Number of the Month

February  2007

Lies, damned lies and Lib-Dems

In last month’s number of the month we wrongly accused the Liberal Democrat Party of lying. They did not lie. It was worse than that. What they did was carefully to select their range and parameters to suggest a non-existent trend by exploiting two statistical outliers. The graph shows the number of incidents and the sum over five years. It is easy to see that the ranges chosen maximise the difference.

This is nicely demonstrated by the second graph, which plots the difference between the last five years and the five years before that (obviously there are nine fewer data points). The point chosen is exactly at the maximum positive value. Three years later the apparent trend is reversed.

The problem is that this is the sort of thing you find over and over again in data that are supposed to demonstrate global warming. The fact that the proponents go to such lengths to mislead suggests strongly that they do not really believe the tenets of their own religion.

Thanks are due to Steve Ormerod, who found the numbers for our forum, from this source, which shows that Huhne knew exactly what he was doing. Note especially the last sentence in the parliamentary reply.

01/02/07

Sense and nonsense

There has been an unfortunate outbreak of environmentalism at the Telegraph, just in time for the hysteria of the IPCC junkfest. It is a column called Earth Log. This manages to pack a large selection of the appropriate clichés into two columns of print. The author saw an out of season butterfly. It is characteristic of the British that global is interpreted as Britain (reminiscent of the classic headline Fog in the Channel -Continent cut off). Last month it snowed in Malibu  and Californian citrus crops were threatened with extinction, but hush, don’t tell the British.

It is somehow also characteristic that the author does not know the difference between disinterested and uninterested. Eco-trendies seem to have the same disregard for language as they have for science.

Be grateful for the correspondence columns that, as so often, restore common sense. Here a one sentence letter says more than all that babbling:


Sir – What did they do in 1916 to stave off global warming for 90 years ("January the warmest since 1916," report, February 1)?

Neil Jaggers, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex

02/02/07

Anthony Agonistes

Polonius. To England send him, or confine him where
Your wisdom best shall think.

King. It shall be so.
Madness in great ones must not unwatch’d go.

Exeunt.

The British media have suddenly become obsessional about the decline of the Blair phenomenon. They sense blood in the water. In some papers it has even taken precedence over the carefully choreographed IPCC junkfest. There is nothing unexpected about this situation, as Number Watch noted back in June 2003. What is unusual is the intensity of the pressure on the incumbent and his resistance to it. It is all down to the personality of this “pretty straight kinda guy”. Not only, as we have so often remarked, is he congenitally insouciant, but he is also by nature a reckless gambler. He makes promises he has no hope of fulfilling and cuts constitutional corners with abandon. This was understandable when he was first elected. It serves the British people right for electing as leader someone who has never run anything, thus ensuring he makes his great lifetime mistakes while running a country (and they will do it again). He really believed that he could say “Let there be light” and there would be light. By now he should have learned the truth of Bismarck’s insight that “Politics is the art of the possible”, but he has not been in learning mode. In every aspect of national life he has thus contrived to make things worse.

How wise were the authors of the American constitution to limit their leaders to two terms! Blair could have retired in relative glory, leaving someone else to deal with his chickens as they came home to roost, but he chose to hang on, insulated and isolated from the world of ordinary people, living in a cocoon of fantasy in which he looked upon his creation and saw that it was good. As Enoch Powell so wisely observed “All political careers end in tears.” The fatal flaw is the inability to let go.

Correction (By Jiminy!) The two term limit was set by Congress in 1947 in the   22nd Amendment to the Constitution.

Says it all, really

Found at Al Fin.

03/02/07

Exegeses

To those who asked, yes your author has been bending over the IPCC political summary and no, there is nothing new to say as there is nothing new in it. The above graphic sums it up neatly. It is still all based on computer models with feedback. There is a strange combination of sophistication and naivety among the modellers: they think that they can improve an inadequate model by increasing the cost of computers and hence reducing the cell size. As predicted the IPCC has cynically offloaded its star exhibit, the hockey stick, as though it had never happened. Real scientists do not have that option. There are many interpretations of the holy writ, mostly scary, but by now number watchers know where to go to get closer to the truth.

Correspondence suggests that number watchers have followed fashion and formed a consensus, which is that the IPCC procedure of holding back the scientific chapters so that they can be edited to conform to the political summary is an outrageous abuse of everything that science once stood for. A string of numbers and graphs with no provenance is useless (except as a tool for religious propaganda). Nevertheless, the bulk of the media follow with ovine complacency.

Which brings us to:

Three inconvenient truths about climate sceptics

(as gleaned from media acolytes of the UN IPCC)

(a)    They don’t exist.

