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cameron on mantel on kate February 19, 2013

Posted by Bradley in : truth , add a comment

The whole kerfuffle really just shows how perceptive Mantel is:

BBC News devoted a discussion to whether a pregnant woman could safely put on a turn of speed while wearing high heels. It is sad to think that intelligent people could devote themselves to this topic with earnest furrowings of the brow, but that’s what discourse about royals comes to: a compulsion to comment, a discourse empty of content, mouthed rather than spoken. And in the same way one is compelled to look at them: to ask what they are made of, and is their substance the same as ours.

To criticize Mantel for her comments as if they are criticisms of Kate Middleton is to miss the point. It’s the rest of us she is criticizing:

Cheerful curiosity can easily become cruelty. It can easily become fatal. We don’t cut off the heads of royal ladies these days, but we do sacrifice them, and we did memorably drive one to destruction a scant generation ago. History makes fools of us, makes puppets of us, often enough. But it doesn’t have to repeat itself. In the current case, much lies within our control. I’m not asking for censorship. I’m not asking for pious humbug and smarmy reverence. I’m asking us to back off and not be brutes.

does including the term “chateau” in the name of wines produced in the us actually mislead anyone? February 6, 2013

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Members of the European Parliament will be debating this issue today:

Does the Commission plan to allow “Château” or “Clos” labels to be used on US wines sold in the EU? In the EU, these terms mean that the wine was made from grapes grown in a single vineyard. In the US, they may be used generically, on any wine label.

personal statements in university applications December 7, 2012

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A report for the Sutton Trust by Steven Jones (the full paper will be published in the Comparative Education Review) shows some of the differences in personal statements by applicants from privilege and those who are not so privileged. The author makes some suggestions about de-emphasizing the personal statement, ensuring more opportunities are available to more students etc and says:

the risk with all personal statements, regardless of how sensitively they are designed and explained, is that they mirror educational and socio-economic background, with those applicants already benefiting most from the system given opportunity to edge themselves further ahead of those who benefitted least. Though some individual exceptions arise, this research has identified a clear pattern: independent school applicants make fewer writing errors than state school peers of the same academic ability, and are able to draw on work-related and extra-curricular activity that is more relevant and more prestigious. Because information, advice and guidance are not evenly distributed among applicants, the personal statement cannot be assumed to level the higher education admissions playing field. If anything, it tilts it further in the other direction.

But in thinking about university admissions (the report doesn’t specify what courses the students were applying for which could make a difference here) I frankly don’t understand why the higher status “experiences” make the applicants who have had them look stronger university applicants than the “jobs” other students have had. Steven Jones writes that:

those applicants with high-prestige, professionalised experiences are better placed to make meaningful connections with the course on which they hope to study

If the aim in university admissions is to identify those who have been brought up to rule the world, sure, but why should that be what university admissions are about? For example, I don’t see why work-shadowing a UBS stockbroker should or even would be considered to be better than having “a part time job as a drinks waitress working at the KC stadium.” Even if the school in question is a business school I’d think any sort of experience of the world of work could be useful. But it seems that my views are different from the views of those doing the admissions. Then the problem is that attempting to address any of these issues in the context of university admissions or even the sixth form is very late. The children of privilege have by that stage spent more than a decade and a half understanding their place in the world to be very special, and the proposals in the report can’t really get at that issue.

misleading advertising? August 1, 2012

Posted by Bradley in : consumers, truth , 4comments

I haven’t seen one 5 hour energy advert that isn’t really irritating. The latest I have seen begins with the statement that they asked over 3000 doctors to review 5 hour energy. It then goes on to say “and what they said is amazing” (seems to imply the over 3000 said something amazing). The ad then says that over 73% of those who reviewed 5 hour energy said they would recommend a low calorie energy supplement to their healthy patients who use energy supplements (note that the script refers to “a” supplement, not to the 5 hour energy product itself). The ad emphasizes the 73% figure (which appears prominently on the screen) but carefully doesn’t state that the 73% is a percentage of the (over) 3000 doctors. And the ad does not state how many doctors actually reviewed the product. And what the reviewing doctors were prepared to sign on to is pretty lame. But the ad then goes on to use the 3000 number again at the end (ask your doctor, we already asked 3000), reinforcing the impression that lots of doctors approved of the product. This sort of carefully constructed message, designed to give a very different impression from the one that the actual words used, carefully parsed, give should, I think, be treated as problematic in law.

