Sociologist cannot do numbers

Surprise, eh?

On the same day that news broke that staff at the University of Birmingham are protesting the obscene pay of their vice-chancellor, I opened an email asking for donations to a food bank that my university, Birmingham City, has started for students. This Dickensian contrast in fortunes demonstrates the widening problems of inequality in universities since fees have been introduced.

I have seen firsthand how hard some of our students struggle to make ends meet so I understand why the university offers emergency food services. I’m sure we are likely not alone. The initiative was started by those on the frontline of student support and is a valuable effort to provide help in a broken system. The very fact that staff have had to reach out for food charity demonstrates the failure of higher education “reforms” to provide for those that need it most.

When my sister went to university, tuition was free and there was a generous maintenance grant. When I went a few years later, my fees were minimal and the grant was still intact for the students who needed it. I now teach in a sector that charges some of the highest fees in the world, and the maintenance grant has been replaced by a loan, with an interest rate far higher than that of most mortgages. It is chilling to think what future generations of students will have to overcome in order to participate in higher education.

There is no claim upon cashflow either or interest or capital repayment until graduation. Thus the existence of the loan and or the interest rate make no difference at all to student lifestyles while at university.


Wibble, wibble, about Trump

Decisions to live this way would seem to offer insight into Trump’s ability to assess risk. In light of a nuclear standoff with North Korea, rapidly warming oceans, and a looming tax bill that would leave millions more Americans without health insurance, his approach to self-maintenance is not reassuring.

Yes, really, the fact that he eats Maccy D and KFC is evidence of his inability to deal with N Korea and so on.

We are descending into lunacy

Harry Redknapp ‘will make 30 people homeless’ with flats plan

Fer fuck’s sake.

Plans by the football manager Harry Redknapp to demolish a former hotel and replace it with “posh” apartments would result in 30 people being made homeless, including several with disabilities, cancer sufferers, ex-offenders and other vulnerable individuals, according to opponents to the scheme.

Clifford Henley, one of the residents, claimed Redknapp – who was sacked by Birmingham City in September – stood to make a fortune from the 21 flats and three mews houses, adding: “To be chucking 30 blokes on the streets with no consideration whatsoever – it’s brutal.”

Henley claimed the proposals would mean “the destruction of this perfectly habitable building for massive profit … It’s just walking over poor people”. But a spokesman for Redknapp’s company defended the scheme, saying the planned development of one- and two-bedroom properties “is not ‘posh’”, with prices ranging between £160,000 and £300,000, and was open to buyers using the government’s help-to-buy scheme.

So, how many people live in 2 bed flats these days? 3? Two and a kiddie? One beds? Two adults?

So, housing for some 50 people is going up, housing for 30 coming down. This is a net addition or subtraction from the housing stock?

Don’t forget, if we can;t ever knock down old housing then we cannot regenerate the UK’s housing stock (and thus make it energy efficient and all that), have any urban regeneration of whatever and are left only with building upon greenfield sites.


This is a fair old bit of idiocy

Increasing numbers of fast food take­aways are springing up close to schools in England, with pupils in the most socially deprived areas exposed to five times as many outlets as their richest peers.

So, where do you put schools? In areas of decent enough population density.

Where do you put shops? In areas of decent enough population density.

You would also prefer to have both in those areas of high population density where the land is a bit cheaper. The “deprived” areas.

Thus this finding is like discovering that the water companies put the sewage pipes in where people live.

It’s not a racial slur you idiots

Donald Trump has been criticised for using a racial slur during an event honouring Native American veterans.

The US president was welcoming three Navajo code talkers from the Second World War to the Oval Office on Monday afternoon when he referred to Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic senator, as “Pocahontas”.

It’s an insult directed at Elizabeth Warren.

Keep on eating the Children of the Revolution folks!

An annual book fair that has served for more than three decades as the most important meeting point for the British anarchist movement has become the latest casualty of widening splits over the issue of transgender rights.

Organisers say that they no longer have “the appetite or the energy” to stage next year’s London Anarchist Bookfair, following fraught scenes at the event last month. A group of feminists were confronted by other activists who accused them of distributing “transphobic” leaflets that promoted prejudice against transgender people.

The acrimony follows highly publicised splits in universities, women’s organisations and political parties over the issue. Lily Madigan, a 19-year-old who has just won a vote in Kent to become Labour’s first women’s officer from a transgender background, has been at the centre of a row within the party.

Another crack in the coalition of everyone who is not cis-white-generally-happy-with-the-structure-of-society against the cis-white-generally-happy-with-the-structure-of-society society.

Munch, munch, munch*, eh?

*Points will be awarded for the earlier lines of that poem.

Well, yes, I suppose it is

Danone did not give details about the environmental impact of the process, but said on Tuesday ocean water was a renewable source and that Kona Deep sources it in a “responsible and sustainable manner.”

Not sure this bit works though:

After being pumped through a pipe that reaches 3,000 feet below the ocean’s surface, Kona Deep desalinates the water using reverse osmosis, and bottles it.