(b)   They are all mad.

(c)    They are all in the pay of Exxon-Mobil.

5/02/07

The wisdom of Solomon

For a nice summary of the the position of the evil deniers, look no further than here.

Art and artifice

This is not a pipe

And this is not an experiment.

06/02/07

 

It's only weather

The view outside the house in the Blackmore Vale this morning at 11 am.

Meanwhile in another part of Wiltshire.

But at least this might keep the ratchet reporters quiet for a bit. 

March of the Green jackboots

One more stage of progress in the stamping out of parliamentary democracy.

Meanwhile from Christopher Booker

Défense de fumer 

An interesting reflection of our time was the news that France will employ 175,000 "cigarette police" to enforce the ban on smoking in public places. It has 136,000 soldiers in its army. That rumble from Les Invalides is Napoleon revolving in his grave.

Perhaps it is time to rehearse yet again the statistical frauds that paved the way to the smoking ban.

08/02/07

The number 15

15 is a nice number and one of excellent character. It manages to avoid the doom-laden baggage of 13 and the angular aggression of 14, while not falling for the quadratic blandness of 16. In all it is a good, honest working number, but not one that was meant for fame. Tragically, it finds itself blinking in the spotlight of political notoriety.

In discussing the hurricane data last month your bending author innocently remarked that 15 hurricanes in one of 60 years was not an unreasonable largest value, when the theoretical modal largest value is 12.

A correspondent challenged this, which prompted a few calculations. The probability of getting 15 or greater over 60 trials with a Poisson parameter of 6.1 is 0.094. To check this calculation we can model the process [Mathcad expression max(rpois(60,6.1))]. Here is a typical Mathcad result from 100 runs.

Over several repetitions about 10% of the largest values are 15 or more. We can also see that the most likely value is, indeed, 12.

Clearly, as claimed last month, 15 is a perfectly reasonable largest value to have occurred over 60 years.

But that is looking at the problem the wrong way round!

 

The number 15 is not in the frame because of hurricane data: hurricane data are in the frame because of the number 15.

 

It all derives from the essential fallacy of phenology. Who would have heard of Nenana if the numbers had not temporarily gone in the right direction? How many potential phenomena like Nenana are there? There must be millions of them. Of course, not many of them are as dramatic as hurricanes; so, when they produced the right number at the right time, hurricanes were seized upon by Gorites. The fact that they produced a pathetically small number the next year was immaterial. They had served their purpose. Like the much debunked hockey stick they are still there in the slide show. Careful cherry picking of data has always been a reliable way to mislead hoi polloi.

09/02/07

Our says it all really section

Some experts claim the man has a bit of a cough, others fear a sniffle

Craig Brown

10/02/07

DDD

With reference to that number 15, there seems to have been an outbreak of Data Deficiency Disorder over at Climate Audit. When you are stuck with a limited number of data, it is tempting to try all sorts of a posteriori hypotheses and tests.

So called “eyeballing” is condemned by some statisticians, who are not satisfied unless they can extract some number. As indicated by our fundamental law of trends, we amateurs at Number Watch are not averse to eyeballing. Indeed we are resistant to investing a single statistic with magic powers. If you reduce a set of data to a single number, such as a trend, you have thrown away most of the information. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but this can also apply to numbers.

When you have sat in front of a pulse height analyser for many a happy evening, you realise that there is nothing unusual about the twin peaks apparently shown by the hurricane data when they number only 60. It is par for the course, as is a single notable peak or gap. What you never get with this sparsity of data is a nice smooth fit to a curve, not until you have thousands of data.

Furthermore, there is a dangerous temptation towards wisdom after the event. In 2005 the probability of getting 15 or more hurricanes in 2006 was about 0.002. In 2007 that probability is one. It has happened. It is a fait accompli. It is a dead parrot. Also you cannot extract any information from the data that was not there in the first place. One small data set is not a sufficient foundation for a magnificent tower of theory.

If you look at enough physical phenomena, as phenologists do, it is not difficult to find events that are unlikely. Once they have happened, they are no longer unlikely. They are a certainty. Unusual things happen all the time – open any newspaper or look at the lottery results. It is a prime error to select things from among a lot of other things because they are unusual and then start investing them with special significance for that very reason. Before the draw, lottery winners were indistinguishable from anyone else. After it they are rich. Like Man bites dog they make the headlines. As it happens, the number 15 was not at all unusual over 60 years, but if it were it would have no significance if you are merely dredging phenomena for winners.

