Monthly Archives: July 2008

David Cameron’s Bike

David Cameron, possible future Prime Minister, has had his bike nicked. He foolishly left it on Portobello Road locked only to itself, so it was easily picked up and carried away.

This is a great photo of Cameron just after. I like the fact that he’s outside a bookmakers, with it’s implications of risk and reward, unfettered markets, using knowledge to make money out of money, and all that the neoliberals love.
Unfortunately, markets like this always have losers as well as winners, and so some people end up poor, and nick bikes or deal drugs for a living. Not that the Labour party have a better record on the issue of gambling, what with their support for super casinos…

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Sceptical about climate change?

This is the story that’s made me the most angry in recent months, but I missed writing about it because I was on holiday (better late than never). It’s the Observer story with the headline: most Britons doubt cause of climate change. It was based on a Ipsos Mori survey that can be found here and if you read the original data and the Observer analysis, you’ll discover how far from the data the news story is.

I sent a letter to the Observer, funnily enough not printed, pointing out that their claims weren’t backed up by the survey data:

…If 42% of people think climate change might not be as bad as people say, they might still think it’s bad or even very bad. The 60% of people that agree that ‘many scientific experts’ question the causes of climate change could believe that these scientists are wrong. Indeed, does ‘many’ mean 10 scientists, 10% of the scientific community or most scientists? Respondents don’t know what the question means…Your poll, and its subsequent analysis, is bad social science.

For the ‘fact’ that ‘Most Britons don’t believe climate change is man-made’ they asked the public to guess the state of play of the world scientific community, instead of asking them if they themselves thought humans were responsible.

As pointed out by those sceptical of climate change, the survey is used to show that the population don’t believe in climate change, and therefore more needs to be done to ram it down people’s throats (the sceptics arguing that it’s already rammed down our throats enough, but that it’s not true). But if you look at the data, and I don’t think many people have, you’ll find a story of most people (77%) being very or fairly concerned about climate change, most people thinking that something can and should be done, including most people saying invest in renewable energy. Just because people can’t be cast-iron certain how bad climate change will be, and how many scientists agree and disagree, doesn’t mean they believe it’s a hoax. Remember, even when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says global warming is real, they still put out a range of scenarios (six in IPCC AR4) because scientists, individually and collectively can’t know exactly how it will pan out.

And finally when asked ‘what is reasonable to expect people to do to tackle climate change’, only 6% of Britons chose ‘There is no need to take any action – climate change is natural/humans are not having that much impact’. Not many sceptics there.

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Knives and hospitals

Well, I’m just back from a holiday so I missed some news and haven’t posted here for a while. While I was away, though, I listened to a fair bit of radio news and so am well informed about this year’s moral panic, knife crime. Now don’t get me wrong – knives, guns and murder are definitely bad, AND there’s an issue re. young people and violence, but it’s been around for a while, but now it’s a London thing then it really hits the news (see this from 2003 for context).

Anyway, the bit that’s got my goat is today’s story about putting young criminals on projects where they’d find out about the impact of knife crime. A good bit of restorative justice? Not once the politicians and media and assorted experts have put their tuppence worth in.

According to the BBC’s PM programme today, a press release saying that young criminals would have to go to A&E to see the effects of stabbing, AND meet the families of victims (see here for quotes from the original press release), was translated by the media and the opposition to mean they’d be dragged around wards meeting stab victims in their hospital beds. A controversy was made from nothing and the government is now sounding apologetic for what was a good idea.

The Beeb, of course, played its part, interviewing Donald MacKechnie, clinical vice-president of the College of Emergency Medicine and letting him, with little challenge, say:

“When someone is brought in having been stabbed or assaulted with a knife, it’s a very emotive situation. Doctors and nurses first of all have got to assess the injuries and then manage those injuries,” he said.

“We certainly don’t think it would be a good idea if then potential or actual perpetrators of knife crime were marched through to see these patients, who are in an extremely vulnerable state.

“It’s tantamount to secondary victimisation of someone who has already suffered a horrendous insult to them. From a practical point of view, working in an A&E department, it’s very difficult to see how this would work.” (from the Guardian)

This gives the impression that the first person you’d see after waking up from a life-saving operation would be a smiling hoodie flanking by two coppers. Not likely.

Mackechnie is either an idiot or playing faux naive for political point scoring. Anyone working in the criminal justice, health, or even the public sector as a whole would know that:

a) you’d be having to get consent from all involved first

b) there’d be a whole load of risk assessment work first

c) it would be as part of a project or programme, with plans for getting the activity to work well around the other stuff

and so on and so on. It would most likely be a walk through and a focus group. The kids would be given a walk through the A&E area, getting some stats from the people on the desk, and some horror stories of the worst case scenarios. Then imagine one room, eight lads convicted of knife crime, four victims showing off their wounds, a mum and dad, some probation officers, and a surgeon who’d say ‘if it was an inch to the left, this lad would be dead, and the other would be a lifer’.

Allowing media/experts/politicians to ruin a good idea for point scoring, before the idea has even been fleshed out is no way to run a country. But that’s because a soundbite (or what they call a ‘quick win’) can easily be presented as ‘half-baked’.

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