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    The death of an honest government


    by Douglas on 11th April, 2007 at 10:38 am    

    I don’t know why I was surprised really.

    A little background, first off. The Lancet published the findings of Johns Hopkins University in the USA that said that 650,000 more people had died in Iraq, than would have, if the invasion had not taken place. It was a gold standard statistical study, conducted on the ground by some very brave Iraqi medics. From a top US source, peer reviewed and in probably the top Medical Journal in the world.

    What happens next? We were treated to a spree of politicians from George Bush downwards coming away with remarks like: “I don’t consider it a credible report”, “Was not one that we believe to be any way accurate”, “extrapolated” and “a leap”, etc.

    You get the message: “This is rubbish, don’t believe it”.

    I wrote about this disconnect between scientists and politicians not long ago on PP. Little did I know.

    Fast forward to 27th March this year.

    The BBC finally obtained and released (under Freedom of Information Act provisions) the advice the government had received from their professional scientific advisers and senior career civil service which is so clear cut, so unequivocal that there can be no dissembling as there was over the Iraq dossier.

    The advice they got said things like “tried and tested”, might lead to an “underestimation of mortality”, “robust” and close to “best practice”. You get the message. “This isn’t rubbish, you‘d better believe it.”

    But they did not do that. They did not back pedal. In fact Lord Triesman, who has the lofty title of The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, said six days after the advice was given: “the way in which data are extrapolated from samples to a general outcome is a matter of deep concern….”

    Not according to the advice he’d received. According to that it was “robust”.

    In other words, against all professional advice the government pretended there was a problem with the study when they knew there was not. This is not a case where politicians can claim they were mislead. They weren’t. But they were doing their damnedest to mislead us. And on an issue that is this emotive, this human, they choose to play mind games.

    Think about it. How low can you go? Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

    Update: Dan has some more observations on the report.
    ————
    This is a guest post.



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    48 Comments below   |  

    1. Leon — on 11th April, 2007 at 10:57 am  

      Good post although the title is a little misleading, when exactly was this government honest?

    2. Vasey — on 11th April, 2007 at 11:09 am  

      When has Britain ever had an honest government? Certainly not in my life-time.

    3. Arif — on 11th April, 2007 at 11:20 am  

      It is very boring, but since the dodgy dossier I think everything the Government says has to be looked at for its loopholes, and we have to believe the worst when listening to, or reading, anything they produce on foreign policy. That seems the most “robust” way to can get near the truth.

      Assume the worst that can be true while also assuming what we are told is not technically a lie, but merely aimed to deceive.

    4. soru — on 11th April, 2007 at 11:33 am  

      You can see how the communication gap happens, because if you read the BBC report you linked, it says something a bit different than your summary of it.

      The memos are saying that while the lancet figures are inconsistent with multiple other more reliable sources, and so unlikely to be right, the government shouldn’t explain that fact as being due to the cluster sampling method used in general, merely the specific application of it.

      Which is quite likely true: as there have been some more recent surveys that backed the UN+ Iraqi govt numbers, and make the Lancet report look even more like one of those outliers that any developing scientific field has.

      These kind of media reports are like a game of chinese whispers:

      Lancet paper->govt scientists->memo->govt spokesman->BBC journalist->news item->blog post

      Except not everyone in the chain has a working knoweldge of the issues involved, and some of them effectively get paid more if they introduce additional distortions.

    5. Arif — on 11th April, 2007 at 11:44 am  

      Interesting point, soru. Do you know whether the more recent surveys also compare number of death certificates?

    6. sonia — on 11th April, 2007 at 11:45 am  

      i would ask - when has any government Ever been honest?

      good post douglas - ill have to go look at these findings

    7. soru — on 11th April, 2007 at 12:26 pm  

      @arif: I think the Iraqi health ministry figures are, in theory, from counting up death certificates.

      In practise, they are so low they are probably just made up, but I guess the UK govt is probably obliged to publically accept what an ally is saying unless they want to make a public issue of it.