Incidentally, there is a hazard in dealing with discrete data that might have emerged in this thread. Because the distribution, F(x) is defined with a “less than or equal” condition, 1-F(x) does not carry the equal condition. This does not matter for continuous distributions, but it does for discrete ones. Thus the probability of getting a count of 15 or more is 1-F(14).  This observation is not made out of any claimed superior theoretical knowledge. Your bending author made this very error by glibly cannibalising a section of program originally written for continuous distributions and the result is sitting there accusingly in every copy of The Epidemiologists.

11/02/07

Where ignorance is bliss …

"An engineer is a man who can do for five bob what any bloody fool can do for a quid."
Nevil Shute, "Trustee From The Toolroom", 1960.

A self-styled engineer, who invests £13,000 without making a few elementary calculations meets a self-styled environmental reporter who does not know the difference between energy and power.

Where else but The Times?

Footnote: More on John Large here. Thanks to Dave Gardner.

17/02/07 

The sound of the jackboot is heard in the land

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.
Nineteen eighty-four

One by one the freedoms for which men fought and died in the Second World War are whittled away. Who would have thought, however, that in Britain of all places a harmless practice (that, incidentally, greatly helped those soldiers deal with their horror) would be subject to a draconian suppression as a result of a mendacious campaign by a bunch of ruthless zealots, based on a gross abuse of science?

The collateral damage to science and medicine, fostered by the self-appointed protectors of Political Correctness, is incalculable. The anti-smoking fanatics are the vanguard of the PC movement. Territory they have claimed is now exposed to easy mopping up by other activists. Now for the first time since the 1940s, the British people, once proud and free, are to be systematically spied on by agents of the Government.

Whatever fancy name they give these officials the reality is that they are Secret Police. They are to wear plain clothes and covertly photograph innocent citizens. Once they are in place it is a relatively easy matter to extend their duties, without notifying Parliament, to other areas of political incorrectness (Showing disrespect to The Great Leader? Uttering Global Warming Denial?). The release of wartime records shows that 28 Gestapo were able to rule a million people by the use of denunciations.

Giving up your freedoms is like giving up your virginity – it is easier after the first time.

In those long forgotten days, when the Conservative Party provided real opposition under the leadership of Winston Churchill, they launched a campaign against Labour “Snoopers”. The ex-servicemen, who brought Labour to power on a tide of hope, swept them out again when they realised that the freedoms for which they had made such sacrifices were being wilfully buried. Now the quality of our politicians is at an all-time low. They are venal and idle, responding to the loudest claques and errantly ignorant of scientific evidence.

The prequel to Orwell’s nightmare was not a violent revolution, but democratically elected leaders who simply did not care.

Lest we forget

At a time such as this, when zealotry is victorious and censorship is rife, it is more important than ever that we should record what really happened in the build up to the public smoking ban. The prejudices of  PC are wayward and arbitrary: as exemplified by the British Government, who positively encourage the self-evident evils cannabis and gambling while firmly clamping down on the long established tradition of tobacco.

The case against tobacco first arose from the establishment by Sir Austin Bradford Hill of a substantial correlation between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. It is now forgotten how difficult this was to achieve, but the dialogue between Hill and Fisher (perhaps the greatest mathematical statistician ever) eventually led to a prospective study that could not be questioned. Modern wiseacres like to portray Fisher as the man who said that tobacco did not cause lung cancer, which he did not, and that those two were at war, which they were not (Fisher proposed Hill for Fellowship of the Royal Society, which was then still a purely scientific rather than political  body). In those days scientific disputes were gentlemanly affairs, untroubled by ad hominem attacks launched by politically motivated intellectual dwarfs. That study was the greatest, and possibly the last, example of scientific epidemiology. In the process Hill established the rigorous principles of that subject. Unfortunately his co-author and assistant was Richard Doll, who betrayed his mentor by reneging on his principles and colluded in writing him out of history. Thus Doll founded the new epidemiology, which was far removed from Hill’s ideal.

Soon after, the New Left began to find its feet and was looking for causes. In retrospect, tobacco was an obvious choice. It was widely established as a social norm and a valued commodity, yet here was adverse evidence against it. Political Correctness, however, was no respecter of the scientific niceties and once it had chosen tobacco as its evil icon, facts would take a back seat.  The defeat of tobacco would be the required demonstration of its power. The new movement adopted the old Trotskyite method of entryism. A few of them would penetrate an influential organisation, such as the BBC, and then set about recruiting their own kind. This was a particularly successful manoeuvre in American Governmental organisations, such as the CDC and the EPA.

