The new inquisition tightens its grip
The organised assault on doubters about the true religion is now reaching an extraordinary pitch. Last month we remarked on the double attack in The Times on Philip Stott, who had inadvertently been allowed to voice dissent in its Thunderer column. Even more ferocious was the aggression directed at Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas, who had the temerity to introduce scientific evidence into the discussion of the global warming dogma. The targets for character assassination included Chris de Freitas, the editor of Climate Research that published the paper, who was criticized for "having failed in his responsibilities of quality control", even though the paper passed an extensive peer-review process.
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 real anger, however, is directed at that notorious apostate, Bjorn Lomborg. For he is a believer. In fact, he will believe almost anything (celery and passive smoking cause cancer etc.) but he dares to question the sanity of committing economic suicide in the name of a treaty that would not make any difference even if the myth were true. He literally was subjected to an inquisition, though not (yet) actually broken on the wheel, but the shameful process of persecution has been continued by his scientific compatriots. Now an "independent" panel of "scientists" has decreed his work to be "unscientific". As it happens it is, but not for the reasons they give.
The way that "science" has congealed since the heady days when Einstein turned it upside down with his first six papers is one of the great tragedies of human history. While the New Right were basking in the glory of the days of Reagan and Thatcher, the new left were quietly burrowing into the very entrails of western society and finally emerged, Alien like, triumphant as the New Establishment. They turned their backs on the likes of Einstein and embraced a new eco-theology. They also turned history back half a millennium.
This is the way the original inquisition proceeded:
In 1483 Tomas de Torquemada became the inquisitor-general for most of Spain. He was responsible for establishing the rules of inquisitorial procedure and creating branches of the Inquisition in various cities. He remained the leader of the Spanish Inquisition for fifteen years and is believed to be responsible for the execution of around 2,000 Spaniards. The Catholic Church and the Pope attempted to intervene in the bloody Spanish Inquisition but were unable to wrench the extremely useful political tool from the hands of the Spanish rulers.
The Inquisition was run procedurally by the inquisitor-general who established local tribunals of the Inquisition. Accused heretics were identified by the general population and brought before the tribunal. The were given a chance to confess their heresy against the Catholic Church and were also encouraged to indict other heretics. If they admitted their wrongs and turned in other aggressors against the church they were either released or sentenced to a prison penalty. If they would not admit their heresy or indict others the accused were publicly introduced in a large ceremony before they were publicly killed or sentenced to a life in prison. Around the 1540s the Spanish Inquisition turned its fire on the Protestants in Spain in an attempt to further unify the nation. The Spanish Inquisition's reign of terror was finally suppressed in 1834.
The New Inquisition operates much more subtly. It uses its domination of the media to undermine heretics and detach them from funding and publication. It promotes crude smear campaigns designed to turn sceptics of the religion into pariahs. Its motto is Might is right.
It is outrageous that you continue to give space to the disgraceful outpourings of phlogiston deniers. As the sole media outlet to give due prominence to the formation of the PRU you have a duty to ensure that your coverage does not air the views of the unscientific minority who fail to accept the truth about the dangers that phlogiston poses for our society. Fortunately, I am able to give you the names of five independent academics who are willing to review your material before it is published. A search of your web site confirms that you have given due prominence to the phlogiston disaster, so it is reasonable to assume that the lapse is only temporary. I look forward to rectification of this appalling situation.
Dr Marmaduke Throttle
Director of Research, PRU
Apropos of the funny little ways of The Establishment a nice little example of the employment of Catch 22 appears in a piece in The Times of September 2nd, CJD: the theory that no one wants to hear. It goes like this:
(a) You cannot have resources and funding because you have not carried out follow-up tests.
(b) You cannot carry out follow-up tests because you don’t have resources and funding.
As regular readers will know the CJD story has been an enduring saga of official incompetence. Just look at what Number Watch was saying two years ago. Then scroll down to We are all doomed! Note especially this comment
Only a nasty old cynic would suggest that a curve other than the exponential could be fitted to these data. He might, for example, posit a wholly random (Poisson) distribution, perhaps modified by failures of diagnosis in the earlier years; or even a trend that was rising and is now falling. A data set of only about a hundred deaths in six years lends itself to almost any interpretation. As with other areas of modern academic life (such as climate research) a major factor is possibly where the next grant is coming from. A rising trend means future employment.