    8. Sid Love — on 11th April, 2007 at 12:36 pm  

      History, and foreign policy in recent years it would seem, is all about fitting the facts to the thesis and not the other way round.

      Remember the Iraq Dossier’s middle section was 50 plagiarised pages from a American PhD student? All without his permission

      “Though it now appears to have been a journalistic cut and paste job rather than high-grade intelligence analysis, the dossier ended up being cited approvingly on worldwide TV by the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, when he addressed the UN security council on Wednesday.”

      The government never lied, they simply “misled”.

    9. Taj — on 11th April, 2007 at 1:04 pm  

      I think my problem with the political reaction to the Lancet report was the knee-jerkiness of it. Instead of acknowledging that there had been significant deaths in Iraq as a result of the conflict, and pointing out that ANY attempt at tallying the exact number accurately was bound to be difficult, many politicians simply attacked the Lancet; instead of being in any way statesmanlike, they instead conveyed a besieged and paranoid mindset. Also, more worryingly, it showed a disturbingly reductive view of human suffering: “60,000 deaths are manageable; 650,000 is a PR disaster and needs to be discredited”.

    10. Chairwoman — on 11th April, 2007 at 1:26 pm  

      If you’re talking about ‘our’ government, they’ve been dishonest since they put the word ‘Labour’ after ‘New’.

    11. Dan — on 11th April, 2007 at 1:49 pm  

      soru - the Lancet paper is available online, so sometimes it goes more like this:

      Lancet paper -> Blog post

      And, the Lancet paper itself took care to address some of the points you raise. The most important one being that their data are in fact consistent with the other estimates of the death rate, because in previous conflicts, passive estimates (such as counting media reports or death certificates) during a war have tended to underestimate by a factor of between 5 and 20. See my blog entry about it.

    12. Sunny — on 11th April, 2007 at 3:34 pm  

      Also, more worryingly, it showed a disturbingly reductive view of human suffering: “60,000 deaths are manageable; 650,000 is a PR disaster and needs to be discredited”.

      Bang on, Taj.

    13. soru — on 11th April, 2007 at 3:57 pm  

      ‘tended to underestimate by a factor of between 5 and 20′

      yes, but they are claiming the 20, wheras Iraq is hardly the least-reported war ever.

      I think the point is to put things into context. For example, when South Africa became a democracy, commonly called a ‘peaceful transition’, the accepted range of numbers of deaths by political violence (’necklacings’, etc) is 8,000 to 13,000.

      If all non-Lancet-style death counts are wrong by that kind of factor, then there were actually 260,000 excess deaths. If standard death figures for the Vietnam war are wrong by as much, then 40 million died.

      If people end up with that wrong a picture of Iraq, for example that the ongoing violence is on a similar scale and nature to the height of the vietnam war, then they are likely to make wrong decisions - perhaps that the violence can’t be sustained at that level, so exhaustion must come soon, that things can’t get any worse, or whatever.

    14. douglas clark — on 11th April, 2007 at 5:53 pm  

      soru,

      I was unprepared for anyone still to be in denial of the validity of the Johns Hopkins study. I am only aware of one subsequent opinion poll. This one:

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/19_03_07_iraqpollnew.pdf

      Where Q35 and Q37 tackle the same area, but in a less specific manner. If you’ve got links to surveys I’m unaware of, please let me know. You do realise that one of the recommendations of the study was that there should be more studies, and that as far as the editor of the Lancet is concerned there has been a resounding failure to do this?

    15. Nick — on 11th April, 2007 at 6:48 pm  

      Dr Madelyn Hsaio-Rei Hicks, of the Institute of Psychiatry in London, who specialises in surveying communities in conflict, questions whether the Iraqi interviewing team could have covered 40 households per day, as questioned. See:

      http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article1469636.ece”>

    16. douglas clark — on 11th April, 2007 at 7:07 pm  

      Nick,

      This has been rebutted. See here:

      http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2007/03/nature_story_on_lancet_study.php

    17. The Dude — on 11th April, 2007 at 7:09 pm  

      The fact remains that the government is resorting the increasingly desperate measures in their management of the news. Control and spin are their two main weapons of choice and when even these fail to impress a sceptical public, old fashioned lying (economy of the truth) takes it’s place.