The CDC became famous for its virtual body counts. Obesity, for example, which is the newest fashionable bugbear, is now claimed to kill 300,000 a year. Naturally tobacco was in for it and its body count was announced to be 400,000 a year. This number is a total fabrication – see, for example, the article Lies, damned lies and 400,000 smoking-related deaths by Levy and Marimont, Regulation, Vol 21 No 4 1988. The calculation involves almost every fiddle in the book. These include unacceptable risk ratios, substantial confounding factors, self-reporting, unrepresentative sample populations and many others. Most startling of all is that 60% of the "premature" deaths occurred at ages over seventy and 17% of them at eighty-five and above. It has been pointed out that the same data can be used to "prove" that tobacco saves 200,000 lives a year.

The statistical legerdemain performed by the CDC and the American Surgeon General can only be fully appreciated by a careful reading of the Levy and Marimont article, but it is glaring in tables such as this:


Note that only the cadavers in the last three rows actually have names attached to them.

At least the CDC has an honourable past, not so the EPA. It was founded on a lie (that the majority of cancers are environmental in origin) and it continued in that vein. It was largely responsible for the many millions of deaths resulting from the DDT ban. Under director Carol Browner it became a ruthless political propaganda agency. The scientific and social crimes of the EPA have been covered many times in this web site and the associated books. Here, for example is a paragraph from The Epidemiologists:

The greatest scientific fraud ever

In 1988 the EPA had begun to formulate legislation banning smoking in public places. This was being done out of pure politically correct zeal, but the realisation dawned that some “scientific evidence” was going to be needed to justify it. The organisation therefore began to produce the evidence of a link between passive smoking and lung cancer, in what they called a metastudy (as observed in Chapter 7, grouping together a number of disparate findings to produce one result, i.e. forging a strong chain out of a number of weak links). Unfortunately, this did not work, as the required association was not at all evident. They then omitted a major contribution that had produced a negative result; still no joy. Getting desperate, they then took the outrageous decision to change the standards of significance by abandoning the already dubious epidemiological standard of P<0.05 in favour of an unheard of P<0.1, i.e. a one in ten chance of the result being a pure statistical accident. The truly amazing thing is that, even after all these shenanigans, they only managed to produce a relative risk of a pathetic 1.19, but they published it anyway in 1992.

From the fact that an enormous amount of “scientific” study has produced no serious evidence we may infer that passive smoking is harmless, but the solid PC censorship ensures that the public never get to hear of it.

Give the American zealots their due; at least they went to the trouble of committing serious scientific fraud to generate their propaganda. Their British equivalents simply invented the numbers and then kept increasing them .The British zealots took the number 400,000 American smoking deaths, added fifty percent and adjusted pro rata for population and came up with 120,000, a statistic that was repeated ad nauseam without any attempt at justification. For passive smoking ASH UK is currently claiming about 11,000 deaths a year. Pro rata for population that is about twenty times the EPA claim, even after all those frauds. No challenge to these figures is ever published in the British media and the British Parliament heard no evidence other than that provided by the zealots before it enacted its draconian legislation.

How, it is fair to ask, when there is such a strong link to lung cancer, can you claim that the effect of smoking on life expectancy is exaggerated? Here is an extract from an article by the late Woodrow Wyatt (The Voice of Reason) long before the success of the current campaign:

In February, the Australian Bureau of Statistics published a national health survey taken in 1989-90. To much surprise, it revealed that, generally, the health of smokers is better than that of many former or non-smokers. Unsurprisingly, the worst sufferers from hypertension  caused by stress were the ex-smokers (16.1 per cent) and the “never smoked” (13.4 per cent); the steady smokers registered 7.4 per cent.

It is well known that smoking , particularly at work, relieves stress, and to outlaw it increases demands on hospital  beds. Even the US Surgeon General, in 1964, recognised that Parkinson’s disease (a degenerative disorder of the nervous system) occurred at around half the rate among smokers. In the International Journal of Epidemiology , in 1991, a review of 11 studies showed that non-smokers suffered 50 per cent more Alzheimer’s  disease than smokers. And researchers at Erasmus University Medical School , Rotterdam , found that more non-smokers had early-onset dementia than smokers.

In Daily Telegraph, Dr. James Le Fanu  wrote: “Smokers have a 50 per cent reduced risk  of developing Alzheimer’s  and the more smoked, the greater the protection.” The New England Journal of Medicine. in 1985, reported that endometrial cancer  of the womb occurs at around 50 per cent the rate among smokers as non-smokers. Colon cancer and ulcerative colitis also seem to be about 30 and 50 per cent respectively less frequent among smokers according to articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association and in the New England Journal of Medicine, in 1981 and 1983. The American government’s first Health and Nutrition Examination Survey has found that osteo-arthritis  is five times less likely to occur among heavy smokers than non-smokers.

