Number of the Month
Cloak of darkness
One of the factors that precipitated your bending author’s lack of gruntle in early April was an abortive project to try to devise a relatively non-mathematical explanation of why use of the odds ratio is a red herring. The conclusion after a few days of wrangling was that there is not one. It would be agreeable to be proved wrong. All that remained was a rather unsatisfactory explanation with a recommendation to skip the mathematical bit if it proved too daunting.
This led to some sombre thoughts as to how those with an intent to mislead exploit the low (and falling) numeracy of the population. The odds ratio produces more impressive numbers, yet introduces a level of complexity that makes it difficult even for the numerate to track back through the calculations.
Less sinister but equally disturbing is the thought that most people exploiting such devices do so without the slightest idea of what they imply. Data are gathered and plugged into a computer package. In the print-out, odds ratio produces the more convincing numbers, so that is selected. If the computer says the results are “significant” hats are thrown in the air and the paper is submitted for publication.
But back to sinister. Far reaching claims are often based on dubious mathematical procedures, but as long as ordinary punters (and particularly politicians and journalists) cannot understand the flaws, even when they are pointed out, the proponents are safe. The mathematics they abuse also provides a cloak to hide that abuse.
Consider the notorious “hockey stick”. The “shaft” is obtained by applying a linear algebraic procedure to highly non-linear phenomena, while the blade emerges from packing a smoothing routine with manufactured data that assume the desired outcome. Both are mathematically impermissible – end of story; so why do sceptics let themselves get dragged into unending spirals of detailed argument that only serve the purposes of the obscurants? The deception is compounded by those who know better but stay shtoom for politico-religious reasons of their own.
It is sad, but so characteristic of our times that the language of mathematics, designed to give clarity to our reasoning, should be used for just the opposite purpose.
Added footnote: Shtoom - a London argot word for silent, particularly with reference to criminal activity. A Yiddish version of the German Stumm, dumb.
A mean little manoeuvre
A small knot of worried looking pensioners sat in the bar of the local hotel. It was their weekly treat of a cup of coffee, which will soon have to go. They were passing round a leaflet from the National Health Service about dentistry. Completely unannounced and unnoticed by the media, it had been decreed that an entire course of treatment had to be paid for in advance, rather than a bit at a time as had been the norm. You can imagine how it came about:
Minister: We have to do something about the dentistry service. These dratted obstinate pensioners are still using it in droves. How can we discourage them without actually being seen to put the prices up again?
Sir Humphrey: Well Minister, taking due regard to the existing fiduciary circumstance and, mutatis mutandis, the prevailing pecuniary position of the more senior quintile of the population, the required disincentive need not be such as to evince any increment in the fundamental valuation for the service in question. Indeed, as you so eloquently imply, that would attract a degree of opprobrium strongly to be deprecated. Nevertheless, giving due consideration to the regular flux of income and expenditure of the subdivision of the population in question, it occurs to your humble servant that there is an uncomplicated alternative to the unsavoury crudity of the imposition of an augmentation of totality of cost; namely, if the incidence of expenditure were confined solely to the moment of inception of the course of treatment, the instantaneous magnitude would represent a deterrent of considerable potency, even though the summation of expenditure would remain unchanged. Those who are unable to marshal the necessary resources will have two alternatives; either to become accustomed to a certain and increasing experience of dental deficiency or to avail themselves of the generosity of the Government by submitting themselves to a detailed examination of their income and acquired reserves. Furthermore, such an alteration of procedure could be inserted into a standard brochure in such a manner as to be unobserved by denizens of Grub Street, who are notoriously deficient in motivation to seek out information that is not handed to them on the proverbial salver.
Minister: That’s very impressive, Humphrey, but what does it all mean?
Sir Humphrey: We make them pay up front. If they can’t afford it, they either do without teeth or they sign up to our means test.
Minister: Brilliant! Did you think it up all by yourself?
Sir Humphrey: Yes Minister.
The treatment of pensioners has been one of the worst horror stories of this incompetent, corrupt, mendacious, devious, self-absorbed, whining, paranoid, insouciant, Philistine, vindictive, bigoted, bullying bunch of no-hopers that has the stupid audacity to call itself an administration. Even those who retired on modest so-called inflation-proofed pensions, having avoided the consequences of Gordon Brown’s blatant 5 billion a year robbery, find themselves caught in a scam. The inflation rate experienced by pensioners is at least twice the official rate, as all their money goes on things like food, council tax, TV licence etc. and not on the cheap manufactured goods from China that influence the official inflation rate. After years of such attrition, their one time guarantee of a comfortable end to a life of toil is reduced to a token disbursement.