      Note the farce which is now taking place over the selling of stories by the Iran 15. The Spin Doctors at Number Ten and the White House are as bent as a dog’s hind leg.

    18. soru — on 11th April, 2007 at 7:13 pm  

      I was unprepared for anyone still to be in denial of the validity of the Johns Hopkins study..

      Don’t you think it is a little strange for you to be thinking that, if your assessment of the way the media have covered this issue is accurate, and noone is using the figure or crediting the report?

      I think you may be sufferring from a bit of transatlantic bleed: I think it’s true that in the US, you’ll never hear that figure in a news report or paper - here it is the default reference, and the other surveys are never mentioned.

      And ‘Q35 and Q37′ are the ones I meant - it is not possible for the BBC survey that included those questions, and the and the lancet report figure similar ones in previous polls, to be both be within their 95% CI.

      At least unless there is something happenning like complete towns been wiped out with no survivors, and that not being reported on the BBC or al jazeera.

      As there are a series of polls like the BBC one going back to the early post-war days, all with comparable figures, from polling carried out all over Iraq by multi-lingual teams from all communities, I do think this is one area where the UK media concensus is wrong.

    19. Sunny — on 11th April, 2007 at 7:15 pm  

      Soru - what do you think forms a ‘media consensus’?

    20. The Dude — on 11th April, 2007 at 7:33 pm  

      The Emperors new clothes come to mind. Collective ignorance at it’s worse.

    21. douglas clark — on 11th April, 2007 at 8:06 pm  

      soru,

      The BBC survey doesn’t ask the same question, so we are comparing apples and oranges here.

      However, they are not as far apart as you’d like to suggest. The population of Iraq was 26,783,383, as of July 2006, the average household size is 6.4, the casualty figure given in that survey was 17%, as per Q35. On the famous calculator, that gives a figure of 700,000 odd. And no, I don’t know what the definition of ‘physically harmed’ is either. Which is why I haven’t used it.

      Do you agree that more studies would be a good thing?

    22. soru — on 11th April, 2007 at 8:48 pm  

      The standard ratio of injuries to deaths in wartime is 3 or 4 to one, so the BBC figure implies at most 200,000, way below the Lancet CI. So either one of the surveys did something wrong, or a million-to-one random sampling fluke occurred.

      More surveys would certainly be a good thing - the lancet authors are busy trying to sling mud at the UN survey, the Iraqi health ministry, the BBC, iraqbodycount.net, and everyone else who disagrees with them. Maybe when the 12th or 15th survey results come in, even the slower journalists would spot the pattern, just like they eventually did about the MRI vaccine, global warming denialist studies, and similar issues.

      what do you think forms a ‘media consensus’?.

      Facts a journalist could slip in as an aside in a single sentence about something else, without needing to spend a paragraph or more explaining and justifying.

      For example, there is a british media concensus that ‘the majority of the population of Iraq is Shi’a, with Sunni and Kurdish minorities’. That would actually be a controversial statement in some other countries, perhaps justifying a whole article covering the various claims and counter-claims.

      There’s definitely a concensus in the UK media (or at least the parts that I read, perhaps not the Sun/Times) that you can talk about say Darfur, and just slip in ‘of course, in Iraq there are over 650,000 dead’.

      If you wrote that in CiF, would a sub-editor suggest changing it?

    23. Nick — on 11th April, 2007 at 8:58 pm  

      douglas,

      It’s a reply but far from a complete rebuttal. There’s no mention, for instance, of the Iraqi interviewer who contradicted Professor Burnham’s assertion that the doctors worked in pairs and that interviews “took about 20 minutes”.

      And what of the other queries noted in the Times piece? Given the high availability of death certificates, why didn’t the team simply approach whoever was issuing them to estimate mortality, instead of sending interviewers into a war zone?