I do not claim that smoking  by those with unhealthy diets cannot activate illness (that passive smoking  may be dangerous is a preposterous joke). But we urgently need a serious, objective, unbiased study of the causes of ill health, including the advantages and disadvantages of smoking, the impact of faulty diet  and of inherited genes. It requires open minds, not the blinkered political correctness  of the Department of Health. Telling the truth would unmask the futility of the many millions of pounds of public money wasted on ill thought-out and unscientifically based attacks on smoking. The campaign against smoking has certainly caused more crippling illness and premature death than if it had never begun.

Only recently, and for the second time, a senior NHS consultant had confirmed to your bending author the observation that, on visits to old people’s homes, the cognitive ability of smokers is glaringly superior to that of non-smokers. Presumably the new legislation will condemn many of the elderly to earlier dementia, as well as a miserable life’s end. Many of those studies quoted by Wyatt would not be allowed to take place under current censorship rules and, indeed, many of the older ones have disappeared from public view. That tobacco is an aid to cerebration is a truism (Sherlock Holmes’ three pipe problem). It is evident that virtually every great physicist or philosopher of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was a pipe smoker (there were a few exceptions, such as Richard Feynman, who was permanently wreathed in cigarette smoke). Now we have no great physicists or philosophers and are deemed not to need them. 

Examples of collateral damage to science and medicine are rife. Anyone calling for a return to the rigour of Fisher and Hill is subject to routine ad hominem attacks by the self-appointed guardians of PC. Drugs are either abandoned or endorsed on the flimsiest of statistical evidence. Only this month the IPCC has promoted a probability of 90% as meaning “very likely” and has invited countries to wreck their economies on this basis.

Welcome to the brave new world!

18/02/07

Footnote: an interesting example of the partnership of incompetence with authoritarianism here.

Footnote 2: A couple of correspondents remarked on the inclusion of “anecdotal evidence” in the above. The following defence is offered:

  1. This is not a scientific paper; it is a commentary.
  2. The opinions offered were that this was a gross, not a marginal, effect.
  3. In the current political climate research would never be permitted into whether it was real.
  4. Even if the research were done, publication of any "inappropriate" results would be prevented by The Censorship.

Fakery!

Please Sir, the dog ate my homework!

Now what we long suspected has been shown to be true. Records of past temperature data are being altered to exaggerate the apparent rate of global warming. The perpetrators and their acolytes make the usual excuses of original data being lost and the adjustments being for sound, though vague, reasons. Bit of a coincidence that they produce precisely the desired effect! It seems that the law of computer models now also applies to physical observations.

The sceptical scientists carry on playing the tradition scientific game, writing to each other with obscure acronyms and statistical jargon. All very laudable, but the real game is being played out in the big media world of political propaganda. They are reluctant to use terms such as fraud and professional dereliction, but if it looks like a fish and smells like a fish, the general human experience is that it is a fish. Not many years ago such a revelation would have precipitated an enquiry by one or more professional bodies, but now they have all been penetrated by the faithful. The sad fact is that hoi polloi will never hear of such crimes.

It is good to see that the great John Daly has returned from beyond the grave to haunt the miscreants and their apologists.

By the way, if you want to see a dramatic demonstration of the meddling, print the two graphs one above the other (adjusting to equal size) turn the page through a right angle and view them as a stereoscopic pair.

Also, courtesy of EU Referendum, here is a link to some more accounts of the global cooling scare to add to our two. The Warmers still like to claim that it never happened. Interesting that it persisted right up to the hot summer of ’76, before it went into reverse.

20/02/07

Variations on a theme

Following the theme of adherents of the new religion tampering with the evidence, unrelenting number watcher Dennis Ambler reminds us of this ten year old application of Maier’s Law:

Fudging the CO2 Data
Until 1985, the published CO2 readings from air bubbles in
pre-industrial ice ranged from 160 to about 700 ppmv, and occasionally
even up to 2,450 ppmv. After 1985, high readings
disappeared from the publications! To fit such a wide range of
results to the anthropogenic climatic warming theory, which
was based on low pre-industrial CO2 levels, three methods
were used: (1) rejection of high readings from sets of pre-industrial
samples, based on the credo: “The lowest CO2 values
best represent the CO2 concentrations in the originally
trapped ice”; (2) rejection of low readings from sets of 20th
century samples; and (3) interpretation of the high readings
from pre-industrial samples as representing the contemporary
atmosphere rather than the pre-industrial one.

