Number of the Month

October 2003

Some lie and some die

Though not always successfully, Number Watch attempts to maintain a certain level of dignity; a lofty, detached irony in face of the tomfooleries of this modern world. Every now and then, however, along comes  a report so crass, so inane and so inherently absurd that moderate language seems hardly adequate. When the international network of number watchers began to buzz on the first day of October, it was a sign that an event of an unusual level of fatuity had occurred.

Virtually every media outlet had the story. Global warming said to kill 160,000 a year typically yelled the headline at CNN from a Reuters dispatch:

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- About 160,000 people die every year from side-effects of global warming ranging from malaria to malnutrition and the numbers could almost double by 2020, a group of scientists said.

The study, by scientists at the World Health Organization (WHO) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said children in developing nations seemed most vulnerable….

Seasoned number watchers need read no further before recognising that such a number represents complete nonsense. Even if the global warming myth were true, it would be lost in the noise. It is little more than a month’s worth of deaths from Malaria alone.

The tenacity with which these people cling onto their myths is staggering. They insist, for example, against all the evidence, that malaria is a tropical disease. Here, for the third time, we repeat a paragraph from Sorry, wrong number!:

Britain once had 60,000 cases, when the climate was little different from now. Indeed, in the early 1920s 16.5 million people suffered from malaria in regions reaching the Arctic Circle. 100,000 men died of Malaria during the building of St Petersburg. It became known as the city built on bones.

Why are people dying in their millions? One reason is that they have been condemned to death by the eco-theologians who have imposed a ban on DDT. The sainted Rachel Carson has decreed more deaths than Hitler and Stalin combined. Furthermore, as that demonised apostate Bjorn Lomborg pointed out, the money being wasted on religious icons such as the Kyoto treaty could have been turned to giving clean water to everyone in the world.

We expect, of course, nothing better from the WHO, which has simply become an international front for PC pressure groups, but the decline of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is sad, especially for those of us who have the University of London as our alma mater. It is not the first time, either. This school was involved in identifying the cluster of four at Queniborough over two years ago.

Publication by press release is a classical symptom of junk science. It would be interesting to see such claims tested by peer review.

Note: the heading is the title of a Ruth Rendell novel.

Our rush out and buy section

Now you can buy a watch that protects you from the dreaded electromagnetic radiation. Make sure you don't miss the video on this site.

Does this mean that we can dispose of our EMF safety garments?

Number Watcher Ray Futrell, who drew attention to these wonders adds:

  After visiting various websites looking for information on electromagnetic fields, I’m beginning to believe electromagnetic fields might have a detrimental effect on intelligence. This might be a worthy subject for an epidemiological study by the MUNW School of Public Health.

The research grant application is already in the post.

Footnote: So where do numbers come into it? The penetration depth of a plane magnetic wave into a metallic screen varies inversely as the square root of  frequency. To halve the amplitude of a medium wave radio signal (1 MHz), you would need about 0.1 mm thickness of shielding. To get the same effect at 50 Hz you would need over 1 cm of shielding. At 10 Hz you would need about 3cm.

Metallic underpants of this thickness are not widely accepted as a fashion item.

Who’d have thought it?

 The only people who would be hurt by abandoning the Kyoto Protocol would be several thousand people who make a living attending conferences on global warming.

Prof. Kirill Kondratyev

How things change. Not long ago Russia was being held back by its economy being prey to dogma and authoritarianism, while the “free” world marched on to progress. Now, with much of the world in the grip of dogma from the eco-theologians who want to return it to the Stone Age, it is Russia that is standing up for science, truth and common sense.

For further discussion see SEPP and Still waiting for Greenhouse.

Gun smoke

A topic that seems to be increasingly relevant is the apparent increase in gun crime. The rise of gun toting gangs in Manchester, for example, has provoked much discussion (and, incidentally, a remarkable display of sub-literacy).  The American love affair with the gun is something difficult for outsiders to understand. Nevertheless, whatever the justness of the cause, the tendency to embroider the statistics is to be deplored.

Here is a correction received from Charles DeWitt:

In the November 2000 issue you mentioned "Jeffrey A. Volberg, in a kind message, gently chides for the inclusion on page 192 of Sorry of a claim from CNN that 13 child deaths are caused every day by firearms in the USA. If this number is wrong I would be more than happy to publish a correct value, if anyone can supply an attested statistic."