According to the projection, we should be heading for 45 deaths this year. They had better hurry as we have had just 12 so far. Other projections were in the thousands.
The hypothesis put forward by the non-person, Professor Alan Ebringer, might well be wrong, most are, but unless it can be proven to be non-viable it should be tested, at a cost negligible compared with funds at the disposal of DEFRA (which it must be remembered had to change its name from MAFF in attempt to cover up the trail of cock-ups that it had left in its wake).
Contrast this with the fortunes of Professor Stan Prusiner, who was awarded a Nobel Prize with indecent haste, also based on an unsubstantiated hypothesis. He was also able to establish a nice little earner in consequence.
The committee responsible for the whole fiasco (SEAC) stand as a monument to scientific and administrative incompetence at the highest level. How often have we been able to echo Magnus Linklater’s final words on this story?
Another promising lead will have been stifled by the dead hand of this country’s scientific establishment. And another vital area of medical science will have gone the same way as so many others before it: across the Atlantic.
When Junkscience.com elected to use the title Mann of course for the latest effusion from the doyen of global warmers, it stirred a memory in an oldie. ITMA was the acronym that had great meaning for a former generation of Britons. It stood for “It’s that man again”. Originally it was a sobriquet for Adolph Hitler, coined by the cinema newsreels, but it was adopted by a comedian, Tommy Handley, for a series that ran through the war and on to 1948. It had a brilliant cast, including the likes of Maurice Denham, who went on to become a revered actor of stage and screen. It kept up the moral of the British throughout the war and the desolation of the post-war socialist government.
The frequency with which Mann, and his acolyte, Professor Philip Jones of the CRU, grab the headlines merits resuscitation of this acronym, though it has been usurped by all sorts of upstarts (try a search). Their latest scam is a delightful example of the genre. Don’t you just love these two?
They say the Vikings' voyage from Iceland to Greenland in 980 AD was a quest for land, not for a warmer climate.
They also reinterpret the fact that the river Thames used to freeze over more often, saying the design of the original London Bridge affected the river and made it freeze more easily.
Don’t buy a fridge, buy a bridge!
What next? Rewriting the laws of thermodynamics? You would not put it past them.
Oh dear! It seems further explanation is needed. The first of the above statements is an example of the form of non sequitur known as the Straw Man (appropriate for men clutching at straws). It is a form of misdirection based on contradicting an argument that nobody put up in the first place, or if they did they are as barmy as these authors. The number of different ways of confirming the warm period that gave rise to the name Greenland is considerable. Even entomologists have been able to track the rise and fall of Eric the Red's colony by examining the remains of flies, the dominant types of which accurately follow temperature.
The second demonstrates a lack of feel for magnitudes that betrays a poor scientific training. The latent heat of melting of water is enormous (334kJ/kg). Without doing any calculations it should be obvious that to freeze a river like the Thames at London, even if it were stationary, you need to remove at least gigaJoules of heat energy. This can only be done by sustaining temperatures of well below 0oC for a very long period. The idea that a negligible structure like a bridge, by some mechanism unnamed (aerodynamic?) could contribute is absurd. It might be claimed that the old bridge impeded the flow until it was demolished in 1832. If so, where did the water go? Across London? The flow of water is subject to the law of continuity. If the flow is insufficient at a constriction, then the head builds up until it is sufficient.
If you don't believe the science, try the art. By ironic coincidence The Times of September 3 published an article The view's great from up here which included The Thames during the Great Frost by Jan Griffier the younger. Anyone who looks at this and still thinks a structure like a bridge can make a difference is also as barmy as these authors.
It is appropriate to mention Langmuir's laws of bad science (given in full in July) of which the fourth and fifth are:
4.Fantastic theories contrary to experience are suggested.
5.Criticisms are met by ad hoc excuses thought up on the spur of the moment.
The lengths to which the eco-theologians will go to deny such well documented phenomena as the Mediaeval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age are reminiscent of the way the Church denied the heliocentric cosmology and persecuted those who promoted it.
And these are the people who accuse everyone else of being fringe scientists!
The age of cancer
What is the worst of woes that wait on age?
What stamps the wrinkle deeper on the brow?