Many of them have one remaining ambition – to die in the house in which they lived – but that too is being thwarted. Some, who have been careful all their lives, find themselves getting into debt and taking out mortgages, just to hang on to where they are and where they know. They face the dread prospect of ending their lives anonymously in a Government controlled nursing home, where if they are lucky they will only be neglected and not abused, while the Government pockets the last of their life savings.
In the inverted philosophy of this sordid, sorry bunch, it is a crime to have saved for your old age. Unless you have been selfish enough to become a multimillionaire New Labour supporter, they want to strip you of everything to make you equal to those who went through life not giving a damn about the future. There are thousands like Max Pembertons’ Gran.
When a person in the UK reaches the age of eighty, they receive an increment in the state pension. This amounts to 25p – not enough to buy a postage stamp. Nothing at all would be less of a gratuitous insult. The Government treats the state pension as though it were one of their hand-outs. It is not. It something that people have contributed to all their lives in taxes and National Insurance. It is not their fault that successive governments have embezzled it.
So much for EU citizenship
It was over five years ago that Number Watch warned about illegal seizures being conducted by British Customs and Excise. It was an opportunity for the EU to be seen to be doing something to protect Britons from unlawful activities performed by agents of their grasping Chancellor.
This from Neil Parish, MEP for Southwest England:
European Commission backs down on booze-cruise challenge
Conservative MEP concerned Customs could still impose hefty duties on cross-channel shoppers.
The European Commission's announcement that it will no longer pursue legal action against the UK for the heavy-handed treatment of cross-channel shoppers - because the UK has supposedly softened its zero-tolerance policy - has been met with scepticism by South-West MEP, Neil Parish.
Mr Parish, whose constituency includes, amongst others, the ports of Plymouth and Poole, says the level of correspondence he received in recent years has demonstrated that Customs officers had repeatedly caused innocent shoppers great financial loss and inconvenience.
He is calling on any cross-channel shopper who has their goods impounded by Customs officials to write to him. He has said that if many constituents are still being aggrieved for exercising their single market rights, he will ask the Commission to resume its legal action against the UK.
Mr Parish said:
"British customs officers have engaged in government supported intimidation of shoppers whose only crime is to exercise their rights within the EU's single market.
"All the evidence I have seen over recent years leaves me very sceptical when the government announces it has changed its ways.
"Customs officers will still use their judgement to determine whether or not UK duties should be paid on cigarettes and alcohol. Given what I have seen in the past, I would not be surprised if a vast number of cross-channel shoppers find themselves being slapped with hefty bills from the government, just for exercising their single market rights.
"If anyone feels they have been mistreated by Customs officers, they should get in touch with me or the European Commission to complain.
The European Commission is supposed to protect shoppers in the internal market. If Customs continues to mistreat shoppers, the Commission should not hesitate to resurrect its legal challenge."
Yet another contradiction…
..that the apologists for low standards of statistical significance ought to take into account. This time it is a come-back for coffee.
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?
Anti-tobacco propaganda posing as “research” is in the news again. There has been another bout of stupid extrapolations of insignificant relative risks into body counts.
Of course, anyone who dares to object will be immediately branded by the self-appointed defenders of low statistical standards as a stooge of the Tobacco Industry. Indeed, it is mainly because of the anti-tobacco campaign that there is any need to defend those low standards. There are other cases, such as the Lancet's ludicrous attempt to intervene in the US Presidential Election, but is is the evil tobacco that is most dear to PC hearts.
It was bad enough when the personal attacks seemed to be made for reasons of self aggrandisement, but now we know the real reason the offence is even greater.