This number is misleading in a number of ways, see: http://www.geocities.com/cfso_march/PolicyPaper1.html

..." In spite of their claims, the "13 kids a day" number is a lie; HCI includes 18 and 19-year-old adults in their studies. The real story is revealed by the National Center for Health Statistics, which found that less than .07% of the total deaths from firearms misuse were accident victims under age five. According to NCHS, total firearm-related deaths for children between 5 and 14 years of age was 546 in 1997, or 1.6% of the total. In total, firearm-related accident deaths for children aged 0 to 14 years is 181, according to 1995 figures."...

or see:

http://www.geocities.com/sendtoscott/guns.htm

..."Gunfire killed 4,223 American children under age 19 in 1997," writes Clarence Page in the Chicago Tribune. Fewer than 700 of these victims were under 17 years old. In the same year, about 700 other kids were slaughtered with knives, blunt objects or bare hands, while more than 2,000 children under 15 died in car crashes and nearly 1,000 drowned.

According to the FBI, 738 children under age 13 were murdered in the US - just 133 using guns. In 1998, 110 children aged 1-14 died from gunshot wounds, but they do not tell you that in 1998, 200 were suffocated on ingested objects, 570 died from burns, 850 drowned, and 2.600 died in auto wrecks.

Firearm accidents are at the lowest level since this country started keeping statistics in 1903. In 1996, even though there were around 80 million people owning guns, there were only 44 accidental gun deaths for children under age 10. About twice as many children under 10 die from drowning in bath tubs.

According to John Lott and John Whitley of the University of Chicago, 17 states have passed child access-prevention laws. Not only do such laws fail to reduce accidental firearm death and suicide among children, but the researchers estimate that 15 of those states had a combined total of 3,800 more rapes, 21,000 more burglaries, and almost 50,000 more robberies than they would have had without such laws.

Only about 30 people are accidentally killed by private citizens who mistakenly believe the victim to be an intruder. By comparison, police accidentally kill as many as 330 individuals annually. (source: John Lott)

In 1997, the National Center for Health Statistics reported a total of 21 accidental handgun deaths for children through age 14. Even the 15-19 year olds only add another 34 handgun accidental deaths in the entire United States. The National Center for Health Statistics reports 32 suicides by handguns for children 0-14 in 1997. Throw in the 15-19 year olds, and you get 179 more. (source: John Lott)

In 1997, the last year for which data are available, only 142 children under 15 years of age died in gun accidents, and the total number of gun-related deaths for this age group was 642. More children die each year in accidents involving bikes, space heaters or drownings. The often

repeated claim that 12 children per day die from gun violence includes "children" up to 20 years of age, the great majority of whom are young adult males who die in gang-related violence. Here are some random comparisons of accidental deaths for all "children" under the age of 20:

Cars -- 8,113 deaths
Drowning -- 1,269 deaths
Smoke and fire -- 723 deaths
Mechanical suffocation -- 529 deaths
Guns -- 306 deaths

For every American child 4 years or younger murdered using a gun, more than eight others die violently by other means - blunt objects, strangulation, or, most commonly, hands, fists, or feet. Even in the 5 to 14 age range, the American non-gun murder rate is still more than twice as high as the international comparison group. Even if all gun homicides were taken out of the equation, America would still have an infant-homicide rate more than 3.5 times as high as other Western countries (source: Christian Science Monitor).

Child murder is not a dispersed problem - it is tightly clustered geographically. Eighty five percent of US counties reported no juvenile homicides in 1997, and only 7 percent experienced two or more. The problem is confined mainly to the big cities of the East and West coasts, and to the Southwest (source: Christian Science Monitor)".....

I do hope you will correct the misleading impression that your "13 "child" deaths a day" statistic creates as soon as possible.

  Of human frights

I could a tale unfold whose lightest word 
Would harrow up thy soul; freeze thy young blood; 
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres; 
Thy knotted and combined locks to part, 
And each particular hair to stand on end 
Like quills upon the fretful porcupine...
Hamlet

One of the favourite targets of the scaremongers is popular medications; and the more popular they are the harder they go for them. One of the reasons that real science does not accept RRs of less than three (or greater than 0.3) is the question of confounding factors. One confounding factor they like to ignore in this area is embodied in the assumption that it is the treatment and not the disease that is the cause. A prime example occurred on the first day of this month when the antibiotic treatment of babies was “linked” to asthma. The authors completely ignored the fact that antibiotics must have been administered to treat a serious disease (probably involving lung infection) and quite perversely picked on the antibiotics.