21/02/07

Signs of the Times

In the land of the free -  The enemy within

Meanwhile here on Fantasy Island, where Mr Blair is regarded as competent, the road signs are also all Keep Left.

To blog or not to blog?

Over on our little Forum, your bending author is under pressure to change. Well it is the political fashion.

Our rush out and buy section

How have we managed without this?

23/02/07

Strange company

Your bending author has appeared in some strange places of late, but WEBCAMERON?

The monster reacts

The Establishment has at last moved against UKIP. It had become a nuisance, with its rational policies and repeatedly letting the cat out of the bag about the undemocratic, fraudulent and incompetent power in Brussels that rules us. The Telegraph has become quite hysterical in its attacks (put UKIP into its search box). Now a sinister ploy has been devised to bankrupt the party by confiscating (i.e. giving to Gordon) its donations from a British native taxpayer on the spurious grounds that he temporarily omitted to register as a voter. So far, in the blogosphere only Samizdata seems to have noticed what is going on.

Footnote: your bending author is not a member of any political party.

Deferential Differential

KING EDWARD IV 

Is Clarence dead? the order was reversed.

GLOUCESTER

But he, poor soul, by your first order died,
And that a winged Mercury did bear:
Some tardy cripple bore the countermand,
That came too lag to see him buried.

The remarkable thing about the assault by the Establishment on UKIP is the speed with which it reacted. Contrast this with the tardiness with which enquiries have been pursued into the sale of peerages by the major parties. In one case a relatively modest donation was made in good faith and declared, but a form (irrelevant under any logical analysis) was inadvertently left unsigned. In the other, many millions of pounds were deliberately secreted in attempt to subvert legislation enacted by the very parties involved in the deception.

The Establishment looks after its own.

24/02/06

Party Games

The honest politician is one who, when he is bought, stays bought.  
U.S. Senator Simon Cameron (1799-1889)

The concerted attack on UKIP continues unabated and, by all accounts, it has certainly given its enemies enough ammunition.

The interesting question is not whether some UKIP members have been up to naughties (which they almost certainly have) but why the entire establishment (including the British media and bureaucracy and the European Commission) have simultaneously turned their massive resources towards crushing a tiny inchoate political party.

There seems little doubt that the offences of UKIP were to ask “inappropriate” questions and to use some of the resources of the EU against its own hegemony. At home it threatened to disturb the comfortable equilibrium of the three main green-left parties.

If you dig anywhere in politics with enough resources, you will find dirt. Like any party UKIP attracted its ration of nutters and crooks. In its naivety it failed to deal with them early and laid itself open to attack. Small parties cannot afford full-time accountants or lawyers to check the small print of laws, some of which are now designed specifically to trap them. They also have their ration of rejects and drop-outs with chips on their shoulders, but they are more vulnerable to damage, lacking resources and friends in high places.

They were caught out by the small print of a law that was specifically aimed at them. The clause in the act of 2000 on which UKIP have been hooked was  included by the Labour Government to stymie Sir James Goldsmith, and any others of his ilk, from funding Eurosceptic politicians. The act itself was the result of an attempt to assuage public disquiet at the overt corruption in national politics. It was to circumvent the same act that the main parties launched their loans for peerages scams. The differential treatment experienced by UKIP even extends to the Liberal Democrats, who were allowed to get away with a much larger donation from a convicted fraudster based overseas. Could it be simply that the Lib-Dems are politically correct and fervently pro-EU?

The Conservative Party became corrupt by being in government too long. New Labour was corrupt from the outset, being based on spin and deception. One of the advantages of sofa government is that it does not leave an audit trail. 

The EU is corrupt and fraudulent from top to bottom. It routinely rewards whistle-blowers with vilification or the sack . It is an endless gravy train that relies on the fact that nothing is ever checked (unless, it now seems, there is a political motive to do so). Year after year its accounts are rejected by the auditors. No one would invest in a company with that record, yet we still pour our hard earned money into it by the billion. Ripping off the EU is now Europe’s largest industry.

It seems that the Establishment will be satisfied with nothing less than the complete destruction of UKIP. It is a shame, because it was developing policies in areas such as education and science that were a candle in the darkness, but that is probably a chief reason it has to go.

Footnote: your bending author made a declaration of political interest here.

25/02/07

Island of fear

The clouds dispell'd, the sky resum'd her light,
And Nature stood recover'd of her fright.
 But fear, the last of ills, remain'd behind,
And horror heavy sat on every mind
Dryden.

