Channel 4 News 90


I phoned the Channel 4 Newsdesk to report a story. It went like this:

Male Voice: Hello Newsdesk
Me: Hello is that Channel 4 News?
Male Voice: Yes, how can I help you
Me: I want to report a story
Male Voice: Well there’s not much time left the news is about to go out
Me: It is quite a big story
Male Voice: Well run it by me
Me: It’s about a totally corrupt journalist named Alex Thomson who claimed there was a riot in Glasgow today when no such thing happened
Male Voice: Oh
Me: Are you interested?
Male Voice: Well, obviously I know who Alex Thomson is
Me: Are you interested?
Male Voice: Well I can put you through to viewer complaints….
[Click – goes to answerphone]

I phone back
Female Voice: Hello
Me: Hello. I was talking to someone about Alex Thomson invention of a completely untrue story, and I seem to have got put through to an answerphone
Female Voice: I can put you through to viewer complaints
Me: No, that’s the answerphone
Female Voice: Well, then the editor will hear what you say
Me: Really? Does the editor listen to the answerphone?
Female Voice: Yes
Me: The editor listens to every comment left on the answerphone
Female Voice: Yes
Me: So how many comments per day are left on the answerphone?
Female Voice: The editor doesn’t listen to the answerphone, they get the comments typed out
Me: So each and every message is typed out separately and the editor reads them all
Female Voice: No it’s a summary
Me: Alex Thomson was lying about events in Glasgow to try to influence an election. I want to talk to your superior.
CLICK put to answerphone

This is a picture of the actual scene, exactly as I described it earlier today. Alex Thomson should be sacked. he is a disgrace to journalism.

glasgow riot

Thanks to Wings Over Scotland for the picture.


90 thoughts on “Channel 4 News

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  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    Lysias

    Do feel free to join in, of course. I’m sure Iain won’t mind.

    I would particularly welcome your opinion since the question is about democracy and defence and you recently told us that your background as a classicist and Navy officer attests to particular expertise in both those areas.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    When answering, Lysias, do bear in mind what I wrote earlier this evening about Enoch Powell; I shall repost just in case you missed it:

    “That classical scholar Enoch Powell (1st class Honours in Greats from Oxford) was very much opposed to referenda, believing that they were incompatible with the notion of the sovereignty of parliament.

    But it’s true that he didn’t hold any “higher degrees” in the subject”

  • Iain Orr

    Habbabkuk

    Thank you for your reply. I share your view – and that of Enoch Powell – that referenda are, in general, not suitable ways in which policy should be decided in democracies. That said, I also think that some issues are so important and have such a bearing on the nature of our society that it is sometimes best that the views of every voter should be sought, and not simply left to the outcome of whipped parliamentary debates. However, I also think that such referenda can be either advisory or binding; and that referenda should only be binding if parliament has already decided so and agreed what percentage of those voting (and of the electorate) should be required if the vote is to be binding.

    Decisions that bear on the fundamental nature of our democracy should reflect the settled positive will of the majority of the population. Whether we should be part of Europe or whether Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales wish to remain part of the UK should not be decided by a narrow majority which may reflect the views based on temporary circumstances. For that reason, I would have wished the recent referendum on Scotland’s independence to be binding only if it supported by a majority of the electorate and by at least 60% of those voting.

    What issues merit the views of the electorate being sought by a referendum is a matter to be decided by members of parliament, according to established parliamentary procedures. Whether the UK should continue to produce and deploy nuclear weapons is such an issue; as is the UK’s membership of Europe, votes for women, slavery, the death penalty and the method by which we conduct our elections.

  • Abe Rene

    I just looked at Alex Thomson’s article. He said that he “spoke to most of the key disrupters and asked how they should be described. They described themselves as “socialist”, “class activist”, “people of Glasgow”, “Marxist” and “nearly Marxist” who would vote SNP.

    So! The SNP has been infiltrated by Commies! No wonder they wish to break up the country and compromise its defenses. The Russian spy planes must be laughing all the way back to Sheremetyevo Airport!

  • Abe Rene

    PS. Retraction to prevent misunderstanding.

    I retract my previous statement (5 May, 2015 9:02) as not to be regard as serious. I do not think that the SNP is a Communist organisation, though (like the ANC of South Africa) it might include people with Marxist sympathies.