To view each loved one blotted from life's page,
To be alone on Earth as I am now
Byron, "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage"
Charts provided on a new site in our links illustrate a theme that will be familiar to readers of Sorry, wrong number!; that cancer, with a few tragic exceptions, is a disease of old age. In fact, the charts understate the case, because they do not take into account the diminishing cohort due to the attrition of death. To remove this distortion you need to plot the mortality, which is obtained by dividing the height of each bar by 100 minus the sum of all the bars to the left of it.
There are several consequences to the exponential shape of the cancer mortality curve. Most important is the fact that, as we remove other causes of death, the cancer rate must increase. This is a manifestation of The independence fallacy: since everybody dies, the total number of deaths must add up to 100%. It is a mainstay of the cancer industry that incidence of the disease is mysteriously increasing, whereas there is no mystery at all. The industry was launched on the back of a big lie, that 90% of all cancers are environmental in origin. If we look across the animal kingdom we see that, disagreeable though the thought might be, cancer is part of a natural process. Seriously wrong numbers, such as the 400,000 Americans dying from tobacco, are frequently obtained by such fiddles as ascribing "premature" deaths to 80 and 90-year olds.
Evolution, if you will pardon a mild flirtation with the pathetic fallacy, has to make compromises in order to maximise the probability of genes reproducing themselves. In order for the young to prosper through a potent immune system, the old have to put up with arthritis. In the wild, the old, having successfully reproduced, serve no useful purpose in the survival of the selfish gene, and they usually end up as part of the food chain. In the extreme (salmon, for example) the process of reproduction is actually a cause of death. Human societies have taken to preserving the tribal elders, partly because the evolution of speech has made their accumulated wisdom a survival asset, an asset modern society thinks it well can do without (New Labour, Young Labour!).
It is, of course, only humane (and also in our individual self interest) to do everything in our power to combat this fearful adversary. That will done by the painstaking process of scientific research in areas such as cell biology. The excesses of environmentalism and epidemiology are merely an elaborate sideshow that distracts from main purpose
Tales of the undead
Those who wrote off the number watcher's old friend Michael Meacher when the British Government at last divested itself of this permanent embarrassment wrote too soon. Back he came with a bang and his most outrageous claim ever. Mick Hume summarised it in a piece in The Times of September 8:
Am I being paranoid, or is there a plot afoot to spread conspiracy theories about absolutely everything? If there is, Michael Meacher must be in on it. Having informed us that GM food is a corporate conspiracy, the former Environment Minister now claims that America’s war on terrorism is really a “political smokescreen” concealing a secret right-wing plot.
Meacher suggests that the Bush Administration knew about the September 11 terrorist attacks but allowed 3,000 Americans to be killed in order to create “a convenient pretext” for the Washington hawks’ pre-planned wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The “overriding motive” for this alleged conspiracy was to achieve US domination of the globe and its oil supplies......
Relatively few, however, seem to have noticed how our master of his brief really had the last laugh. The ever vigilant Christopher Booker was one of them. For it was our old friend who loaded the shells that enabled Mad Margot and her fellow zealots to blow a hole through one of Britain's few successful manufacturing industries. The Reach Directive, which comprises a monstrous 1,200 pages of the most opaque EU gobbledygook, threatens the very existence of a £34 billion a year enterprise. Meacher's replacement, the hapless Margaret Beckett, finds herself trying to fend off the worst of this economic disaster, despite the embarrassment that it was her own Government that launched it.
It would be a serious error to underestimate the scale of this disaster. Just look at one example quoted by Booker:
The consequences can be see from how the directive would impact on Gabriel-Chemie, an Austrian-owned firm independently run by Greg Hammond in Paddock Wood, Kent, with 50 employees. Mr Hammond's expertise is producing new colours for plastics, for customers such as Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Boots. Each week he may be asked to come up with 50 new colour compounds, often used in small quantities for just one specific purpose. His competitive edge lies in his chemical formulations, which remain commercially secret. Under REACH he would not only have to register each of 250-odd chemicals he uses, but also publicly disclose each formulation, so they would be instantly accessible to potential competitors, such as those from China already active in his market.
Like thousands of others, the more Mr Hammond assesses the implications of Reach the more alarmed he becomes. Not only will he have to hire extra staff to cope with the paperwork. His greatest fear is that, by laying bare his trade secrets, his business could soon vanish overseas, closing him down, because not the least absurd feature of Reach is that it will not apply to products imported into the EU. By imposing such colossal costs one of the chief centres of the world's chemical industry, the EU could thus be writing its suicide note.