The climate among ordinary people in Britain seems to be evolving from resentment to fear. You sense it in conversations in the streets, pubs and clubs. The state is out of control, but firmly in control. Stress and anxiety abound.

Fear of illness

Suddenly, falling ill has been transformed from a misfortune to a disaster, especially if it happens out of office hours. Your bending author’s family recently had an experience like this, without the blood but with a genuine threat to life. The unremitting reorganisation of the NHS over the last decade, with drastic and often circular changes, has brought it almost to a standstill: note, by the way, how accurately the law of targets has been followed. Bureaucrats like big; so small effective local hospitals are forced to close. If you double the distance to the nearest hospital (as is now a common experience) you quadruple the time for the round trip by the ambulance, even if there is one available. It appears that everyone who dials the emergency number is now routinely told “We are very busy at the moment.” It seems to take about eight hours from someone falling seriously ill to their being received in an emergency ward: more if they are inconsiderate enough to do it out of office hours. When they arrive at the hospital, they are placed in a filthy mixed ward, where dedicated but demoralised staff struggle to heal them, first of their primary illness and then (for the unlucky ones) of the hospital-borne infection.

Fear of officials

Leo McKinstry sums it up nicely in a piece in the Telegraph that includes this example, which not very long ago would have been deemed unbelievable:

a 78-year-old wheelchair-bound multiple sclerosis sufferer was sent a letter by Burnley council after he made the understandable error of placing an empty orange carton in a container meant for cardboard, warning him that any further recycling misdemeanours would result in a £1,000 fine and a criminal record.

Even at the height of the reign of the snoopers of the post-war Labour Government they did not rummage through people’s dustbins, but now they have the power of religion behind them. Officials, who were once our servants, are the masters now. They intrude into every aspect of life with a magisterial disinterest in human welfare and happiness.

Fear of feral youth

They are the lost boys. The powerful homosexual and feminist lobbies in the Labour movement have all-but eliminated the institution of marriage and the nuclear family. The education of boys has been sacrificed on the altar of political correctness (and, it goes without saying, the climate of constant change). Owing to human evolution, there is a natural law of male education, recognised by educators down the ages:

Boys need adventure, discipline and competition. In so far as they are deprived of these commodities, they will provide them for themselves. 

But now society knows better.

People such as your bending author, who grew up in poor areas in more propitious times, say quietly to themselves “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Discipline at home or at school has been eliminated for reasons of political belief, as have competition and adventure. Among the lost boys are potential scientists, surgeons, authors etc. Fifty years ago, they would have gone to grammar school and university, without incurring a life of debt. Those not academically inclined would have been offered the chance to acquire skills to enhance their life prospects. Now they are all condemned to years in dreary schools on a treadmill of meaningless coursework and tests, from which most will emerge semi-literate and inarticulate (but full of self-esteem). No wonder some of them vote with their feet and join, for example, the gun club.

From the age of about four, children discover that they are untouchable. The more malign of them, as youths, strut the streets, flouting the law with relative immunity. Dodge City has come to Peckham, but there is no Wyatt Earp. Anyone who attempts to prevent their excesses risks going to prison and everyone knows it. They may commit vandalism, theft and violence at will. The police and courts are hamstrung by politically correct laws and politically correct chief constables. The once omnipresent police are absent from the streets. They are either out in their cars harassing motorists or filling in forms in one of the remaining police stations. In the wilder areas old people cower in their homes, fearful to go out.

Fear of old age

Poverty, means-tests, stripped of your savings, bullied by officials and finally incarcerated in a state nursing home, where if you are lucky you will only be neglected: that is the future British citizens face, unless they are really wealthy. Even people who have made life-long sacrifices to contribute to a pension find their hopes of a comfortable end to life dashed, mainly by a Chancellor greedy for funds to nurture his ever growing bureaucratic army. Not only their money, but their hopes are stolen with official sanction. It is like a return to the rule of robber barons. Only politicians and that army are granted immunity from this fate, by dint of increasingly generous pensions donated by the taxpayer.

What old people fear more than death is dementia. In England (though not in the ruling country) they have a Government organisation rejoicing under the Orwellian name of NICE, which has the task of denying on grounds of economy drugs that might relieve such heart-rending misery. Credit the Daily Mail for launching a humane campaign on this issue. For a health service that routinely wastes millions every day and is building for billions a computer system that will never work to cry economy is just one of the many bizarre manifestation of this age of nonsense.