Anyway, for the information of adhominators who wish to attack by means of selective quotations, as is their wont, here is every mention your bending author has ever made of the Tobacco Industry:
In Number Watch
It is, of course, one of the essential myths propagated by the zealots that the RR>2.0 criterion is an invention of the tobacco industry, despite the existence of comments from many other authorities. Sir Austin Bradford Hill, for example, who discovered the link between cigarettes and lung cancer, specifically excluded a claim about heart disease, even though it produced more excess deaths, because the RR was 1.42 (as compared with 24 for lung cancer). March 2006
A true sceptic will look at both sides of an argument and treat those two impostors just the same. The tobacco industry are proven gross liars and forfeit the right to be taken seriously. The EPA and its allies are also gross liars, but they are better at it. A self-styled sceptical treatment that treats one side of an argument with contempt and the other side with kid gloves is, to say the least, of dubious value. Almost every added statement (conveniently in red) is highly disputable. November 2005
Of course, to understand the nature of the propaganda, you have to appreciate the workings of the mind of the Green Establishment. To blacken someone in that convoluted world it is merely necessary to establish a link to, say, the dreaded tobacco industry, nothing more. A lawyer can take money from a serial murdering rapist (as, indeed, can a cab driver or window cleaner) and emerge pure as the driven snow, but a scientist is deemed to be damned forever if he ever offered his services to one of the “inappropriate” industries, even if that was way back before it was labelled naughty. At best, the logic of all such ad hominem attacks is like saying “Pythagoras was a wife-beater, therefore his theorem must be wrong.” October 2005
For a political animal it is almost impossible to conceive that anyone would make a statement that is unsullied by political motives. This brings us back to John Quiggin, in a piece on The Junkman, Steve Milloy, which tells you more about the attacker than the attacked. He is offended by “party-line” science sites that have proliferated in the “blogosphere”. Most of these, apparently, promote some combination of
global warming contrarianism
ozone layer contrariarianism
shilling for the tobacco industry, and
It is inconceivable to him that anyone could be motivated by a simple desire to confront bad science. The first two involve the questioning of hypotheses, which is proper scientific conduct. Heaven knows what the third means. It seems to involve an obsolete coin, a shepherd’s hut or a heap of grain, but presumably it is the hoary old ad hominem argument that “all our opponents are in the pay of the fuel, tobacco, automobile or chemical industries”. They might be, though it seems a trifle improbable, but that does not invalidate their argument. As for the fourth, how far fetched can you get? Creationism as a scientific hypothesis has nothing going for it and it is not worth sacrificing the brain-cells to attempt to falsify it. Those of us who read junkscience.com every day cannot recall its editors ever subscribing to creationism. The nearest was a rather balanced view by Milloy in an essay in journalism. In fact, junkscience.com is about much, much more than those shibboleths of the new establishment. Most of it is about unnecessary scares created from debased statistics, something Milloy is eminently qualified to debate. February 2004
Apparently, the likes of your bending author are now branded as wealthy right-wing ideologues who have joined with the most cynical and irresponsible companies in the oil, coal and mining industries to contribute large sums of money to finance pseudo-scientific front groups that specialize in sowing confusion in the public’s mind about global warming. They issue one misleading “report” after another, pretending that there is significant disagreement in the legitimate scientific community in areas where there is actually a broad-based consensus.
Something seems to have gone wrong somewhere, so if the energy companies and the tobacco industry would like to rectify matters, they can send large cheques to the Number Watch Cayman Island account, as it is getting a little difficult to live on a modest university pension with all the new stealth taxes. Still it is comforting to know that Gore is in a similar position and not, as we were led to believe, heir to a substantial tobacco fortune. As to the broad-based consensus, see our tenth fact about global warming. January 2004
Don’t bet on the result, even if one side has all the wealth. Look what happened to the tobacco industry. The anti-tobacco zealots in the UK have been stoking up the hysteria ready for the big push on smoking in public places. In the same issue of The Times is a lead article English pubs offer to ban all smoking in five years – surrender! Leading zealots ASH have now inched up the virtual body count to 114,000 a year. We know this is a lie, because it is pro rata considerably higher than the US equivalent of 400,000, which has been comprehensively exposed as a fraud. In more secretive Britain it is not considered necessary to publish your evidence, so there is no danger of it being exposed. November 2004
The book makes an effort to skirt the excesses of political correctness, but it does not entirely succeed. A way of determining the degree of PC bias in a publication such as this is to apply the tobacco test. If it can meet with the enormities of both the tobacco industry and its opponents, yet treat those two impostors just the same, then it is free from prejudice. This book has three mentions of tobacco, two of which are indexed. The first is a passing mention without comment of the comprehensively demolished 400,000 US tobacco deaths per year. The second refers to the “notorious” challenging by the tobacco industry over decades of every research finding that smoking is harmful. The third is a whole paragraph that is a purely verbal attack (without statistics) of the misdemeanors of that industry. All true, but there is no mention, for example, of the most egregious multiple fraud in the history of applied statistics that is the EPA “study” on passive smoking. Two equally villainous adversaries, but only one is pilloried. That is PC. Review –Damned lies and statistics
In Sorry, wrong number! and The Epidemiologists
As it happens this is a statistically significant result, but only if you ignore possible confounding factors (q.v.). From my memories of schooldays, the boys who liked exciting sports were also likely to be the ones having a quick drag behind the bike sheds, the daredevils, while the swots were in Chess Club or the library. I was playing football. As far as I remember they did not have cigarette advertising on the cars then. On the basis of The Magnificent Seven, an editorial in The Lancet demanded ministerial resignations for failing to deliver an important blow to the tobacco industry.
Another mark of the SIF is the resorting to intemperate language, especially about those who dare to voice a dissenting opinion. A former ASH official described critics such as myself as “a handful of crooks, has-beens and corrupt rogues dragged out of the bars by the tobacco industry.” For the record my sole contact with the tobacco industry was a visit to a factory about fifteen years ago to observe the automation techniques.
