Hmm, that works

"If [Gordon Brown] steps into Prime Minister Blair’s shoes, unelected, then we will find in Britain a truly elected dictatorship" – David Cowan of Regent’s Park College, in the Moonie Times.

The moral, I think, is never to trust people who attend an educational institution named after a railway station. Via Peter C, whose own education institution has a far more august pedigree.

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Iraq child malnutrition

According to UNICEF, in 1996 (after sanctions, but before oil-for-food), 23% of Iraqi children under five were underweight and 11% were acutely malnourished.

According to UNICEF, in 2002 (after the full impact of oil-for-food had kicked in), 9% of Iraqi children under five were underweight and 4% were acutely malnourished.

According to the UNDP, in 2004 (after the war), an unspecificed percentage of Iraqi children under five were underweight and 8% were acutely malnourished.

If you believe the relevant agencies are lying, then you should make some kind of a case to show it: you may then end up adding to the stock of human knowledge on Iraq, and possibly even reveal something useful and interesting.

If, however, you believe the agencies are retrospectively adjusting or lying about their figures to make political claims, you are more of an idiot (and possibly a liar) than Shannon Love, Tim Blair and Michael Fumento put together. And that’s one hell of an idiot.

There is one genuine ambiguity that I’ll mention now before it’s brought up, which is that a 1997 press release from UNICEF cites a 25% rate of ‘malnutrition’ in Iraqi children under five (presumably the term is being used equivalently to ‘underweight’ here, which is careless). If this were acute malnutrition, it would imply that the oil-for-food program was an even greater success than implied by the statistics above. Either way, UNICEF’s position on Iraqi child underweight and malnutrition rates immediately pre-war was made clear in 2002 by the press release above, and is entirely consistent with the most recent survey results as reported in the Washington Post.

There is also a fake ambiguity: the 25% figure from 1996 became a meme among anti-sanctions groups, and (as do many statistics) continued to circulate in a mangled format long after it became obsolete. Unfortunately, it appears to have been found by whoever wrote the Iraq summary page on UNICEF’s website.

This doesn’t make any difference to the actual numbers: a freelance web copywriter is not a qualified statistician, even if they happen to work for the same organisation. Nor does it show UNICEF to be exceptionally crap: in my professional experience, nobody who puts out a significant amount of content has ever managed entirely to avoid the peripheral-use-of-apocryphal-numbers-that-contradict-your-in-house-data problem.

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I’m Henry IV I am

"Henry [IV] is unpopular, he’s a traitor, a disgrace to man by his actions… So what they do is declare war on heresy… And basically, under the banner of declaring a war on heresy, he can just pick up all his enemies, all the people he doesn’t like and anyone who opposes the regime. And they equate heresy with being against the regime, so it’s perfect cover."

We like Terry Jones, for his wit, intelligence and background knowledge, as well as his political slant. No wonder people who fail to share the first three qualities are quite so down on him…

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The lying of the right, again

The Times and Telegraph are desperate to smear Labour’s economic record, this time by lying that everyone got poorer last year.

The most egregious bit A bit comes from the Times: "The middle classes, whom Labour is desperate to court, were hardest hit between 2002/3 and 2003/4 by the tax changes. A single-earner couple on £40,000 with one child would have lost £117 per year — a loss of 0.4 per cent."

Someone in this bracket isn’t is middle class. They’re in the ninth seventh decile of disposable household income (assuming the child is aged 2-4 and council tax is £1000pa). This makes them rich upper-middle-class.

The Adam Smith Institute has a typically ignorant take on the whole study. Which reminds me to remind you to go here and vote for anyone but them.

Update: amended in line with Anthony’s comment. The spin on the article is dodgy (especially as the entire fall in income was accounted for by self-reported incomes of self-employed people; coupled with higher taxation, this suggests a rise in the black economy rather than a fall in income), but the example is reasonable.

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Kneecapping list

Today’s post is mostly bullet-pointed, in honour of David Byrne. So… these people should be kneecapped:

* People who think a good use for my money would be to subsidise schoolkids to eat Jamie Oliver-approved food, rather than the burgers, chips and pizzas that my generation grew up on.

* Relatedly, people who use the phrase "junk food". There’s nowt wrong with crisps, chocolate and Coke, as long as you’re also consuming the occasional vegetable and taking occasional exercise.

* Also relatedly, the grandstanding idiots in politics and the media, who’ve made parents too afraid of the almost-non-existent threat from child abductors, traffic, gangs and Other General Peril to let their kids go outside and do the stupid and dangerous things that every other generation of kids did. And who then blame the crisps, and not themselves, for the childhood obesity that ensues.

Perhaps a better plan would be to send the nannyites and Jamie Oliver to Iraq, along with the cash that would otherwise be wasted on food that British kids don’t want to eat, and feed all the children who’re starving to death post-invasion. Back at home, open up the construction sites and unfence the reservoirs, to make life for British kids less dull. Even if my obesity theory is untrue, this would at least reduce the difference in childhood mortality rates between the two countries.

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Why the Tories are dead

"Our basic approach is that the government defines the baseline and we accept everything they have done or plan to do, unless we specify to the contrary." – David Willetts

Garr. You’re supposed to be an opposition. Go oppose.

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On Powerpoint

Powerpoint is a useless tool for useless tools. Its use should be criminalized: people who ask other people to produce Powerpoint presentations for them should have their eyes removed; and people who compel other people to watch their own Powerpoint presentations should have their hands cut off.

That is all.

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March in April

"We stand against racism and fortress Europe and for the rights of migrants and asylum seekers. For citizenship based on residency and the closing of all detention centres. We oppose deportation of migrants.

"We see the demand for freedom of movement encompassing different struggles of migration taking place every day throughout Europe: struggles for housing and legalisation, struggles against racism and camps, struggles in the workplace, the struggles of women and men to free themselves from patriarchy, racism, homophobia in their country of origin but also of their country of arrival."

I’m with that. If you are too, then come to Clerkenwell or somewhere nearer you on Saturday 2 April – that’s this Saturday, for those of you who don’t do dates – to march in favour of it (pleasingly, one of the groups involved in organising the demo claim to be Wombles.)

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