No country has more to lose than Britain, whose chemical business has in recent years been growing at six times the rate of Germany's, its nearest European competitor. But the fact that this directive stems from a UK initiative means there is little our Government can now do to prevent the slow destruction of our last world-beating manufacturing industry. How those Chinese must be laughing.
Where Adolph Hitler failed, our Michael has succeeded, without even stirring from his desk.
Footnote (J Arbona)
After WWII, the litany was like this:
"The Roosevelt Administration knew about the December 7 attack on Pearl Harbor, but allowed 3,000 Americans to be killed in order to create “a convenient pretext” for the Washington hawks to enter the war against Japan and Germany."
The more things change the more they stay the same.
Correction. Sorry wrong number! Apparently the number above should be 1,200 pages. So that's all right. Masochists can read all about it here.
The Ratchet again
A retired meteorologist was quoted recently as saying "A month without a record would be a record". With the whole of the media part of the global warming conspiracy, however, only one type of record is allowed to be known to the public.
This month tropical Darwin achieved its lowest ever recorded September temperature. As John Daly remarks:
The local media was informed of the new record and it will be available here. The records are also published in the NT Monthly Weather Review. However, had Darwin recorded a hot temperature record, it would have been proclaimed loudly from the rooftops of all the major media, announcing the coming of the greenhouse Armageddon.
But for a cold record? Only the local media takes interest or needs to know.
Here in rural Wiltshire, we are still sore that this year's -10oC frost that killed off our "hardy" winter vegetables is still a local secret.
There has been some correspondence on power cuts, possibly due to an article in Metro (Facing blackout, September 10) that mentioned Number Watch. A portmanteau reply in the form of an FAQ has been posted here.
It has come to our attention that a certain university in the USA has attempted to create a nice little earner by providing expensive kits that allow school kids to be inducted into politically correct science. The programme goes by the name of SEPUP.
Be it known that this programme is but a pale and cheap imitation of one created by the Metropolitan University of Nether Wallop – the Course Of Creative Knowledge and Understanding Programme. Do not be misled by unsatisfactory substitutes that fail even to mention the importance of phlogiston, to quote just one inadequacy. So, if you cannot find a creative way to dissipate the funds of your school, why not order an expensive kit from COCKUP.
The inquisition strikes again
If anyone thought that this month’s opening piece was an exaggeration, they should read Michael Fumento’s account of the fate of two scientists who dared to publish results that re-established the harmlessness of second hand smoke. This was, of course, known to anyone who had actually read the original EPA so-called meta-study and had cut through the blatant statistical frauds. All the usual suspects turned up, including the old Number Watch favorite, Clive Bates, to demand the impaling of the authors and publishers who perpetrated this heresy and sacrilege.
And then there's hypochondria
Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said:
"one can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
Through the looking-glass
At last an academic has revealed the nature of the disease that has marred the lives of so many number watchers. The Times, in its Debate page of September 17th, included discussion of the latest trendy psychological theory, but in the course of the discussion, Dr David Cook of the Department of Chemistry at Sheffield came up with an identification of the affliction that many of us have had to live with:
I AM afraid that reading Nigel Hawkes’s account of the discovery of dyscalculia brought on an acute attack of my condition dysbelievia: an inability to credit what academics will do to try to continue their research funding.
I dread Nigel's report of the discovery of a genetic basis for dyscalculia, since I am sure that this will induce a massive attack and may even require the emergency treatment of reading something by Oliver Sacks.
David B. Cook,
Department of Chemistry, University of Sheffield
The young life of your bending author lay in ruins because of a series of then unidentified diseases. There was the inability to remember dates (distensixtysixia), the inability to draw (disleonardia) and complete confusion about the characteristics of different countries of the world (dislocatia). In those evil days you did not get the necessary therapy, you got detention.
Discalculia, which by its etymology ought to mean the inability to get a little stoned, is a good example of a new fad arising from more than one form of fallacy. As we observed last month, the official mind cannot cope with the Sorites Paradox. In any field of human activity individuals reveal a whole continuous spectrum of abilities. Only in the official mind must a line be drawn, with part of the population on one side of it and the rest on the other. It is also a classical example of WIDIMITWEED.