The level of abuse hurled at renowned scholars by non-entities sometimes has to be seen to be believed. Frederick Sietz, a distinguished physicist, President Emeritus, Rockefeller University, and former president of the National Academy of Sciences, dared to side with the doubters on global warming He was harangued in the columns of The New York Times (May 2, 1998) by one Robert L Park, a Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland, and gratuitously accused of being in the pay of the petroleum industry. Park reveals his credentials by stating that “Most climatologists agree that as a result of increased burning of fossil fuels, the temperature of the earth has gone up perhaps 0.7 degrees Fahrenheit……….many of the world's great cities, may be flooded in the next century by rising sea levels as the polar caps melt. Drastic changes in rainfall patterns could wreak havoc on food production.” In fact, even some of the most committed adherents of the Global Warming scam agree nothing of the sort. The attack on Seitz is a continuation of one in Environmental Health Perspectives Volume 106, Number 4, April 1998, in which his stand is likened to “the denials offered by the tobacco industry which were disingenuous and resulted in untold human misery”. Untold? Hardly! As we shall see later.
It is a characteristic of people taking weak logical positions that they attack the person presenting an argument rather than argument itself. Typically SIFs will dismiss all critics of their position as being in the pay of the tobacco/chemical/alcohol or fuel industries.
I do not propose to use a lot of space on the direct effects of smoking. For the sake of argument I will take it largely as read. There have been many studies, unfortunately often obscure and contradictory, but on the whole the findings of the earliest ones, that cigarette smoking increases the probability of lung cancer by up to 24 times, appear to be largely confirmed, though results vary wildly. One contribution to the variation is probably the lack of control on data about inhaling. Cigars and pipes appear to offer a lower risk, but figures tend to be unreliable, as the data are smaller in number. Also I do not propose to say much about the giant tobacco corporations. Although their reaction to the revelation that smoking was a major risk factor in lung cancer was to launch a contemptible programme of lobbying, prevarication and obfuscation, these are not activities that are encompassed by our main theme.
In March 1998, the tobacco industry were vilified for releasing a report that the WHO had commissioned and were trying to suppress (Guardian headline – ‘Foul play’ by tobacco firms) to the effect that passive smoking does not cause lung cancer. You have to hand it to the SIFs; they never miss a trick. I wrote the above sentence two days after the headline came out and took a short lunch break, turning on the radio. Almost the whole of the radio news was taken up by a report from an “independent” panel of scientists revisiting the whole passive smoking fiasco. It was all there – incredibly accurate body counts for cot deaths, lung cancer and heart disease, a repetition of the mantra of indisputable scientific evidence, a professor from Bart’s (of all places) to lend gravitas, a disinterested Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee complaining that he had to endure passive smoking outside the BBC building where the smoking refugees gather. It happened to be National No Smoking day and a white paper was in preparation from the Department of Health on the next phase of repression. It is symptomatic that putting one side of an argument at a critical time is “foul play” but not the other. By the time of the television evening news the hysteria had reached a peak. Now one in two smokers would die of their habit. The man from Bart’s (one Professor Nicholas Ward) had more of his fifteen minutes of fame, proclaiming among other scientific facts that 80 cot deaths a year (one in five) were caused by passive smoking, which also increased childhood asthma by half. Terry Kavenagh, a non-smoker, was wheeled on to say that he believed his lung cancer was caused by other people’s smoke. The risk ratio had risen to a staggering 1.26. What a junk-fest the press held on the following day!
The lawyers in the case of the State of Florida versus the tobacco companies made in excess of $1 billion. I loathe the use of the cliché “obscene” in relation to sums of money but I am hard put to find a better word in cases such as this. The case is a logical absurdity from the outset. If all these people died prematurely from tobacco consumption, they would not need treatment for hip replacements and all the other gerontological conditions that clog up the health industry, so would be considerably cheaper. It amounts to little less than official extortion. The tobacco companies, unloved and unlovely, are an easy target and they have made enough money from addiction to be worth plundering, but it is not they who pay – it is the smokers, who deserve to be punished for their political incorrectness.
It is not, however, the fact that this programme was the same hoary old stuff that I wish to address. It is the fact that it typifies the genre. The director starts out with an angle and gathers material (usually of a striking visual form) that confirms his thesis. Any dissenting voices are crudely suppressed, unless they can be held up to ridicule or shown to be venally self-interested. Thus the political orthodoxy is built up and maintained. You will see whistle blowers from the tobacco industry but never those from the EPA. The proponents of the two sides of the argument are equally mendacious, but one side is treated with kid gloves.