what price corporate responsibility? November 30, 2011

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The House of Commons International Development Committee has published a report which is quite critical of BAE Systems’ delay in making payments it promised to make as part of a settlement with respect to “improper book-keeping” with the Serious Fraud Office in 2010:

The Settlement Agreement did not require BAE Systems to make the ex gratia payment by a specified date. We recognise that the payment could not have been made before the conclusion of the Court proceedings on 21 December 2010. Nevertheless, we are concerned that the payment for the ‘benefit of the people of Tanzania’ remained outstanding more than eight months after the Court hearing and that BAE Systems envisaged spreading payment over a period of years, describing the payments as ‘our money’. Following our evidence session, we wrote to the Chairman of BAE Systems, urging the company in the strongest possible terms to pay immediately the full £29.5 million ex gratia payment to the Government of Tanzania in accordance with the proposals made by that Government and endorsed by DFID. Finally, the company agreed. We welcome this decision announced in a letter to the Committee Chair dated 19 August 2011 to make the payment to the Government of Tanzania and subsequent confirmation that it had made arrangements for the payment.

BAE of course believes in corporate responsibility:

Maintaining high standards of business conduct is essential to enhance our overall business performance, build trust, and maintain and improve our reputation with stakeholders.

Its Code of Conduct states that:

To be Trusted we must deliver on our commitments.

Just not all of them, apparently. Or at least not very speedily.

knowledge July 20, 2011

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Via the Guardian, Cameron spinning on Wallis:

On claims that Wallis provided Coulson with some informal advice on a voluntary basis before the election, Cameron said: “To the best of my knowledge I didn’t know anything about this until Sunday night.” He later added that he did not know Wallis had been contracted to work for Scotland Yard.

Surely this should be “as far as I remember” (I don’t recall) rather than “[t]o the best of my knowledge”? Either way it looks a bit slippery.

Is Vince Cable feeling vindicated now? The Evening Standard suggests he is.

britons are well off after lord young’s resignation or not? November 20, 2010

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Lord Young, the author of the recent Common Sense, Common Safety report, resigned as adviser to the UK Government after stating in an interview that:

For the vast majority of people in the country today, they have never had it so good ever since this recession – this so-called recession – started, because anybody, most people with a mortgage who were paying a lot of money each month, suddenly started paying very little each month.

His resignation letter states that he resigns, not because what he said suggested complete incomprehension of the situation ordinary Britons now face, but:

in view of the reaction to the reporting of the interview I gave earlier this week

Not his fault, but the fault of those who heard what he said. And this from an adviser to a Government which claims to be eliminating quangos to increase transparency and accountability. But is it really better for Governments to be careful about what they and their advisers say in front of journalists or for voters to be able to hear their private and uninformed prejudices?

why this picture? June 8, 2010

Posted by Bradley in : truth , comments closed

The Guardian’s current picture of Cameron makes him look particularly obnoxious (and not very intelligent):

cameron

the truth problem November 2, 2009

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Reading about writing about the trust problem I am struck by the regularity of news stories about lying. The UK’s Office of the Schools Adjudicator has published a report on fraudulent or misleading applications for admission to schools (parents lying about their address to obtain places for their children in desirable schools). The report concludes that this is a real problem which does cause harm:

fraudulent or misleading applications only arise when there is competition for school places. It is therefore also obvious that every school place obtained by deception is unfair as it deprives another child with possibly a higher legitimate call on the place to be deprived of it

The deceptive parents and their children may not suffer any real sanction (although younger siblings may not be given access to the same school), even when they are found out, as some local authorities

reported that their authorities were reluctant to apply the sanctions in the Code and withdraw places after the beginning of the school year … after the child had started at the school, as it would not be in the best interests of the child. In one instance an LA reported that they would not want the ensuing negative publicity! LAs and appeal panels were reluctant to ‘punish’ a child for the actions of the parent.

It’s harder to understand why people would cheat in a marathon race. I’d have thought the thing to celebrate there would be having managed to complete the race in a certain time frame, rather than that others might erroneously believe that you had done so. But I’d apparently be wrong. And it’s not like people can really get away with this, as there are electronic timing records. People are sometimes caught and they seem to use the language of fraudsters when they are caught:

two California women [had] suspicious times in last year’s race. There was no electronic timing record of them from Miles 17 to 25. Discussing in a telephone interview whether she had run the whole race, Ms. Savinar said, “I technically hadn’t.”

There’s nothing technical about this. Either you run the whole 26 miles or you don’t. If you don’t, you haven’t run a marathon.