Caveat Emptor

The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Prolier than thou 2

It's been very amusing to observe the knee jerk reaction to my old mate Geoff Evans sticking it to the Labour Party on Newsnight about the shortage of any genuinely working class MPs (the Beast of Bolsover excepted of course). Some members of the House  are apoplectic and choking over their pinot grigio and antipasti, sorry, I meant brown ale and chip butties. 

I thought it would be fun to investigate the careers of the most vociferous of the Twitter commenters currently riding their proletarian high horses smug in the self-satisfaction that they are at one with the people of, for instance, Stoke.

So here we have it (from Wikipedia)

Jonathan Ashworth: Within 2 years of graduating from Durham was working for the Labour Party as a Political Research Officer

Liz McInnes: St Anne's Oxford, MSc University of Surrey worked in the NHS as a senior biochemist.

Barbara Keeley: University of Salford, IBM Systems Engineer & Independent Consultant.

David Lammy: Choral Scholarship to Peterborough Cathedral, King’s School Peterborough, SOAS, Harvard, called to the Bar.

Michael Dugher: University of Nottingham, National Chairman of Labour Students. Head of Policy at the AEEU, SPAD.

Diana Johnson: Brunel, Barrister.

Lyn Brown:  Roehampton. Social Worker. 

R Blackman-Woods: University of Ulster PhD, Professor of Social Policy.

The only one who really has any claim to doing a pretty ordinary job before entering Parliament is Sharon Hodgson who was an accounts clerk, not exactly forced down t'mill, but compared to the others she can credibly claim to have had significant work experience outside the Westminster bubble and outside of a rather privileged middle-class milieu.

As for the rest of them, deluded or what?

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Wood for the trees

By nature I tend to be a tree person rather than a wood person but I console myself with the thought that at least I recognize it and consciously try to look beyond the details. But there are some things that just bug me.

 I'm reading Norman Collins' London Belongs to Me which is a suitably undemanding bit of entertainment for a dark February evening.  It's second rate Dickens by way of Priestley but let's be honest I don't always feel like Proust after a hard day at t' mill. So the thing is this: the action in chapter one  starts on the afternoon of the 23rd December 1938 and it is implied that this is Christmas Eve, but the events of  chapter two seem to take place the following morning,  which is  Christmas Day. How can this be?

Did Londoners in the 1930s celebrate Christmas in the continental fashion? Is the  date a typo? Or is a day of the action just skipped? It is all very mysterious. 

I've searched the all knowing WWW but come up with nothing apart from an Irishman asking the same question on a message board (and getting no reply). Does anyone know the answer?

Friday, 10 February 2017

Hey dude, I want my country back.

So let me check that I understand this correctly: Germany  takes 1 million refugees (actually just under 900,000 but hey what's the odd 100,000 between friends?) but the UK is unable to find room for 3000 unaccompanied children (minus the 300 that are already here or on the way).

The lamps are going out  all over Europe and unless the liberal left gets its act together we are not going to see them lit again in our lifetime.

It doesn't feel like 1914 but something from 1939 feels  appropriate.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Charge of the Labour Rebels

Into the valley of Death
Rode the fifty-two.

May to the right of them,
Corbyn to the left of them,
UKIP in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the fifty-two.

Avanti Popolo!
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Theirs to make reply,
Theirs to reason why,
Theirs to do and die:

Into the valley of Death
Rode the fifty-two.

J. K. Hardie (13 ¾)

Monday, 6 February 2017

15 men on a dead man's chest...

Recently we had humour as a research method, now we have piratic methods, which apparently we have to resist. Anyone want to defend Long John Silver?

Apparently this is not just a cognitive project but also an ethical imperative:

"The present ethical project to broaden sociology into global connected sociologies written from multiple epistemic positions should also be reflected in a similar revisionist project to constantly scrutinise the ethics of method."

One wonders how all these sociologists with their multiple epistemic positions are going to understand each other? And what is to be done with the epistemic position that regards some of these positions as bullshit? Presumably a consistent logic demands that this also be accepted into the fold? Or is consistency to be regarded as part of the old bad colonial way of thinking?

Still, I'm told that something even grander is slated for publication in our leading journal. Do you find Mahler a little overblown and Bruckner  a trifle tedious? Have no fear, it won't be long until symphonic social science is here! I'm assured there will be Big Data including information vegetable, animal and mineral. I'm off before somebody passes me the black spot...

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

It's democracy Jim, but not as we know it

Seems like time for the words of a great Irishman.

Certainly, gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Statistical Power

There is a quite interesting article in today's Guardian by Will Davies about, How Statistics Lost their Power. No it is nothing to do with the probability of rejecting the null when the alternative is true, but a rather fanciful discussion of the alleged decline of belief by mass publics in quantitative descriptions of their societies. 

To my mind he mixes a lot of things up in the first section where the story of political arithmetic, trade indicators and the beginnings of the sample survey are all jumbled together. By the way he seems to bring the latter forward  to the 1920s. The big innovations actually happened about 20 years earlier and were associated with people like the Norwegian Kier, but then again being a proponent of elitist quantification I guess that is just the sort of petty minded concern with accuracy that you would expect from me.

What he neglects to say anything about is how social scientists have themselves contributed to a generalized distrust not just in the use of numbers to describe the social world but even in their  very calculation. Things were already bad in the 1970s, so bad that a prominent British  Althusserian   Marxist found it necessary to write a little book defending the use of official statistics! Well, if you were a Marxist you couldn't really admit it was all a social construction, after all the Master himself used the Blue Books pretty uncritically.

But after that it was pretty much downhill following the rise of autoethnography, poetry writing, epistemic communities etc.

The brave Marxist, after writing an auto-critique, took himself off to Australia.