It is now taken as a truism that Fisher was entirely wrong. He was not. Even after the subsequent addition of substantial data that strongly confirmed the association, it is not proven that smoking causes lung cancer, any more than fertiliser causes tomatoes. In gauging Fisher’s reaction, you have to take into account that he was by trade a geneticist, who was well aware of the influence of heredity on disease. He was particularly incensed by the hysterical public reaction to the claims and the incorporation of them into a then new trend in state propaganda and nagging. He was also an inveterate pipe smoker (as were most leading scientists) and a consultant to the tobacco industry, which laid him open to ad hominem attacks, and indeed created a precedent whereby anyone who questioned the ensuing orthodoxy was automatically suspected of being in pay of that villainous industry.
6. The tobacco companies, who were used to luxuriating in a vast and guaranteed income, would be forced onto the defensive and would be reduced to despicable ploys to preserve their interests.
But the really startling aspect of this publication is revealed when you look into the connections of the authors. They actually comprise a firm that is organized to exploit the officially sponsored extortion from the tobacco industry. Dr Andrew Aligne collects the money from a “non-profit” organisation called Pediathink. Its web site blurb includes the statement that “Americans' confidence in nonprofits has dropped precipitously, leading to the lowest level of charitable giving ever recorded, according to a 2002 Epsilon survey. In order to regain the public's trust, nonprofits must focus not just on improving organizational efficiency, but also on making sure that programs are having a real impact.” He is also a member of the International Tobacco Control Directory. Among his unfounded claims are:
Dr Moss and his assistant, Peggy Auinger, are the “researchers”. Michael Weitzman is a prolific publisher of papers on child health, a member of the Tobacco Consortium. He served as an expert witness for the US Department of Justice in a trial against the tobacco industry and took a major role in informing EPA policy by assembling what is “known” about the effects of environmental toxins on children.
If you want to see an elegant, rigorous and scientific explanation of what has gone wrong in much of modern epidemiology, read Feinstein’s essay in What Risk (see bibliography) entitled Biases introduced by confounding and imperfect retrospective and prospective exposure assessments. It represents a return to the rigour originally bequeathed by the likes of Fisher and Hill. Ironically, Feinstein came under the same ad hominem attack as had Fisher, that he had done work for the dreaded tobacco industry. His assessment that the evidence against passive smoking was “inadequate” was a masterpiece of understatement and based on sound science, yet he was harangued by the medical establishment not on the basis of what he said but of who he was.
It was relatively easy to see off the likes of asbestos and DDT, even though they had been shown to save millions of lives. Tobacco was symbolic. It had become the evil icon of the PC movement. It had been shown that people were killing themselves by using it, but it was essential to establish that they were killing others too. The evidence, however, was just not there. The EPA could not achieve its ends by good science, so it bought bad science. One way the tobacco industry could fight back was to support sound science, which it did with great (but temporary) effect. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the scientific era was coming to an end. The EPA and its allies adopted the ad hominem fallacy as its principal weapon. Anyone who said anything that appeared to support the tobacco case was simply in the pay of the industry and their arguments could be disregarded. Some of the finest minds in science, such as Fisher and Feinstein, had actually received tobacco money; so their scientific arguments, however sound, could be ignored. The industry, despite its wealth and power (perhaps, indeed, because of them) was vanquished. It was subjected to humiliating conditions by the courts. Totally irrational bans on public smoking started in the PC fastness of California and spread around the world.
Your bending author will be spending a couple of days in the Great Wen, mainly to attend a dinner of the Association of Medical Underwriters after addressing them on the subject of Statistical stuff happens: Vioxx, placebo power and other wonders.
Our man in Puerto Rico proudly nominates a candidate for the next Nobel Prize in Physics.
Added footnote: and there's more!
May you live in interesting times.
Old Chinese curse
Suddenly, after years of complacency by politicians, bureaucrats and the media, inflation is back on the agenda in a big way. Balloon goes up over inflation yells the Telegraph , while the rest of the media echo the sentiment. Followers of the best of the blogs will not be so surprised. It is all part of the master plan to return humanity to the New Stone Age. The key is energy. Modern civilisation cannot survive without it. People are packed into cities and towns that cannot possibly be self supporting. Governments of the leading economies have been sleep-walking into a disastrous situation in which that most vital commodity is in short supply. It is not just the inexorable workings of the law of supply-and-demand that apply; spurious “green” taxes also stoke the fire. Increase the cost of energy and you increase the cost of everything.
The high priests of The Religion now exert such power that they can prevent the advanced economies from developing new energy resources of their own. They will permit nothing new to be built except the monstrous, useless idols to their own creed, which scar and uglify the landscape, as a testament to the principle of sacrifice.
The prime sources of energy are becoming more and more concentrated in the most unstable and hostile regions of the world – a Russia on the road to dictatorship, the Islamic Middle East and neo-Marxist South America.
