The Snow In The Summer or So-So

Knowledge is liberation


The Labour Party: cowardly where it matters, bull-headed where it doesn't. #

28 September 2019
Say Naga

Earlier in the year, the BBC Breakfast Time programme had a brief discussion about racism. Dan Walker and Naga Munchetty noted how go back home was only ever used in a racist manner, particularly when directed at ethnic minority people. Naga, herself from an ethnic minority, drew from personal experience and described how she felt about the racists who say racist things. This is not controversial.

Every time I have been told, as a woman of colour, to go back to where I came from, that was embedded in racism. Now, I'm not accusing anyone of anything here, but you know what certain phrases mean.

Co-host Dan Walker asked Naga how she felt when she heard a failed Yankee politician use such language

Furious. Absolutely furious and I can imagine lots of people in this country will be feeling absolutely furious a man in that position thinks it's OK to skirt the lines by using language like that.

The BBC's editorial board were complained at by some thin-skinned bloviator, intent on stirring up trouble. The board came to the quite remarkable view that Naga was expressing her view on a matter of controversy. They're saying that it's possible to say racist things, and not actually be a racist. On that pinhead, they ruled that Naga had given a personal opinion when saying that someone who used racist words in a racist manner was himself a racist.

(More: Reflecting on the BBC's biases and racism)

Ultimately, we fear that this all exposes the BBC's permanent bias: it's in favour of the establishment in general. Elizabeth Windsor, a queen from Windsor, gets an annual party election broadcast in peak viewing hours, without any challenge from others. There's a daily act of Christian worship, without any challenge from other religions or atheists. And when the establishment is pushing racist policies, the BBC will not want to offend the establishment, so will act in a racist manner itself.

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8 August 2019
Onward, the think tank that doesn't

We've become aware of new(ish) pressure group Onward, which employs a couple of former policy directors for senior party figures. The group appears to be misnamed, as its vision of "onwards" strikes us as "flailing about in the middle of nowhere".

Its new report The Politics of Belonging commits two cardinal sins. The paper takes an opinion poll, and attempts to form policy based on the results of this one poll. Why is this wrong?

(More: Are these values different from previous years? Do voters really know what they want?)

In conclusion The report offers three "emerging conclusions".

1) "The post-war age of freedom is ending". Onward has offered no evidence to justify this remarkable claim. The pressure group's research has ignored history, so the report's conclusions can only be of the present.

2) "Voters do not want want more autonomy, choice and mobility." This is a description of the opinion poll results. It accurately describes what voters are telling opinion pollsters. It may not accurately describe what the voters actually want, because we voters may not know what we actually want. Much of the present mess stems from an ill-defined feeling of "we want something to change", without articulating what and how.

3) proposes 2) in spades for a Conservative victory. By following this advice, Onward would offer policies that are More Of The Same. It would be a party of followers, in a time when calm and consensual leadership is desperately required.

Onward's research tells us where voters tell opinion pollsters where we are, and does so in great detail. It presumes that voters are where they think they are. It hasn't told us anything about the historical direction of travel.

In short: the claims made by Onward are not supported by the evidence. Please do better.

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17 July 2019

Boston Tea Party's "Plant Burger" carries a small paper flag, "100% Plant Power".

It's a sesame seed bun, containing lettuce, tomato, gherkins, some sort of sauce, and a tofu patty. Served with a carrot-and-onion salad, and a generous helping of fries.

Highlights were at the bottom: the tofu was delicious, tangy, slightly salty, and warm. We're always a fan of gherkins, and the combination with the sauce brought to mind the Big Mac from donkey's years ago. Sadly, the top was nothing to write home about: the bun was neither crisp nor succulent, and got a bit soggy from the lettuce 'n' tomato.

At £10 for the burger, drinks extra, this is definitely a treat rather than an everyday meal. We do hear *very* good things about their breakfasts.

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28 May 2019
Glickoblog looks at the cricket world cup

Going into the men's World Cup, here are the Glicko rankings of the competing sides:

Team  R     RD
SA1   1141  86.9
IN1   1132  83.8
EN1   1088  85.5
NZ1   1085  92.3
AU1   1080  82.3
PK1   981   77.7
BA1   981   82.7
WI1   902   82.7
AF1   856   82.2
SL1   840   86.8

Very roughly, we reckon that a 40-point gap is required to make a side clear favourites, and an 85-point gap is required to make a side more than 70% favourites. (That's what the RD means: a Rating difference of the average RD is 70% favourite, an R difference of the combined RDs is 95% favourite.)

If we get the same weather as last year (no rain), the semi-finalists following the round robin should be drawn from South Africa, India, England, New Zealand, and Australia. Pakistan and Bangladesh will do battle for sixth place, the West Indies should take eighth, and Afghanistan v Sri Lanka on 4 June is for the wooden spoon.

Were the World Cup played as best-of-seven series between every team, we'd be sure of the top five. But it's not, and luck - and rain - will get in the way. We'll keep an eye on the contest.

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24 May 2019

Fire the cannon, Foxface has fallen. Let's take a look at her best bits.


And the rest of her obituary.

Foxface has been a small-minded bigot since she first arrived at the Interior Ministry in 2010; her personal crusade against anyone "not of us" is a stain on her soul.

