Reading the Daily Mail may be harmful to your brain

A warning was issued today that over exposure to rubbish right wing journalism may have a significant detrimental effect to the human brain, particularly those in middle age.

People who read publications like the Daily Mail after prolonged exposure may exhibit a number of worrying symptoms. These include the loss of ability to analyse information objectively, a belief that any properly done research can never be correct against inconsistant and contradictory views and an almost fanatical belief that whatever they believe is right and anyone who disagrees is part of a worldwide conspiracy against them.

In addition to these symptom there are also indications that people may develop a paranoid fear of young people and lose both the ability to communicate with them and believe that the state is secretly intent on watching every movement that they make.

Speaking on the issue Baroness Codswallop of Crackpotshire, a renown and well respected rent a gob said,

“We’re very concerned about this issue. I’ve had a bit of a think about it and this is very worrying. We could see people retreating into isolation, not able to communicate with especially young people in any truly meaningful way. They may even in severe cases try to retreat from the world entirely and not leave the house because they believe that the sky may fall in.”

She added,

“Even more worrying is that these people actually have the right to vote and their paranoid fantasies about the world may even lead them into voting for a party that deliberately plays on their fears about the world and everyone around them.”


This is a spoof, apparently another symtom is the inability to spot irony, sarcasm or satire.

I do love good balanced reporting

Over to the Express and Star for another installment of local taxation rises. This time with Walsall Council announcing a 2.94% increase which is heralded in the Express and Star with the headline ‘Tax rise lowest in area’.

There are two issues that seem to crop up in relation to this. Firstly that I questioned as to why the article on council tax rises for Wolverhampton only reported the ‘Band D’ figure and it’s good to see that the Express and Star have reported the actual figures for all the bands for Walsall but anyone would think the Express and Star were biased and I’m sure it would have nothing whatsoever to do with the political control in the respective boroughs.

However, and this really does indicate rather poor journalism in the use of the headline. Now I’m not exactly sure what the Express and Star determines to be ‘area’. Is it Wolverhampton and Walsall? In that case then yes, factually accurate but at lease from my perspective, if we are talking about comparisons then I would consider ‘area’ to mean the four Black Country boroughs (please, no arguments about the boundaries of the Black Country) of Walsall, Wolverhampton, Dudley and Sandwell.

This is strange because Sandwell Council put out this press release the other day.

Now forgive me for questioning the mathematically competency of your average Express and Star hack but isn’t 2.9% less than 2.94%?

That said and I’m sure like any other householder, the figure that’s really important to me is the bottom line actually cash amount.

I know I should do a nice table with all the bands in it but it’s late and I can’t be bothered so here’s ‘Band A’ as that’s what is of more concern to me in actually living in one.

Sandwell: £855.88
Wolverhampton: £941.52
Walsall: £948.94

Dudley don’t announce theirs till March 3rd so we’ll have to wait on them but it’s fair to say, Walsall, despite the nice headlines isn’t exactly the cheapest place to live. Let’s not get on to the quality of services either shall we.

Why band D?

The annual rounds of Council Tax increases are underway and the papers do love these ‘Shock horror tax up by X amount headlines’ but I always wondered why they use band D properties as the example of how much extra actual money it’s going to cost?

Wolverhampton recently announced their increases in Council Tax and dutifully there was the Express&Star with a handy helper of this will cost the average band D property household an extra £64.68 a year.

Then I thought well, I’ve got a lot of friends and family in Wolverhampton and none of them live in a band D property, the odd few in band B but mostly in band A so I had a little look over at the ONS for a breakdown.

Of the 104,059 properties in Wolverhampton, only 6,064 are in and D, that’s 5.83%. However, there’s 55,004 band A properties (52.86%) and 21,984 band B properties (21.13%). So even though the overwhelming majority (73.99%) of properties are in band A or B, the media quotes a figure that is only indicative of what will be the actual money increase for people living in 5.83% of households.

I know it’s probably a bit much to ask or expect the local printed press to do a few sums and provide some actual public information so that everyone could see the exact amount of extra money they’ll have to pay in the coming year but what is the point of using band D as a comparison when only a small minority of people actually live in properties of that type.

Surely they should try and inform the vast majority of people what they’re likely to be paying extra which in the case of Wolverhampton would be all those in band A and B.

Just a thought, or are all the band D properties in Tettenhall?

Update: Not really an update as I’m still writing but I had to check. Banged in a postcode for a part of Tettenhall and shock horror, there’s more band D properties there (25.06%) than any other band. I sometimes wonder if they should rename the paper the Tettenhall Star.

The war on crap journalism

I don’t add new categories to my blog very often as those that I set up over a year ago have pretty much stood me in good stead but I’ve decided to add another.

Much as I don’t go in for all this ‘the war on’ (pick your own subject) primarily for the overly sensationalism aspect of it but given the subject matter I find it rather apt.

There’s probably a fair few older posts that would have fitted into this category but I’ll leave them out and concentrate on only adding newer posts.

So welcome to the war on crap journalism. I’ve a few more considered words to say on journalistic integrity but they will wait for another day.

To start off, and I have a distinct feeling that the Express and Star will feature fairly regularly in this slot, I’ll point you in the direction of this wonderful story about a couple who got done for smuggling cocaine.

Your humble Penguin doesn’t partake in the consumption of illegal substances and I’ve never even seen cocaine in real life but from memory or to be more precise from watching Scarface with Al Pacino, I vaguely remember that cocaine is this funny white powder looking stuff that you snort up the nose.

So in the true journalistic high standards that we’ve come to recognise from the good old E&S, there’s an accompanying picture to remind us. Yep, that’s cocaine without a doubt.

Note to E&S journos. That would be heroin then, that is heating in a spoon and administered intravenously through a syringe. Surely someone could have made a few lines of sugar in the staff canteen if you were that desperate for a photo?