The energy policies of the Western leaders have been tantamount to treason, as they leave their peoples open to blackmail and extortion. When the proper energy policy is glaringly obvious, they have ignored it and meekly obeyed the diktats of the eco-theologians. Now they are waking up, but too late! In Australia, America and the UK, suddenly they are talking about building the nuclear power stations that were always the clearly evident way to service the base load, but in doing so they still feel the need to genuflect to the eco-myth of Global Warming. They have been in office for the best part of a decade, fiddling while Rome burned. The time to start building the new generation of nuclear reactors was ten years ago.
Then there is carbon trading. In a re-run of the Kyoto carve-up, Britain finds itself in deficit while Germany (Surprise , surprise!) is in surplus. Yet another blow to people on low and fixed incomes, as their energy bills soar!
The central banks, like generals fighting a new war with the technology of the old, can be relied on to perform their knee-jerk reaction and start jacking up interest rates, squeezing the life out of emergent industries, contributing to a degenerative spiral. Economic journalists have never appreciated the havoc wrought among small and promising businesses in such times as the Thatcherite experiments in monetarism, or the dangers of progressive de-industrialisation, but that is macro-economics for you. Ordinary people, many of whom have been sucked into debt by greedy and irresponsible banks face misery and bankruptcy.
Leaders like Tony Blair are now talking as though someone else had been in power for all these years. You have to admire the chutzpah. They have created hundreds of new crimes that threaten ordinary law-abiding people with conviction, yet vicious criminals, often illegal aliens, roam free. That, however, is nothing to the consequences of the irresponsibility over energy. Blair now says:
Britain faced the prospect of being largely reliant on foreign gas imports for its future energy needs and it would be a "dereliction of duty" if he failed to take long-term decisions.
The “dereliction” took place at the beginning of his term of office. Nothing has happened that was not totally predictable at that time. With characteristic insouciance he has simply swept the most important question of his reign under the carpet. Energy planning takes decades, not the final year of a failing régime.
The name of the slough was Despond
Better late than never
At last there is some stirring in the statistical undergrowth, as indicated by two headlines in the business section of the Telegraph:
Brown has destroyed confidence in statistics
Number crunchers demand independence
As our poet foretold three years ago:
Gordon of the honeyed tongue
Can prove that black is white,
That penury is prosperity,
That he is always right.
There have been many dire consequences of Blair’s insouciant approach to legislation. There has been a cascade of laws, all badly drafted and all having effects that were (presumably) unintended. It is, for example, no longer illegal to be in possession of a forged passport. One of the grimmest examples, however, is the one-way extradition law. Originally sold as an anti-terrorist measure, it enables British businessmen to be extradited to the USA, but there is no traffic the other way. There are many horror stories, for in the wake of Enron the American legal system proceeds on the assumption that all businessmen are crooks. There are many horror stories, such as this one.
Yet the man responsible for it all sits securely in his lair, looking forward to the large pension he has provided for himself at the taxpayers’ expense, blandly ignoring accusations of sleaze, even from the watchdog he appointed to deal with it.
It is all summed up by a cartoon caption in a local newspaper:
Every little breeze seems to whisper new sleaze.
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne.
James Russell Lowell
The Sunday Times and the BBC! What a combination for the spreading of scares by subreption and ratchet reporting! It's serious – Attenborough says stop climate change runs the headline. It is all about the new BBC “season” called Climate Chaos, one more progression in the chain of lies, damned lies and statistics. It was a bit of a coup getting an octogenarian presenter who claims to be a convert from scepticism and is reckoned to be one of the most trusted figures in the media. Philip Stott seems to have it fairly well covered.
Of course, all it boils down to is that the best fit straight line to a set of noisy data produces a slope of all of 0.006 C per year (only a value of zero would be startling), computer models and the careful selection of examples that all point in the desired direction (like the Cameron glacier), with the equally careful exclusion of any that point in the wrong direction (like the other glaciers).
State of the nation
There is a stationary depression over England at the moment. Seems symbolic somehow. With a Government drought order in place, the rain has been coming down in the traditional stair-rods for days and there is no sign of respite. With the ground unworkable, your bending author’s delayed spring sowings and plantings are rapidly disappearing under a blanket of weeds.
The Daily Telegraph had one of those editions that seem to sum up the state of the nation.
Primary schools to check for obesity. Takes one back a bit. Sixty years ago we also had an interventionist Labour Government. We were monitored for height and weight by Government medics every year. The difference is that then we were starving. The rationing was even more severe than it had been in the war. But we also had playing fields and playgrounds, now mostly closed down by the compensation society and sold off for housing estates. In Tottenham, where football was a religion, we played for the whole weekend, matches of twenty odd a side, with players continually coming and going. We were skinny and remarkably fit. Now, heaven help them, the kids are being packed into gyms, where they mindlessly submit themselves to machines. Child’s play it isn’t!