All of her failings as prime minister come from her personal flaws. She's always put the Conservative party ahead of the good of the country she claimed to run, and ahead of humanity. Lynne Featherstone gave us good warning. Foxface plots in secret, and listens only to her inner coterie.

Foxface *chose* to be a xenophobic bigot. She chose to witter on about "citizens of somewhere", she chose to send out the "liberals and homosexuals go away" vans.

Foxface *chose* to deny the truth at every turn, she would find reality did not meet her ideas, and insist on her day in court to litigate against the facts. When the court ruled in favour of reality, she'd demand her day again.

She refused to acknowledge the shaky democratic mandate, and pretended that the will of all the people (not just some of them) didn't exist.

Dave the Eager Young Space Cadet spent six years getting shit done, and six weeks to screw it up again. Foxface's entire tenure is shit upon shit upon shit.

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21 May 2019
1994 was a Prison of My Own Making

Caity Weaver of the New Amsterdam Times goes back to 1994, just for one week. She's mostly interested in the tech (or lack thereof) and obsessed with her mobile telephone. The biggest surprise: only four payphones remain in the whole of Manhattan.

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20 April 2019
The Elton John pop canon

Over in the Top of the Pops recaps, we're annoyed that Elton John's Sad songs say so much has slipped off playlists over here. What is the Elton John canon according to worldwide radio, and how does the broadcast radio here differ?

We've used data from, which monitors a good number of broadcast and internet stations around the world. Data relate to the period 3-16 April 2019.

Nikita is Elton's most-played track globally, and notches 234 plays on UK stations. No broadcast station spun it more than 5 times in the survey period.

Sacrifice is number 2, and 436 spins here come mostly from The Twenty Five Smooth Radios, where it's in every-other-day rotation. Your song ranks third globally, the UK leader with 707 spins - 450 of those from The Twenty Five Smooth Radios.

Number four globally is I'm still standing, 388 domestic spins with Heart 80s and Union Jack playing it at least once every day. Rocket man rounds out the international top five, 393 in the UK.

(More: The rest of the global 25, and the domestic airplay chart)

Looks like Elton has six big hits (plus Step into Christmas), another eight or so that appear fairly regularly, and the rest is deep catalogue. Sad songs say so much is one of the biggest in this deep catalogue.

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9 March 2019

Scala Radio launched, tagline "classical music for modern life". It's a DAB-and-internet commercial station from Bauer. We've dipped in and out over the working week, and we're rather liking it.

The BBC's Radio 3 is "serious classical music done seriously", long-standing commercial rival Classic FM is "relax, relax, relax, don't do it, relax". Scala treats its classical music as a jumping-off point for other interests - Simon Mayo's "Confessions" slot, book reviews, short speech pieces. There is lots of light classical and modern choral work, and a few pieces of pop music in a classical style. We particularly like the commercial-free segment from 6.40am, a montage of music and natural sounds for alarm-clock listeners. Might be commercial-free from 6.03, we're not getting up so early to check [smiley_face emojus].

Not everything is perfect: the station plays short pieces, three to six minutes long, there's no full works or concerts in its schedule. The audience tends to be middle-class yummy mummies, the review show promoted Scala's own schedule, gave a critical review to Harriet Tye's book, and plugged plays in That London. And the station's musical motif isn't good - an ascending scale does a crescendo, then finishes with a "waaaaaaaaah-plunk." Sounds like a sneeze, or a bunch of lemmings jumping off a cliff.

Most of all, we're reminded of Classic FM before it became "relax relax when you want to suck it relax". There was an effort to build out from classical music, make a lifestyle that GWR and Warner Bros. could sell to advertisers. GWR pulled back from that endeavour after about five years and concentrated on their core radio business. It was a loss to the greater culture milieu.

Technical notes: 112kpbs original-flavour DAB, but sensitively processed. We can hear artefacts when listening through earphones, not through loudspeakers. And we've not heard the weekend schedule: it could be that Scala's going for ratings by day and critical kudos by night.

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12 February 2019
What in a Hundred

From this week's The Riddler:

Given any three random integers X, Y and Z what are the chances that their product is divisible by 100?

To make a number divisible by 100, there must be factors of 2, 2, 5, 5 somewhere in the three multiplicands. There can be other factors - we're partial to a tasty 37 ourselves - but any combination of numbers with two 2s and two 5s as prime factors will be divisible by 100.

Let's think about factors of 2. There's a 1/2 chance that X will have no factors of 2, 1/4 that X will have precisely one factor of 2, and 1/4 that it will have two or more factors. The same applies for Y and Z, of course.

So these arrangements have the required factors of 2:

X	Y	Z	prob
2	0	0	1/16
0	2	0	1/16
0	0	2	1/16
1	1	0	1/32
1	0	1	1/32
0	1	1	1/32

As these are mutually exclusive possibilities, we can add them up. 9/32 combinations have the required factors of 2.

We can run a similar analysis for factors of 5: a 4/5 chance of no factors, 4/25 of precisely one factor, and 1/25 of two or more factors. Plugging these into the table gives:

X	Y	Z	prob
2	0	0	16/625
0	2	0	16/625
0	0	2	16/625
1	1	0	16/3125
1	0	1	16/3125
0	1	1	16/3125

That's a total of 288/3125 with the required factors.

And, as the factors of 2 are independent from the factors of 5, we can just multiply these probabilities together. The final answer: 2592/100000.

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