Monday, 1 September 2014

More BBC Balance?

I think this qualifies as taking the piss, I mean, compare and contrast...


I had to zoom right out to make it fit into the image - the words don't really matter (its the BBC) its the imagery that counts. The story above concentrates on Jim Murphy's ordeal at the hands of a vicious assailant armed with a highly dangerous egg. 

The header from the story goes:
"A Labour MP has been hit by an egg after being confronted by pro-independence supporters while campaigning ahead of the referendum."
A total of 331 words in which pro-Yes supporters are expressly identified as the culprits (with no supporting evidence what-so-ever) in the first line of the article.

Meanwhile...



...This story is about the Treasurer of the Britannica Party kicking a pregnant (we assume Yes-supporting) woman in the stomach. This tail - as told by the BBC - amounts to 81 words - check out that gap: the one between the ears of who ever at the BBC decides these thing is comparable.

The header for this story goes:
"A 55-year-old man has been charged in connection with an alleged assault, following a disturbance between Yes and No supporters in Glasgow."


In this much shorter article, the culprits are not identified - but Yes and No supporters are both implicated in the first line. I don't suppose the treasurer of the Britannica Party spends much time kicking other Better Together activists in the stomach - so make of that what you will.

Readers might also note, on the second story where the No Campaign might have been a bit naughty, there is no -



- section. This is easy to explain, when pro-independence supporters are said to have done something villainous & terrible; the BBC has many stories offering assertions & anecdotes (but nothing approaching actual proof) of the Yes Campaign's - ummm - campaign of violence & intimidation. 

When the No Campaign might have got a bit ornery - strangely - they have absolutely nothing.

There are those who think the BBC isn't biased, but just a bit crap. I reckon one begets the other, if the BBC in Scotland had a shred of integrity - which is to say was not so woefully execrable - then it probably would be a fair reporter.

As things stand and as I hope the images above convey - it is not a balanced source of information, not by a long shot.

(As usual, the links to those BBC articles were as reported when I pressed the 'Publish' button. The BBC have a habit of revising articles - usually once the damage has been done.)

Friday, 29 August 2014

Am no deid!

I've just been busy.

Working away again, this time they put me in charge of something which is never a great idea. However, you learn things about how you are perceived by others when you are put in charge. This might be hard to believe but I'm not a particularly serious person, not even (probably especially) at work, and when it came to taking the lead - it showed.



Even at my most cack-handed, I could never plumb the depths Johann Lamont manages - I hate to say it though - like Johann, I found myself in a position of oblique control but direct responsibility. That said, I don't feel sorry for her (or any of the rest of them) because what they've chosen to do is ruinous to Scotland's future.

The road between Edinburgh and Forres - specifically the one that goes through Perth, Blairgowrie, Braemar, Cock Bridge, Tomintoul and Grantown on Spey is liberally peppered with campaign signs. I think the Yes side have the lead ever so slightly but more and more No/No Thanks/ No etc signs cropped up while I was there.

There are those who still think Yes voters are a lunatic fringe, they believe we're voting the way we are because we haven't looked at the arguments. The idea we might be voting Yes not because of a misty eyed ideal of a Scotland-past but because we have looked at the arguments and have made a hard calculated choice - baffles them.

More and more (usually on Twitter) I find myself in debates with No voters who for supporting arguments are using polling and betting trends. What if anything does a person require to realise if that is the breadth of their argument, they've already lost the debate?

But no, you can chip in the most incontrovertible fact - the democratic deficit for example; Scotland could vote Labour for ever and a day but if England don't then those votes count for nothing - and still these people sit and shake their heads like you're talking nonsense. That can't even be massaged or spun - it is what it is - but they drop into screen saver mode, its as if they've left the room.

To be a bit clearer, this was work related. I work for a part of the NHS in Scotland (don't worry, its not patient-facing) who's work at times is already carried out by private companies - even in Scotland. What I was trying to explain was; if there is a No vote, going by things unionists of all shades are saying, there will be more austerity. And going by what nationalists commentators are saying about those 'further powers' Cameron said would be 'guaranteed soon' - what ever the fuck that means - voting no will mean cuts and no job for us.

