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Caveat Emptor

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

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

UK Statistics Authority 1: David Cameron 0

I see that Mr Cameron has been telling porkies again and has been rapped on the knuckles by the statistics watchdog. The line between selective presentation and downright falsehood is actually not a difficult one to stay the right side of but politicians and journalists seem congenitally unable to perceive it (some academics do no better). That's why we need people like Andrew Dilnot to keep pointing out where the line is and when ministers have stepped over it (confession of interest, Andrew is the Warden of my college). 

We also need people like the NIESR's Jonathan Portes to take the fight to journalists and MEPs who refuse to distinguish fact from fantasy, people like Dan Hannan who shares all these characteristics. Portes is also involved in a twitter spat with the Spectator's Damian Thompson who seems to think that Dan Hannan is a pretty OK sort of chap. In the course of their full and frank exchange of views Damian tweeted:

Interesting thought I, apart from the fact that Portes doesn't claim that facts are left-wing or right-wing (at least not as far as I can see) I happen to know something about Damian Thompson's doctoral studies. In fact while he was a doctoral student at the LSE he took a course from me on Methods of Social Investigation. He was also a semi-regular visitor to my office-hours. Being a gentleman I'll say no more.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Ideologues and Crazies

I referred to ideologues and crazies in my last post. Most of you will know what I mean, but if you are in any doubt  you can find the sort of thing I was thinking about  here. The only hope is that what they say when they feel compelled to speak for public consumption is more irrational than what they actually believe. Tolerance admits ambivalence. Believing that those who are not for us are against us is essentially totalitarian.

Some 20 years ago, at a much calmer time, an Israeli jewish acquaintance said to me apropos West Bank settlement: "Those guys are crazy, you can't argue with them. They think the land belongs to them simply because Abraham pissed on it". I wonder what he would be prepared to say now?

Tuesday, 5 August 2014


It's really not that difficult to find balanced views on what is going on in Gaza. I can only conclude that the British media, including the BBC, doesn't try very hard. Deutsche Welle does much better. Here is an interview they conducted with Amos Oz. I've admired Oz's writing for 30 odd years and I admire his tough minded views on the way forward. He, like others, believes that in the long run some sort of peace with justice is achievable in Palestine. He also believes that you can't ignore Hamas rockets and shouldn't condone everything the IDF does.

The only alternative to his vision I can see is what we have at the moment: letting the ideologues and crazies indulge their fantasies while demonizing anyone that dares to disagree with them. Oh, and allowing hundreds of innocent men, women and children to be slaughtered...