The two-year-old company says its water has a unique blend of naturally occurring electrolytes and minerals that make it extra-hydrating.

Desalination is the removal of those minerals and electrolytes.

Well, yes, isn’t this interesting?

The number of chemicals on supermarket vegetables has increased by up to 17 fold in 40 years, data shows, as the organic food industry and scientists have warned that consumers are exposed to a “toxic cocktail” of pesticides.

Figures released for the first time by the Soil Association, which certifies organic food, show the number of toxic chemicals found in onions, leeks, wheat and potatoes has been steadily increasing since the 1960s.

We have indeed been increasing yields etc since then with more science.

This is despite industry data showing that the volume of pesticides found on supermarket vegetables has halved since the 1990s.

That’s also a fairly important finding, isn’t it?

So, what is really happening here? The Soil Association has got tired of us all pointing out that there seems to be no evidence at all of any harm coming from the level of pesticides found on supermarket veg. Thus, to big up organic farming they’ve decided to make up this stuff about a cocktail of them.

There isn’t anything else going on here.

What an interesting problem

Dragging on her king-sized cigarette in front of a no-smoking sign, her long, red-dyed hair falling over her silver fur coat, Davina Ayrton smiled at the camera just before she was sentenced to eight years in prison for raping a schoolgirl.

For anyone asking how a woman can be convicted of rape — which in law requires the use of a penis — the answer is Ayrton, previously known as David, was a man when she pinned down her 15-year-old victim in a Portsmouth garage. She still has her male genitalia.

At trial Ayrton expressed a wish to serve her time in a women’s prison. Now a proposed change in the law makes her desire a real prospect.

Leave aside all the usual trans stuff and concentrate just upon the individual problem here.

On the one side, the declaration of being male or female is what matters. That’s the general demand, isn’t it? Genitalia, genes, chromosomes, these are no longer the determinants, it is, to use the speak of da youf, teh feelz which matter.


Then we’ve also got these supposedly single sex environments, prisons. Where simple invocation of teh feelz means that those with complimentary genitalia can end up in what is, by genitalia, not a single sex environment:

One of the 13, Paris Green, was convicted of murder as a man and has twice been allowed to transfer to women’s units before being moved out again after having sex with female inmates.

So, what is to be done?

In March, Jessica Winfield, a transgender double rapist convicted under her previous identity of Martin Ponting, was moved to a women’s jail after having a sex change. Two months ago, Winfield was reportedly segregated after making “inappropriate advances” to female prisoners.

I dunno either. About the only thing I can think of is to insist that the criteria for moving between jails is based upon more than just teh feelz. But then doesn’t that violate the basic assumption that we’re insisting upon in the rest of society?

Al Franken’s groping


Let me see if I’ve got this straight. Back in 2006, when a “comedian” and on a tour bringing “comedy” and cheer to US troops overseas, he shared the bill with a playboy model. A woman known for her tits (this is generally true of playboy models I believe). She is on the tour because her tits are famous.

There is a photograph of her asleep (perhaps), in a helmet and flak jacket, in which Franken mimics groping her tits.

A great joke? Perhaps not. Comedian mimics groping famous pair of tits. Oh my Benny Hill, eh?

There are other things being said, this is true. But seriously, no one’s stupid enough to take this particular bit as being important are they?

I’ve no love for Franken at all but really…..actually groping a sleeping woman, yes, obviously. But this?

Anyone want to have a stab at this?

The number of victims of sexual offences rose to 1.7 percent in 2015 and to 2.4 percent in 2016 from an average of 0.9 percent between 2005 and 2014.

“Young women aged between 16 and 24 is the group that’s most subject to sexual offences, with 14 percent of young women stating that they were victims of at least one such crime during 2016,” the council said. “Among men in the same age group, 1.2 percent said they had been victims.”

Young women are also subject to harassment to a greater extent, the council said. They survey contains no answers as to why a certain type of crime increases, and analysis is needed to improve understanding of the reasons for the increase, it said.


Misunderstanding the news business

Is the British fashion industry racist? Well, it’s a bit like asking whether a British sky is blue – in theory, yes, although in reality, it’s often a dismal grey. Brief bursts of translucent pink and cloudy lemon drift through and for longer, more reliable periods, it’s a deep ink. But then, sometimes, as The Devil Wears Prada’s Miranda Priestly might lecture, it is undeniably cerulean blue. How blue? Ask Alexandra Shulman.

Formerly the most powerful woman in the industry as editor of Vogue UK, Shulman gave an eye-watering interview to the Guardian last week on the publication of Edward Enninful’s first issue heading the magazine. It was an excruciating unintended trashing of her 25-year legacy in which she appeared to confirm the worst of her blinkered privilege.

In more than 300 issues of Shulman’s editorship, only a dozen covers featured a black person. Two were Beyoncé and Rihanna, who had to become the most famous women on the planet before they were deemed worthy of British Vogue. Campbell – permanently in the world’s top 5 most famous models throughout her 30-year career – featured on five.