A new report says that 58% of women taking HRT had abandoned it on the strength of a previous study. The scaremongers have been out to get HRT  for some time (see, for example, Dangerous and destructive nonsense). The present scare was based on a study that produced a value for RR of 1.7.  A nice addition to the latter report was this:

"But women should put it into perspective; one unit of alcohol a day increases a woman's risk of breast cancer by 6%." 

That is a RR of 1.06! As we reported in November last year, that one emanated from the doyen of epidemiological scaremongers, Sir Richard Doll.

HRT is given to relieve distressing symptoms; even if we reluctantly allow the validity of the marginal statistics, why is it so readily discounted that the cause of those symptoms is also the cause of breast cancer?

Incidentally, the page in The Times of October 10 that carried the report of women abandoning the therapy was another by, you guessed it, Nigel (thousands to die) Hawkes. Here is the opening paragraph:

A NEW cancer drug could halve the risk of a recurrence of breast cancer in older women, according to an international trial. So striking are the results that the trial has been stopped early and its results published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Once again, in a repeat of the Tamoxifen fiasco, a US drug trial has been halted prematurely because of  a so-called striking result (RR= 0.57). What on earth do these people mean by the term double blind trial? The research, supported by the drug manufacturers, will not now be able to reveal any potential adverse effects as it has been cut off in its prime.

Vale of tears

Number Watch comes to you from the Blackmore Vale in Wiltshire. The picture is the view from the bedroom of your bending author on a misty autumn morning. Make the best of it, because the view is about to disappear behind a new housing estate. It was going to be quite an appropriate development built around a traditional village green, devised by the architects for the Duchy of Cornwall (i.e. Prince Charles), but by the time Old Two Jags’ planners had got at it, it had turned into a modern human battery farm. The nearby Dorset town of Gillingham is now lost in a desert of such eyesores.

Now there is a new threat, those unlovely manifestations of the post-scientific age, wind turbines. Of course the Vale is not unique in this. Much of the most beautiful scenery in the British Isles is under threat from these white elephants, as a new web site Wind-Farm.org dramatically demonstrates. The locals have also created their own site savethevale.

Unfortunately, the public is so saturated with propaganda from the eco-theologians, that most of them think these excrescences are A Good Thing. Not only are they a manifestation of the Solar Fraud, they actually have a disruptive effect on the energy market, making power cuts all the more likely. They only exist because of massive subsidies out of the taxpayers pockets and fines on electricity generators who fail to conform to the requirements of the religion of those who are content to destroy the environment in the name of the environment.

We have the misfortune to live in the new Dark Ages, where science and beauty alike are buried in a morass of myth and superstition.

 Frankenstein meets the Megababy

Shock horror 1. If you feed your baby 100 tons of proprietary baby food, it might get cancer.

Shock horror 2. GM crops do exactly what they were designed to do.

Two fatuous scares dominated the British media in mid-October and they typified the manic inconsequentiality of the genre. One was generated by a European report on “carcinogenic” baby food, while the other arose from the publication of the results of GM field trials.

The baby food saga arose (where else?) from the European Food Safety Authority. They found between one and twenty-five parts per billion of a chemical semicarbazide in jars of baby food. Why did this happen? It happened because instrumentation has become available to measure absurdly small dilutions of materials. We have seen it all before. Remember Salmon Woman? All the vacuous ingredients of the health scare industry are there – mice especially bred to be tumour-prone, forcing on them absurdly high doses of chemicals (100 mg per kg of body weight), extrapolating the dubious results to human beings, ignoring the first law of toxicology (the poison is in the dose) and, above all, ignoring the fact that a billion is a bloody big number.

This one was so ineffably daft that it even found our old friend Nigel (thousands to die) Hawkes on the side of the angels. Food scares don’t worry me: people who start them do runs his headline. The article itself is a fine and encouraging essay in utter reasonableness. Anyone who has been reading Number Watch since January and December 2001 (remember death by committee?) will recognise this sentiment:

The danger of trading in theoretical risks is that it may send you stumbling into real ones. The Department of Health elected to use disposable instruments for tonsillectomies to reduce the theoretical risk of transmission of variant CJD, and produced a real risk: the clumsy disposable instruments caused increased levels of bleeding, and two patients died. 