Climate of fear

Apart from these specific anxieties, there is a more general one – the feeling of helplessness in the grip of an inhumane state machine that probes further and further into the smallest corners of life and liberty. There are three main political parties in Parliament that are all but identical. The media are in the grip of the same drive for conformity. Most people have even lost the will to vote. Elections are banal beauty contests that result in the country being handed over to a leader who has never run anything. Facts and figures are ruthlessly distorted to justify each new increment of state power. Surveillance increases by the day.

'Alas, my country! what a mournful beauty is thine. Dressed in loveliness and laughter, there is mortal decay at thy heart: sorrow, sin, and shame have mingled thy cup of misery. Strange rulers have bruised thee, and laughed thee to scorn, and they have made all thy sweetness bitter. Thy shames and sins are the austere fruits of thy miseries, and thy miseries have been poured out upon thee by foreign hands. Alas, my stricken country! Clothed with this most pity-moving smile, with this most unutterably mournful loveliness, thou sore-grieved, thou desperately-beloved! Is there for thee, my country, a resurrection?'
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Link to this piece

And to prove the point

No sooner was the above piece committed to the internet, than The Times came up with the perfect illustration of how the media collude with the State to justify draconian legislation and curtailment of liberty. The headline was Random breath tests to hit drink-drivers. The graphic artist employed two of the main elements of chartmanship (suppressed zero and bizarre aspect ratio). To the uneducated eye it looks like a cut and dried case for oppressive action.

             

Here is the same chart without the chartmanship:

 

Even the most innumerate bigot would not offer this as evidence for the most innocuous of laws. An experienced experimentalist would conjecture that it represents a constant with added random noise. Yet it is essentially exactly the same graph. 

No doubt there is further dubiety in the original data. What is meant by drink-drive fatalities? Do they include cases where an entirely blameless party subsequently fails a test? At this point activists would be offering accusations of condoning child murder etc. When reason fails, appeal to emotion. It is perhaps fair enough to say that such an individual took the risk and must accept the punishment, but that is quite a different matter from including the case in data purporting to establish causality. Given the track record of the authorities, it would be entirely reasonable to expect various further fiddles. 

Random breath tests are tantamount to wrongful arrest, a deprivation of liberty without justification. It has long been illegal in our society. Once random arrest creeps in for one circumstance, it is easy to add it in for others. Police suddenly have the right to make people queue at road blocks for hours while they process them. You would no longer need any laws to apprehend people. You could stop them for wearing the wrong football favours or political rosettes."It's purely random, Mate!" That is how free societies come to an end: death by a thousand small and entirely reasonable cuts.

This is the quotation that heads the home page of the Grumpy Old Sod:

 The best way to take control over a people and control them
utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time, to erode
rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible
reductions. In this way the people will not see those rights
and freedoms being removed until past the point at which
these changes cannot be reversed
- Adolf Hitler

There is some dubiety about the attribution, but the argument seems convincing, particularly in view of recent experiences.  

The perfect scare

This one has everything: The Harvard School of Public Health, a non-randomised survey ignoring obvious confounding factors, small relative risks and Britain ’s Scaremonger Royal and Numby Laureate, Graham MacGregor. Fortunately, there is still some common sense in this mad world:

Prof Alan Silman, of the Arthritis Research Campaign, said: "We should be careful about interpreting these results. We don't know whether people have a greater risk of high blood pressure because they are taking painkillers or because of the condition they are taking them for.

"Also we should remember high blood pressure has no symptoms. If someone is taking paracetamol regularly it is likely they go to their doctor more often. It is standard to take patients' blood pressure and so this could be explained by doctors being more likely to pick up their condition."

27/02/07

Thought

(From an old man in a bad month)

Our fathers fought and died for the freedoms that our sons are surrendering so carelessly.

Number of the month – 221

It is easier to go with the flow and nominate Big Al for the genitor of this month’s number. Agreed, it is in the nature of an ad hominem attack, but those who live by the sword must expect to perish by the sword. DAISNAID is in the air these days. Prince Footinmouth slagged off McDonalds  for selling hamburgers, when his own business is selling Cornish pasties that are more calorific to say nothing of deadly salt and saturated fat.. The British Government Ministers, who lecture us all about our profligacy, are spending unparalleled amounts of our money of chauffeur driven cars. Above all, however, Al Gore is using 221 megawatt hours of energy supply a year. In SI units that is 795 gigajoules.

Before anyone asks, your bending author’s household uses less than the US average, which in turn is less than one twentieth of the Gore figure.

Give that man an Oscar for hypocrisy. Oh, they already have!

28/02/07

Index

Note: The policy of Number Watch has now been amended and financial contributions are solicited to enable it to continue an independent existence.

 

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