      What of the implication that child deaths had dropped by two thirds since the invasion? Is that credible?

    24. Nick — on 11th April, 2007 at 9:14 pm  

      Another source of uncertainty, not mentioned in the Times piece I linked to, is the estimate of the pre-war death rate. If the study’s estimate of 5 deaths per 1000 per year was too low, as suggested by the Slate article below, the number of additional deaths as a result of the war would be nowhere near as high.

      http://slate.msn.com/id/2108887/

    25. Sunny — on 11th April, 2007 at 9:51 pm  

      There’s definitely a concensus in the UK media (or at least the parts that I read, perhaps not the Sun/Times) that you can talk about say Darfur, and just slip in ‘of course, in Iraq there are over 650,000 dead’.

      No, I think plenty of people have written on CIF endorsing the 650,000 figure. I believe Douglas refers to one.

      I’m not sure its that easy to say there’s a consensus that is informed by fact. We also had a ‘consensus’ just before attacking Iraq that they had WMD and that 45 min was all that seperated us. No?

    26. douglas clark — on 11th April, 2007 at 10:51 pm  

      Nick,

      Les Roberts, one of the reports authors rebutted it here:

      http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=11309

      “13. Madelyn Hicks, a psychiatrist and public health researcher at King’s College London in the U.K., says she “simply cannot believe” the paper’s claim that 40 consecutive houses were surveyed in a single day. Can you comment on this?

      LR: During my DRC surveys I planned on interviewers each interviewing 20 houses a day, and taking about 7 minutes per house. Most of the time in a day was spent on travel and finding the randomly selected household. In Iraq in 2004, the surveys took about twice as long and it usually took a two person team about 3 hours to interview a 30 house cluster. I remember one rural cluster that took about 6 hours and we got back after dark. Nonetheless, Dr. Hicks concerns are not valid as many days one team interviewed two clusters in 2004.”

      Oh, and from the same source re post 24:

      “9. Lancet 2 found a pre-invasion death rate of 5.5/ per 1000 people per year. The UN has as estimate of 10? Isn’t that evidence of inaccuracy in the study?

      LR: The last census in Iraq was a decade ago and I suspect the UN number is somewhat outdated. The death rate in Jordan and Syria is about 5. Thus, I suspect that our number is valid. Note that if we are somehow under-detecting deaths, then our death toll would have to be too low, not too high. Both because a) we must be missing a lot, and b) the ratio of violent deaths to non-violent deaths is so high.”

      soru,

      Iraq Body Count - counts the reported deaths from newspapers. Likely to be a low end estimate. You knew this, didn’t you?

      UN Survey - conducted in the first 13 months into the Iraq War, you know this too, didn’t you. And contrary to what you are saying here Les Roberts has this to say:

      “15. A UNDP study carried out survey 13 months after the war that had a much higher sample size than both Lancet studies and found about 1/3 the numbers of deaths that your team has found. Given the much higher sample size shouldn’t we assume the UNDP study was more accurate and that therefore your numbers are way too high?

      LR: The UNDP study was much larger, was led by the highly revered Jon Pederson at Fafo in Norway, but was not focused on mortality. His group conducted interviews about living conditions, which averaged about 82 minutes, and recorded many things. Questions about deaths were asked, and if there were any, there were a couple of follow-up questions.

      A) I suspect that Jon’s mortality estimate was not complete. I say this because the overall non-violent mortality estimate was, I am told, very low compared to our 5.0 and 5.5/ 1000 /year estimates for the pre-war period which many critics (above) claim seems too low. Jon sent interviewers back after the survey was over to the same interviewed houses and asked just about…..

    27. Sunny — on 12th April, 2007 at 4:24 am  

      testing…

    28. douglas clark — on 12th April, 2007 at 5:31 am  

      Continued: attempt 2

      after the survey was over to the same interviewed houses and asked just about

    29. Kulvinder — on 12th April, 2007 at 5:40 am  

      More surveys would certainly be a good thing - the lancet authors are busy trying to sling mud at the UN survey, the Iraqi health ministry, the BBC, iraqbodycount.net, and everyone else who disagrees with them.