The big front page headline was The Violent criminals who walk out of prison at will; yet another example of incompetence of a Government that is criminalising everyday activities of ordinary law-abiding people (like smoking in a pub) while completely losing control over the more violent anti-social elements – chaos left asylum seeker to rape.
A sideways shuffle by the BBC; Springwatch is no longer about phenology; it is a just a wildlife program.
Retirement at 68 as cabinet enjoys ‘Rolls-Royce’ pensions (could not find that one on the web site). Talk about PUTLIAR and DAISNAID! This corrupt Government finds it convenient to propagate the myth that the retirement age is something to do with longevity. It is not! It is set at the age when, on average, the diseases of old age begin to bite. The Blair crew, however, will retire at 60 and have pensions of a size that have been forbidden for ordinary folk by Our Gordon. So Watchdog blames Blair for image of sleaze does not come as a surprise. The previous Tory government became sleazy as part of its general incompetence. With New Labour the corruption was there right from the beginning. Mandelson and Campbell made news management the raison d’être of the new government. One of Tone’s most oft repeated empty slogans was “Whiter than white”; almost as hypocritical as “Joined up government”. It is all just The final months of a floundering regime. Just look at that (truncated) list of failures.
Perhaps the most disastrous problem is that it is not just the Government that is floundering.
Tory HQ shake-up and A-list row cast shadow over Maude
More to life than just money, says Cameron
One day soon, Cameron must address the needs of the poor
One of the great disservices Margaret Thatcher did to the Conservative Party and the nation was, through the arrogance that accompanies a large majority, to ignore the party in the country. In the eighties there was a mass exodus of members and of talent. The rump that was left finally panicked and elected Cameron The Stuntman, who offered no policies at all – until he was in post, when he suddenly had a whole raft of them, all alien to the party’s historical ethos. If he thinks he can impose a list of pop singers, pederasts and popsies on independent branches, he is in for more of a battle than he might think.
One small consolation. At least the Telegraph is still finding space for rational thought.
With all the political parties withdrawing into greenery and fantasy science, it is important not to lose sight of the disasters they are fostering in the real world, such as the substance of this letter in the Daily Telegraph:
- With reference to varroa mites in honeybees (News,
May 22), it was known, when the mite arrived in this country during the
early 1990s, that it would become resistant to the pyrethroid treatments within
A team of scientists at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, Herts, led by Dr Brenda Ball, the world's foremost expert on varroa and the viruses they carry, has been working on an alternative treatment using a fungus that attacks the mites without harming honeybees. Considering that, through pollination, honeybees are vital to our food supplies, readers may be surprised to learn that, last month, Dr Ball and her department were made redundant through lack of funding.
It would appear that ensuring the future of our food supplies is not a priority in government circles. Perhaps when we are all scratching around for something to eat they will realise where a very small amount of our taxes should have been used.
Christopher Beale, Ruislip, Middx
As a follow-up to the giant pensions that Gordon and Tony have awarded themselves, here is what they are proposing to do to the suckers who will be paying for them. Such brash, selfish greed is beyond satire.
From Russia with sense
Spotted by Greenie Watch here it is from the horse’s mouth, via IPN:
Cold dark future for Europe – Illarionov
A ‘chilly war’ has already begun, says Putin’s former
advisor, in which the very basic pillars of Western society are at stake.
TUESDAY 23 MAY 2006, LONDON
Andrei Illarionov, former economic advisor (2000-2005) to Russian President Vladimir Putin, argues that Europe’s own policies have contributed to the current uncertainty over its energy security and that the Russian authorities are now able to take advantage of this situation – to the detriment of Western values and institutions:
“It is no surprise that Europe is facing a cold, dark future deprived of energy. In recent years, many European leaders have been obsessed with energy rationing. They intentionally have demonised energy production and use. They have claimed that hydrocarbon energy is too cheap and demanded a carbon tax. They have adopted the Kyoto Protocol – and cajoled Russia into joining,” said Illarionov.
“Now that the bear of state interventionism and central planning is out of its cave, the Russian authorities are effectively offering the energy rationing so desired by European leaders. They shouldn’t be surprised: this ‘chilly war’ is exactly what they have worked so hard to secure,” he continued.
Illarionov suggests that the response, or absence of response, by Western leaders to actions by the Russian authorities – including violation of individual rights, disregard for freedom of speech, and aggressive behaviour towards democratically-oriented former Soviet states such as the Ukraine, Georgia and Maldova – has effectively led to a “chilly war” between Russia and the West.
“What we see now is a great battle unfolding in front of our eyes, one with implications similar to those of the Cold War. It is a battle not predicated on military, political or economic power. It is about the fundamental institutions that define western civilization – the market economy, liberal democracy, the rule of law – and the moral standards and values underlying these institutions,” said Illarionov.