This time of year is a productive one for the likes of our old friend Nigel (thousands to die) Hawkes, for it is when the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting follows that of the British Psychological Association; enough nutty professor stories to fill a desperate journalist’s notebook ten times over
The BBC tells us that “Scientists believe the position in which a person goes to sleep provides an important clue about the kind of person they are. Professor Chris Idzikowski, director of the Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service, has analysed six common sleeping positions - and found that each is linked to a particular personality type.”
Dr Raven Idiotski, Professor of Paper Doilies at the Metropolitan University of Nether Wallop, believes that people’s choice of paper doily patterns gives an important clue to their personality disorders, and he has the research grants to prove it.
From the BA meeting we have:
Middle classes lead the way in rip-off Britain
MIDDLE-class Britain is developing a “rip-off morality” in which small acts of fraud are seen as inevitable and acceptable, according to social scientists……
Apparently as many as 34% of us are so mired in a morass of anti-social evil that we have actually paid cash in hand to avoid taxation.
In the old days, robber barons would extort money from the local population in order to maintain their private armies. The modern equivalents, such as Gordon (means-test) Brown, claim legitimacy for similar tactics through being members of the elective dictatorship that we like to call Government. Other bad finance ministers (the names Healy and Howe come to mind) have come near to complete destruction of the economy, but the black market has been one of the things that kept it alive, as it did in the post-war age of austerity. It is bad taxation as much as anything else that has corrupted the most honest nation of earth. The Establishment mind, which is shared by most social scientists, sees thing differently.
Some of us see something rather splendid in the resistance being shown by pensioners. Rather than submit to enslavement by the bureaucratic army, for which they are forced to pay, many of them are offering their much sought after skills on a cash basis. If you want a repair or maintenance job done properly and cheaply, find a pensioner.
All hail to these senile delinquents. As Frank Field MP pointed out in an article in the Daily Mail (September 17), many of them have their lives made misery by hoards of out-of-control children. The very same social scientists who berate the evil crime-ridden middle classes have contributed to the creation of this class of lawless young untouchables, who go about their destructive business safe in the knowledge that anyone who tries to stop them is likely to end up in prison.
It all makes one feel like the man who tried to join the Paranoids Society, but they would not tell him where the meetings were.
Meanwhile back at the inquisition
We have had occasion to pay tribute to Professor Colin Blakemore both in the book of the site and in the March 2001 page (see Professors of panic strike again). He makes a contribution to scientific debate on the same page as the middle class crime story in a piece entitled Flawed study shakes faith in journal. It appears that a scientist at John Hopkins University in Baltimore published in the journal Science a paper linking the drug Ecstacy to Parkinson's disease. He found he had made an error, due to the mislabelling of phials, and the journal published a withdrawal of the paper. A bit shaming, but it sounds as though everyone behaved properly.
Not good enough for Blakemore, though. He raised the issue at the BA meeting, suggesting that the paper had been rushed through the refereeing process in order to influence legislation passing through Congress. Now this is a valid point and we have often remarked on the conjunction between various papers and meetings about global warming etc., but such criticism comes ill from someone who has promoted such scares as the mobile phone one.
His suggestion that referees should have picked up such a flaw is a ludicrous one. Refereeing is an onerous burden that is borne by anyone who has established any sort of reputation in a given field of science. Even the most zealous referee is unlikely to pick up such an error. So one is led to wonder why an implicit attack on ecstasy should so excite the professor and whether he would be so incensed if the target has been something politically incorrect, like tobacco. The latter demon got its requisite airing at the meeting as, of course, did global warming.
If you click the last link, don't miss the piece about visitors to the Victoria and Albert museum being in danger because of mercury salts in old hats. Not only hatters are mad.
Footnote: apologies to non-British
readers for being unaware of the extended tariff barrier thrown up by Times
Newspapers, which makes their links an expensive pastime. The item was
actually a fine example of a nutty professor story, suggesting that old hats
once treated with mercury posed a danger to visitors and staff. Mercury, of
course, has a very low vapour pressure, which makes it useful in the
laboratory, but relatively harmless. Some of us oldies used to play with it as
kids. Have they considered the dangers of exhalations from visitors whose mouths
are full of amalgam?
The Times and Sunday Times are among the finest UK sources of numbers worth watching, so it is a pity that the more creative flights of the likes of <names removed>
Bill Kinney adds - It is true that no referee should be expected to pick outlaboratory errors that upset the data. In this case, however, the data was so obviously in error that questions should have been raised about methodology. In the study in question, monkeys were supposedly given doses of the recreational drug ecstasy similar to the normal recreational doses. 40% of them died as a result.