      The BBC as well eh? Damn them for organising a question and answer session.

      I’m never quite sure what those that dispute the Lancet reports are trying to say. Assuming you aren’t questioning the authority of the journal you either have a problem with the methodology or the actual samples themselves. If the former its (very) worth noting that there were two seperate studies carried out with the second designed to be an ‘improvement’ on the first. If the latter i’d be interested in what the rationale for ‘death certificate fraud’ was. The IBC and the like say its absurd for thousands of death certificates to not be registered/recognised/found by the central government and yet they don’t suggest a method by which ‘death certificate fraud’ could have taken place, let alone a reason for people doing that.

      I wouldn’t have a problem with anyone producing rival reports, but ffs go out and produce them. As far as im aware there aren’t any other ‘multiple’ report attempts out there.

      …as there have been some more recent surveys that backed the UN+ Iraqi govt numbers, and make the Lancet report look even more like one of those outliers that any developing scientific field has.

      Link? (im aware of the 2004 ILCS)

    30. douglas clark — on 12th April, 2007 at 9:00 am  

      Succinctly put Kulvinder, maybe this web site would let me post to it if I was that brief, lets try.

    31. douglas clark — on 12th April, 2007 at 9:19 am  

      OK.

      soru,

      you know damn fine that all of these arguements have been conducted elsewhere. The point, at the end of the day, is that IBC has got to be a low end estimate, the BBC survey is comparing apples to oranges, the UN report is actually seen by Les Roberts, one of the authors as supportive and the Ministry of Health statistics are probably another low end estimate due to systemic collapse of Iraq bureaucracy what with the war and all. And both you and I could discuss that until the cows come home.

      The point about this article was that despite all the caveats that people like your good self might have with the study, the governments own advisers consider the study had merit. Enough to describe it in what only a complete denialist could think was less than glowing terms. The government, and now you it seems, chose to ignore the advice given. In your case it doesn’t matter. When the government doesn’t listen to it’s own advisors, it’s a bit shit.

      That was the point of the article.

    32. soru — on 12th April, 2007 at 10:15 am  

      the governments own advisers consider the study had merit

      No they didn’t, and you can’t possibly believe that if you have actually read what they said.

      Why are you misleading your readers that way? Don’t we deserve better?

    33. sonia — on 12th April, 2007 at 10:34 am  

      yes and a crucial point to make too.

    34. douglas clark — on 12th April, 2007 at 4:53 pm  

      Soru,

      Show me your evidence. When I read words like ‘robust’ and ‘best practice’, I know what they mean. If you have evidence to contradict that, then fine, show it.

      Give me your links, and we’ll take it from there.

    35. Usman — on 12th April, 2007 at 5:07 pm  

      The only link needed is the BBC one you originally gave.

      Go through, read it again, look at each sentence, for each sentence ask:

      1. what is the subject of this sentence?

      2. what is the context?

      3. who said it?

      If you think visually, draw a diagram of the relevant concepts: ‘Lancet’, ‘first survey’, ’second survey’, ‘results’, ’sampling methodology’, ’survey procedure’, ‘calculation’, ‘required assumption’. For each quote you have, draw lines between them labelled things like ‘best practice’, ‘questionable’, ’supports’, ‘requires’.

      Colour code the lines to show who said what.

      Then tell me there is still a significant contradiction.

    36. soru — on 12th April, 2007 at 5:08 pm  

      above was me, obviously

    37. El Cid — on 12th April, 2007 at 5:09 pm  

      bang to rights!

    38. douglas clark — on 12th April, 2007 at 5:13 pm  

      soru,

      Gotta produce some evidence. Where is it?

    39. soru — on 12th April, 2007 at 5:27 pm  

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6495753.stm

      Asked how the government can accept the Lancet’s methodology but reject its findings, the government has issued a written statement in which it said: “The methodology has been used in other conflict situations, notably the Democratic republic of Congo.