As I said before, when it comes to professional advice in the work place - I'm not the go-to guy. I'm comfortable with that, it gives me more time to produce this sort of thing (which I enjoy immeasurably more.) When it comes to the referendum though, I'll put myself up against anyone and match them point for point on any indyref related topic - but that only works if people are prepared to listen - alas - some are not.

So I hope for a Yes vote I really do, because if it goes the other way - right here and now - I am reserving my right to be the most insufferable I-told-you-so on this plain of existence. As we pack up our desks I am going to fix those who I know crossed the wrong box with a flinty gaze and never ever let them forget it.

I would say I'll stalk them to ends of the earth but since I'll be jobless, I'll probably not be able to afford the transport costs.


Thursday, 14 August 2014

Definitive guide to economic reports re. Indyref.

This area of the debate can be particularly intimidating but really, its not. Here are some simple guide lines to keep in mind when a think tank rep is on the radio or telly blabbing on about their most recent report.

Its dead easy, two gents from think tanks on the radio (at 2 hrs 9 mins-ish in, link is good for 7 days from today) on Good Morning Scotland. Euan Stuart from the No supporting Scottish Research Society - that this set-up supports a No vote already casts a shadow over its objectivity - and John McLaren from Fiscal Affairs Scotland which is unaligned. The BBC interviewer focused on the costs of a Yes vote even although the unaligned chappy had a range of results from £1000 better off to £1000 worse off.

The Scottish Research Society report is titled, well, as above really... 

The No supporting chap was proved to be talking mince because his figures were based on a per head share of oil - which not even Better Together/Westminster use any more on account of it being a bit daft - he was saying the much-put-upon-yet-still-venerable 'Scottish Family' could be as much as £5500 worse off. Using a per capita share instead of a geographic share of oil isn't trying very hard these days, its akin to telling people to vote No because David Cameron has great hair - it is completely irrelevant.

Here's the thing though, the key point - the flaw. In order to know how much better or worse off we'd be, you have to know two things; how much cash you have to begin with and how much you're already spending.

We know very roughly how much cash we'd have to begin with (from GERS.) There are those who believe its a pretty conservative estimate because companies trading across the UK but headquartered south of the border currently have a lot of their tax counted as English income - not to mention excise duty from Scottish goods leaving the UK via English ports...

In terms of spending though - what figures are they using? Is it projections based on what Westminster spends? If it is, that's going to be pretty inaccurate given the difference in spending priorities between Holyrood and Westminster.

Another rule of thumb is; if they've used figures from the OBR (Office for Budget Responsibility) while they'd say it lends their report a certain gravitas - since the OBR was created by George Osborne and is widely accepted as being an arm of the Tory Party - reality says something quite different involving feelings a good bit less satisfying than those generated by gravitas.

OBR oil projections. Its the only one going downwards.

These reports often talk about an independent Scotland having to raise taxation and cut spending - never one or the other mind - always both. They're also invariably too busy banging on about areas where we'd have to increase spending (on the elderly is a fave) to tell us about areas where we'd be spending a lot less (like defence.)

So, when ever the Scottish media peddles a doom & gloom story about the economy, just bare in mind, the authors of the reports driving the headlines are using spending projections they know will be different to those in an independent Scotland - partially or fully based on figures from a Conservative number factory.

When Donald Trump sat in a Scottish Government inquiry  jawing about wind farms damaging tourism - he claimed in support of his point: "I am the evidence." No one (except him) bought that - and so it is with many of these economic reports. Essentially, its the No campaign saying: "Listen, this is a terrible idea that'll make you all poorer. How do we know? Because we asked ourselves and we said so."

The Yes side might cherry pick stats to suit its agenda, but what it doesn't do is take projections from places like the OBR and treat them like incontrovertible fact. But that is a common refrain in the debate, if Better Together/Westminster are saying it: its fact - but if the Yes campaign/SNP are saying it: its dangerous assertion.