This is to entirely misunderstand. Newspapers and magazines chase their readers, not form them. Viz does not cause men to be giggling schoolboys, it appeals to that part of us. Shooting Times does not onvert people to the joys of shotguns, it appeals to those who already have it.

Concerns about who goes on a magazine over should be directed at those who buy – or crucially, don’t – magazines. That is, if there’s any racism here (and quite why a majority white country shouldn’t have majority white people on the cover, well?) then it’s of the people, not the editors.

Cut or uncut

The newly appointed editor of Gay Times has been suspended after it emerged he tweeted a series of antisemitic and misogynistic comments as well as attacking gay people, homeless people and disabled children.

Josh Rivers, who took the position in October, is the first BME editor of a gay men’s magazine, and took on the role with a mandate to promote inclusivity and diversity.

However, he published a series of incendiary comments on his Twitter account between 2010 and 2015. The tweets, which have since been deleted, show Rivers describing Jews as “gross”, and sending numerous messages directing hatred towards lesbians, overweight people, and Asians and Chinese.

It would appear our lad has strong views on the subject.

What it really does though is expose the fragility of the strategy of sweeping all the non boringly hetero whites into the one coalition. No, not because being oppressed by The Man might not work as a strategy, rather because prejudice seems to be equally distributed. I’ve, for example, seen absolutely no evidence (not that I’ve gone looking for it) to suggest that gays are any more or less racist than the rest of society. We might well find they’re more misogynist, don’t know. Equally, there’s nothing to tell us that racists or non- have similar views on abortion, the gender pay gap or anything else.

There are so many axes along which attitudes, from preferences to prejudices, can be measured that there’s simply no assurance at all that they’ll align. Which is a bit of a problem for a coalition really.

Yes, of course

Primary school boys should be allowed to wear tutus and high heels if they want to, the Church of England has said in its first guidance for teachers on transgender issues.

Children should not be restricted by their gender when dressing up, and girls should be able to wear a tool belt and fireman’s helmet if they choose, the document says.

The guidance for teachers in Church of England schools, endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, says that children “should be at liberty to explore the possibilities of who they might be without judgement or derision”.

It’s the next bit which doesn’t convince

Under-18s who say they have been born in a body which does not match their gender are not offered surgery, but are sometimes given hormones which suppress puberty. Figures released to the Mail on Sunday earlier this year suggest that more than 800 children are receiving this treatment.

Paying dress up and gender reassignment do sound like rather different things really.

Oh for goodness sake, don’t be ridiculous

The BBC has given in to mounting pressure and pulled an Agatha Christie drama from the Christmas schedule after one of its stars was accused of rape and sexual assault.

Ordeal By Innocence was due to air on Boxing Day with Ed Westwick in one of the lead roles but the BBC 
announced on Friday that the transmission would be postponed while Westwick is under investigation.

Two women have accused the 
British actor of attacking them at his US home in 2014. He denies the claims.

In a statement, the BBC said: “These are serious allegations which Ed Westwick has strenuously denied. The BBC is not making any judgment but until these matters are resolved we will not include Ordeal by Innocence in the schedules,” the statement said.

Rape in an important and serious crime. Allegations of it must indeed be investigated. Any employer is at liberty – or at least should be – to not hire someone being so investigated, as should be true of any other reason they desire to hire or not. No, due process doesn’t count on who gets hired, it’s up to the employer.

But the use or not use of something that has already been made as a result of a rape allegation? Even a conviction that would be ridiculous. Should we not listen to Chuck Berry because of that Mann Act conviction? Should we not eat the bread made by the baker being dragged away in chains?

Seriously, the drama’s been made, the millions spent, he’ll not gain anything from it being shown as he’s also already been paid. We’re rather obviously over the hill and into the hysteria stage, aren’t we?

Wait, we sack cabinet minsters now because they are a boor?

Sir Michael Fallon was forced to quit as defence secretary after a Cabinet colleague accused him of making lewd remarks, it emerged last night.

He is said to have told Andrea Leadsom, who had complained of having cold hands, “I know where you can put them to warm them up”.

A source familiar with the controversy alleged that Sir Michael had been “tactile” and had also put his arm around Mrs Leadsom.

The Leader of the Commons subsequently reported the remarks to Number 10 two days ago and insisted he must be sacked over a string of offensive comments, according to reports.

Mrs Leadsom’s complaint is said to focus on comments made by Sir Michael at meetings of the Commons Treasury select committee six years ago.

Jeez, given the things some of them have inflicted upon us that seems a little harsh.

And Morelands Road

And Weston.

Ken Loach laments the lack of shops for local people in Bath’s city centre. He should travel to my part of the city, where he will find not only a greengrocer and ironmonger but also a butcher, deli, chemist, post office and more, and not a scented candle in sight. See you in Larkhall, Ken.
Mike Parr

Twerton possibly.

To complain about a lack of shops for local people is a bit like complaining that art house cinemas don’t show films people want to see. Those being around the corner at the multiplex of course.