Illarionov explained that, in his view, energy security is symbolic of a larger issue between Russia and other G8 members in the lead-up to the July G8 meeting in St. Petersburg.
“Are G8 members serious about defending the very cornerstones, defining values and institutions of Western civilisation – or will they compromise and bow to the demands and caprices of the new energy tsars?” Illarionov asked.
“The upcoming G8 meeting in St. Petersburg will be the first public test of how serious the West is about defending the values and institutions of Western civilisation. Judging by the actions of G7 leaders so far, it remains unclear whether they will stand up to this threat or not. Without this courageous leadership, Europe’s future certainly will be cold and dark” he concluded.
Talking of which:
Of course, in the vanguard of the fifth column that is undermining western economic strength is our very own BBC. It proudly launched its new “season” of Climate Chaos. A combination of ruthless mendacity, not seen since the time of Joseph Goebbels, with the world’s best television production facility creates an awesome propaganda machine.
The basic technique is old hat. Your bending author first experience it when attending a holiday camp run by the Plymouth Brethren. It was a way for us poor kids to get a seaside holiday on the cheap. The main payment was to attend a one hour evening service, the commercial break. The format was always the same. The main address started with a statement of the form “I was an unbeliever, but I saw the light”. What followed was a rapid emotional harangue, with the subject changing so rapidly that you never had time to analyse a claim before the next one was launched.
So it was here. The convertee was an octogenarian presenter who is one of the most respected figures in the media. The “facts” were virtually all claims that have long been debunked. Even the fallacious “blanket” theory of global warming was paraded, though it has long been abandoned by the most vehement of “scientific” global warmers. Just as you were beginning to think “If they had not expected high tides, why did they build their houses on stilts?” you were whisked of from the tropics to the drowning polar bears. All the clichés were there – Tuvalu, Katrina, Hadley, 2003 etc., ending with a powerful demonstration of the Law of Computer Models. We were meant to be impressed by the long mathematical formulae that ghosted across the screen, but all they demonstrate to anyone with mathematical training is that the models are infinitely tunable, so that the “correct” results can be guaranteed.
Accustom your children constantly to this; if a thing
happened at one window and they, when relating it, say that it happened at
another, do not let it pass, but instantly check them; you do not know where
deviation from truth will end.
And don’t forget the children!
Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give
you the man.
Intrepid number watcher Dennis Ambler reminds us that the BBC propaganda machine is working on all fronts.
Snouts in the trough
'My sight is failing,' she said finally. 'Even when I was young I could not have read what was written there. But it appears to me that that wall looks different. Are the Seven Commandments the same as they used to be, Benjamin?'
For once Benjamin consented to break his rule, and he read out to her what was written on the wall. There was nothing there now except a single Commandment. It ran:
ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL
BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS
After that it did not seem strange when next day the pigs who were supervising the work of the farm all carried whips in their trotters. It did not seem strange to learn that the pigs had bought themselves a wireless set, were arranging to install a telephone, and had taken out subscriptions to John Bull, TitBits, and the Daily Mirror. It did not seem strange when Napoleon was seen strolling in the farmhouse garden with a pipe in his mouth - no, not even when the pigs took Mr. Jones's clothes out of the wardrobes and put them on, Napoleon himself appearing in a black coat, ratcatcher breeches, and leather leggings, while his favourite sow appeared in the watered silk dress which Mrs. Jones had been used to wear on Sundays.
Number Watch has nothing against John (Two Jags) Prescott, apart from the fact that he is a bullying oaf without a single redeeming attribute. His latest shenanigans, however, seem to be too much even for Labour MPs. In the absence of a dedicated Prime Minister, he gathered the reins of power in his hands to form a giant department and failed in every enterprise. He notoriously proclaimed "I will have failed if in five years' time there are not far fewer journeys by car". Well, he failed in that as in everything else. Transport is just one of the disasters over which he has presided. Now, at long last he has been sacked from all his meaningful offices, but he still hangs on to the privileges of grace and favour homes. He is not unique in ruthlessly exploiting the perks of office. They are all at it.
Your bending author likes to think himself an unshockable old cynic, but the behaviour of cabinet ministers over their own pensions contrasted with the pensions of their benefactors, people working in the wealth-generating sector, is such a grotesque example of PUTLIAR and DAISNAID that it beggars belief.
The calculated value of the pensions pool for cabinet ministers is £25 million. Contrast this with the total of £20 million allocated to the statuary compensation fund for people whose company pensions have gone bust, largely through Government action.
Non-British readers might think that this is purely a parochial matter, but it is a dire warning as to what can happen if an electorate is taken in by a glib bunch of self-seeking rogues. So we have:
Number of the month 25,000,000
Footnote: Number Watch wishes to apologise to Mr Prescott for underestimating his mastery of that position.
Stop Prescott: Late news.