One of the least attractive aspects of these scaremongers is the way they batten onto the most vulnerable members of society. New parents are nearly always in a state of perpetual anxiety about doing the right thing for their offspring. It clouds their judgment and makes them blind to arrant nonsense.

The other big manufactured scare was, of course, the reports of the GM trials. Basically they demonstrated that GM crops were successful in inhibiting weeds with a reduced use of herbicide.  A natural, inevitable and foreseen consequence is that populations of wildlife associated with those weeds will be reduced among those crops, but not elsewhere, and the area under cultivation with such crops is small in proportion to the whole. Shrill headlines have been anticipating the reports with cries of “contamination”. This based on the fact that a certain amount of cross-pollination goes on. So what? Some plants have a built in resistance to chemicals that are not found in nature. Since it gives them no evolutionary advantage, the trait will die out.

Anyway, one of the chemicals tested in the trials was atrazine, which Mad Margot has already banned; not for any particular reason, but reason and MM parted company long ago. The admirable Philip Stott gives a reasoned account of it all and an assessment of the varying levels of hysteria in the media in his EnviroSpin Weblog, so it is not necessary for further comment here; except, perhaps, to note an interesting outbreak of schizophrenia in the Telegraph, where the news headline Field trials show GM crop farming could be ‘disastrous’ for wildlife contrasted with the refreshingly reasonable treatment in the editorial Frankenstein knows best.

The day before we learned that Monsanto pulls out of Europe. Quite wise too! America and Asia should just let Europe sink into its own Green mire. What with Mad Margot and the European Central Bank, the continent is heading for decades of the sort of economic decay to which only the Greens aspire. Before Americans gets too complacent, however, they should remember that they were only a few hanging chads away from a similar fate.

 

Law and truth

'If the law supposes that,' said Mr. Bumble...'The law is a ass - a idiot.'
Oliver Twist

Correspondence from Howard Whent

Subject: April 2003 newsletter & EPA reference

In doing research on the whole ETS issue, in particular on the 1998 Osteen decision, I came across the Number Watch website.

The April 2003 Newsletter contains a reference to the US EPA report which identified ETS as a Class A Carcinigen and Judge Osteen's 1998 decision to 'remove' this reference from the EPA report.

 What the article did not report, is that on Dec. 11, 2002, the US Court of Appeal, 4th circuit, vacated the 1998 decision, validating the EPA report on ETS.  The American tobacco company Philip Morris did not exercise the option to appeal to appeal to the US Supreme Court and I can find no evidence that any others did.

 Philip Morris has now completely changed its website, and now makes a very different statement in terms of ETS.

In the interest of academic accuracy.

Reply

The EPA report is not valid. It is based on one of the most outrageous and multiple frauds in the history of applied statistics. The EPA undertook the so-called meta-study four years after it had begun formulating its anti-smoking legislation. It left out a major study that produced an adverse result. It changed the criterion for significance during the course of the study (an unforgivable scientific crime) to an unprecedented low of  90% (P<0.1). It ignored all confounding factors. After all that it achieved a paltry relative risk of 1.19, when real science usually insists on at least 3.0 and NEVER less than 2.0.

The US Court of appeal can vote to rescind the second law of thermodynamics if it wishes, but that will not make it any less valid. Osteen remains a hero in the defence of truth amid the fetid corruption of the American legal system. The pusillanimous Philip Morris (themselves no strangers to untruth) presumably made their decision not to appeal on the basis of their chances of success in a legal system where political correctness takes precedence over scientific truth.

 

Further footnote, from Pete Petrakis:

Howard Whent needs to read the ruling of the US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals on the EPA second-hand smoke meta-analysis. He states:

"... on Dec. 11, 2002, the US Court of Appeal, 4th circuit, vacated the 1998 decision, validating the EPA report on ETS."