  • lysias

    As far as I can recall, I have never called for rule by referenda on this forum (although I am open to the idea that referenda have their place). What I have called for is imitating the ancient Athenian system of choosing officials by lot from the whole citizen body. In America, I have this in mind for the lower houses of our legislatures, including the U.S. House of Representatives. I suppose in Britain that would translate into adopting the system for the House of Commons.

    In this way, a body of average citizens would have at least a veto power over the actions of their government.

    It worked in Athens. For centuries. Possibly the only way that has yet been found to evade the working of Robert Michels’s Iron Law of Oligarchy (not known as such in ancient times, but Aristotle has some similar things to say). Scott Horton makes the point about Greek democracy and Michels’s law in his new book Lords of Secrecy: The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Warfare. Mogens Hansen in his books describes how the Greek system worked. G.E.M. de Ste. Croix gives a history of how the system prevented oligarchy for centuries, and then was gradually killed by an alliance of Romans and rich Greeks.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    Lysias

    “As far as I can recall, I have never called for rule by referenda on this forum (although I am open to the idea that referenda have their place). What I have called for is imitating the ancient Athenian system of choosing officials by lot from the whole citizen body. In America, I have this in mind for the lower houses of our legislatures, including the U.S. House of Representatives. I suppose in Britain that would translate into adopting the system for the House of Commons.

    In this way, a body of average citizens would have at least a veto power over the actions of their government.”

    _____________________

    I think we have already crossed swords on this point of yours on averages.

    The system of a random selection of legislators (not “officials”, by the way) for each legislature will only produce a “body if average citizens” over time – ie, over several (many?) legislatures.

    It is contrary to the very concept of averages to claim that the people selected randomly (by lot) for anhy single legislature will result in a body of “average” citizens.

    Can you understand that?

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    Abe Rene

    “I retract my previous statement (5 May, 2015 9:02) as not to be regard as serious. I do not think that the SNP is a Communist organisation, though (like the ANC of South Africa) it might include people with Marxist sympathies.”

    ____________________

    Note, however, that another nationalist movement – the official IRA (I stress official) had become Marxist-based by the early 1970s.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    Iain Orr

    And thank you for yours. I would like to take up one point but in order to be absolutely clear could you please review the following passage:

    “Whether we should be part of Europe or whether Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales wish to remain part of the UK should not be decided by a narrow majority which may reflect the views based on temporary circumstances.”

    and tell me whether you are referring to a “narrow majority” (etc..) vote achieved by a political tendency in Parliament or a “narrow majority” (etc) in a referendum.

    Thanks.

  • lysias

    Random Sampling Explained. Random selection of officials or representatives, provided that it is truly random and that the number chosen is sufficiently large, approximates the proportions of any characteristic in the total population for the same reason that truly random political polls work. A very readable book on statistics and probability is David Hand’s The Improbability Principle.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    From the link:

    “In probability theory, the law of large numbers (LLN) is a theorem that describes the result of performing the same experiment a large number of times. According to the law, the average of the results obtained from a large number of trials should be close to the expected value, and will tend to become closer as more trials are performed.”

    _____________________

    Note : “a large number of times”.

    Which, translated into the field we’re talking about, means a large number of legislatures.

    Which I believe I said (@ 16h00).

  • Iain Orr

    Habbabkuk @ 4.11 pm on 5 May. In line with a general preference for the normal rules of a representative democracy, I am quite happy for matters that are decided by parliamentary vote to be decided by a majority of just one vote. However, when parliament decides (for whatever reasons) that an issue is put to all voters in a referendum, I believe that if only a simple majority is to be required the referendum should be taken only as advisory. Where the issue concerns an important change from the present position – membership of Europe, giving up nuclear weapons, changing the voting system – I think it is best for there to be a requirement of a 60% majority of those voting.

  • lysias

    The choice of several hundred legislators is a large number of times. Obviously, the choice of one or two legislators (like polling one or two people) is not a good way to determine the distribution of a characteristic in a population. But the choice of several hundred legislators will work just in the way polling a large number of people will work.

  • lysias

    If you toy around with this sample size calculator, you will see how accurate a sample of 650 (the number of MPs) is for determining the proportion of a characteristic in a population of several millions.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    I realise that as a former naval and military officer you must be accustomed to having the last word, but I’d advise you to lay this one to rest.