Thousands of people take this drug at doses supposedsimilar to those used in the study every day, and the mortality rate is nowhere near 40%. This is an example of basic innumeracy, not poor referee process.
The only thing predictable about the weather is the regularity with which eco-theologians will seize upon any extreme to promote their scares. Number watcher Sandford Ward of Toronto, draws attention to the claims of one of Canada’s leading scaremongers, one of many to ride on the back of Isabel. In a fine example of the fallacy argumentum ad ignorantiam, our expert delivers the following powerful message:
"We really don't know what is going to happen to hurricane frequency under warming climate, although the risk of intense ones, very intense ones, may go up," he said.
In assessing the direness of this threat, note that storm names did not begin until 1950. The Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944 killed 50 people in the USA, but this death toll much below the 600 of a similar 1938 hurricane, which hit Long Island and New England without warning.
Meanwhile, back in the real world
Tears were shed on our Wiltshire allotments on the first day of autumn. To add to the injury of losing our hardy winter crops with a frost of –10oC early in the year, we have now have the insult of losing all our tender crops months before their time with a hard frost, an event unknown in living memory.
The Times let Philip Stott loose again, with a piece based on the fact that Boscombe Down, also in famously mild Wiltshire, had a temperature of –1oC. What do the editors of The Times think they are doing? All that ratchet reporting of warm weather this summer undone by publishing a record that was supposed to be kept secret!
We are now considering a demonstration of the sort proposed by Miceal O’Ronain, using the sign he suggested back in February (see Global glitch):
What Do We Want?
When Do We Want It?
The Italian job – a classic
We for a certainty are not the first
Have sat in taverns while the tempest hurled
Their hopeful plans to emptiness, and cursed
Whatever brute and blackguard made the world.
Two weeks after our FAQ on power cuts was posted, up came the Italians with an example that nicely illustrated many of the points made.
The two requirements for network resilience, spare capacity and interconnectivity, were glaringly unmet. The Italians, as the British seem about to do, relied on the more sagacious French to make up for their deficient power planning. As a result a significant proportion of the total power came through one branch of the network. When this branch failed, a cascading fault occurred. Italian ministers are now shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted by authorising twenty new power stations. Following a referendum, Italy had banned nuclear power, the ideal source to serve the base load.
It is all so predictable! Italy was lucky this time. It was not a bitterly cold day and the power was restored relatively quickly; otherwise there would have been many deaths. It takes years to build a power station, so they will remain vulnerable. There have now been cuts in the USA, Denmark, Sweden, England and Italy. It seems to be a universal phenomenon: politicians who are purblind to the obvious and too pusillanimous to stand up to eco-theologians who are determined on a return to the Stone Age.
Number of the month 3.5 million
It is appropriate that the scandal that finally surfaced from that morass seething with corruption and fraud known as the EU should involve the Orwellian-sounding Eurostat. The abuse of statistics is one of the features of the EU that has been repeatedly highlighted in these pages. This particular bit of the organisation is charged with buying and selling statistical information.
Reports on the new scandal, only four years after the downfall of the Santer Commission in a fog of falsification, were not made public but presented to MEPs in a closed session. They revealed that taxpayers' money had been used to pay for perks and freebies, including a riding club, a volleyball team, extravagant dinners, and trips to New York and the Bahamas.
Heroic whistle-blower, the European Commission's former chief accountant, Marta Andreasen, launched a scathing attack on Romano Prodi, the commission's president, after last week's confirmation of widespread financial wrongdoing at Eurostat, the EU's statistics agency.
European Commission President Romano Prodi responded by claiming that there is no need for any senior members of his team to resign. How brazen can you get? In comparison, the likes of Enron are pure as the driven snow.
The amount missing from funds extorted from European taxpayers, due to this one fraud among many, is at least £3.5 million. How much money is being misappropriated over the whole operation is anyone's guess, to say nothing of the take that is "legitimate".
The venal and incompetent authorities within the EU are driving a whole continent into bankruptcy. Mad Margo alone is destroying industries and exporting jobs on a grand scale. The Central Bank is deflating the continental economy into decline, to such an extent that some countries, notably the once proudly successful Germany, could be driven into political instability of an ominous kind.
Yet eastern European countries are queuing up to join this little lot.
It's a mad world, my masters!