The appeals court did NOT overturn Judge Osteen's findings that EPA had used deceptive science to support a policy on environmental tobacco smoke that it had adopted before it even began its study. It did not even address those issues. Instead the appeals court ruling focused only on whether the lower federal court had jurisdiction to review EPA actions in this matter and found that it did not. If Mr. Whent is interested in "academic accuracy," he can find the full text of the circuit court's ruling here:
http://www.tobacco.neu.edu/Extra/hotdocs/flu-cured_CCA4_reversal.htm
It contains no mention at all of Judge Osteen's findings on the EPA's fraudulent science, so it's flatly wrong to say that the Agency's findings have been "validated." Judge Osteen's findings in this area were not challenged by the appeals court and remain intact (though unenforceable).
Mr. Whent also says:
"Philip Morris has now completely changed its website, and now makes a very different statement in terms of ETS."
He should know that Philip Morris and other tobacco companies are required, under terms of the extortionate lawyer-enriching $240 billion settlement with state attorneys general, to post anti-smoking statements at their websites as well as fund anti-smoking advertising campaigns.

 Trendy!

'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!
Monty Python

Long-time number watcher John Baltutis wrote “You’ll love this one”. Well, perhaps love is not quite the word, but as an example of completely meaningless epidemiology it certainly takes the biscuit.

First, let’s look at what they did:

Methods  We examined the relationship between total and soluble dietary fiber intake and the risk of CHD and cardiovascular disease (CVD) in 9776 adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey I Epidemiologic Follow-up Study and were free of CVD at baseline. A 24-hour dietary recall was conducted at the baseline examination, and nutrient intakes were calculated using Food Processor software. Incidence and mortality data for CHD and CVD were obtained from medical records and death certificates during follow-up.

Can this really mean what it appears to say? They took anecdotal evidence of diet on just one day and used that as a basis for a 19 year follow up? But the best is yet to come:

Results  During an average of 19 years of follow-up, 1843 incident cases of CHD and 3762 incident cases of CVD were documented. Compared with the lowest quartile of dietary fiber intake (median, 5.9 g/d), participants in the highest quartile (median, 20.7 g/d) had an adjusted relative risk of 0.88 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.74-1.04; P = .05 for trend) for CHD events and of 0.89 (95% CI, 0.80-0.99; P = .01 for trend) for CVD events. The relative risks for those in the highest (median, 5.9 g/d) compared with those in the lowest (median, 0.9 g/d) quartile of water-soluble dietary fiber intake were 0.85 (95% CI, 0.74-0.98; P = .004 for trend) for CHD events and 0.90 (95% CI, 0.82-0.99; P = .01 for trend) for CVD events.

Just look at those relative risks, and confidence intervals! This all leads to the glorious:

Conclusion  A higher intake of dietary fiber, particularly water-soluble fiber, reduces the risk of CHD. 

What on earth is “p = 0.004 for trend” supposed to mean? Does it apply to all four points or just two? Either way almost any four random numbers will reveal an apparent significant trend. How do they calculate it? Quoting p for trend seems to be the new trend among junk epidemiologists. As the magic word “Tulane” would suggest, this is one for the annals of  inanity.

 Nanny knows best

In many ways it is a pity that The Times has hoist a tariff barrier, in the name of profit, against foreigners who might learn something from what was once the newspaper of record about the state of what was once a great nation. Two recent pieces in particular punctuate the decline of a once proud and independent people into a marshmallow clump of whingeing wimps. They show the two sides of the divide about that succubus known as the Nanny State, which is slowly but surely emasculating the island race.

The latest is a piece of resistance by one Rod Liddle, entitled Let them eat lard. It is summarised by the sub-heading The Government wants you to eat less, smoke less, drink less. Ron Liddle couldn’t care less.

 .........

I’ve been trying to work out what sort of person the Government wants us all to be. I’ve attempted to discern a pattern in their increasingly frequent pronouncements about our personal predilections and penchants. In the past five or six years they have told us off for: 

1 Eating too much.
2 Eating the wrong food.
3 Not taking exercise.
4 Smoking.
5 Drinking.
6 Having sex with too many people.
7 Listening to rap music.
8 Watching television programmes made by Chris Morris.
9 Enjoying modern art.
10 Taking drugs. 

Now I can claim a happy adherence to at least eight of the above Government-designated criminal activities. No, I’m not telling you which ones (and believe me, I’m working on the other two). So I suppose I’m quite a long way down the road to being the very antithesis of all that they want us to be. Looking at the list, it seems to me that they would wish upon us a fairly ascetic and determinedly middle-brow existence; the staples of lumpenprole culture — smoking, bad food, idleness — are disavowed, as are the top-end affections for modern art, drugs, promiscuity and Brass Eye. 