      “However, the Lancet figures are much higher than statistics from other sources, which only goes to show how estimates can vary enormously according to the method of collection.

      “There is considerable debate amongst the scientific community over the accuracy of the figures.”

      Are you really claiming not to be able to understand the idea that you can get a mathematical calculation internally correct, but not produce a result that matches up with the real world?

      If I had 10 million quid in the bank, I could calculate the amount of interest I was due correctly. Someone who said I was calculating it wrongly would, themselves, be wrong.

      Unfortunately, their wrongness wouldn’t cause the money to appear.

    40. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 12th April, 2007 at 5:44 pm  

      Unfortunately, their wrongness wouldn’t cause the money to appear.

      Shame really, I’m terrible at arthemetric and it would be fast way to become a billionare! … or broke.

      Damn and blast.

      Personally I’m not about the Lancet thing, whether 10 or a 100 people died its bad. I’m not sure what is helped by bickering about the numbers.

      Best if people stopped killing each other out there no? I think its odd how the blame for Sunni Shia killings is put on the door step of the Americans.

      To do so is to agree with the methods deployed by Saddam to repress the rivalies between the groups.

      “Now if only the current government and America were as good as Saddam at putting down insurgencies”

      TFI

      TFI

    41. Kulvinder — on 12th April, 2007 at 5:48 pm  

      Are you really claiming not to be able to understand the idea that you can get a mathematical calculation internally correct, but not produce a result that matches up with the real world?

      Everyone in the thread understands that, the point we’re making is ‘the results not being valid in the real world’ is far more likely to happen to findings based on how many deaths are reported in the media than surveys actually done on the ground.

    42. Sid Love — on 12th April, 2007 at 5:57 pm  

      above was me, obviously

      You mean you’ve spent dozens of posts on another thread arguing with yourself about the benefits of a Khilafah state? How talented!

    43. douglas clark — on 12th April, 2007 at 6:12 pm  

      Sonia,

      Thanks for the support. It is the point. If governments feel at liberty to, what’s the phrase again - ‘be economical with the truth’ - then frankly they are no longer representing us. they are representing themselves and Orwell truly does have his nightmares realised. (a bit OTT, but you know what I mean :-) ) BTW, I’ve just read 1984, and it’s really not a good read. Points are made with a mallet.

      I think there is an arguement to be made that political parties are not fit for long term governance, on the grounds that they end up seeing their party political interests as the will of the people, when it clearly is not. To everyone but themselves; but hey! we’ve got a few more years to go and we can do what the hell we like…..

      Though how Blair ever thought going into Iraq was in his parties interests, or this countries interests, is beyond me. You are left with the contradictory ideas that either he thought it was the right thing to do, or that it would improve his post premiership earnings in the USA. Can either of these options can possibly be right?

      I could argue for the first. Sanctions were pretty abominable, and were killing lots of folk too. So, in his head the status quo was not an option. Fair enough, bloody well tell us then! I do not believe the second option is in any way credible.

      When Bush phoned him up, he should have said “sorry, mate, me old cowpoke, too busy sorting out Afghanistan”, and meant it. Military overstretch cuts both ways. We are failing just as much in Afghanistan as we are in Iraq. As does economic overstretch, we promised Afghanistan aid for reconstruction, and we haven’t divvied up. It was as much a failure to the Afghan people that we had no stabilisation plan in place for them, post ‘Operation Blinding Idiots’ or whatever other stupid term we had for it, as the subsequent failure in Iraq. ‘Course if you keep moving fast enough….no-one is supposed to notice.

      To the Afghans we say, ‘Oh dear, we’re fighting Iraqis now. Can’t find the funds.’ Which is frankly pathetic.

      We, however are left with liars, lying for a lying government. And we are supposed to smile? I don’t think so.

      Y’know what, I’m so sick of it that I’m voting SNP next week. And I don’t care if I do end up poor, I won’t have to take any more sanctimonious shite from First Lords of the Admiralty. This nation is a dead parrot.

