notes that organisations appear to be becoming more, not less, siloed (“whole sectors are still just talking to themselves”). Moreover, this “disconnection” is visible to the general public, who catch glimpses of this behaviour on social media.
A couple of weeks ago I was on holiday flicking through Instagram. By complete chance, the algorithm had placed two photographs directly above each other.
- Firstly was the imposing black husk of Grenfell Tower – a monument to the dead and ignored.
- Next to it was a picture from a sector awards ceremony, with a champagne bottle placed in front of some happy smiling ‘professionals’, celebrating how good we are at engaging communities.
The Senate hearing into Facebook has come to be seen as a bit of a sideshow, partly because the questioning was so inadequate. But this article outlines why it was a bigger deal than it might seem at first glance.
[T]here was a significant amount of agreement amongst the Senators… that something needed to be done about Facebook. Forget the specifics, for a paragraph, because this is a notable development: while these hearings usually devolve into partisan cliches with the same talking points — Democrats want regulations, and Republicans don’t — yesterday Senators from both sides of the aisle expressed unease with Facebook’s handling of private data; obviously Democrats tried to tie the issue to the last election, but that made the Republicans’ shared concern all-the-more striking.
How regulation came to be in railways, engineering and cars — and what this tells us about how digital services may be regulated.
Trigger points for regulation have varied depending on the field, the period of history and the country. However, the thing all these triggers have in common is a change in attitudes. People need to demand change to incentivize companies to make their products and services safer.
I find it strange that so much attention is being put on centrism at the moment. I definitely do not identify with either the left or the right. But I have rarely used the word centrist to describe myself. Partly because I find it quite meaningless, and perhaps also because it assumes I am seeking a middle ground (which is sometimes true, but not always).
In an increasingly polarised political landscape, the idea of centrism is actually beginning to appeal to me more — even as it is becoming exceptionally unfashionably in certain quarters.
This article makes the argument for the need of “a rational approach to politics”, not a centrism that is simply “stuck in the middle”.
I simply want a term that adequately describes the need to shout “leave me out of this insane squabbling” or “I want no part of this imbecilic narrative”. What we are perhaps crying out for is a new term for politics that isn’t defined by the end points but by the process; defined not by the beliefs but the rational steps the lead us to those beliefs.
What happened after United violently removed a passenger against his will from an overbooked flight? What do you think…?
Flyers may have said in that survey that they’d avoid United, but they really kept choosing whichever airline offered the best price and itinerary. And often that was United. In the month that followed the Dao incident, United flew more passengers than a year earlier, posted its biggest gains in months in passenger-miles flown, and had its fewest cancellations in its history (and fewer than any of its main competitors). A month after the incident, United’s share price hit an all-time high.
A reminder of just how recently it seemed plausible that Mark Zuckerberg could be a future US President. That seems highly unlikely now.
This is one of those moments where we’re really fascinated because this huge PR machine has sort of cracked and we can see through, and what we can see is someone way over his head
Some home truths for remainers from Jonathan Calder.
In the Remain camp we constantly remind ourselves how good we are and how evil and ridiculous Leavers are. (Leavers do the precise opposite of course.)
If insulting Leavers were the key to victory we would have won the first referendum. But we didn’t and there is no reason to believe that calling people “gammons” will help us more than calling them “fruitcakes” did.
Should you refuse to argue with someone who is very wrong, in case it accidentally lends their argument some legitimacy? Katja Grace argues that this could be damaging.
In short: we don’t want to give the new generation the best sincere arguments against V [a terrible view], because that would be admitting that a reasonable person might believe V. Which seems to get in the way of the claim that V is very, very bad. Which is not only a true claim, but an important thing to claim, because it discourages people from believing V.
But we actually know that a reasonable person might believe V, if they don’t have access to society’s best collective thoughts on it. Because we have a whole history of this happening almost all of the time.
Thought-provoking, especially in the context of my recent posts about not feeding the trolls.
Facebook have described the idea that they influence election results as “crazy”. It’s funny that they used to actually brag about their ability to help people win elections.
Their entire business model depends on them allowing advertisers to get results. It is absurd for them to claim they can help get results for advertisers, but not if they are political advertisers.