They want us to jog and eat salads prior to reading a good — although not too good — book, maybe something by Sebastian Faulks or Ruth Rendell — and all the while bedecked in the scarlet sash of the Junior Anti-Sex League and sipping mineral water. It has the whiff of the church youth club about it, does it not? Although any mention of God is, as ever, most definitely absent — they don’t do God. They wish us instead to live in a sanitised, secular hell. The Prime Minister himself seems to be the living embodiment of clean, healthy, family living. He plays tennis. He doesn’t get pissed or smoke crack. He doesn’t, so far as we are aware, shag around, although one has to say that there is a somewhat unprepossessing pool of potential shagees surrounding him from whom to choose an illicit partner. He eats fish and chips only when he’s about to be photographed by a snapper from a newspaper in the North of England. And, of course, he has occasional chats with Sir Cliff Richard. All of this is very healthy indeed — so it was a surprise to find him in hospital with heart trouble last week.......

And so it goes on. At this stage he is beginning to lose some of us. While it has ceased to be a simple pleasure to indulge in tobacco and alcohol and has now become a positive duty, having to eat Big Macs, listen to crap music and watch banal  TV programmes by someone we have never heard of seem to be demands beyond the call of duty. Nevertheless, despite a proper antipathy to the pseuds who populate modern art, it is difficult not to sympathise with the sentiments in his final paragraph:

I’m getting a little bored of being told how to live my life. Every time Kim Howells, or Beverley Hughes or any of those anonymous health ministers tells me that something is bad, I make a mental note to transgress at the earliest possible opportunity. This has made for a more interesting life: if it wasn’t for Kim, for example, I wouldn’t have spent half as much time at Tate Modern as I have just lately. Because there is a rather nasty, smug narcissism inherent in these ministerial strictures and, of course, the connotation that they know better than we do. The only possible response is to disobey, often.

But what of the other side of this coin? The awful Orwellian nature of the Nanny State is summed up in the person of a typical unelected commissar, one Professor Dr John Ashton. That, by the way, is a new development, using a Germanic multiplicity of titles. Your bending author may now be referred to as Professor Dr, though you might prefer the title used in certain American left wing circles of Pompous Ass.

Nigel (thousands to die) Hawkes quotes the good professor doctor’s views thus:

In defence of the “nanny state”, Professor Dr John Ashton, regional director of public health in the North West, said yesterday that government intervention was needed to protect those incapable of protecting themselves. “Individuals cannot protect themselves from bioterrorism, epidemics of Sars, the concerted efforts of the junk food industry, drug dealers and promoters of tobacco and alcohol,” he said. 

“A civilised society will provide a legislative framework to protect people, and in particular the most vulnerable. Criticism of the nanny state is almost always misplaced and is frequently nonsensical.” 

These authoritarian Marxists, such as Mad Margot, having been rejected by the democratic process around the world, have simply insinuated themselves into positions of power by undemocratic means. Everything you need to know about Ashton is summarised in the final paragraph:

He has three grown-up sons, but recently became a father again with his partner Maggi Morris, 47, a director of public health in Preston. Their baby has been named Fabian Che Jed, after the Fabian Society, Che Guevara and the Old Testament prophet Jedediah.

For anyone who asks what this had to do with numbers – welcome, you must be new.

The man who mistook his bathtub for a hockey stick

They hunted till darkness came on, but they found
Not a button, or feather, or mark,
By which they could tell that they stood on the ground
Where the Baker had met with the Snark. 

In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
In the midst of his laughter and glee,
He had softly and suddenly vanished away –
For the Snark was a Boojum, you see
Hunting of the Snark.
Lewis Carroll

Well, well! The pontiff of eco-theology, who has been choreographing the assault on infidels who doubt the true religion of global warming, has himself come under examination. He has been weighed in the balance and found wanting. A new paper by McIntyre and McKitrick of Ontario has probed into the inner recesses of the data that gave rise to the notorious hockey stick. What they found, in a masterly essay in academic understatement, is a considerable can of worms. Amid all the omissions, substitutions and amendments, however, there is one act of subreption that is so stark that it has all the appearances of downright fraud. Mann et al simply censored the data at the beginning of the series, which belong to the mediaeval warm period. Reintroducing them gives the lie to the claim, so forcefully prosecuted by the IPCC, that the past decade was the warmest in history.