      So, rant over, hung on your post. Sorry about that.

    44. soru — on 12th April, 2007 at 6:15 pm  

      @Sid: Yes.

      Some of my other posting identities are Katy, Kismet, El Cid, sonia and Sunny.

    45. douglas clark — on 12th April, 2007 at 6:43 pm  

      soru,

      post 39! That’s it! That is your defence for a days worth of mewling and puking over the Lancet Study!

      Yes, I can defend that. No problem. I’ve just got to stop laughing first. I’ll give you a clue, your money analysis is shit. Think about it a bit. I hated paying interest at 14%, but I had to. It was not that it was good, or fair or equitable, it was just the bloody rate of interest. 14% most certainly did not represent my ‘real world’, but unfortunately it was the real world.

      Anything else you’d like to present?

    46. soru — on 12th April, 2007 at 9:26 pm  

      I think @45 might be Usnam posting using doug’s account: it seems to have his trademark posting style of being very angry, and repeatedly asking ill-defined questions then getting even angrier when they are not answered.

      As you can’t express the question you want answered, I’ll have to try guess.

      You seem to be under the impression that somone in the government told a lie, or misled by ommission, on this issue. If that’s what you are saying, that’s a positive claim - that means you you are the one who has to supply some kind of evidence for it.

      Two sentences spoken by different people, one of which contains positive words, and one negative, is not evidence for contradiction, given that they are not talking about the same thing.

      Some movie reviewers are careful never to say anything nice about the soundtrack or lighting of a stinker, so their name won’t appear on the poster next to ’stirring’, ‘epic’ or ‘pleasant’.

      I suppose in future, civil servants could learn, when asked ‘and what do you think about the font the report was printed in’?, to never say anything other than ‘ugly and blotchy’, on pain of a headline ‘GOVT LIES AGAIN: report was ‘lucid’, says boffin’.

      You might be on stronger grounds if your claim is, as Kulvinder suggests, the problem is that someone failed to put the same level of caveats about some of the other surveys, which _are_ very likely undercounts.

      However, quoting single-sentence soundbites is not proof of ommission, because sentences would not be quotable if they contained 24 sub-clauses worth of caveats and qualfiers.

      I don’t know for sure, but it’s a fair bet that when Lord Triesman, whoever he is, spoke on this issue, he said more than 19 words. You don’t know what other words were - they might answer that point, they might not.

      So, go look up the speech or whatever, and if it was a full-length speach, and he didn’t say things like ‘not all deaths will be reported in the media’, or ‘the system for collating death certificates may not be working reliably’, then you will have a point to make.

      Imagine: righteously angry, and factually accurate as well.

      Think how much fun that would be.

    47. douglas clark — on 12th April, 2007 at 10:01 pm  

      Just before I read the rest of your nonsense, could you stop playing stupid games with identity? Either you are Usman, or I am Usman, or Usman is Usman.

      As I am certainly not Usman, you two can fight it out amongst yourselves. I see almost everything you have written here as a bit of post modernist posturing, but there you go. Y’know, stupid. But entirely valid within its context. The context being stupid. Now where did I hear that word, oh, yeah, up there. Circularily daft. You can get a degree in that nowadays, did you know?

      I’ll respond to whichever moron you care to put up, whether it is your Usman persona or your soru persona. What’s for sure, the arguements will be the same, and they will be daft.

      This is fun. I’ve never met a multiple personality zombie before. Hi.

      Now, I’ll read the rest of your post….

    48. douglas clark — on 12th April, 2007 at 10:08 pm  

      soru,

      who is probably Usman, or me, or a flying spaghetti monster or a spam bot or pehaps someone high on something…

      Says:

      ” think @45 might be Usnam posting using doug’s account: it seems to have his trademark posting style of being very angry, and repeatedly asking ill-defined questions then getting even angrier when they are not answered.”

      Y’know what soru.

      Fuck off.

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