    By the way : were Athenian legislators drawn by lot from the entire population of Athens or was the pool defined by civil status (implying education)?

  • lysias

    There was no educational requirement at Athens. All male adult citizens qualified. (You had to be 30 years of age to be on the Boule or Council.)

    And I had to study statistics and probability to do my Ph.D. dissertation. I am quite confident of the truth of what I am saying. Why don’t you consult someone who you know is familiar with the subject?

  • lysias

    All male citizens were, on the other hand, obliged to perform military service, starting with military training in the institution called the ephebeia. But there is no reason why we should include this requirement in a modern imitation. Any more than we have to exclude women, or to have the institution of slavery.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    Iain Orr

    So you were talking about a vote by referendum and not in Parliament. You took many lines to clarify that, perhaps my question was unclear?

    By the way, your response is unclear on the following: do you believe that a referendum on an important matter (as you define it) which results in a 60% plus result should be binding?

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    But whatever your answer is to the above, do you remember the outcome of the 1975 referendum? It was about 2/3 for staying in and one third for leaving.

    Opinion polls taken less than six months before the referendum showed exactly the opposite result (two thirds for leaving, one third for staying in).

    Less than six months before – so your 60% threshold would not have been very effective in ensuring that “the views based on temporary circumstances” would not carry the day, would it (cf yours at 12h15).

  • lysias

    If a single selection of hundreds of legislators is no good for determining the distribution of characteristics in a population (because it is just one time,) then by the same reasoning a single poll is worthless for predicting a result, no matter how many people are in the sample polled (just one time again). That would mean a lot of politicians and businesses are throwing away money in conducting polls. Obviously, they do not think it is money wasted.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    The following appears in the explanatory notes at the bottom of the “sample size calculator” linked to (above):

    “If 50% of all the people in a population of 20000 people drink coffee in the morning, and if you were repeat the survey of 377 people (“Did you drink coffee this morning?”) many times, then 95% of the time, your survey would find that between 45% and 55% of the people in your sample answered “Yes”.”

    I note the words “many times”.

    In other words, averages depend on frequency and repetition.

  • lysias

    What your quote says is that the proportion estimated by a single sampling will 95% of the time be within the desired closeness of the absolutely accurate proportion. Outlying results do occasionally occur. But for most practical purposes the result of a single sampling is good enough. It is, for example, good enough for the politicians and companies that pay for polls.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    In fact politicians and companies pay for repeated samplings taken over time and not just for a single sampling. There is a poster on here who keeps bringing samplings taken by the FT to our attention. 🙂

  • lysias

    You do not appreciate the cost of conducting a poll, especially one with a large sample.

  • Iain Orr

    Habbabkuk @ 8.11 pm : the number of words you or I need to make ourselves clear on such issues is not surprising: as your own questions make clear, the devil is in the detail. Yes, I think a referendum result that leaps over the 60% of those voting hurdle – or any other rule that requires more than a simple majority – should be binding. But even bindingness is not straightforward: how to divide UK assets and liabilities after a referendum decision by voters in Scotland to leave the UK? The hope would be that because the majority in favour of change was at least 60/40 rather than 50.1/49.9, negotiations would be conducted in a less partisan spirit.

    Your 1975 example of extreme volatility I can take in my stride, especially as polls are not binding and votes (however much fraud is involved) are “chiels that winna ding”. No voting system is perfect. First past the post looks to be getting stinkily beyond its sell-by date.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    Iain Orr

    “First past the post looks to be getting stinkily beyond its sell-by date.”

    _____________________

    And with the above you have somewhat widened the discussion, which I’ll interpret as an indication that we have perhaps reached the end of the road as far as the topic of referenda is concerned….?

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    “You do not appreciate the cost of conducting a poll, especially one with a large sample.”
    __________________

    Perhaps not, but that does not appear to stop politicians and organisations from conducting them on an ongoing basis.

    The comment seems rather irrelevant (and) diversionary to me.

  • Iain Orr

    Habbabkuk: Yes, let’s (post-election) face the problem of framing the question for a referendum on the voting system. I favour a Royal Commission on the subject so that we avoid ( I hope) the stupidity of the LibDems arguing for a system that they did not believe in.

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