Pardon the repetition, but this is what Number Watch said only last month:

The self satisfied arrogance of the likes of Michael Mann, who appears to be orchestrating the campaign, is really quite breathtaking. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! This international coterie, if not by fraud certainly by subreption, have foisted a spurious theory on an unsuspecting world, accuse anyone who begs to differ of being unscientific.

The curve is not a hockey stick at all. It is what is known in the field of reliability studies as the bathtub curve – flat in the middle and curving up at both ends.

 

 The Hockey Stick is dead. Long live science!

First of the plagues of Europe

 Then the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh, and tell him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
For if thou refuse to let them go, and wilt hold them still,
Behold, the hand of the LORD is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain.
Exodus

Back in May, in the discussion of the Number of the Month, we asked “How long will it be before various pests get completely out of control?” As night follows day, it was inevitable that the wilful and arbitrary banning of chemicals by the unelected commissar for the environment, whom we have dubbed Mad Margot, would result in plague and pestilence. The only question was – where would it strike first? Well, appropriately enough for the time of year it was turkeys.

The Times of October 28th reported:

TURKEY farmers are barricading their premises to prevent the spread of a savage disease after Brussels banned the only drug that can eradicate it. Ten million turkeys being reared for the £100 million Christmas trade are at risk from blackhead (Histomanos meleagridis), which can destroy entire flocks. 

The disease, which enters the gut of birds and attacks their liver, has broken out in France, Germany and the Netherlands and farmers fear that it will be carried into Britain by migrating birds. East Anglia and Kent are particularly vulnerable. …..

……The panic has been made worse because farmers and vets no longer have any drugs available to treat the disease. For decades a drug called Emtryl has been added to poultry feed to prevent blackhead but in May this year, the European Commission banned it because of a potential link to cancer in human beings. 

Scientists could not agree a safe maximum limit for residues of the drug in birds destined for eating. 

So, for the sake of a “potential” link, i.e. epidemiological nonsense, we have a real disaster. There is more to come.

Number of the month 75

This is the number of new jobs being created in the UK public sector every day. A purely parochial matter, non-British readers might think, but take it as a terrible warning of what happens when a democratic country gets into the grip of a finance minister red in tooth and claw.

The total numbers employed in public administration, education and health have risen by 750,000 in five years. This matches the decline in manufacturing jobs of 700,000 in the same period.

There can be only one outcome of a policy of continual transfer of people from the wealth-creating to the wealth-absorbing sectors of the economy. It is the outcome that the leaders of the main European countries are only just beginning to face up to.

Then there is the obverse of this coin, taxation. Britain had enjoyed a period of low taxation and enviable economic progress, but in the present Chancer’s reign taxes have gone up a staggering 50%. In the year 2000-2001 alone, The Treasury added 13,000 staff to the 67,000 employed by the Inland Revenue. Means tested schemes of such overweening complexity that they repel the intended beneficiaries are responsible for much of this growth and they have all descended into administrative chaos.

It would not be so bad, of course, if the new jobs were conducive to national wealth, but they are not. It is not merely the existence of the new silly politically correct jobs, such as those quoted in September last year, or even just the sheer numbers. It is the scale of remuneration and benefits. Bradford council, for example, offer their Chief Executive a higher salary than the Prime Minister’s. These jobs come with inflation-proofed pensions superior to the sort that have been wrested from those in the private sector. No one would object to more doctors, nurses, policemen etc. but what they are getting is more managers, form-fillers and target-fiddlers.

As coins only have two sides, we will have to devote the rim to the question of public borrowing, the growth of which has been grossly underestimated in the optimistic forecasts. The Chancer has led his nation to the brink of an abyss. It has all been too predictable (just try searching Number Watch for the word “Chancer”). Even as recently as the budget speech in April, Brown’s Quixotic optimism led Number Watch to cry “Heaven preserve the world from optimistic finance ministers.” The great irony of it all is that the man might yet be rescued from his folly by the success of the tax-cutting regime in the USA – US economy sizzles as 7.2% growth hits a 20-year high was headline in the month’s final  The Times Business Section. Only a dramatic world economic recovery led by an American resurgence can save Britain from the consequences of the extravagance of this inveterate gambler.

Alas for our devoted poet!

Footnote: The quoted numbers are taken from October articles in The Times by David Smith and Irwin Stelzer.

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